Author: Tsuneo Takano
Manga-ka: Takeshi Obata
Rating: Older Teen(16+)
Released: January 2008
Synopsis: “During a bloody war, a child is born at cost of his mother’s life. From this baby comes forth a huge and powerful dragon born of shadow that lays waste to the landscape. A quick-thinking knight locks the baby in a cage of darkness, where he grows to be a young man, knowing only the kindness of his female tutor. Until the day the Shadows attack…”
After a powerful dragon is found born inside the body of an infant, the child is locked away in a dark cell for fifteen years. When the demonic beings known as Shadows finally overtake the castle, the boy is released in order to defend them all. Of course, like any good shonen story, the now teenage boy, Ral, does indeed save them all… in exchange for some boob groping and women lessons. What? Thus the book has been essentially summed up.
The biggest surprise to unsuspecting readers of this book will undoubtedly be Ral and his breast-obsessed ways as he spends most of the story following his hormonal urge to fondle and monopolize all women’s breasts. To him this is the only reason worth fighting the Shadows who seek to destroy humanity. Sure it’s a quirky twist on the classic ‘fight to be strong, save the day, be the hero’ shonen reasoning but RalΩGrad takes it too far and it gets old really fast. Just when a reader begins to accept the main character for what he is, the main villain is introduced and suddenly it becomes very apparent what kind of manga this is going to be.
A lot of the book will require readers to sift through all the information detailing the world: its issues, history and, in particular, how these Shadow creatures work. It gets a little taxing but is required to understand what exactly is going on, or at least what you assume is going on. The slightest deviation from the word heavy pages could easily leave readers lost. The manga suffers from a bad sense of pacing and feels really awkward to read through, characters leaping from one event to another. It’s often necessary to pause and think… why are they even doing this again?
One of the only saving graces to this book is Takeshi Obata’s artwork. It’s detailed and attractive and does work well for a visual look into this fantasy world. The art is also a nice sharp contrast to the popular Death Note; Ral’s goofy expressions and imposing dragon Shadow a far cry from the pressed suits and stoic expressions of Kira and his merry band of followers. RalΩGrad is also a very action-oriented manga, thus there’s a lot of fight scenes present on its pages. These fight scenes are done nicely with lots of interesting angles and screen tones to keep the action going. Sometimes, however, the choice of placement for panels and sound effects can make the fight scenes hard to follow, especially for eyes moving quick for a fight scene that seems adamant to stay fast-paced. In many such scenes characters are actually giving verbal play by plays of the fight as if to counter-act the fact that readers may not be able to follow what just happened.
At the very least, RalΩGrad makes for a very eye-catching pick up from store shelves. Viz did a nice job with the cover image, printing on nice high quality paper with an attractive glossiness to the main part of the picture. The logo is nicely done and placed well atop the page. The back cover has another full colour image next to the book’s synopsis; a synopsis which does seem keen on keeping readers believing this book is much more serious than it actually is. Viz did a good job with the interior of the book with lots of text for them to translate and place. Kudos to Viz especially for the work involved with replacing all the sound effects, many of which are placed over detail heavy images.
Unfortunately with all attributes combined, RalΩGrad is an awkwardly paced, cluttered mess of a story. It has attractive artwork but at times even it feels as inconsistent as the plot. There’s an interesting premise here (one that readers can only hope or assume was done better in the game this manga was based off of) but it’s buried under a thick layer of overdone fan-service and poorly connected events. High hopes for RalΩGrad were certainly not rewarded.