Ral Ω Grad 4

December 26, 2009

Tsuneo Takano / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2008 – 4 volumes

I’ll be honest: I kind of liked this series.  It was easy to follow, and I liked all the gimmicks of what was going on.  I also liked that it was complete in four volumes, even though it was pretty obvious that the ending was being rushed.  The five special shadows were discussed, but the Black Rhino shows up without even a user, the Phoenix part was condensed, and the Clear Human appeared with almost no preamble whatsoever.  Plus, a powerful opponent from last volume was killed off-screen with barely a mention.

I liked Ral quite a bit in the end, too.  He was a pretty typical Shounen Jump hero, but I liked his upbeat-ness, and I liked that he was able to think for himself in the end.  I also liked that the final battle really was just the two powerful shadows, and the lesser fighters had nothing to do with anything that went on in that castle.

The ultimate outcome of the fight was unexpected, and pretty great, as well.  Grad seemed to have less will and personality than the Tiger or Phoenix, but he did have a stronger bond with his human, and I got a big kick out of that last page, where their friendship was more important than romance.

Amazingly, the series makes breast jokes, but only in passing.  There is no gag to go with them, it is just a fact that Ral likes to fondle breasts, apparently.  This is never shown, or mentioned in any sort of joking context.  It is only mentioned.  And I loved it a little more for its deadpan breast humor.

It’s still probably only a C from me, but I did like it quite a bit.  Still only had unremarkable characters and plot, but I liked what it was doing enough that I’ll probably pick up the first two volumes sometime in the future.

Also, I got a big kick out of the explanation that the symbol in the title was just a cool thing to separate the two names.  It wasn’t meant to be pronounced, and the writer had no idea what it was when he first used it.  He called it the omega symbol at first (which is what I’m using here), but said he later found out it was a dragonhead symbol, used in astrology/astronomy.  I got a big kick out of this, and it took me longer than I thought to verify, but yes.  The curved ends of the upside down “u” make it a caput draconis, the symbol for the ascending north lunar node.  Bah.  Not worth the time I put into looking it up, but still amusing.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Ral Ω Grad 3

December 25, 2009

Tsuneo Takano / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2008 – 4 volumes

Ah.  Because I am a geek, I am sitting here writing reviews of a pile of manga and watching them blow up the second death star for about the 100th time, and talking about it because I don’t have anything else to say about something I’m trying to talk about.

I’ve heard that this series is quite terrible, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting.  It’s a video game license, and it only lasted four volumes in Shounen Jump, so I didn’t have high hopes.  It doesn’t suffer from some of my worst Shounen Jump pet peeves, like a cast of a thousand characters or an overly technical or convoluted magic/fighting system, but was pretty unremarkable in both plot and characters.  A solid C from me, in other words, though perhaps those without a taste for generic plot and characters would think worse things about it.

It was surprisingly easy to jump into in volume 3, and it was also easy to understand that the characters were fighting with some sort of shadow monsters, Ral, the main character, unsurprisingly possessing the most powerful.  Also not shocking is the fact that he’s traveling with a knowledgeable, but powerless female and two lesser shadow users in order to stop some sort of terrible evil.  Meh.

The characters were serviceable, but completely unexciting.  Ral seems like the usual nice-guy SJ hero.  He has a sudden, somewhat surprising bout of selfishness in this volume that is cured almost immediately by his friends, but other than that… you know, he likes fighting and is looking to save people and beat the bad guy.  The girl is kind of interesting since she knows all about the shadows they come up against, so I sort of liked her.  Everyone else worked well in their roles, but basically left no impression.  Well, aside from the bad-guy-turned-to-our-side who, for whatever reason, shouts random Spanish words that embarass everyone.  I liked that.

The battles were my favorite part, probably.  There are a few interesting ones, but even they don’t come close to some of the better fights you’ll see in SJ.

The art’s good.  I mean, Takeshi Obata doesn’t let us down in Hikaru no Go or Death Note, and he certainly does a good job here.  That’s probably the main reason most people are picking this up.  Get Castlevania Judgement while you’re at it.

I’ll see how I feel after the conclusion.  It’s probably going to be about the same thing: entertaining, but completely unremarkable.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.