What They Say
During a bloody war, a child is born at the 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 young female tutor. Until the day the Shadows attack…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The shadows are attacking, and this time it looks like there is no hope. There is, however, one final gambit; it’s a long shot, but it is the only option left. Fifteen years ago, Ral, the son of the king, was born, but he had a powerful dragon as a shadow. Uncertain of what to do, the king imprisoned his son in darkness to ensure that the dragon was under control. For the fifteen years that Ral was in the shadow prison he was being tutored by Mio about the ways of shadows and the world. But now that times are desperate, and thanks to an endorsement from Mio, Ral and the blue dragon, Grad, are set free to help cull the onslaught of shadows.
To put it simply, Ral Grad is shonen as it should be. This is not to say that it is the best, or that it is perfect and will forever reside in hallowed halls, but it has everything you want in a good shonen story. It is fun, funny, sexy, action-packed, and full of adventure.
There are plenty of things that make this title not perfect, but unlike most times when you hear someone say that a flaw isn’t that big of a deal, this time it’s actually true. There are things that simply get over-looked, like Lord Roy: Ral attacks him as soon as soon as he is out of his prison, but is he dead? You never see him again and no one ever talks about him afterward, but no one seems upset and Ral is never punished, so that’s simply never resolved. Also, when Ral is first released he is a wonderful innocent who is actually innocent, instead of annoyingly naive, but after about a chapter he turns into a character with a more childlike simplicity and sincerity: something more typical of shonen protagonists, though antithetical to someone who is still experiencing the world for the first time. This isn’t as much of a problem as it would seem because, between the first and second chapters, there is a time jump that, while certainly short, is of indeterminable length. That, and his character doesn’t necessarily change, but it seems like it does because of a difference in experience. Despite this slightly more world-worn approach, Ral still does act with his perfect innocence on occasion after the first chapter, so it’s not as if it is completely abandoned.
There is something, though, that really is a drawback to this book and I hope to see less of in future volumes, and that is the ceaseless boob jokes. Ral has, what I would consider, a healthy appreciation for breasts, and his overt love for boobs and women provides some of the funnier moments in the manga. But there are limits to everything, and as the book moves on there comes a time when the joke just becomes overused and starts to detract from the story. It’s not all of them, though: some of them come about naturally and are funny, while others are just shoe-horned in. It’s a shame because everything else in the book is handled with a good amount of moderation, so this sticks out as a glaring error.
There are many little things that you can nitpick with a title like this, but all of them, except for the excessive boob jokes, are about as inconsequential as possible. Each of the tiny things that could be considered wrong in this are easily overshadowed by the overwhelming enjoyment that the book provides. And anyway, I have come to praise Ral Grad, not to bury it. It’s hard to say, specifically, what makes this so much fun to read, but a lot of it certainly comes from a tried-and-true formula that brings together unique elements in appropriate proportions. That’s a very clinical breakdown, but it is accurate. Ral Grad isn’t breaking any new ground, but it is having a lot of fun doing what it is doing. Whether it’s Ral tricking shadows and having Grad obliterate them, a hilariously misunderstood aspect of the world, having Lady Bira flaunt her sexy evilness because she loves being sexy and evil, or having Obata indulge in the fact that he has some very sexy characters and he can do whatever he wants with them. In the end, everything comes together to make a well made, fun manga that really satisfies.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I really enjoyed this title and am looking forward to keeping up with it. With so many books coming out now that are doing the same old thing in the same old way, it is truly a breath of fresh air to have a book that is just fun and isn’t trying to do something that is obviously far out of its reach. Needless to say, if you are a fan of shonen this is well worth your money. I, certainly, am looking forward to the next volume.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: January 29th, 2008