In a fantasy world made up of floating islands, civilization is plagued with a unique problem: monsters keep falling from the sky! These beasts, known as Nemesis, are impossible to touch or attack with standard weapons – so it’s up to a limited population of “infected” individuals, otherwise referred to as “Wizards”, to do the dirty work. While Wizards are blessed with the ability to fight these threats, they are also shunned by society, oppressed by the powerful Inquisition forces, and generally treated like crap.
One such wizard in training is Seth. Initially being cared for by a witch named Alma, who delights in playing the role of an abusive older sister, Seth creates chaos and destruction wherever he goes due to frequent misunderstandings and wrongly identifying nemeses. However, Seth commands a unique ability that is rarely seen among wizards – the ability to manipulate magical energy (known as Fantasia) with his bare hands.
This blessing makes him a target for nemeses and inquisitors alike, and in this opening volume Seth makes enemies, then friends, then more enemies as he struggles to find a place to belong in his journey to find and destroy the Nemesis’ nest!
Shonen series as a genre is fascinating to me. Despite the thoroughly predictable plot-lines and archetypal characters that you find in each and every one, there are still artists and creators who are able to spin to life new worlds that you’re excited to dive into. This is the case with Tony Valente’s Radiant – a series that is also unique in that its creator/chief artist is not from Japan. Mr. Valente is a native of France, and says that he drew inspiration from Eyeshield 21 artist and creator Murata Yusuke. The result of his hard work has been not only the licensing of Radiant for production and release in Japan, but an anime series as well (you can find the trailer at the end of this review).
The opening volume of Radiant does a great job of introducing us to Mr. Valente’s artistic and narrative styles. When it comes to the world-building, I’m definitely getting a serious Fairy Tail vibe from the general structure, including the “Coven of 13” that is introduced briefly near the end of the book.
Since we’ve largely met all of these characters before in past-manga lives, there is a pretty heavy burden on the creator to help them stand out and establish their own personality. This is probably where Radiant falters the most, as Seth doesn’t do much outside of the box when it comes to your standard shonen-hero behavior:
Disobeying orders? Check
Unwittingly destroying things? Check
Overcoming obstacles with sheer stubbornness? Check.
While the secondary characters that ultimately appear in his orbit help to redeem some of this (here’s looking at you, Alma) – you don’t really connect with Seth as much as you’d like to by the time the opening volume comes to a close. However, there are plenty of other reasons to stick around.
For one, you certainly will enjoy the visual journey along the way. Mr. Valente offers up a crisp style and awesome character designs that really draw you into the world he’s wanting to create. It was hard to properly gauge the quality of the combat art, given that the first major conflict is largely with a large blob-like monster that doesn’t lend itself to more detailed movements. Still, a brief spat near the end of the volume provides a promising glimpse at what we have to look forward to.
Also, the writing keeps things pretty light for the most part, which is fitting for an introduction to a shonen series like this one. Sure, there’s allusions to the persecution and pain that Wizards have to deal with on a daily basis, and there’s no doubt quite a bit of tragedy buried in young Seth’s backstory, but for now the narrative features quite a few instances of slapstick comedy, sarcasm and general silliness as Seth tries to sort his life out.
The start of a shonen series is always a challenge – it’s essentially an elevator pitch to fans who have seen something like this dozens of times before, and you’re trying to convince them to stick around. I don’t know about you – but the series has certainly piqued my interest, and I’ll be interested in keeping up with the manga and watching the anime in the weeks to come.
I recommend you do the same.
Radiant will actually be getting an anime debut next weekend as well. Look for it on Crunchyroll starting 10/6! Enjoy the trailer below:
Radiant (Volume 1)0.00
- Does a great job creating a world you want to know more about
- Art is fantastic - great detail, with tweaks on familiar designs
- Some great comedic moments in the writing
- Seth isn't particularly compelling as a protagonist
- Main action scene felt a bit unwieldy at times