Wednesday, July 8, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: RAN AND THE GRAY WORLD Volume 7


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

TRANSLATION: Emi Louie-Nishikawa
LETTERING: Joanna Estep
ISBN: 978-1-9747-0368-5; paperback (May 2020); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
304pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $19.99 CAN, £9.99 UK

Ran and the Gray World is a fantasy manga written and illustrated by Aki Irie.  The manga was serialized in the manga magazine, Fellows!, from December 2008 to April 2015.  VIZ Media published an English-language edition of the manga as a graphic novel series under its “VIZ Signature” imprint from November 2018 to May 2020.

Ran and the Gray World focuses on Ran Uruma.  Ran can't wait to grow up and be a sorceress like her mother, Shizuka.  With the help of a pair of magical sneakers, Ran sometimes transforms herself into an adult and takes off on various (mis)adventures.

As Ran and the Gray World, Vol. 7 (Chapters 38 to 45 to Final Chapter) opens, Ran finally awakens from her long sleep.  However, everyone is afraid to tell Ran that Otaro Midado, the older man who courted and wanted to marry the adult Ran, has died.  After her friend and rival, Nio Gekkoin, tells her, Ran's tears affect everyone around her and in the town of Haimachi.

As she works through her grief, Ran thinks about her future and about how she can become a stronger sorceress.  After she makes her decision, she informs her mother, father, and brother, and her plan sends her family into a tizzy.  And how will she handle her budding relationship with her human classmate, Makoto Hibi, the boy who is very much in love with her?

[This volume includes two bonus stories, “Shizuka's Vagabond Diaries” and “Hibi's Heart Isn't In It.”  It also has the illustrated 24-page “Character Introduction,” an “Afterword,” and a bonus illustration.]

THE LOWDOWN:  The Ran and the Gray World manga spent a few volumes being in the middle of an intense story arc.  But once the fighting was over, it was apparently time to say goodbye.

Ran of the Gray World Graphic Novel Volume 7 is the final volume of the series.  While Vol. 6 wrapped up the bug invasion story arc, Vol. 7 finds Ran learning to grow up in a normal way (as normal as it can be in a world of sorcery).  “You know how kids only think about themselves?” Makoto asks Ran.  “Well, we're not kids any more,” he answers his rhetorical question.”

The crux of the series seems to be that Ran wanted to grow up too fast, and, in the process, she took on an adult relationship with an adult man, a relationship for which she was not prepared on a number of fronts.  When she had to save the one she loved, Ran made bad decisions concerning a person that no one could save.  Death was inevitable, and consequently, so was her soul-wrenching grief – to say nothing of the fallout experienced by her community and her hometown.

The fact that Ran could put on a pair of magical shoes that would transform her into a woman always felt like a gimmick to me.  Now, I know that the series' hook about the woman-child and the magical shoes was an important part of a coming-of-age story.  The shoes were not a gimmick, but they were going to lead to a lesson learned, one that could be passed on in the future.  Like the circle of life, the story ends with some else wanting to be “big” too soon, but with age comes wisdom.  This time, Ran knows exactly what to say when a child comes to her looking for a shortcut.

Emi Louie-Nishikawa's translation is spry and lively, and, in Vol. 7, she captures all the bittersweet essences that imbue the drama of this manga's final chapters.  Joanna Estep's precise lettering matches creator Aki Irie's art with its detailed line work and intricate crosshatching.  The art's layered toning, thick blacks, and lush brushwork coalesce into beautiful storytelling that carries the reader's gaze and imagination on a magical ride through this final volume.

I will only complain that this final volume seems a little long at 250+ pages of narrative, but even after that long finale, I didn't want to leave the Gray World.  Still, this excellent seven-volume fantasy manga will be waiting for new readers.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of coming-of-age stories about young magic users will want to try the “VIZ Signature” title, Ran and the Gray World.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.


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