Ran and the Gray World Volume 1
Ran and the Gray World by Aki Irie contains some classic fantasy genre ideas, but the overall tone is unfocused with a touch of creepy.
Ran is a magical little girl who appears as a well-developed young woman when she dons a special pair of tennis shoes. Her absent mother temporarily returns in a cloud of magical cakes, with everything too much, showing us where both Ran’s potential for power and her lack of discipline come from.
Her older brother Jin, who can turn into a wolf, has to try and keep her in check, chasing after her when she runs away. Later, Ran encounters a rich playboy, which is where the fan-service-y images of her more mature body start appearing, particularly once he begins hitting on her.
The figure work reminds me of classic works out of the 80s, with the big eyes, big hair, and magical glow around certain characters. The settings are intensely detailed, with too much to be comprehended in an easy glance. I also found the storytelling flow similarly cluttered and hard to follow. Fans praise the illustration, but while individual images may be inspiring, they don’t always assemble into coherence.
This is the creator’s first series, which doesn’t surprise me, since the work suggests more experience and editing is needed. Particularly when it comes to Ran. We know little about what motivates her, and we gain no insight into her internal life. That leaves only the art to interact with, as everything else is superficial. Various fans have described the work as “sexy”, apparently ignoring the more unpleasant implications of a child drawn to look that way. Even leaving that aside, I don’t want to spend time with such a self-centered character, with little else to recommend her.
Taken with the premise, which isn’t handled in substantial enough fashion to overcome the images of “man hitting on child”, this is something I don’t need to see any more of. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)