RAL GRAD (Blue Dragon Ral Grad) ?BLUE DRAGON??????) • Tsuneo Takano (story), Takeshi Obata (art) • VIZ (2008-2009) • Shueisha (Weekly Shonen Jump, 2006-2007) • Shonen Fantasy Adventure • 4 volumes • 16+ (violence, frequent partial nudity, frequent sexual situations)
To protect their world from the shadow queen and her army of shadow monsters, a besieged kingdom releases Ral, a boy locked in absolute darkness for 15 years for fear of Grad, the mighty “shadow dragon” in his body. As inexperienced as a newborn child, the newt-like Ral’s strongest human emotion turns out to be the “desire to fondle titties” (direct quote), and thus motivated (like a more innocent version of Dark Schneider from Bastard!!) he sets out to save humanity with the help of a few other heroes and their shadow partners. Takeshi Obata’s lavishly detailed artwork gives this stupid story more dignity than it deserves; it’s clear that Ral Grad’s castles, monsters and sexy women were an artistic vacation for Obata after the sterile interiors of Death Note. But despite all the weird creatures and eye candy in every chapter, it’s an uncompelling read even on its intended level; the formula of fights and boob jokes quickly grows tedious, and the monsters are so excessively ornate, they look more like furniture than living creatures or characters. The Japanese edition was intended as a spinoff of the Blue Dragon video game, but the English edition downplays the connection between the Teen-rated video game and the Older Teen-rated, cheesecake-packed manga.
** (two stars)
Today’s winner is Sarah K. of Florida! Congratulations, Sarah! I hope you like your soon-to-arrive manga!