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Over the past year I’ve tried to expand my manga reading beyond just popular shonen series. I’ve delved into more horror and boys’ love, but one genre I still haven’t read much of is fantasy. Record of Grancrest War, published by Viz Media, recently caught my eye as a fantasy manga with potential. It’s written and drawn by Makoto Yotsuba, and based on a novel series written by Ryo Mizuno and illustrated by Miyuu. The series’ debut volume collects its first six chapters, which introduce the core cast and some basic lore. Does Record of Grancrest War get off to a good start?
This volume does a good job introducing a fair amount of characters and lore without overwhelming the reader with too many fantasy words and concepts right off the bat. The majority of the page-time is devoted to developing Siluca and Theo’s personalities and relationship, which is an effective choice on Yotsuba’s part. Their dynamic drives a lot of the conflict, so it’s good to see them developed so much early on. Balgyary, talking feline royalty, is another cool character, although he has yet to receive much depth. The characters’ various roles, such as mage, knight errant, and artist, aren’t yet fully fleshed out, but this isn’t the cause of much confusion. Enough context is provided for events to make sense, and it’s probably better to leave room for further exploration than to cram in too many details upfront.
On the downside, some of the manga’s supporting characters are bland to outright bad. The worst is easily Aishela, who is pretty much every oversexualized woman trope rolled into one. Her outfit is very skimpy with more breast showing than not, and she’s frequently drawn in poses that draw attention to this fact. To make matters worse, she isn’t just objectified herself but contributes to the mistreatment of Siluca as well. There’s a scene where Aishela irrefutably sexually assaults Siluca, and it’s played off for laughs. Moments like this throw a wrench in the otherwise enjoyable fantasy story and trigger doubt about how well Siluca’s character will be handled in future installments. Though she’s well-written throughout most of the volume, her sense of agency seems to be thrown out the window in favor of making her a sex object toward the end.
Art-wise, this volume is solid. There’s a good amount of detail to Yotsuba’s line-work for the most part, and the character designs by Miyuu are well-done. Siluca has a unique look including some great fantasy hair, and Balgyary is very cute. The first demon lord shown also looks great and has an uncanny presence. Resembling a woman and yet possessing an air of the inanimate, it’s pleasantly unnerving. The action scenes also have a cool fast-paced energy to them.
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My main qualm with this volume’s visuals arises with more comedic scenes. The characters are often rendered in a less detailed style for these portions, but it’s not actually significantly different enough from the usual art to effectively enhance the comedy. More extremely stylized art may have helped make these moments stand out in a good way instead of just looking unpolished.
Record of Grancrest War Vol. 1 is an enjoyable debut volume overall, but it also has some major cons. The main characters’ dynamics are well-established, and the creators don’t throw too much fantasy jargon at readers too quickly. Nonetheless, some ineffective stylistic deviation in comedic moments holds the art back a bit. A sexual assault scene, meanwhile, saps the fun out of the tone and casts heavy doubt on how well the female characters will be handled in later volumes. I like more about this book than I dislike, but it’s too heavily flawed for me to recommend to non-fantasy fans.
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