The fantasy manga genre has prospered over the last several years, from isekai to series utilizing video game mechanics and concepts. Many such series have emphasized characters’ abilities and societal roles, bringing such matters to the forefront just to test their boundaries. Such is the case with a new series that just debuted from Kodansha: Even Given the Worthless “Appraiser” Class, I’m Actually the Strongest. The manga is written by Ibarakino, illustrated by Morohoshi Fuji, and features character designs by Yu Hitaki. The series fits the recent trend of fantasy stories with longwinding titles, but is its quality high enough to stand out from others? Does Vol. 1 make a good first impression?
So what’s it about?
Here’s a plot summary courtesy of Kodansha Comics:
In a fantasy world where “jobs” are god-given from birth, heroes are born, not made…and Ein’s job of “Appraiser” has put him about as far from the “hero” pedestal as possible. Used, abused, and eventually abandoned by his fellow adventurers, Ein decides it just isn’t worth going on… Lucky for Ein, though, the end may just be the beginning…and a new lease on life. Turns out, his “worthless” job may just be the key to becoming a hero after all…
Visualizing the world
As previously noted, this genre of manga is extremely hot right now. It’s understandable then that a lot rides on creators’ abilities to render their worlds in ways that stick out from the pack, and frankly? This is one of the most refreshingly illustrated fantasy stories I’ve read in a while.
The reason isn’t stylistic. At a first glance, Fuji’s work isn’t particularly different from a lot of what’s currently in vogue with this genre. There’s a strapping young hero who looks fairly average, a well-endowed love interest, and various fantasy monsters, none of which are rendered in particularly innovative ways. The secret to the manga being successful anyway? Sheer artistic skill.
There’s a difference between crafting still images and crafting sequences of panels that look good together and lead readers’ eyes seamlessly from focal point to focal point. Fuji understands the language of comics, of effectively using motion lines and shifting angles of perspective to adjust the pacing of events. In terms of sheer basic visual storytelling, this is an excellent comic. The flow of action in the battle scenes is always clear, the characters’ facial expressions convey emotion perfectly, and the overall sense of balance is superb.
This is especially true when it comes to shading, screen tone use, and general page composition. Fuji doesn’t over- or underuse screen tones but hits the perfect balance, allowing them to enhance moments that need emphasis without ever risking failure by overkill. The contrasts between black inks, silver tones, and plain whites is always both visually pleasing and just generally clean. The line-work consistently looks nice and polished, even when the actual style takes on sketchier elements. It’s neither stifled nor illegible, neither flat nor chaotic. Sometimes moderation is key to excellence, as is so in Fuji’s case. The final result is one that’s a pleasure to look at from beginning to end.
Uniqueness of story
Strong as this volume is, its not particularly unique in its plot or characters. The core cast all fall into simple archetypes: the downtrodden hero, the gentle female love interest, and the tsundere mentor who is violently devoted to protecting her daughter from the hero’s romantic advances. Conceptually, nothing about these characters makes them particularly memorable or intense.
And yet, nonetheless, their story remains a pleasure to read. As with the art, this stems from the manga’s strong execution of the basic tenants of storytelling. While none of the core three characters are particularly deep as of yet, we immediately get clear senses of their personalities and how they relate to one another. Ein’s relationship to the (fantasy) class-based caste system of his world is clear and informs his understanding of his abilities. Yuri, a kindhearted girl, goes out of her way to offer additional help to the only person who’s ever shown her gratitude. Ursula, though very archetypal and predictable, fulfills a specific role in both training Ein and furthering his and Yuri’s relationship. There’s little excess in this manga; every detail and character serves a specific purpose in the advancement of the story’s themes. Sometimes it’s very enjoyable just to read a hero’s journey story crafted by creators who know exactly what makes such stories work.
Is it good?
Overall, Even Given the Worthless “Appraiser” Class, I’m Actually the Strongest Vol. 1 makes a great first impression. The creative team may not deliver a particularly unique vision of a fantasy hero’s journey, but they do execute common concepts and dynamics in clean, successful ways. In terms of cons the book’s momentum is hindered a bit by how much of it is devoted to Ein’s training, but said scenes still provide a solid explanation of his talents and general mindframe. Though this manga doesn’t push the boundaries of innovation, it remains one I would definitely recommend to fantasy fans.
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