Some time ago, I used to follow an opinionated man named ThatAnimeSnob, or Roriconfan, on Youtube. This man has quite the reputation among the anime community, particularly on MyAnimeList and Reddit (I think), for being incredibly narrow-minded and ridiculously cynical with the media that he consumes. He follows his own set of objective guidelines when rating anime, guidelines that harbor similar qualities to my own set, which may have been why I followed him so intently. His Youtube videos range from reviewing anime individually or by season to providing the world with “Anime Truths” (the videos I enjoyed most), which focus on a particular aspect of anime that he’s picked up on after watching thousands of anime titles over the course of his life (thousands is not an exaggeration). Over time, I grew tired of his schtick and unfollowed him, but his “teachings” still hold meaning to me, as they’ve helped me refurbish confidence in my own standards of anime, both objectively and subjectively.
One of ThatAnimeSnob’s Anime Truths includes the theory that an anime title will never get better. The quality of anime one will get within the first few episodes will stagnate until the very end. If you don’t like the characters by episode three, you probably won’t like them by episode twelve. If the story doesn’t start progressing well, it won’t progress well at all. It will not get better; it can only get worse. With over 200 titles under my belt, I can honestly say that this rings more true than not. I haven’t read as many manga titles (30), but I can say that this fits with the manga medium, as well. I can count on one hand the amount of titles that improved in quality after the first few chapters. After finishing Ran to Haiiro no Sekai, I can add another finger.
This manga has a fairly high rating on MyAnimeList, nesting within the top 200 on average score at the time that I type this. This, in turn, would immediately pique my interest, as I personally enjoy discovering why people hold certain titles (whether they be manga or anime or anything else) to such high standards. Going into Ran to Haiiro no Sekai, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into. The synopsis was somewhat vague, only giving me a sense that it would be about a family with an abundance of magic. I expected slice of life, with perhaps a touch of youthful adventure. I ended up with just that and more. How much more?
This story has a lot of characters. It has Ran, the focus point of the story, and the youngest child of the Uruma family. There’s her brother, Jin, her father, Zen, and her mother, Shizuka. There is also a giant carousel of minor characters that pop up along the way, such as Sango, Hibi, Outarou, Nio, Tamao, among others with less importance to the story. Let me reiterate: this story has a lot of characters. So much so, that the story barely knew what to do with them. I will proceed to organize them in a more sightly fashion.
Ran: The ten year-old main character. Wants desperately to grow up and become a powerful sorceress like any one of her family members. Through the use of oversized sneakers, she can turn her body into that of a busty eighteen year-old (or so) as a sort of image of her “maturity.” It also aids her use of magic… for some reason. Fan service abound, especially early on. But she’s ten, so hold your hands.
Jin: Eighteen year-old brother who is incredibly protective of Ran. His personality is similar to that of a tsundere, but his tsun side isn’t disgustingly overexaggerated. He actually feels natural. Y’know, kind of like they actually fleshed out his character. His role expands and diminishes depending on the situation, but for the most part, he habitually takes on the guardian role.
Zen: The father of Jin and Ran. He’s supposedly incredibly powerful (as shown in later chapters), but seems to be a bit of a pushover when it comes to responsibility. At times, he doesn’t come across as a real father, rather someone who holds that moniker and complies with it when necessary. He’s not a bad character by any means. He just isn’t exactly father of the year.
Shizuka: Speaking of father of the year, Shizuka is even less of a mother than Zen is a father. One can take a single look at Shizuka and immediately conclude where Ran got her spunk and immaturity from. She’s very, err, generous when it comes to showing skin. And she’s constantly going out doing whatever she pleases, along with helping protect the magic society from evil and blah blah blah. She’s beautiful and perfect. The manga won’t let you forget it.
The rest of the characters range from role-fillers to likable. Sango is a role-filler. She gets fucked by Jin about a hundred times and basically becomes the housewife of the Uruma home. Hibi is a bully turned friend (out of nowhere) of Ran’s. His importance grows as the story continues, and eventually becomes a cute character. Nio is a sort of friend/rival to Ran who shows up (again, out of nowhere) later on in the story. She’s a role-filler. Tamao is Ran’s magic instructor. It only takes her about fifteen or so chapters to actually teach her anything, though. She’s a role-filler.
And then there’s Outarou. I wanted to make a paragraph just for him, ’cause he’s something else. Now, I’m not entirely sure how ten year-olds typically react to getting sexually harassed by adults, but in Ran’s case, it only makes her feel closer to him. Outarou is a bit wacky, as he’s constantly manipulating women and using them for his own pleasure. His past is shrouded in mystery (that’s explained in maybe half a panel), only to conclude that his past was just as dark as his mind is. Upon meeting Ran, however, he becomes a changed man. Now, he only tries to molest one woman instead of many! He’s possessive, obsessive, and incredibly unlikable. So, which character do you think they use later on as an emotional plot device? The most fucked up and unlikable character! Great writing!
Speaking of writing, it’s hit and miss in Ran to Haiiro no Sekai. There are multiple instances of characters getting development for a single chapter, then being tossed aside for another and are basically forgotten about until necessary. There are also multiple instances of using characters that aren’t entirely developed as emotional plot devices. With a roster as big as this, it’s somewhat excusable. But if you’re going to make the most tense scenes focus on characters that were handled poorly earlier on, it dampens the drama quite a bit.
There’s also a particular review on MyAnimeList that praised this story’s “show, don’t tell” approach to writing. I would agree with this statement, had they not told us basically nothing. There are a lot of questions that arise about magic, the society who uses it, and the formation and maintenance of such a thing. Things happen and we’re supposed to blindly accept it because “it’s magic.” I don’t care for that sort of thing. I would appreciate at least some effort into explaining what I’m reading. If I’m supposed to fill in all the blanks myself, it may as well be my own story. Give me a cut of the profit, would ya?
There was also an instance in the story where the manga literally filled in the blanks of any plotholes that might’ve arose with info bubbles. I’ve never seen that happen before. It was really stupid. And hilarious. So much for “show, don’t tell.”
I’ve criticized this story quite a bit, haven’t I? Objectively, this title isn’t very strong. However, subjectively, this is the best manga I’ve read this summer. The parts of the story that were done right were done really well. The characters that were developed were really likable. There was so much potential for this manga that it almost sickens me the way it turned out. Had Ran to Haiiro no Sekai not taken as many detours, focused more on its core characters, and not taken shortcuts in its story-telling, the story could’ve become a lot more impactful. Not only for me, but for everyone. This is a story that I would genuinely recommend to people, as it has those snippets of greatness that only come every once in a while. Unfortunately, they’re only snippets, and not an entire product. Like having one working app on a phone capable of running ten apps at a time.
Somewhat like Nineteen, Twenty One, Ran to Haiiro no Sekai gets by through sheer effort and will. It has enough substance to pull in readers, though slowly. I actually almost dropped this after chapter three. But as it continued, the quality began to improve. Slowly, it garnered more and more of my interest. I read this in a single day, and the chapters were fairly long. There’s just a certain magic about this story that allows you to become immersed just enough to enjoy it. Objective flaws aside, if one can ignore them, the story is an absolute spectacle. A real treat for non-thinkers, and a perfect example of the “It never gets better” theory not always applying. Want more justification? My favorite part of this manga was the last panel. Not even the final page, but the final panel. The last thing you see in the story.
Oh, and the art was marvelous, too.
Personal Score: B+
Critical Score: C+