The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide Radiant
How would you rate episode 1 of
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How was the first episode?
Going into Radiant, all I really knew was that it was based on a comic by a French artist, making it a somewhat unusual transnational production. It'd be pretty difficult to guess that based on this first episode, though. Radiant is in basically all ways a default adventure/shounen vehicle, seemingly cribbing elements from properties like Black Clover and Naruto to arrive at something that doesn't really possess its own flavor at all.
Radiant quickly introduces a world where evil “Nemesis” monsters exist, and are fought by sorcerers. Sorcerers themselves are a rare breed, composed only of the few who touched a nemesis and lived, thus granting them magic powers. Our hero Seth is one such sorcerer, or rather, he's training as one - currently, he mostly just makes a nuisance of himself by experimenting with his various magical powers.
There's nothing truly terrible about this first episode - its plot builds naturally enough, the show looks nice, and the final battle with a nemesis has a decent sense of tension. I'd say the show's biggest failing so far is that it totally fails to distinguish itself from other, more interesting shounen properties. All the beats here are familiar ones, but Radiant has no unique hook that give its “in this world, the Specials fight the Bad Guys” premise any distinct appeal. On top of that, the writing is simplistic and pretty darn repetitive, which makes for an awkward combination. This episode's repeated harping on “they hate us because we're different” felt contrived, underwritten, and emotionally inert, making me feel this show might be aimed more directly at children than its contemporaries.
On the whole, Radiant is competent in most regards, exceptional in none, and an easy skip on the whole. If you're a big fan of these sorts of classic adventure narratives, I'm guessing the show will improve once we get more characters than the cliche Seth, but this first episode certainly didn't present a hard sell. I didn't mind Radiant, but I can't recommend it.
Given that Radiant is an adaptation of a French comic, I went into this series premiere wondering what kind of new perspectives and tricks it would bring to the shonen formula. As it turns out, Radiant the anime doesn't bring much of anything new to the table, opting instead to deliver an incredibly familiar and predictable shonen experience. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but given how packed this fall season is, the more a show can stand out from the crowd, the better, and Radiant seems perfectly content to be the kind moderately entertaining kids' fare that quickly fades into the background.
The fundamentals on display are all in working order, so if you like traditional shonen tropes and trappings, this ticks all the boxes on the checklist: Seth, our hero, is an overeager sorcerer who is out to prove that his kind are not the villains society makes them out to be, even if it means clumsily screwing up magic spells as he practices with stolen tomes in the middle of the woods, with only his young friend Tommy to witness his noble failures. His teacher is Alma, an admittedly well-designed one-armed witch who packs a mean glare and an impossibly large hair-do. Though she obviously cares for Seth, she has little patience for his impatient enthusiasm, but Seth's time to prove himself is going to come whether he's ready or not. The world is under constant threat from the Nemeses, monsters whose eggs fall from the sky and onto the human world, and the episode's climax occurs when an egg arrives and Seth is the only one around to try and stop it.
If it feels like I spent too much time describing the story's setup, it's because that's all Radiant's premiere really gives us. Outside of the one silly bit where Seth and Tommy get chased by demonic cows, and the unimpressive action scene with the Nemesis at the end, the vast majority of this episode is spent doling out exposition and running thought the obvious character beats that Seth has to go through to end up defending the townsfolk from a monster. It isn't bad per se, but there's very little to get excited about either. The animation is flat and the characters are all plagued with boring designs, outside of a couple of exceptions in Alma and the guy who shows up right before the credits roll. Even the Nemeses are a snooze to behold, at least as far as this episode's one vaguely-menacing-masked-shape-thing is concerned.
All-in-all, Radiant is something I can only see appealing to shonen manga and anime enthusiasts, and I doubt anyone falling into that category needs my review to tell them whether they're on board with Radiant or not. If you're otherwise on the fence, I'd say you're fine just skipping this one. This season's weekends are full to the brim with content, and I don't think Radiant is the show that deserves to be filling up viewers' timeslots when they could go to more interesting projects.
You'd be hard-pressed to find anything genuinely unique in the premiere of Radiant. Aside from the original work's French heritage, this could be the beginning of just about any shonen adventure series from the last couple of decades. Even so, I enjoyed watching this episode far more than I expected to. Between some of the world-building (I'm a sucker for sky islands and flying houses), the simple yet amusing comedy, and the generally enthusiastic tone, this is one of those shows that just seems happy to be here. That translates into an entertaining experience, even if you've sat through plenty of similar stories before.
Seth comes across as the typical shouty teenage hero, full of lofty ideals and bad ideas. For the most part, he manages to strike a good balance between incompetent goofball and genuinely decent guy. The presence of his villager buddy Tommy helps out in this regard, as he's able to act as a voice of reason to temper Seth's ambitious plans while bringing out the caring, brotherly side of his personality. The fact that Tommy manages to do this without being an annoying anime kid is a small miracle in and of itself, though it doesn't seem like he'll be sticking around for the whole series. Radiant seems to have a good sense for when to let Seth fire off a big monologue and when to shut him down in comedic fashion, which suggests that this show may be able to tell a proper adventure story without taking itself too seriously.
Alma is also a welcome addition to this episode, both as a mentor figure for Seth and as a character in her own right. Her more experienced perspective helps to balance out the show's worldview, and she plays the “chaotic good” role quite nicely during her negotiations with a shopkeeper. Her conversations with Seth set the stage nicely for this episode's brief foray into more dramatic territory, when Seth's attempt at fighting a Nemesis on his own goes awry. It's a well-delivered challenge to his sense of youthful invincibility, even if it only lasts for a moment or two. I'm not sure what to make of the sorcerers who show up to save the day at the last minute, but I assume they have their own part to play in getting Seth's personal journey underway.
If, like me, you haven't watched much standard-issue shonen fare lately (and therefore aren't burned out on it), the first episode of Radiant is a nice reminder of why these titles can be enjoyable despite adhering to the same formula for all eternity. If Seth can find a decent group of friends to go adventuring with and perhaps a good villain or two to fight, this could be a fun little action show. I might just have to stick around for a while to see what other kinds of islands and airships Radiant can come up with, because who doesn't want to fly around in a sweet zeppelin house?
Despite its origins as a French manga, Radiant feels very much like standard shounen fare – where a lot of OEL can feel like creators trying to grasp what makes manga and anime fun but not quite getting it, Radiant actually does get it. The mix of humor, action, and world building works to make this first episode engaging. It certainly does feel a bit derivative in places, but for the most part, Seth's adventures feel like they'll be worth following.
Part of this is the general good nature of Seth as a character. He's in training to be a sorcerer, something that required him to have direct contact with monsters known as Nemeses. When a human survives an encounter, they become able to use magic to directly fight them, largely because they're now immune to the creatures. (So I guess you could say they've been inoculated?) Seth's mentor Alma lost part of an arm to a Nemesis, and Seth's horns may be the result of his inoculation, especially since no one else appears to have any. Since she saved him, Alma is now training Seth to become a sorcerer, which is basically an uphill battle, because despite his heart being in the right place, Seth's attention span most definitely is not. He reads like a perfectly normal twelve-year-old kid, really – he has a higher estimation of his abilities than he ought to and is in a hurry to prove himself, but he also wants to spend time hanging out with his buddy Tommy in the town of Pompo Hills. That Seth almost certainly is incredibly powerful is more or less a given, but the decision to illustrate it by having him trigger a stampede of the show's kind of amazing Holstein elephant herd grounds the story in its (currently) rural setting and adds enough humor to the story that we can almost overlook how powerful Seth's improvised spell is.
It's apparent that most of Seth's enthusiasm comes from him wanted to follow Alma's footsteps and save people. He's furious that she takes all of the blame for the stampede, not because he wants the credit, but because the people of Pompo Hills are already mistrustful of her as a sorceress and he hates that they can't see what a good person she is. When a Nemesis lands in town, his first reaction is to try to save the town, not only because they ought to be saved, but because maybe they'll see that he and Alma are good people after all. That he does all of this without undue screeching is a nice bonus.
As of this episode (and the first volume of the manga), Radiant is looking like it's going to be a fun adventure. There's a neat aesthetic to the artwork and Seth is the kind of protagonist who could really grow on you. If nothing else, maybe it'll launch some doujinshi about the guys from Silver Spoon's Holstein Club meeting Radiant's elephant cows. That's definitely something I'd like to see.
I have read the first volume of the source comic for this series, and that has led me to a statement that I never thought I'd write about a shonen action anime:
The anime version is actually better because it shades the protagonist into being more of a generic shonen action hero than he is in the source material.
That's because Seth in the comic is – at least initially – both an ass and much more of an idiot. This anime version substantially changes up the circumstances surrounding how both the cow stampede and the Nemesis egg cracking open happen, making him more accidentally and indirectly than willfully responsible for both. In fact, in general his attitude is less foul and more in line with the well-meaning and exuberant but also largely incompetent template that shonen action fans are more familiar with for protagonists who are just getting their starts, and that makes Seth into a far more appreciable character. I couldn't stand him in the comic, but find him to be at least tolerable in this version.
In other major changes compared to the comic version, the Bravery Quartet (the group which shows up at the end of the episode) appears much later, but that change in timing is also an improvement. So is the addition of anime-only character Tommy, whose presence and relationship with Seth may be a big part of why Seth is less of a jerk in this version. In fact, everything else that the anime version does is a distinct improvement, too, as the character designs are more inviting, the background artistry is richer, and every scene flows better. When judged against its peers instead, the first episode comes out on the high side of average. It has all of the elements you'd expect of a fantasy shonen action title, including Seth's magical ability being much more conducive to direct physical combat than fighting with energy blasts and him being an outcast due to his nature (in this case he has little horns sticking out of his head). The standard mix of humor that's often at the protagonist's expense, colorful adults, and locals that are distrusting if adults but fans if they're little kids is also there, although Alma cuts a bit different figure than the standard shonen action mentor.
As a whole, the first episode is a respectable starter for a series that looks to be the next Black Clover or Naruto. It doesn't stand out but does its job competently.
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