Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Radiant ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Radiant ?

Radiant has a somewhat unusual background in that it's based on a French comic series instead of a Japanese manga, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference from these first two episodes. Its core premise comes straight out of the shonen action playbook: a young man with special powers tries to find his place in a world where not everyone is willing to accept him. Our plucky hero's name is Seth, and he's an apprentice sorcerer who dreams of defeating the Nemesis, which are monsters that fall from the sky and attack humans. That's all well and good, but Seth has two major problems. The first is that sorcerers are feared by ordinary people, who see them as omens of misfortune and consider them “infected” because a human can only become a sorcerer by surviving contact with a Nemesis. The second problem is that Seth is a hotheaded, scatterbrained doofus who spends more time causing trouble for his mentor Alma than he does learning proper spellcraft. Sound familiar?

If you've watched even a handful of fantasy action titles, the first thing you'll likely notice about Radiant is that it paints safely within the genre lines. The basic plot points of these episodes are par for the course: a Nemesis shows up in town while Alma is away, Seth tries to defeat it on his own, and he ends up displaying a hidden power just as it looks like he's about to be defeated. Even Radiant's sense of humor feels overly familiar, as it goes for broad jokes like Seth messing up a spell and getting chased around by angry elephant cows, or Alma getting mad at Seth and making him clean their flying house while dangling from a rope. This stuff is presented well enough that it'll likely entertain younger viewers, but it's a little too simple for an older audience.

Despite that nagging sense of having been here and done this before, there's some good fun to be had with Radiant. Seth gets that basic shonen hero balance just about right, as he occupies a comfortable middle ground between ambition, idealism, and goofiness. These episodes do a good job of using the rest of the cast, particularly Alma and a villager boy named Tommy, to bring out the various sides of Seth's personality, and so far he seems pretty likable. Alma plays the usual role of the stern but caring mentor, and she's able to give off a no-nonsense vibe without seeming too stiff. If the opening credit sequence is anything to go by, we have yet to encounter most of the other main characters, but Radiant is doing a reasonable job of developing the few folks we have met.

The only other characters of note are the members of the Bravery Quartet, a group of sorcerers who conveniently show up just as Seth is on the verge of losing to the Nemesis. Despite their initially ridiculous appearance, these guys help add an extra perspective to what may well be Radiant's central theme. The villagers' hostile attitude toward sorcerers plays into a simple discussion of discrimination, with Seth predictably challenging their prejudice while Alma focuses more on just keeping the peace. The Quartet guys add a third voice to the conversation once we find out that they're using the Nemesis attack as a distraction while they rob the local bank. When Seth confronts them, their boss asks a tough question: If everyone treats you like a bad guy no matter what you do, why not be a bad guy? It's a notion that Seth quickly rejects, but the fact that this question is asked at all gives me hope that Radiant might be able to explore its themes with a reasonable amount of depth.

Radiant's art and animation are much like its story and characters: nothing special, but pretty competent across the board. There are a few neat details to be found in the otherwise generic character designs, like Alma's missing arm or the physical alterations that make sorcerers visually distinct from ordinary people. The animation is good enough to get the job done during the action scenes, even if it does suffer from a kind of motion blur in some of the more frantic close-ups. I'm especially fond of Radiant's setting, which has people living on big islands in the sky, which I presume are really just flat mountaintops. Whatever they are, they're one step cooler than the average fantasy town, and they provide a great excuse for Seth and Alma to live in a flying hot air balloon house.

So yes, you've probably seen most of what Radiant has to offer at least once before, and while these episodes are perfectly watchable, they're nothing special. Still, there's something intangible about Radiant that makes me want to give it a chance. It could be that the show's international background has me hoping for something fresh, or that the writing seems good enough to tackle more complex ideas than what we've seen so far. Maybe I just really like the idea of having a flying house. Whatever the case may be, I'm cautiously optimistic about Radiant's chances of growing into a strong genre title. Come for the elephant cows, stay for the magic monster fights.

Rating: B-

Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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