Reviewby Theron Martin,
In Seth's world of floating islands, Nemeses are marauding creatures that randomly fall from the sky and wreak havoc on humans. Most humans who come in contact with them die, but the few who survive gain the ability to manipulate fantasia (magic), enabling them to become wizards capable of fighting Nemeses. They also gain an infection of some kind; in Seth's case, it's little horns on his head, but the infection can also be less visually apparent, like headaches or dramatic personality changes. Wizards are commonly mistrusted or even feared by the populace and persecuted by Inquisitors, and Seth's brash actions – to the dismay of his master Alma – initially give the locals reason for those fears. He also has a rare talent for using magic without an implement, which is useful when he has to fight his first Nemesis, but it also brings him to the attention of powerful individuals who may not have his best interests in mind.
Though published in manga form – including reading in Japan's tradition right-to-left format – and often advertised as a manga, Radiant is actually a French comic book written and drawn by a creator who now lives in Canada. That hasn't stopped it from being adapted into anime by studio Lerche, or Viz Media from releasing it just like their other shonen releases. The art style, character designs, and storytelling beats all so closely follow standard shonen action conventions that anyone who didn't look at the creator's name would probably assume it was Japanese in origin.
That can be both a blessing and a curse for the end result. It's a blessing if you're looking for familiar and reliable shonen action, as the first volume certainly delivers. Seth is almost as stereotypical as a shonen hero can be, a brash young man who may be a knucklehead but doesn't lack for enthusiasm or determination. Initially, Seth's goal is simply fighting Nemeses, but he gradually switches over to finding Radiant, the mythical place where the Nemeses are coming from. Per the norm, Seth is atypical for his vocation (wizards don't fight bare-handed), and a hint is dropped about his combination of horns and unusual magic style potentially meaning something important. He also encounters a lot of zany and extreme characters, at least one of which will probably be a regular traveling companion. He also has a stern mentor figure in his life, and his blockheadedness gets him into some comically dire situations, like being chased by a heard of stampeding cow-monsters.
Unfortunately, the main way that Seth sticks out from the crowd isn't positive. For at least the first half of the volume, he's an unrepentant ass. He goes out of his way to cause trouble, such as by deliberately cracking a Nemesis egg so he can fight the creature that emerges right in the middle of a town, thus endangering countless people. Even the truth that the Nemesis was going to hatch from the egg eventually doesn't really excuse how he handled the situation, which is why I was happy to see that scene tweaked in the first episode of the anime version. He does improve somewhat by the end of the volume, but both the townspeople and Alma seem to let him off too easily. He's got a ways to go to endear himself to the audience.
On the artistic front, Radiant distinguishes itself most in the design of Alma. As a somewhat older woman with a perpetually severe expression and only one arm, she has one of the most distinctive designs in recent memory for a mentor character. No one else stands out so far, including our generic protagonist Seth. Background art only occasionally stands out, mostly in certain town shots and the first images of Artemis Institute. The Nemesis, which looks like a blob with two boxy limbs, doesn't impress much either, and fight scenes aren't particularly dynamic but at least remain easy to follow.
Viz Media's release of the title has all sound effects purely in English. It includes five glossy color pages at the beginning and several pages of “Bonus: Doc's Lesson” content in the back. Also included is a quote and basic bio for the creator. The cover art certainly leaves little room for misinterpreting what the series is about.
The complete commitment to shonen action standards can be a curse in the sense that it firmly ties Radiant to cliches and conventions, which gives the readers little inclination that the story will expand beyond that. For those new to Radiant, I recommend the anime version, which starts off slightly stronger.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B-
+ Distinctive mentor character, decent action sequences
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