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by Grant Jones,

The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World

GN 1

The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World GN 1

The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World tells the tale of a young sorcerer named Ray White. Ray enrolls in Arnold Academy, a school where many of the most powerful noble families send their children to learn and master magic. There's just one problem: Ray is the first student ever enrolled who is not of noble birth. Thankfully he makes fast friends with the scion Amelia Rose, the muscle-bound Evi Armstrong, and the shy elf Elisa. Together they attend magic lessons and face deadly challenges in the forest beyond, but a sinister force lurks in the shadows of the school. They will have to work together to overcome these challenges and more.

The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World Volume 1 is written by Nana Mikoshiba, with art by Norihito Sasaki and original character designs by Riko Korie. English translation is provided by Nate Derr, with lettering by Darren Smith, and editing by Jordan Reynolds. The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World Volume 1 contains chapters 1-6 and is published by Kodansha.


The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World is not at all a bad manga, but at the same time, it so seldom goes outside expected norms that it's hard to talk about it as its own separate work. The long and the short of it is this: unless The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World is the first fantasy manga with a magical school setting you have ever read in your life, nothing here is new or surprising.

As soon as I utter the phrase “action adventure fantasy set in a magical school” you should be able to materialize 80% of what Iceblade Sorcerer entails within your mind's eye. It already exists fully formed and ready to move units, hitting all the beats you would expect without a single curveball being thrown. It is What Is Expected executed at an Acceptable Level of Skill, but there's nothing novel or memorable about it.

Let's start with our core cast. Ray White is a kind, likeable protagonist. But he has hidden power and is inexplicably liked by everyone before he has even had a chance to show them how great of a person he is so they like him more. Amelia Rose is a fiery redhead who takes to Ray within seconds of walking on school grounds, and while she can be short-tempered it's clear that she is deeply attached to him (despite his commoner background). Evi Armstrong is a muscle guy who punches his problems and is not terribly bright but is nevertheless fiercely loyal. Elisa is shy and meek but is very good at casting spells. I wish there was more to them to talk about but… that's all we have to go on. You've met all of these characters before in different guises, but with better-written dialogue and more complex motivations. In Iceblade Sorcerer, however, our cast all become immediate friends and run off into the woods to fight giant bugs so fast it's hard not to ask aloud, “Is… is that it? We're just going with this?”

That's not to say that they are bereft of enjoyable qualities. I would say that each of the core cast gets at least one solid moment in this volume. Evi and Ray bonding over doing pushups in their dorm is brilliant. Amelia enjoying the team's friendship because they don't bring up her pedigree and allow her to feel normal is sweet. Elisa learning to accept herself because Ray and the others accepted her is nice. But beyond this single interesting note each, I'd say most of the dialogue in this volume is simply run-of-the-mill, delivered by characters who you could not pick out from the dozens of other samey characters they are cribbing from.

The art is passable, which is about the best I can say about it. There are brief flashes of brilliance – particularly in one scene where Ray fights a bully and wins the duel while making the bully imagine he is being impaled by a flurry of icicles. But by and large the art is merely acceptable, while at times seeming… warped is the best way I can put it. The visual gags in the comedic cutaways are mostly just rounded face designs and exaggerated eye shapes. The heightened motion of the action scenes is fine but nothing incredible. But there's something off about the overall art style I can't quite put my finger on: it's almost as if it's supposed to be a parody of the manga style, something you might see in a cutaway gag in an American cartoon – a reasonably close facsimile but purposefully lacking in identity.

The mediocre writing and art are also not helped by the complete lack of tension in the volume. There's a shadowy conspiracy, but other than being told it exists we don't know much about it. There was a war at some point, but we don't get any more than a few panels to glimpse it. Ray is a bog-standard likeable but powerful main character but has no flaws to endear his struggle to us as an audience. He understands how the world works, he gets along well with people, and his power is more than enough to meet his needs in any situation. He's not perfect, but he's never tested in any meaningful way.

You might think from the title that The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World would at least have an interesting magical system underpinning the characters' otherworldly powers. You would be wrong. Well, you might be wrong, you might not – who can say! We are told that magic has four steps: Encoding, Decoding, Processing, and Embodiment. Also, some people can quick cast which requires a great deal of skill to accomplish. What does any of that actually mean? Nothing, really. All the fight scenes are pretty standard D&D-style blaster magic stuff combined with over-the-top acrobatics. People flip and throw fireballs, with no more mention of the four magic steps beyond the first time they are taught in that first classroom scene.

Even the target of our heroes' magic – a big bee/wasp monster – doesn't do much to ignite the imagination. “What if a scary forest had big bugs?” is basically Fantasy 101.

But at the same time, none of the above is particularly awful. The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World is simply a manga that Exists and little else. I can't say that it is a completely botched first volume, because this precise formula has been used to launch many successful stories over the years. I only wish it did even one thing differently in its opening act.

Overall : D
Story : D
Art : C-

+ Occasionally nice art, a few brief glimpses of interesting character moments
Generic concepts executed at a mediocre level

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Production Info:
Story: Nana Mikoshiba
Original Character Design: Riko Korie
Art: Norihito Sasaki
Licensed by: Kodansha Comics

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Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World (manga)

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