Review

by Grant Jones,

The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary

GN 1

Synopsis:
The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary

The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary tells the tale of the warrior Loren who was once part of a mercenary company. However, Loren's companions were slain in battle, leaving him the sole survivor of his company. In order to make ends meet, he joins an adventuring guild and falls in with a party of adventurers. While the leader Saerfe seems to be incompetent, Loren grows close to one of the other party members – a cleric named Lapis. Loren, Lapis, and the rest of the party venture forth to battle monsters and gain gold and glory, but they may find out they have bitten off more than they can chew and that the ghosts of their pasts are still following them after all.

The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary is written by Mine with art by Araea Ikemiya and character designs by Peroshi. The translation is by Kart Skarbinec with lettering by Kai Kyou. The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary is published by Seven Seas Entertainment.

Review:

The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary is a decidedly… okay title. While there are a few glimmers of promise here and there, much of it appears to be an exercise in tropes that skew a bit too familiar. That familiarity is further weighed down by some odd pacing issues near the end, but there is potential in the final revelations of the volume that give me hope for future installments.

Broke Mercenary's premise is something you have seen a lot elsewhere. Loren is a dour, spiky-haired, cape-wearing sellsword who wields a huge sword and once belonged to a band of mercenaries – a not at all subtle reference to Guts of Berserk fame (but hey, at least it chose one of the best fantasy titles to pay homage to). The world itself is full of the standard adventure fantasyisms we've all come to expect: goblins in the deep dark woods, adventuring parties taking on odd jobs from an overarching guild – that sort of thing.

Of course, whether Broke Mercenary's familiarity is a strength or a weakness ultimately depends on your preferences. Obviously, the tropes are old-hat by this point, and for some, that is going to be a letdown. I for one was excited to read a standard fantasy story that is fully set in an alternate world instead of an isekai for a change. I definitely prefer generic fantasylandia to trapped-in-another-world stories, since the characters are fully rooted in their world and that helps with my immersion in the text. There may be twists coming later to spice things up a bit, but even if the setting is standard fare, this is comfortable territory for me.

There are times when Broke Mercenary becomes a bit too game-adjacent for my tastes. A band of adventurers meeting in a tavern before the guild sends them out to kill goblins on their first adventure is one thing, but when abilities are described as how many spells per day one can cast, that's where it broke my immersion in the text – we're being a bit too obvious with the text's influences, and it feels less like a fantasy setting for me and more like somebody's actual-play webcomic. Your mileage may vary of course, but I would have preferred a bit of handwavium like saying a character has “impressive mana reserves” or something along those lines to at least attempt to keep it in the fictional space. If it were a one-off thing that would be fine, but there are later discussions of goblin abilities that fall into this immersion-breaking trap as well.

The characters don't add much to the setting or premise either. Saerfe, Oxy, and Maron are basically non-entities besides 'they are bad at adventuring and rude about it.' Loren is not terribly exciting either, but at the very least he is seriously in debt – which like, hey, I can relate. But beyond his negative account balance and a heavy helping of brooding, the most engaging thing he has going for him as a character is that he offers level-headed advice in dangerous situations. Sadly, that advice never feels terribly impactful. Most of it amounts to “don't underestimate goblins” which, sure, it's sage compared to what Saerfe and company are doing, but not all that engaging as a reader since the audience has been told quite explicitly that they are low-level adventurers doing low-level adventuring.

Lapis is the real surprise highlight of the volume. I won't say precisely what she has going on so as not to spoil it, but she does reveal in detail what her situation is by the end of the volume. Lapis spends most of her page time being a cheerful but forgettable character, but when her hook gets introduced it's hard not to lock in on that as the exciting plot hook of the volume. I hope that this is what the future volumes explore because her situation is infinitely more interesting than anything else presented so far, and it seems like a great opportunity to take these rather predictable beginnings and do something exciting with the story.

It's a shame that this hook comes with a price: a huge exposition dump. Look, exposition dumps can be a necessary evil, and sometimes as an author the only way to get that information to the reader is to just, well, tell them. However, Lapis rattles off her entire backstory in the midst of fleeing a dangerous situation with Loren which, while fine in theory, does drop a huge cinderblock of text right on top of the narrative and crushes the tension. The scene also feels like it drags on far longer than its page count, which is odd given how much it hooked me conceptually. Again, sometimes these info dumps are unavoidable, so perhaps this was the price that had to be paid, but I do wish it had been worked in more elegantly so as not to detract from what is, in my opinion, the most exciting part of the volume.

There is very little to say about the art. The character designs are nice and distinct, but that's about where the accolades end. Most of the characters feel very stilted, like everyone was sitting bolt upright or standing at rigid attention. Perhaps it was an effort at realism and keep everyone on-model so to speak, but there's not much dynamism even in the action sequences. Characters mostly look nice but are just standing around in generic-looking fantasy backgrounds. Again, I hope this will change in future volumes.

The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary is a bit humdrum, but when it does show its hand near the end there's a huge amount of promise in what's to come. The more it leans into that promise, the more potential it has going forward to break out and be something special.

Grade:
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : C+

+ Solid fantasy story, engaging hook with the cleric character
A bit too tropey, sometimes shows its gaming influences too openly

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Araea Ikemiya
Original creator: Mine
Original Character Design: peroshi

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Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary (manga)

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