Ral Grad Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 02, 2009
The final volume of Ral Grad climaxes early and limps toward the finish.
Writer/Artist: Tsuneo Takano and Takeshi Obata
Translation: HC Language Solutions
Adaptation: Jake Forbes
What They Say
Final Volume! The final battle for the fate of humanity rests with Ral and his Shadow Grad. But he must first get past the immortal Red Phoenix, a Shadow with no known weakness, and the fearless Black Rhinoceros before he can take on the Queen of Darkness. With her Clear Human Shadow, Opsquria can kill with just one look! But will Ral have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to defeat her?!
Ral and company pick up at the base of Noagia fighting against Yaya, the Red Phoenix. The situation looks dire as Mio explains that the Red Phoenix can't die and is largely unfazed by the Flamme Bleue. Ral and Ganette test the phoenix, looking for weaknesses, but they find little to work with. The phoenix easily proves to be the most formidable opponent that either have faced. Ral continues to attack with his naïve enthusiasm while Ganette reflects on the consequences that face him should he prove to not be the strongest.
It's pretty obvious from the first page that Takano and Obata are rushing to get everything they want into the story in the last few pages they have. But even trying to rush doesn't help too much. The pace of the story has increased with every volume and this one is nothing if not fast. Couple that with the fact that this is the shortest volume by far and you can't help but wonder how they are going to fit everything in satisfactorily. If the short length doesn't tip you off, the fact that the fight with the Red Phoenix takes over half the book should be like flashing red lights and sirens.
It turns out that once the fight with the phoenix is over, the story has crested its peak and is on its way down hill. After the phoenix the party starts their advance on Opsquria, and while you'd think that she, the main villain, would get at least as much time as the Red Phoenix, you'd be wrong. Turns out that everyone after the phoenix is a pushover, including people the group has struggled fighting in the past. Byonne and the Cinq Chevaliers: gone in a flash. Not even a whole page. That's fine if they are just trying to save pages for the final fight with Opsquria, she is the main goal and should put up a fight. But no, there is no grand final battle. There is a chase, a final Flamme Bleue, and everyone's problems are over with barely a struggle.
This isn't to say that the final volume is bad, it's just a little bit of a disappointment. There are some nice character interactions and the final page ends on a moment that is pretty poignant, though heavily abbreviated. Also, there is closure for the story, which is always nice, but the short length and quick pace make it about as abrupt as possible.
This is easily the weakest volume of the series - it completely ditches the ecchi, it dashes toward a limp conclusion, and it treats denouement like a dirty word - but it does get the job done in the most basic sense that it at least finishes the story. And while it doesn't harken back to some of the elements that made the previous volumes so fun, if not a little irksome at times, it still works. It's not the best, but it feels like it's good enough.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Ral Grad