The overall silliness gets turned down a notch as the series takes on a more solid direction.
Writer/Artist: Tsuneo Takano and Takeshi Obata
Translation: HC Language Solutions
Adaptation: Jake Forbes
What They Say
During a bloody war, a child is born at the cost of his mother's life. From this baby comes forth a huge and powerful dragon born of shadow that lays waste to the landscape. A quick-thinking knight locks the baby in a cage of darkness, where he grows to be a young man, knowing only the kindness of his young female tutor. Until the day the Shadows attack...
ChangeHot on the heels of Ganette, a fellow Shadow on the same warpath to Opsquria's castle, Ral's ego leads him to make reckless mistakes. Alienated from his companions and racing ahead on his own, he heads straight into the enemy's sticky trap. Without the guidance of his tutor Mio, can he overcome his pride before it costs him everything--even his own life?!
As with the previous volume, the eccentricities in Ral Grad simmer down even further as the series takes on more direction and heads toward its final chapters. Volume three starts off exactly where the cliffhanger of the second volume ends, but there is no real suspense to Ral lying on the ground, poisoned by the venom of cobra as there wouldn't be much of a series without him. In little more than a page he is saved by none other than Ganette, the invincible swordsman, whom Ral is in a race with to destroy Lady Bira and whom Sunsu wants to take revenge on for allowing his sister to be captured. Ganette returns Ral to his companions and continues on with his quest, but not before throwing in a few cocksure jabs and insults. The whole incident is fairly demoralizing for Ral, who needs to take a few days to recover from cobra's poison and his own feelings of inadequacy. Ral's defeat and rescue is a sobering experience for him, and it's one that he actually seems to learn from. Ral and Sunsu take some time to train so that they can face off with Ganette, but shortly after they finish their training there is a disagreement on what to do next: save the women that Lady Bira has in store for sacrifice, or go directly to Jugil Castle to take on Lady Bira herself. Despite Ral's cool-headed demeanor, this seems to be his old stubbornness returning, but when the two groups part ways, it proves to be more of a mix of strategic thinking and dumb luck on Ral's part.
Volume three is the shortest of all of Ral Grad's volumes and is probably the most direct. There is very little wasted time in this volume as all of the events happen quickly and succinctly. And while this title has always done a pretty good job of saying, "this is our ultimate goal and here are the steps we are taking to achieve it," this volume is very much a stopgap between the extraneous elements of the first volumes, and the more series aspects of what is to come. This isn't to say there is no silliness or fun in here, as there certainly is, it's just that this volume is tasked with setting the stage for book 4 and what will surely be a large battle between the humans and the shadows. So this time around, there is very little accoutrement while the characters go from one event to the next, getting all of the pieces into place for the final showdown. And yes, that means there are hardy any boob jokes in this book, which is a drastic change from the previous two.
Takano and Obata don't even do much to make Lady Bira seem as if she is an immaculate goddess of beauty personified here either. Sure, she is still shown as an amazing beauty who lives only for pleasure, but the creators don't do as much to build up her mystique as they have before. I am fine with this for the most part as I have said that I feel using boobs as a standard and constant punchline as has been done in previous volumes got to be tiring pretty quickly. But this kind of shonen manga is largely defined by two elements: sex and violence, or, to be more accurate for marketing to teens, sexiness and action. When you look at it this way, the only thing that's different about Ral Grad 3 from the other two is that this volume has tipped the balance of sexiness and action more toward action so that the characters can get some necessary things done. But since this volume ends with the heroes set to break in to Lady Bira's storage for sexy, naked women guarded by untold numbers powerful shadows, only to follow it up with a fight against Lady Bira herself, it is all but a certainty that in the final volume, both sexiness and action will be cranked up to 11.
Ral Grad 3 is a short, workman-like volume that is slightly different from the ones that came before it. There is more action, less goofiness, and a lot less focus on boobs and sexy women. While it is different, it's not really a disappointment as you can easily tell that what this volume is doing is setting the stage for a grand finale full of sexy women and fights galore.