Adventures of a Franco-Japanese Teen Hero
Tony Valente’s Radiant exemplifies the international crosspollination of the comics scene.
Radiant: Season One Part One Funimation: 4 discs, DVD and Blu-ray; $64.98
Radiant exemplifies the on-going cross pollination between Western and Japanese animation and comics. As the French buy and read more manga than any country outside of Japan, it’s not surprising to see artists from those nations influencing each other’s work.
Tony Valente began his “manfra” Radiant in French in 2013; it was published in Japan two years later, and has been available in English (from VIZ) since 2018. In an interview with Anime News Network, Valente said, “I’m a reader of Shonen Jump and I really enjoy them … When I think about making a manga, I don’t see a reason as to why I can’t do a Shonen Jump-like manga. I wanted to tell a similar type of story to please the type of reader that I am.”
Focusing on “boy’s” action-driven stories, Shonen Jump is the most popular weekly manga magazine in Japan. Valente’s layouts, designs and story would look right at home on its pages. The obvious influences are Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto.
Radiant was animated in 2018 by Tokyo-based studio Lerche, whose artists apparently specialize in action sequences. They produced a rollicking boy’s adventure, filled with battles, monsters, explosions, superpowers, scheming villains and slapstick comedy.
Despite his small horns, dark hair and perpetual bandages, teenage hero Seth (Christopher Llewyn Ramirez) looks a bit like a lanky Naruto. Anime fans—and Shonen Jump readers — will immediately recognize his type: the eager apprentice who commands enormous latent powers, but who currently boasts more enthusiasm than skill.
Seth must find his way in a dangerous world haunted by Nemesis, powerful creatures who look a bit like the Hollows in Bleach. Nemesis cause enormous destruction wherever they fall to Earth, and the few humans who survive their attacks bear marks — like Seth’s horns — and acquire mysterious powers. Only sorcerers can fight and defeat Nemesis. Complicating things further are the activities of the Inquisition, whose members persecute sorcerers, fomenting fear and hatred of them.
In the first episodes, Seth leaves hot-tempered sorcerer Alma (Monica Rial), who raised the abandoned little boy. Alma’s crusty exterior conceals a kind heart, and she may remind viewers of Izumi-sensei in Fullmetal Alchemist and other exasperated disciplinarians.
Seth travels to the Artemis Academy, a school for sorcerers run by a venal yellow cat. He hopes the master Yaga will teach him how to control his formidable powers, which have already caught the attention of the Inquisition’s armored warriors. Seth’s ultimate goal is extremely ambitious: He wants to find and destroy the legendary Radiant, the source of the
Nemesis, bringing peace to humanity and ending the persecutions of the Inquisition.
But knowledge comes at a price: Everything in Artemis costs, and costs a lot. Seth, his friend and ally Melie (Caitlin Glass) and their hapless researcher pal Doc (Shawn Gann) quickly rack up a staggering debt. Typically, Seth cheerfully misconstrues his record-breaking deficit as an achievement worthy of celebration. To work off some of their arrears, they’re assigned various odd jobs around the school. What should be a routine cleaning assignment brings them into conflict with the crooked Bravery Quartet. Seth risks expulsion from the Academy by defying Yaga’s ban on his using magic to rescue one of the villains from certain death.
Valente and directors Seiji Kishi and Daisei Fukuoka steer a middle course for their hero. Although he constantly gets himself into trouble, he’s not the determined goof-off Naruto was as a student. He’s eager to use his powers to protect the innocent from both the Nemesis and the Inquisition, but he lacks the diffident selflessness of Deku in
My Hero Academia.
Although the many fights feature the usual blasts of energy and named attacks, Valente adds a political note to Seth’s shenanigans by having the Inquisition also persecute immigrants, some of whom wear hijab-like head coverings. Radiant may not be a ground-breaking series, but it’s certainly an entertaining one—and viewers would never suspect it began in French, rather than Japanese. ◆