Animation Magazine

Ad­ven­tures of a Franco-Ja­panese Teen Hero

- By Charles Solomon

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.

Mysterious Mon­sters

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. ◆

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