Ragna Crimson Vol. 1 TP
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: February 17, 2021
Price: $12.99
Creator: Daiki Kobayashi
Format: 256 pgs., Black & White, 5.75" x 8.25", Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-6460-9056-3
Age Rating: Older Teen
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This is an oddly dark fantasy story with interesting characters intermingled with some annoying bits of story.  Leo isn’t the main character, which also creates the question of an apparent adult male servant and sidekick who is, in fact, the main character.  That feels weird, and isn’t quite explained well.  If things like a strangely smallish and childlike 12-year-old champion dragon-slayer don’t bother you [she’s supposedly a "genius" at slaying dragons, which doesn’t explain her seemingly superhuman strength], then you may enjoy the action sequences.  Those involve unusual takes on the concept of what a dragon is and what its powers might be.

If anything, that last might take getting used to, because the dragons in this story are neither the dragons of eastern Asia nor the more commonly used fantasy archetypes of European story.  No, these are weird and horrific at times, and seem to have a drastic reaction to silvered weapons, almost like a modern werewolf.  It is not explained why the gun wielders of this story don’t seem to have silver bullets.

The weaknesses of the story include the abrupt changes partway through this volume, which seem to involve a form of spiritual time travel.  Then, there are the forcibly stupid names, like "Temruogtaf" for one of the dragons.  Yes, that’s "Fat Gourmet" spelled backwards, and the book’s notes suggest that this isn’t just a translation hiccup.  The author apparently thought it was funny.  The end notes also have the 12-year-old dragon-slayer asking when she will show up again, a very reasonable question given her disappearance from the second half of this book.

The artwork is good for this type of story, and for teens and adults who just want an action-fest, this will be a fun read.  So far, though, it’s not a deep or literary manga.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.