Ran is an energetic fourth grade budding sorceress. She just wants to grow up, see her mother more often, and figure out how to fly. When she puts on her magic shoes, she transforms into a young adult, but she is still naive to the world’s machinations. When a flying experiment gone awry causes to her to crash-land on a rooftop garden, she meets playboy Otaro, who quickly develops an interest in this mysterious young woman.

In this first volume, much of the plot focuses on introducing our enthusiastic, if naïve, heroine and her world. Creator Aki Irie is good at showing rather than telling, and key plot points reveal much about Ran. For example, Ran is frequently lonely without her mother (an exuberant and powerful sorceress), has a very typical sibling relationship with her older brother Jin, and she is an outsider at school. Ran tackles all challenges with enthusiasm, and she is an enjoyable character to read and follow. The parts that focus on Ran’s daily life are heartwarming and engaging, and there are plenty of laugh-out moments to make up for the more introductory nature of the first volume.

Once Otaro is introduced, the story gets uncomfortable whenever he is involved. Most of his actions are questionable and cast a pallor on the overall tone of the story. For instance, he tricks Ran into staying at his place in order to satisfy his own desire to spend time with her, and tracks her to a festival in order to see her again. While he hasn’t fully taken a major role yet, his arrogant and entitled attitude do not make him appear particularly redeemable. Ran’s naïveté leads to some scenes that would look flirtatious in a different context, but, for now, it is unclear at this point what direction the story will take. At this point though, all interactions with him sour the story whenever he is involved.

The art is successful in some ways, but not in others. Irie’s line art captures the characters’ personalities and action very well. The art captures Ran’s rambunctiousness and determination and Otaro’s selfish, scheming nature very well; Ran’s transformation is striking, and the linework captures her fresh and forceful presence. However, some of the panels in this version are smaller, and the lighter line work that makes Ran look airy and active can make it easy to miss key details that set up plot points.

While it’s difficult to tell what direction Ran and Otaro’s relationship will take, Ran’s characterization and the plot points that do not feature Otaro make for enjoyable reading. Viz rates Ran and the Gray World Older Teen. There is some nudity during Otaro’s introduction and one especially uncomfortable scene where Otaro tries to make out with Ran; these facts lead the reviewer to agree with the rating. Ran and the Gray World will likely appeal to readers looking for some fun slice-of-life fantasy and fans of stories like Ranma 1/2.

Ran and the Gray World, Vol. 1
By Aki Irie
ISBN: 9781974703623
Viz Media, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (Older Teen)

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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