When we last saw fourth grade sorceress Ran, she was trying to manage her powers, deal with her personal life, and sort out her feelings for Otaro, the playboy whose garden she crash-landed in her young adult form . The next two volumes shift focus slightly and add more storylines into the main plot.
When Ran’s parents fight an invasion of dangerous magical insects, Otaro falls prey to one and sinks into a deep sleep. In another storyline, her brother Jin—who is part wolf—undertakes a hunt for love. These new storylines are intertwined with Ran’s own story in the third volume: Ran continues to struggle with her growing powers, a possible new friendship, and her feelings for Otaro.
Volume two falls somewhat into the trap of being a middle volume. The story sets up most of the side plots that volumes two and three cover. Ran, whose personality and situations carried the first volume, is not as present—which may prove a disappointment to some readers. Other characters are further developed; the storyline with Jin is particularly interesting as it fleshes out a character who plays a significant role in Ran’s life. Readers also get a better sense of Ran’s family’s dynamics and the wider magic world. However, these new storylines resolve themselves in a way that takes the tension out of them, and thus it is a surprise when some of the stories continue in the next volume.
While the third volume returns its focus to Ran, much of the content makes it uncomfortable to read. The third volume focuses on Ran’s rescue of Otaro from his deep sleep and their developing relationship. Otaro’s behavior in this volume has not improved, and the story becomes increasingly uncomfortable to read. When Ran enters Otaro’s mind to try to rescue him from his deep sleep, Otaro manipulates the dream so that she’s only wearing underwear and then he changes its color. There is another scene where Ran gets groped in “adult mode” and mocked for her appearance. These scenes that belittle and objectify the main character make the story extremely uncomfortable to read. Paired with a narrative that lacks tension, this story was an unpleasant slog.
The art in these volumes has improved; it is much easier to follow the flow of the story, and Ran and the other character designs capture the characters’ personalities well. However, the improved art is not enough to save this story. Readers who enjoyed the first volume of Ran will likely be disappointed by the fact that the story lacks tension and is frequently uncomfortable to read. If libraries purchase the second and third volumes, they should be placed in the older teen or adult sections with the first volume.
Ran and the Gray World, Vol. 2-3
By Aki Irie
vol 2 ISBN: 9781974703630
vol 3 ISBN: 9781974703647
Viz Media, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (Older Teen and Adults)