In a far off land, in a time long ago, there are monsters called Karmas. Karmas are a blight on the land and the people, growing more powerful as they absorb the sins of those poor souls they devour. The only ones capable of defeating a karma are the Children of Impurity—an order of monster-hunters who can destroy a Karma forever by taking the evil into themselves.
While the Children of Impurity are respected, they are not well-liked. The darkness they absorb tends to slowly make them more inhuman in behavior and appearance. They also tend not to live long, either dying in battle or falling prey to the evil that consumes them from the inside out.
Ran is a Child of Purity who has trouble relating to people, even ignoring the difficulties of his curse. He attracts the attention of Torue, a third-generation bard, whose songs he enjoys while passing through a village in need. Torue has memorized all the sagas of old, but longs to create her own songs and stories. This leads her to follow Ran (who she thinks is quite handsome, even if his smile is kind of creepy), hoping to write an epic ballad about his great deeds.
One can’t help but be reminded of The Witcher while reading The Poetry of Ran. There seems little effective difference between the Children of Impurity and the Witchers in practice. True, Ran is more awkward than anti-social, and his sidekick is a perky lass who worries about her breasts being too big. In terms of action, however, Ran and Torue invite comparison to Geralt and Dandelion.
Thankfully, while The Poetry of Ran’s plots may be standard fantasy fare, the supporting cast make it memorable. This is a mixed blessing, however. Some of the supporting characters, like the dragon hunter Jill and the elven Child of Purity, Mina, are far more interesting than the stoic Ran and spoony Torue. They seem to be set up as recurring characters, but one wishes they were the leads.
The artwork is a larger problem than the stock plots. Yusuke Osawa is a great character designer and crafts unique looks for all the characters. Unfortunately, their action sequences are overdrawn and there’s little sense of flow between the panels, particularly in chapters three and four. I found it incredibly difficult to tell what was going on thanks to the intense close-ups of Ran fighting various giant Karmas.
This volume is rated 15+ by Titan Manga. I find that to be a fair assessment of the volume and the series to date. There is some bloodshed, but not as much as one would normally expect in an Older Teen manga. There is some mild sexual content, between all the references to Torue’s large chest. There is also a scene in which Mina flirts with Torue and makes her feel very uncomfortable. It is unclear, however, if Torue is just uncomfortable with sex in general or embarassed to think of herself in comparison to the inhumanly beautiful Mina.
The Poetry of Ran, Vol. 1
By Yusuke Osawa
Publisher Age Rating: 15+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Neurodivergent