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Radiant – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「Utopia」 by (04 Limited Sazabys)

「魔法使いの少年」 (Mahoutsukai no Shounen)
“The Sorcerer’s Boy”

I don’t want to make too big a deal about how “important” Radiant is – if for no other reason than because the snark rains down hard and heavy whenever I say that about a series. But let’s face it, this is kind of a big one. It’s important for me personally because it’s the clear top contender outside my big three this season, and because this looks like a pretty weak season overall. But in the big picture it’s vital for far more “important” reasons, whether modern anime fans want to admit it or not.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, France’s comic culture is enormous – second only to Japan’s, in fact, in all the world. Micheal Dudok de Wit (The Red Turtle) addressed this when I interviewed him, citing it as the main reason France has embraced manga and anime more than any Western country. France has a large pool of interesting manga (whether you choose to call them that or not) which would make great candidates for anime adaptation. Frankly I’m pretty sick of the LN, cellphone game and formulaic original series vicious cycle which now dominates the anime development chain. Anything that breaks that stranglehold is a good thing – and if Radiant succeeds, it may just open the door a crack to more French or other Western comics being adapted into anime. If it fails? The impact of that is not hard to figure out.

In the end, Radiant will succeed or fail artistically (commercially is another matter) based on its own merits, and none of the above will make a jot of difference. I have my doubts about the latter for reasons I’ll touch on, but as to the former I feel very encouraged by this premiere. It was, in a word, great. It looked great in a throwback way, it sounded great, it bristled with fun and energy and charm. But it’s going to be a real test of the anime audience, because it’s about as untrendy as it’s possible for a series to be. I’m already bracing for a barrage of “generic”, “kiddie” and “boring” complaints from cynical viewers who won’t bother to look past the veneer and see the substance beneath.

Radiant is the work of Tony Valente, a 33 year-old mangaka who was born in France and now lives in Quebec. The series (which is still ongoing) is a pretty big hit in France, and has gotten a release in Japan as well. When this adaptation was announced, I was kind of expecting Satelight to get the call, given all their history and connections with France – but it instead went to the studio with the German name, Lerche. And they gave it to their top director, Kishi Seiji. I’m a fan, because Kishi at his best – like Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita and Tsuki ga Kirei – is one of the best in the business. But there seems to be an equation with Kishi-sensei, where the degree to which he’s invested in the material severely impacts the care he puts into it – he’s certainly sleepwalked through his share of game adaptations in his time. I never thought that would be the case with Radiant, but a part of you always worries until there’s product on the screen to judge.

Radiant is absolutely, 100% fantasy – as traditional fantasy as it gets. Young hero trying to prove himself, sorcerers, monsters, skeptical villagers. This sort of fantasy was pretty common in anime at one time, but will probably be seen as very old-fashioned now – so be it. The hero is Seth (a strikingly good Hanamori Yumiri) a young apprentice sorcerer under the tutelage of Alma (the always wonderful Paku Romi). They live in a world where a magical force called Fantasia “infects” and can turn beings to either good or evil. The evil ones are known as Nemesis and the good become the sorcerers who travel the world to fight them – but the sorcerers are seemingly disliked by the general public because of their association with magic.

This show may be French, but elements of it are as anime (at least old-school anime as it gets), and that includes Seth. He’s a straight-up shounen hero – overeager and reckless and often irresponsible, but possessed of good intentions and ample bravery. It seems as if his road to sorcery began with his village being attacked by Nemesis, and Alma saving him. It’s clear Seth feels both a great debt to and affection for Alma, and part of what drives him is the desire to see her respected as Seth feels she deserves. But they butt heads, of course, because this is that sort of story and it’s that sort of relationship.

When a Nemesis egg lands on the village where Alma and Seth are currently stationed (in a floating home base), Alma is away fighting elsewhere – leaving the burden of saving an ungrateful town on Seth alone. When the egg hatches he manages to save his younger friend Tommy in his clumsy way, but Seth is clearly in over his head here. Fortunately help arrives in the nick of time – not from a returning Alma, but from a man who’s part of what’s called the Bravery Quartet – he doesn’t identify himself by name, but he does make it very clear that he’s a sorcerer himself.

Is there formula in all this? Absolutely – but even stuff like Boku no Hero Academia and Hunter X Hunter starts off with shounen formula. It’s all about the delivery, and the delivery with Radiant is really solid – it’s full of the martial spirit and goofiness that only really good shounen can deliver in quite this fashion. I’m kind of stumped as to whether Radiant will find an audience, to be honest – it’s really good, and it may scratch a nostalgia itch with a certain chunk of the market, but generally speaking I’m not optimistic. In any event it’s got 21 episodes locked in to tell its story, so I’m not so much worried about Radiant itself. It’s more what its success – or lack thereof – will signal to the money side of the anime industry about whether tapping into this rich vein of material is a viable option for the future that worries me. Time, as the saying goes, will tell…

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「Radiant」 by (Polkadot Stingray)

Preview

October 7, 2018 at 5:12 am
11 comments »
  • October 7, 2018 at 5:44 amEvan

    I, too, hope its country of origin isn’t the only worthwhile thing people will see about it.

    • October 7, 2018 at 6:38 amGuardian Enzo

      It certainly wasn’t for me – I like the show both for what it is and the opportunity it represents. But if there’s a curiosity factor there for people that gets them watching, that’s not such a bad thing.

  • October 7, 2018 at 5:59 amBamboo Blade Cat

    Thought it was ok. Liked their little house in the sky. Will continue watching.

  • October 7, 2018 at 8:10 ammac65

    I’m in it for the elephants steers whatever they are! I like this 1st episode.

    I thought he animation was crisp, consistent, and pleasing to watch. One of the things
    that annoys about shounen is the problem solving is usually done through a level-up of
    some sort, rather than actually solving a problem. Just get a bigger hammer.

    That’s when it’s hard for me to keep my interest.

    Hunter X Hunter was pretty amazing in that their existing skill improved
    (rather than always just add a new skill) as they applied them to different
    problems. It’s was clever how Gon got Hisoka’s badge with his fishing pole;
    that sorta thing. The pole wasn’t new, just a new mastery of the tool.

    Hopefully we’ll see things like that in this series, although it’s too soon to say…

  • October 7, 2018 at 8:19 amgrayne

    nice to see a ‘classic’ shounen.

    premise and characters are fairly rote so far though, will have to see if they call pull off story and execution

  • October 7, 2018 at 11:01 amYi

    If you want the French to save anime, why does it have to be through this particular show? I’m willing to give it a try, but the first episode didn’t exactly impress.

    It’s not like this is the first ever French-Japanese effort, or the first successful one. You said in the preview thread that you’ve never even watched Savin Yeatman-Eiffel’s very nice “Oban Star-Racers”, which according to Wikipedia has aired in 100+ countries. Not enough popularity for you or do you need a show to be distributed with a sticker “This is JAPANESE ANIME! Not just an animated show! JAPANESE ANIME! ONLY IN JAPANESE! Guaranteed no Chinese, French, or any other language not customary for American JAPANESE ANIME fans!”?

    I don’t see why the French would have to go through Japan at all or mold themselves into Japanese tropes to show off their creativity. For example Code Lyoko was a perfectly good French show without any Japanese involvement and their Once Upon a Time properties are true classics.
    ————–
    If you’re going to delete this post again, like you did at your personal blog, could you at least explain what was wrong with it? I can hardly believe you couldn’t take a little sarcasm over how dismissive Japanese anime fans can be towards non-Japanese animation. There’s nothing even theoretically offensive in the rest of what I wrote, so I was honestly quite baffled.

    • October 7, 2018 at 6:11 pmGuardian Enzo

      It was in the spam folder, actually. Something to do with your ip presumably.

      Ah, there it is – anytime someone expresses a hope that a series might prompt a change in anime’s tired, doomed creative spiral, the “save anime” snark comes out.

      There are plenty of French manga that are less expressly shounen (or Japanese) than Radiant. Valente happens to love old-school shounen fantasy and wanted to do a homage to it. Why on Earth anyone would have a problem with that I don’t understand.

      • October 8, 2018 at 11:35 pmYi

        I don’t understand your complaint. When you talk a lot about anime being doomed if things continue as is and that something needs to be done about that, why is it inappropriate for me to characterize that something as “saving anime”?

        I have no problem whatsoever with Valente if he wants to pay homage to Japanese shounen manga. I was talking about your apparent idea that pre-Japanization is a good way to introduce more foreign properties to the market. I think we all know that the reason this particular French comic got adapted was because it was so similar to what the Japanese are used to. This does not readily translate into wholesale adaptation from French comics that aren’t pre-Japanized, regardless of Radiant’s commercial success. And like I said, the French can adapt their own properties, there’s no requirement for them to go through Japan. Except of course that you won’t be watching them unless they get Japanized.
        ——–
        About the disappearing post, I was mislead by how previously I’d get a moderation warning but this time it went through with no obvious hitch, so I had no idea it’d somehow get moved into spam. I’ll probably rely at your blog as well, so hopefully this won’t happen again or you can keep an eye out.

  • October 7, 2018 at 4:50 pmsosbrigade1991

    this felt very old fashion in a good way. youthful. exuberant. filled to the brim with possibility, which is how shows of this nature should be. Otaku know what they like and so deviance from the norm is rare but I’m hoping this thing can garner a crowd. LN authors musing about life and sexy bunny girls are not NEARLY as clever as they think they are.

  • October 8, 2018 at 6:29 ammic

    I’m sure this will be great for early to mid teens but I don’t know why Guardan Enzo thinks seasoned fans should watch it. Not every shounen has a lot to offer to grownups like Hunter x Hunter, that’s kinda the point even. I’m surprised to hear this is by a French guy, it looks like a typical shounen to me. I guess it’s his lucky break, he imitated Japanese style well enough to get picked up. Every fan artists dream.

  • October 10, 2018 at 2:17 amCutThroatNeko

    First post for me but I come here regularly.
    i’m french, older than Valente, I’ve read Radiant and I was anticipating its anime adaptation.
    And I must say that I’m disappointed. I felt NHK’s control over it as Alma and Seth’s character have been really softened.
    In the manga, Seth is bad tempered and doesn’t care about any of his action’s consequences (even if he is perfectly aware of how bad it could end) and Alma is really grumpy.

    now, I’m afraid about how the studio will treat the politicals and social critics there is in the source material.
    Yes, Valente use quotes said by some of our politicians and put them in the mouth of some bad guys.
    Not sure how far the NHK has allowed this adaptation.

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