The Ravages of Time is an adaptation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, showing the fortunes of Liu Bei, Cao Cao, the Sun family, and the Sima family. The Simas are a successful and rich merchant family, led by the young Sima Yi, who has shown a flair for spotting profitable business venture ever since a young age. The Sima family, however, possesses a sinister side as they command the Handicapped Warriors (殘兵) - a group of mercenary assassins reputed to be infallible.
As a manga based on the Three-Kingdoms era, I thought this was another one of those unoriginal Chinese attempts on making money off the hugely popular historical epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms...
Boy was I ever more wrong... because not only are the details of this manga original, it is an absolute masterpiece. For once I have to bow down to the author and declare that I'm not even worthy of being a critic of his work.
Basically, we're talking about a manga that perfectly combines the genres of martial action, epic battlefield combat, political/factional scheming, military strategy, detailed character development, and a very complex but
highly intriguing plot; compiling all the finest elements of Three-Kingdoms literature under one cover:
-----Generals that dominate the battlefield, unmatched in sheer awesomeness that exemplifies the Chinese saying [i]"Taking the head of the enemy commander from amongst the million, is as easy as taking items from a bag"[/i].
-----Tacticians with multi-layered chain strategies so complex it would make Lelouch (or any other military tactician from anime) look like a preschooler.
-----Politicians and warlords embedded in a free-for-all fight for dominance as the Han dynasty, an era so powerful it contributed to the Fall of the Roman Empire from across the globe, comes to a collapse.
-----Heroes stuck between all of it trying to decide just what defines morality when everything is lost in shades of gray and flames of anarchy.
The story is spread into numerous perspectives in order to cover all the major sides of the conflict, to the point it's hard to grasp whom the main character is/will-be. Although it does seem like Sima Yi, a prodigious merchant who'd eventually become the Chief Military Strategist of Wei; and Lianyuan Huo, a fictional name who'd eventually 'earn' his true name as one of the most famous generals of the Three-Kingdoms era.
While the author sticks to most of the major plot points defined by the original novel, he changed MOST of the underlying details - the character histories, the events that led up to each checkpoint, the character personalities, all of that. What's even more awesome is that he gave perfect reasons on WHY the character is known differently thru folklore, so even those who hold the original novel to heart like I do can enjoy this different version.
I only have a few things somewhat negative to say about the manga:
-----It's written in a tradition Chinese grammar, meaning the language is so beautiful it's like poetry in every line. However, not only is this completely lost in the translation process, it also makes it far harder TO translate. All the proverbs, idioms, famous strategems that any [i]real[/i] Chinese would understand can be especially confusing to English readers, despite the notes the translations put out.
-----The plot of Three Kingdoms is epic and renowned throughout Asia, but is also extremely complex and CAN be somewhat confusing, especially for those who know nothing of the era (yes Dynasty Warriors can help a lot, as much as I dislike that game). There's also a HUGE cast, thankfully, a lot of the generals/warlords/tacticians die off fast =9
-----The drawing style is more western than anime-esque. I don't care about this, but some of you might...
P.S. For those Dynasty Warrior fans of Lu Bu, he is ten times more awesome in this series...
As a Romance of the three kingdoms fanatic, I was at first reluctant to read something so different and novel.
At first it seemed a little too un-historical and bizzare, judging from the multiple fictional characters and all, but when it picks up its pace, it turns out to be a true masterpiece.
The purpose of this manhua is to go against the stereotypes of character personalities and codes of honour, and observe everything from a different perspective, which makes things actually look much more realistic than in the old novel.There are no good and evil characters, no -good- loyalists and -bad- traitors, no heroes and tyrants.Every
character has his own personality and way of thinking, making them far more brilliant and open to further development.
In adition, more aspects of every character are displayed in this manhua, making even the most brash and stupid warriors of the novel develop more tactfull and logical peronalities.
In my opinion, this is what actually shows Chen Mou's true genius.
The way he passes some ideals of society and politics through the historical figures, showing how government officials have always used history and fame to control the actions and minds of the people.
The battle scenes are outstanding, displaying each character's abilities in a very impressive way, though without straying too much from realism.
The only bad aspect of this manhua is the fact that it can become rather confusing for people who do not have knowledge of chinese history and geography, as it does not provide a map, showing the main locations in which the events occur.
I personally had no problems with this, as I know most places and events by heart, but many people to whom i recomended it rejected it for such reasons.
In general, it is an excelent work of art which everyone should try to read, being a fan of ROTK or not.
I tend to enjoy heavily historical anime and manga, despite often having no prior knowledge in that area. This manga thrusts one in media res into the conflicts of a period of Chinese War.
The story arches over several different campaigns of war. If you tend to like something like Hikaru no Go or Death Note (at least before it got ridiculous around seven volumes along) wherein strategy is extensively expounded, then you will probably like this because in each of them explanations of strategy reign supreme. At the same time, however, it has quite a bit more action than typical since it is rooted continually
Although I think it may treat it a little superficially, I like that it continually acknowledges the reality of how pointless and endlessly destructive the jostling for power by all the clans is, although of course it also addresses those who love war and flourish in it and in true destruction.
It does treat many parts of the plot a little too superficially, and this ties in with character development. Most of the characters are unique enough, but parts of their personalities could be fixated upon more or explained much more thoroughly without being cumbersome because this probably skimps too much. I often found myself trying to remember 'who is Zhang Liao?' and had to see him two or three more times before being able to figure out certainly who he was again. It does not help that the names are mixed up, probably because of issues of formality versus informality as well as nicknames. That being said, some characters are just stellar, such as Zhang Fei: "For example, Zhang Fei, traditionally pictured as a bearded chubby man, is displayed in the story as an artist who painted his face in a fashion similar to that of a Chinese opera mask." While excitement does come with parts such as that, they are often just slightly lacking. Maybe I am too used to mangas such as One Piece, and I certainly wish some like One Piece would tone it down sometimes, but this one probably goes to the opposite extreme and takes itself too seriously.
The art in this is not awful and not great. It is not anything nearly so bad as Bleach with its impossible amount of ACTION LINES!!!, for example, but its lines are drawn too thick and bold often, which is probably the biggest hindrance to my enjoyment of it.
I hope my tone in this was not too negative, but this is in fact a fairly serious manga laden with tons of history and characters who are not the most epic people ever, though they are sometimes striking. Overall it is a great take on a period of Chinese history and the nature of its war, and it has many quite poignant statements related to such, which I will not spoil since it is more fun to come across them (often used as the close of a chapter, for instance, and you get to guess whether the character just left off from is saying it or if it is a general statement!)
Before you read this manga you need to know the background of the Three Kingdoms Era. If you played Dynasty Warriors games or you have read a novel from that era you will be ready to read it. However, if you like me read it blind-fully you won't understand everything. You will take a lot of time to memories the characters names and their titles.
I read more than 50 chapters and still there are a lot of things that doesn't make sense and I don't know what is going on, because the mangaka thinks some info is a basic info no need to explain it.
the end you need to know these things before reading this manga:
1- Names of the famous heroes in that era.
2- Names of the main cities.
3- Names titles (ex.Gongzi = Young Master).
4- How the three kingdoms are distributed in the map (China's map in that era).
If you know these information you will LOVE this manga, because it has awesome plans and strategies almost in every chapter, not to forget the epic battles.