Meet the Urumas, a slightly dysfunctional family of four sorcerers. Mom, being the most powerful sorceress around, works away from home keeping the world safe. Dad picks up the slack and takes care of the family. Except when he's out, which is when the older brother Jin finds himself in the unenviable position of keeping tabs on his sister Ran. And Ran, the youngest, is a willful girl with too much power and too little wisdom. Let's take a look at Ran's everyday misadventures, shall we?
Ran to Haiiro no Sekai has been licensed in English as Ran and the Gray World by VIZ Media. It was published in Swedish as Rans magiska värld by Ordbilder from September 20, 2011 to November 7, 2016. It has been published in Spanish by Ediciones Tomodomo as Ran y el mundo gris since March 20, 2017.
Part of what makes this manga extraordinary, in my opinion, can be described by the age-old literary proverb: "show, don't tell." Yes, your 2nd grade English teacher told you this, as did your 5th grade and 8th grade English teachers. All of your English teachers, in fact (each subsequently more and more worried about your continuous failures in essay writing... no? just me?).
"Show, don't tell!"
Ran to Haiiro no Sekai, or "Ran and the Grey World," is a low-fantasy (fantasy set in a realistic world) coming-of-age story. Put simply, Aki Irie tells a beautiful story in a
wildly imaginative fantasy setting without ever needing to explain how the magic works or explicitly convince you of a character's feelings and convictions. You are immediately thrust into a strange world where sorcerers hidden in the human society can transform into beasts at will and flora and fauna spring into existence at the snap of a finger. And yet, the mythical creatures, magical powers, and character interactions all feel completely natural.
The narrative is surprisingly fast-paced. Background stories (flashbacks) are short and sparse but wholly satisfying, and no chapters feel like they detract from the overall pace. The characters seem intimately human; their responses to dialogue and crises never feel contrived. It's also quite funny when it wishes to be. The author plays around with some common tropes but has a great sense of humor. The manga does venture into ecchi territory at times, but not for the sake of fanservice. The artwork is lovely and the showing of skin imparts a unique sense of style. Above all, it is magical in both its storytelling and in its ability to convey its message: "don't rush, take life in stride--one step at a time."
With that said, my given scores in the MAL rating format would be:
Story: 8/10 - a little lacking but still solid
Art: 10/10 - gorgeous!
Characters: 10/10 - likable and interesting, with amazing development
Enjoyment: 10/10 - shed a not-so-manly tear at the end
Overall: 10/10 - one of my favorites of all time
The lacking--and I use this term with some reluctance--plot is not so much a weakness as it is a side effect of a particularly character-driven story. The exact events that unfold are not the point of the manga; it is Ran's emotional development, her brother's attitude and evolving methods of dealing with her, her parents' struggle to balance community and family obligations, and a tightly-knit society's display of resilience in the face of overwhelming danger that make this manga so incredible. The real magic is not in the objects and animals Ran or her mother whimsically bring forth, but in the beauty of each character's growing understanding of themselves and one another, along with the life lessons to be learned through the story's charming and cathartic resolution.
I so dearly wish more chapters awaited, but am perfectly content accepting Ran to Haiiro no Sekai as the amazing (and all-too concise) celebration of life it is.
TL;DR: It's pretty damn good, go read this right now.
This manga's story isn't a 10, nor is its character. But by god its art is, and it's enjoyment could have been. This manga could have been a 10 on art and enjoyment alone. Before I start complaining about what I believe ruined this manga, I'll talk about it's good points.
Story : 7
I think the story, strangely enough, is almost like enjoyment in this particular manga. Subjective. For some people, the minimalistic and simple story, may warrant a 10. I can certainly see and understand that. Maybe in a different mood, I'd be one of those people. I'm giving it a 7 simply because of
the thing that ruined the manga in general for me, and poisoned the story. I think this manga is kinda like a SOL where story isn't really a criteria you rate it on.
Art : 10
Needs no explaining.
Character : 7
Almost every character is interesting and consistent. I'd give this a 8, but again, I'll save why I demoted it to a 7 for my rant.
Enjoyment : 7
Enjoyment is subjective, and I found most of it enjoyable. The things I didn't however, the things that changed this from a 9 or 10 to a 7 will be saved for the rant.
Outarou ruined everything he touched. This is the first and last time I'll say his name, because frankly, saying it leaves a taste of shit in my mouth.
I'm of the mind he was poorly written and aggressively and poorly shoe horned into to give this manga a villain and sense of drama.
His relationship with Ran was unnatural and unhealthy.
Unnatural in the sense that it was poorly written. Ran had literally no reason to love him. He didn't do anything to spark romance. Upon first meeting he tried to assault her, and then confined her. I'm no child psychologist, but that alone should freak the hell out of a child and put a stopper into any budding romantic feelings. Her poorly written relationship (which aside from him, was the only poorly written thing), made zero sense both logically and emotionally.
Unhealthy in the sense of (you really shouldn't need me to say this) pedophilia. You can say he didn't know she was 10, but that doesn't change the fact that he, a 29 year old man, assumed the girl who fell into his garden, was highschooler, 18 at the OLDEST was reasonable romantic prospects. And that completely neglects the fact that she still behaved her age, 10. While not as bad as pedophilia, it's still pretty fucking bad and pretty damn illegal. He also died 'loving her', IE pedophilia... Anyone who finds this romantic, seriously needs a psych eval. He didn't love her, he was infatuated. He wanted to possess her. He literally knew NOTHING about her. He wasn't even special in his attraction to her. Everyone who saw her adult form was attracted to her in the EXACT same way he was.
The only good thing about him and his relationship with Ran was the contrast it gave to Hibi, and Hibi's relationship with Ran. Hibi actually liked her. He saw her faults and didn't care. He likes her, as she was, a kid, a coward, immature. He even hated what she pretended and wanted to be, an adult. The asshole on the other hand knew literally nothing about her, except that she was alluring. He didn't even bring out the best in Ran. His unnatural and frankly stupid relationship with Ran brought out the worst, nearly got the world and her entire family killed via forced drama. You can argue that's because she cared that much about him. I'd say that argument is fundamentally flawed, as the relationship itself, as previously mentioned, is nonsensical.
And then the obvious. He. Was. An. Asshole. He treated women like objects. He subjected others to petty revenge. He fired a guard for rightly being alarmed at a naked man walking around. Was malicious because he enjoyed it. And finally he treated kids like shit. How a kid could love him is non-sensical. How anyone, fictional or real, could like him, is likely due a little thing I like to call being beyond common sense or logic.
This manga should have stuck to SOL. That poorly written drama just left a massive stain on an otherwise perfect manga. If it had to force drama in, I don't know how, it should have done it a different way.
I could try and explain more, but this is one of those things that shouldn't need explaining. It's one of the few things in the world that are black and white. I think I hit all the important things. He was a bad character, both quality wise, and personality wise, IE he was poorly written. He was only there to add drama. Everything he touched, turned to shit, relationships, story, etc. The manga would have been better without him.
I don't regret reading this, but I do regret what it could have been. This manga could have been a 10. But he ruined it.
Deeply flawed story with some strikingly redeeming qualities. Whether the flaws are too problematic will depend on the reader.
Ran to Haiiro no Sekai is the story of Ran, a 10-year old girl from a family of magic users, who is heir apparent to great power, but just learning to use it, and just as prone to misuse it.
It's the execution of said story that gets lost. In reading it, it's not clear the mangaka could decide what the story should be. At its best, it follows the "ordinary" day to day life of its (mostly) very appealing characters. Ran is vibrant
and charismatic; seeing her explore her world is a joy, even as her struggles at school and testing her family limits feel real. Indeed, this story has so many great characters, including Jin, Nio, Hibi, Tamao, and many more, each distinct and interesting in their own way. This manga could have been built around Ran's coming-of-age, with plenty of room for its huge cast of characters to get substantial side stories of their own, and it would have been endlessly entertaining and charming. The potential for great character development and stories weaving magic with growing up is here.
But that, apparently, wasn't enough. Instead, Ran needed the gimmick of being able inhabit her 20-year old body by putting on a special pair of sneakers, which she does time and time again. There was never a why for this power, although initially, she seemed to use magic better in this form. The only reason this seemed to serve for the story is to allow her to meet Outarou, an adult character who is far too reminiscent of Doumyouji of Hana Yori Dango in his earlier, arrogant days, so he could become infatuated with her this way. Mind you, she doesn't age when she puts on the sneakers. She is merely her 10-year old self in her 20-year old body. For most of the story, he is unaware of this, and although the story initially depicts him taken with her physically, it presents him falling in love with her as time goes by, which to put into perspective, is a 29-year old man falling in love with a 10-year old personality. Something just doesn't sit right there, to put it mildly.
So after the charming coming-of-age story and bizarre romance, there now needs to be a world-threatening crisis, requiring the sorcery of their world to combat an invading dark force. Here it ends up being reminiscent of Kekkaishi (even down to the family matriarch being outrageously powerful and often away at work) as all the various supernatural beings and magic users with their own bonds and resentments, band together to fight a common foe. Although some groundwork was laid for this story arc, it still feels jarringly out of place. After this arc resolves, the story meanders back to day-to-day life with a focus on recovery from the crisis, and a rushed ending.
Still with me?
Either these three disparate story angles were unskillfully wedged together, or I'm just missing the point, but I think it could have done without the pedophilic romance and epic sorcery conflict. At about 50 chapters, Ran to Haiiro no Sekai is not a long manga. To tell all three stories, there was just too little time to develop so many of the terrific characters, many of whom were simply wasted.
With that said about the story, the art of Ran demands special mention. It is gorgeous. The mangaka takes old-school retro shoujo art and modernizes it magnificently. The character designs are beautiful, idiosyncratic, and appealing. Stills can be breathtakingly detailed and pretty. Typical scene panels are often simply drawn but are dynamic and expressive. This is one lovely manga to look at.
To sum, I have rather mixed feelings about the manga and find it hard to recommend. I consider its story flaws too great to be overcome by the art, characters, and the better parts of the storytelling.
Without a doubt the best and sexiest manga out there. I don't mean sexy in a fan service type of way though. This is a Josei manga in the purest sense, because even though the characters are adults, they maintain the signature Shojo sparkle. But the sparkle has been refined with age, to a point where if you saw the characters in everyday life your eyes would naturally be drawn to them.
The whimsy that permeates this world is always there, even at its most serious moments of Drama and Melodrama. The art quality is absolutely phenomenal on every level,
such that I could write paragraphs on end about the entire thing. The love that every character feels is portrayed with such grace and charm it is impossible not to feel a warmth in your heart reading this manga. There is no one who could read this and not be affected on some level.
I can admit some might feel the relationship between Ran and Outarou is a little uncomfortable. But you have to remember that nothing does actually come of it, and if you think to yourself that adult Ran isn't attractive you are lying.
The story does get very serious at points. People are nearly killed, lives are ruined, and the story gets extremely dark. But even then, the magic and wonder never leaves the series. If this is ever made available in America, I am buying as much as I can. Everyone who reads this will absolutely love it.