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?
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.
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.
Easily one of my favorite things ever, but flawed and difficult to recommend. The villain's unacceptable behavior is pretty unsettling, though I appreciate the way his character is handled by the end of his presence.
I also appreciate just how long it goes on after the final battle against the antagonists; almost half the manga takes place after that point. There's enough time for the characters to properly bounce back from that and to get to back to the real point: the parallel stories of adults and children dealing with stress.
The adults face hectic work and tough decisions, while the kids face the veil coming down
from their eyes and the world showing its ugliness for the first time. Both of them seek comfort by returning home, but they've spent so much time fragmented that it's hard for them to work out a balanced family dynamic.
To vainly use some social psychology jargon: there are two kinds of support that can help alleviate the autonomic response that comes with stress, described as tangible and emotional support. The characters begin to surround themselves with people who can offer them both, while working out issues of interpersonal trust.
The fantasy allows for direct, creative metaphorical imagery which keeps it fresh while continuing to acknowledge the various problems faced by the characters; the probable best example of this occurs fairly late in the manga, and asks us to recall everything that Ran's been through up to that point while she struggles to cope with a brand new experience.
It's a pretty unabashedly sentimental thing that unquestioningly accepts its own ridiculous reality. But it doesn't cut corners to reach that sentiment, and for that it's very uplifting.
Okay, this manga is amazing. It drew me in from the first chapter and did not let me go. I love almost everything about it! ... But that doesn't mean it has a few issues.
Story 9/10: This bewitching story is filled with magic, fun, excitement and everyday life in a very good balance. It's never so casual that it gets boring, but never so intense that you feel it doesn't fit. This is kind of a nitpick, but I was not the biggest fan og the pacing from the middle until the end. It worked okay, but lost a bit of it's initial energy.
Art 10/10: I did not expect to like this, but it was amazing. This manga was made between 2008-2015, but the artstyle looks like something out of the 90's with a modern twist. When they want someone to look happy they get this glow about them and when someone is mad their face really shows it. The spells, scenery, character designs and general atmosphere was all very well expressed in the drawings and I feel like it opened up a lot of possibilities for someone like me who usually doesn't enjoy the artstyle from the 90's and earlier.
Character 9/10: Everyone in this manga has a unique and very fun personality. I especially enjoyed Ran with her bubbly energy and Shizuka who is just a silly, but really motherly ball of fun. The only person I didn't enjoy as much as the others was Outarou. He wasn't a bad character, but his womanizing and sometimes really mean personality didn't grow on me at all. Even if he learns a bit through the manga, I just couldn't bring myself to like him.
The relationship between him and Ran is also something I have mixed feelings about. Since Ran uses an aging spell when she's with him, he doesn't know she's 10 while he's in his late 20's, but it just made me uncomfortable when he was with her. He had more of an adoration or obsession with her than anything else, and saw her as more of an angel than a person, something that made me feel like their relationship wasn't very strong despite all the time they spent together.
Enjoyment 10/10: This manga was a blast. It captured my attention fast and just kept roping me in with fun characters and a very engaging story. It has a great climax and some really great emotion and atmosphere and I just can't do anything but love it.
Overall 9/10: Even is this manga has some issues with pacing and characters, it is a heck of a good manga. It takes the reader seriously and doesn't try to be completely kid friendly. It sucks you in with its atmosphere and keeps you hooked until you realize you've read the entire manga and it's suddenly 4 o'clock in the morning. If you like magic, action, drama and a hint of romance, with an enjoyable and fun cast of characters, then this is the manga for you!