Ragna Crimson Manga Volume 11 Review

Ragna Crimson Manga Volume 11 Review

Ragna Crimson Volume 11 effectively ends the first major arc of the manga and encapsulates the strengths and struggles of what has come thus far. The volume is essentially broken into three pieces: the battle, a flashback with Ultimatia and Woltekamui, and the aftermath. Let’s tackle each in turn.

The battle itself is everything we have come to expect from Ragna Crimson. You could argue this is what action fantasy manga is about in its most perfect sense: larger-than-life battles between beings of immense power. It’s hard to describe the exact details of what is happening in each moment, as dragons soar through the skies and silverine-powered warriors surge into the fray. There are pyrotechnics, magical spells, and bone-shattering impacts galore. The action never slows down and Daiki Kobayashi‘s art never skips a beat. His ability to render high-concept combat is truly something to behold, a nearly unending parade of bombastic blasts and defiant shouts. It looks great and the hits land with aplomb.

The problem is much the same as prior volumes in that there is so much of it. I love the idea of these fights in theory and how everything looks moment-to-moment. My main issue is one of clarity as it is challenging to tell what is happening in the actual flow of combat. We have long since left the realm of anything approaching normal conflict between mundane combatants and the relentless cacophony of monstrous beings tossing around massive attacks which means it’s hard to picture what is happening between panels. Despite the objectively incredible presentation of each shot, I found my attention wandering as the high-octane fighting wore on. Eventually, it all began to wash over me and the only impression left was “They had a really big fight.” It was like listening to an eight-minute guitar solo without a chorus of verse to help break up the longer sections: regardless of the technical acumen on display, the effect is lessened by the scale of what is presented. I know Ragna and Crimson win, and I know Ultimatia and Woltekamui lose, but a lot of how that happens gets lost in the mix – despite really enjoying that mix on a purely visceral level.

The flashback between Ultimatia and Woltekamui is another major part of this volume. The big emotional beats of this volume (and several previous character threads) rest on the success of these sequences. They are informational flashbacks that reveal the nature of these two characters and also an attempt at adding a twinge of melancholy to their defeat. This is a mixed bag much like the action, but whereas the action sequences are net positive, I’m more in the leaning-negative camp on the emotional aspect.

I do not buy Ultimatia or Woltekamui as sympathetic villains and I don’t think their motivations are interesting either. From the moment we meet these characters, they are genocidal quasi-divine beings carving a path of destruction through innocent people by the millions. Like prior attempts to add nuance to their characterizations, the pitch of “Well, before they did all that magical genocide they were young once!” doesn’t move the needle for me. And however complicated they may have been on the inside, the outer expression of that plan was simple extermination. I appreciate the attempt, and I recognize that this backstory might make them more interesting to others, but for me, it was time that could have been spent with characters I find more fascinating like Ragna and Crimson.

At the very least, the visual splendor of these flashbacks is still up to the same high marks we have come to expect. Not only is Daiki Kobayashi skilled in comic craft and his ability to render immaculate artistry, but the creativity in the Ultimatia sequences is exceptional. Much grim imagery evokes half-remembered nightmares or terrifying visions just before dawn. It’s clear just how hopeless and trapped Ultimatia feels from the things she has gone through and the brilliant grisly displays bring the audience in on her plight, even if I can’t connect with it on any emotional level.

The aftermath is somewhat short but the possibilities do feel quite open. Up until now, it seems like Ultimatia and Woltekamui were the primary threats that Ragna and Crimson had to face down. Woltekamui’s magical and physical might combined with Ultimatia’s time-stop powers made for an imposing wall that they had to scale, and it was clear that these two were the heads of the villainous dragons wiping out humanity. With them gone it is unclear where the story goes from here. There are more dragons to face down – at least one new unknown force has put her hat in the ring, eyes full of malicious intent- and the impetus is still there. But the clear direction towards a known foe has receded with victory.

Despite the flaws in clarity and my inability to connect with the villains, Ragna Crimson Volume 11 was still an exciting read with the same gorgeous visual craft it had from the beginning. I remain curious as to what comes next in the story.

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