Ragna Crimson Volumes 9 and 10 manage to do the unthinkable and rise even further, in my estimation, delivering an amazing read full of tension, drama, and comedy without leaning fully on its traditional strengths in art and action.
To say that I’ve been on a journey with this series is a bit of an understatement. When I finished Volume 1, I recall thinking it was a stellar-looking work with many flashy action scenes but feeling underwhelmed by the character and plot offerings (and I reviewed it as such). Fast forward to today, and I’m, uh, fully whelmed, one would say, finding myself not just enjoying the work but entirely smitten with it. The last few volumes have taken off into the stratosphere and become a read I look forward to each time it arrives in my mailbox.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of growth in this volume is the use of downtime between battles. In the past, I would say these segments were a bit more hit-and-miss, or at the very least, only offering one real tone. Sometimes, they would be plotting/scheming heavily if Crimson was in the limelight. Or there would be a bunch of pathos as Ragna struggled with loss. Or perhaps there would be some silly goofball antics from one of Crimson’s various monster minions running around. This is not the case concerning Volume 9, where the downtime segments are rich with tones, moods, and character interactions. It truly feels like I’m getting to spend time with the cast and get a richer understanding of the world rather than time merely being spent – if that makes any sense. I think the roots of this are threefold.
Firstly, the friction between Ragna and Crimson has much more heft in this volume than in previous dust-ups. It’s not that they haven’t gotten into fights with one another or that they have always been in perfect lock-step on how to approach problems. But this volume drives home their fundamentally different approaches, and Ragna stepping out to go it alone has a lot more weight than previously.
Secondly, the emotional stakes for Ragna are a lot more pertinent with the Silverine Princess. I know that his journey started with trying to protect… um… pardon me while I look up her name quickly… Leonica! That’s right, Leonica. I think the fact that I couldn’t remember her name indicates how much impact she’s had, but I digress. I know that Leonica is Ragna’s driving force behind everything he does, but I don’t think she has ever felt like much more than a plot device at best and an annoyance at worst. The Silverine Princess is way more interesting on every level, and her being in danger makes everything seem more weighty and fraught with turmoil. Of course, Ragna would risk it all to help her; of course, Woltekamui is an even greater monster for imprisoning her, and so on. The series has had plenty of endangered people until now, yet this is the first time I’ve truly worried about one of them and wondered if they would be saved in the nick of time.
Thirdly, I think the behind-the-
scalesscenes dragon stuff is far more interesting than before. Most instances where we get any time with these villains have fallen pretty flat for me in the past. I don’t find them compelling beyond the typical scenes of “Mwahahaha, look how evil and hot and cool I am.” Those are fine, don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather get something more substantial, too. Olto Zora’s anguish over Taratectora’s defeat makes for a more relatable, dare I say, human angle to explore. Woltekamui’s sinister refusal to engage with human emotions like mercy and compassion is enticing for the opposite reason, helping paint him as an indomitable foe. These new dimensions add much-needed spice to the dragon scenes and make our time with them as an audience more rewarding.
Volume 10 is also excellent, though it is much less textured than Volume 9 in terms of what is to discuss. Most of Volume 10 is Ragna and Woltekamui fighting, with a particularly strong early showing being the first chapter in this volume. Throughout this chapter, no single line of dialogue is spoken; instead, our two warriors duke it out until they’re in space itself. The art speaks for itself, and it’s a massive payoff after the careful buildup from Volume 9.
If I have any complaints about what is on offer, it is that Volume 10 is a bit too hectic. I love the scope of the battles and the powers, yet it’s hard to precisely track what is happening. There are so many combatants hurling doomsday spells, changing forms, and cutting up swathes of opponents that it gives a sense of whiplash as you move from page to page. You can discern the fight’s tempo even if the moment-to-moment clarity suffers. Still, this ultra-intense action is best enjoyed when there are fewer combatants (such as in Ragna versus Woltekamui) rather than dozens of named characters spread across huge distances.
In terms of the manga’s strengths, what else is there to say at this point? Ragna Crimson is one of the best-looking action manga on the shelves right now, and Daiki Kobayashi has been knocking it out of the park since page one. My favorite flourish in this volume is the back-to-back two-page spreads when Woltekamui attacks Ragna with a flurry of dark tendrils, only for them to turn silver on the next page as Ragna approaches. Kobayashi has immaculate line work and control of the craft of comics, and with the strengthening of the manga’s other elements, it feels like the sky’s the limit for this series.