MANGA REVIEW | "RADIANT" - Volume Four
In a world where even looking slightly different will get you the scorn of society, would you still be a champion for all? Does every person deserve saving, or only a select few? Whose side would you be on: the normal people, or those who have been cursed by monsters and the rest of general public? These are the types of questions that are thrown at Seth in the fourth volume of RADIANT, with his answers building the scaffold that his beliefs and ideals will stand upon.
As the battle in Rumble Town continues, Seth finds himself meeting his brother Piodon for the very first time. During their chats, it's revealed that Seth won't be able to satisfy either side of the populace, as the normal people continue to scorn those cursed by the Nemeses. However, ever as persistent, our horn-headed hero decides to go face-to-face with Hameline and attempt to save the town, all the while the Inquisition tries to keep the people at bay. It's this battle that places Seth's core values into the spotlight, one that finds sympathy in Hameline's actions while taking on the burden of saving a town filled with backwards-minded individuals.
The internal conflict between heroes, villains, and the normal people of society is nothing new in the entertainment field. It's the usual go-to for writers to build up a character's philosophy on why they do the things they do, be it for good, evil, or something in-between. What Seth does here is a more noble approach to this conflict, where he embraces the actions of Hameline, all the while disarming her and attempting to smash some common sense into her well-being. All the while those who scorned Wizards watch from below, bearing witness to what it means to be heroic in the face of imminent danger.
Of course, it would be easy to just make everyone have a change of heart, but that's not what Tony Valente wishes to do here. The minds of those corrupted by fear take time to awaken to the truth, even when it's right in front of their faces. However, it's the letter Seth receives soon afterwards from Taj's family where it becomes apparent that a change is coming within the confides of Rumble Town, with the purple-snotted kid gaining his own posse in the process. This is the author's way of saying that better times can be obtained, even if it takes years to truly realize them.
As for Hameline, her exit from the story can be a little bittersweet. On one hand, it's a little eyebrow-raising to see her just so quickly want to hand over Seth for her own greed. But at a flip of a coin, her ambitions change as she attempts to take on General Torque and the Thaumatures in a heated (but losing) battle. In a way, she becomes a martyr for the Wizards and others infected by the Nemeses; it also awakens Seth to a new level of power, one that he seemingly can't control fully just yet.
All of these actions and events lead Seth towards a pathway of doubt. While he still wishes to destroy Radiant, all of his recent experiences are giving him a heavy heart. He worries about his friends, colleagues, and especially those that are closest to his heart. It's a good growing pains sort of experience that Seth is now going through, as he is dealing with the truths of how the world truly works. How it's presented demonstrates a level of maturity in these characters, making their battles feel both believable and relatable.
It may have taken some time, but Valente has finally delivered the heart of RADIANT with its fourth volume. Filled with much action and philosophy, Seth's quest towards ridding the world of Nemeses gets deeper and more thought-provoking in the concluding battle within Rumble Town. With new allies in his corner and bitter enemies trailing from behind, Seth, Mélie, and the rest of the gang are becoming stronger both physically and mentally as they reach their goals. Valente has worked hard to craft a shonen manga as good as something out of Japan, and the latest volume easily gets him to that point.
Promotional consideration provided by Erik Jansen of MediaLab PR