Two days before my birthday Yen Press announced the series release of A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special, starting my birthday week with great news. Three hundred and five days later I finally hold the physical copy in my hands.
Yen Press is on a roll with all of the Korean and webtoon-based comics they are acquiring and releasing in the West. It’s not only K-Pop that’s attracting fans to this East Asian country, but now we get to experience its culture also, thanks to its comics.
In this fantasy world, Desir Herrman is one of the last few mages fighting in the biggest and most hellish shadow labyrinth that his world has faced. Desir and his teammates don’t have any option—they need to clear it to save humanity. But when things seem to proceed positively, the unimaginable happens.
Desir wakes up during his entrance test at Hebrion Academy, thirteen years in the past. The academy is one of the two institutions that take care of the Shadow Realms: parallel worlds that appear in the world and make the areas where they appear uninhabitable. Desir cannot believe what is going on. One second, he is on the brink of death, and the next one he is a student. Is he lucky? Can Desir change the future and save his comrades and the rest of humanity? Or does it mean that all of the lives sacrificed in his previous life were in vain?
Desir needs to pull himself together and see this new life as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and make sure that his comrades are strong enough to survive. First of all though, he needs to pass the entrance exam to the academy. Unfortunately, he has to face some of the strongest mages from the get-go, while convincing his future comrades of his worth. Too bad Hebrion Academy is a breeding place for discrimination between the nobles and the commoners, with the nobles attending the Alpha class getting the best teachers and tools, and the commoners getting into the Beta class where they are mostly ignored if not bullied by the nobles. It seems like Desir has his work cut out for him.
I loved this manhwa from the first page. It’s a gripping story that leaves its readers with a lot of questions, some of which we learn at the same time as Desir does, and some of which we need to wait for the story to progress. As Desir is entering the school to learn more about the shadow labyrinths, the pace of learning for him is slow as he already has the knowledge from his previous life, but he still needs to be tested and this method of narration makes the readers feel like they are in the story, instead of getting the knowledge from an omniscient narrator.
In this first volume we also get hints on Desir’s future comrades and what their fate is, but Desir is not going to have any of it. He’ll train Romantica and Pram (yes, you read that right, and yes it’s the name of a person in this fantasy world) to surpass their previous selves. What leaves us in the dark is Azest. She shows a cold exterior, but I’m rooting for Desir to win her over to his side. We get to know the three of them as Desir remembers them in his past life as soon as he meets them at the academy. They are not as strong as they were, but it doesn’t matter. Desir has no intention of losing any of them ever again.
Romantica seems like a noble, but she has a secret that could ruin her academy standing. She’s outspoken and abrasive, but she won’t let anyone talk her down. She’s not that happy with Desir but at least she recognizes that she can gain something from him. Pram instead is the complete opposite. He’s a doormat—timid and quiet. He tries to fight back against the nobles with his sword, but the sword shouldn’t be his weapon of choice. Desir will need to make him realize his true talent, and because of this, Pram can’t see Desir as anything but a saviour. Azest is the last comrade that we find out about in Volume 1. She’s a sword magician and can be considered an ice princess. Not only is she considered the best newbie at the academy, but she’s also from one of the best families in the empire. Most importantly, she’s not used to losing, especially to a weak guy like Desir.
I don’t know how Desir will manage to pull all of them together or how he’ll train them, but I know it will be explosive and I can’t wait to see sparks fly—literally and metaphorically. Especially with Romantica. The author implies that there might have been something more to Desir and Romantica’s relationship in their past lives, but nothing else is portrayed in this volume, and I’m grinding my teeth about it. I need to know if there will be any romantic relationship for Desir!
The translation in English flows fluently and the change from webtoon to print edition doesn’t break up either the dialogue or the illustrations. For those not familiar with Korean webtoons, they are read from left to right like in the West, but as they are primarily published digitally, the reader then scrolls down as the whole chapter is made of panels, one right beneath the other. The print edition doesn’t allow the readers to scroll down, but the illustrations are cut down to fit into one page and then proceed to the next one. Another difference that might surprise manga readers is that webtoons are in full colour. Using black and white or colour depends on the manhwaga, but typically they go for the latter. Moreover, the illustrations in this volume are amazing. They show clear and neat lines but with a lot of shadows and attention to detail to showcase the feelings of the characters and what they go through.
A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special Volume 1 written by Usonan and illustrated by Wookjakga has been translated into English by Micah Kim and is published by Yen Press.
We don’t have a publication date for Volume 2, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be this year.