Let This Grieving Soul Retire Vol. 1 (2021) by Rai Hebino, Tsukikage and Chyko

“I know when to suck up and when to be a pain in the a**, that is my secret to success”

​”In a land where treasure hunters scour vaults appearing from the past, Krai Andrey and his friends swore a childhood oath to become the mightiest heroes of all. There’s just one problem: While his old companions have become living legends, Krai is the poster child for mediocrity…and he knows it! But despite his best efforts to leave the treasure-hunting life, he has gained quite the reputation by association—and with it, enormous expectations. Can Krai pursue his dream of retirement, or is he destined to fail forever upwards?” (Yen Press)

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The concept of ‘failing upwards’ never felt more apt in this series about a lovable loser whose lack of power is hidden behind his authority over legendary hunter guilds . The inaugural volume of the manga already shows the charismatic Krai Andrey squirm his way out of precarious conflicts into the favor of others – in his own words “I know when to suck up and when to be a pain in the a**, that is my secret to success”. As such, the manga relies on the humorous actions of Krai while the fantastical is used to punctuate gags and bring a persistent absurdity to the series.

The art style of Rai Hebino excels in character depictions with emphasis on capturing the emotional outbursts of the eccentric crew, varied drastically in both mannerisms and personality. However, the greatest let down of the series also lies in the artist’s lack of depicting the fantasy world itself – the backgrounds are static, dull and often non-existent. For a fantasy manga, Hebino appears to be unable to work in engaging landscapes or monster design, which could prove to be a problem going forward. As the first volume is primarily focused on character development, hopefully, subsequent releases will see a shift in tone that will allow for expressive visuals.

The limitations of art don’t effect the strength of the story from Tsukikage, a rather prolific light novelist with a deserved fanbase. The dialogue is playful yet clever and the interactions between characters are consistently humorous. In particular, the relationship between Krai and Tina (featured on the cover) is a continual flirtation that highlights the guild leader’s use of manipulation to keep himself in power while having no actual skill in the dungeons he is said to have mastered. If anything is going to draw in the reader, it will be the interactions between the various personalities that carry the flair of the story.

At this point, it is difficult to gauge how the series will progress, as is often the case with the first volume in a fantasy series that requires introductions to a large cast and a unique world. In addition, the adaptation from light novel does leave questions as to which is the better format to experience the series – the manga does not make a strong enough statement in its initial release. The series certainly has potential with its clever comedic story keeping the work entertaining and light. For now, readers will have to wait to see how it progresses and if “Let this Grieving Soul Retire” is able to expand beyond its serviceable introduction.

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