Final Fantasy Lost Stranger Chapters 1-3 Manga Review
Final Fantasy Lost Stranger:
Synopsis: Scoring a job at Square Enix, Sasaki Shogo’s dream of producing a Final Fantasy game finally seems within his grasp! But after he starts, he quickly discovers that the work has nothing to do with his favorite franchise at all… Disillusioned, his enthusiasm for FF begins waning despite his sister / co-worker Yuko’s attempts to lift his spirits. Their conversation is cut short, though, when a runaway truck suddenly careens toward the two of them…! When Shogo comes to, the first thing he sees is…a Moogle?! Wait, was that a Cure spell? And chocobos…?! Hurled into a Final Fantasy world unbound to any particular installment, how will an uber-fan like Shogo survive? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Final Fantasy Lost Stranger starts off felling like intense wish fulfilment in that not only is our protagonist, Shogo Sasaki working at the very company that makes his all time favourite game, but so is his younger sister, Yoko who also happens to be a huge Final Fantasy fan thanks to their childhood spent playing the games together. The first half of its very first chapter is pretty heavy handed in its effort to really establish just how much Shogo loves the game and how much of his life was/is influenced by it as he spends his lunch time grinding in-game on his Vita and bemoaning his inability to influence the development of the next big FF game due to being stuck in a lower position at his job. Meanwhile Yoko engages in using in game terms in their conversation while also berating him for being too obsessed with FF and getting too depressed over his current position at the company. All of this being supplemented with several flashbacks about their childhood playing FF. It’s a segment that could have trimmed itself down a little, nothing that ruins the story completely but definitely might test more impatient readers.
Once we dive into the Isekai part of the story, the pace picks up without getting overwhleming which is a great transition after spending so many pages just being nostalgic and fangasming over FF. Lost Stranger assumes the reader’s familarity with the world of FF but speaking as someone who has never played a single FF game (blasphemous, I know!), this doesn’t really alienate anyone who’s unfamiliar with FF. While it’s clear that the new world we are looking at is something well known to our protagonist and to FF players, by not associating itself to any particular franchise, Lost Stranger is actually very approachable despite being linked to such a long standing franchise. Most people familiar with the general concepts used in fantasy RPG games or even someone who has read other fantasy/magical world manga should be able to follow along with little to no issues. Things in the world of Lost Stranger are different enough that Saski is often being taught/learning about it and this gives the readers a chance to learn alongside him.
The first chapter adds the following three people to the cast: Sharuru Linkingfeather, a kind-hearted female white mage; Rei Hagakure, a female axe-wielding warrior who cannot say no to Sharuru’s whims, and finally, Duston Volta, a jovial male black mage. Lost Strangers doesn’t have the most original character personalities and meeting the potential party members for Shogo and Yuko in the new world they find themselves in only strengthens that feeling. It’s difficult to craft truly and completely unique characters in a long standing medium so unless you are extremely rigid about your manga containing ground breaking characters, most readers should be able to overlook the more generic features of the cast and maybe even take to some of them thanks to character design or having a personality trope you are fond of. Also, Chapters 2 and 3 introduce a handful of antagonist-like characters, a group of super powerful adventurers some of whom are outright rude towards Shoko and his barely average teammates and others who are more indirect but still completely disdainful of Shoko’s foolish actions and ineptitude. The outright rude ones are almost caricature like in their over the top portrayals and end up only strengthening my feelings about how Lost Stranger might not be a story you read for convincing and unique characters, with the exception of its lead.
But moving onto that which is somewhat unique about Lost Stranger: the dedication to making its protagonist a rookie. Most Isekai stories often jump to giving its hero a huge advantage or power in the new world and while they may be chumps for a little while, they soon, if not almost immediately become well known and/or powerful for one reason or the other. There are of course a few exceptions and so far, Lost Stranger seems aiming to fall into that category. Of course, this is a review based off the first 3 chapters and though each chapter is a chunky 60+ pages, I could turn out to be mistaken as the story proceeds. But for now, it’s definitely interesting and refreshing to see Shogo struggle to achieve even the smallest victory or success. Even though he has years of FF playing knowledge and some small combat skills like being a member of the archery club at school, they all prove to be close to useless when it comes to real life implications in an actual FF based world and life. His rate of progress is slow but extremely believable and helps to make this story feel more convincing and engaging, especially for anyone tired of overpowered protagonists. Watching him find a new purposeand goal, and try to develop his random skills into actual practical abilities makes for an interesting read. Lost Stranger not only ensures that its protagonist feels convincing but so is the implied lesson about how success and progress can be a slow and arduous journey and one should not throw in the towel at the first sign of failure. The overarching story and our protagonist’s journey over the first 3 chapters are some of the best parts of Lost Stranger and what is most likely to make it win over readers.
Another praise worthy feature of Lost Stranger is the art. It’s a monthly manga, with each chapter ranging from anywhere from 68-80 pages and each page boasts of competent art, with a lot of them being a delight to behold. However, the character designs for lesser characters are occasionally minimalist and that make them stick out like a sore thumb among the more detailed art. The other ‘issue’ is that Lost Stranger tends to use a fair amount of Japanese sound effects and exclamations in its panels which has been faithfully preserved even in the English translations and those can ocassionally take up a huge area of the panel making it look a little crowded.
I also personally feel like Lost Stranger struggles to balance its comedic content. It often feels cliched and tired and even jarring as characters switch from serious to silly at the drop of a hat. This also speaks to the uneven tone of the story from time to time. It happens infrequently but it can take you out of the moment and mood, specifically when it happens during a segment that should be sombre and/or sad. One could argue that it helps to lighten the mood during what could otherwise be too depressing but it also makes the emotional parts seem flippant and lose some of their meaning.
Speaking as someone unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy franchise, I must conclude that Final Fantasy Lost Stranger is actually a rather solid manga in and of itself. Since it goes out of its way to mention that it isn’t directly related to any of the games, it’s clear that it wants to establish its own universe and mythology and in that process, also open itself up to readers who may have no interest or knowledge about the FF franchise. For others like me, I would recommend this series if you wish to read an Isekai story that tries to steer away from the more popular cliches of its genre and is packed full of action and adventure that help to make up for what it may lack in other fields. The story gets progressively better and more intriguing with each new chapter and make for a story that will have you on edge. I do apologize to those who came seeking a FF fan’s analysis of the manga, or wishing to compare notes with one as I am aware that some might have wanted that kind of review. This review is part of my #CrunchyCrawl series that seeks to help others decide if any of the manga offered in Crunchyroll’s library might be for them. Thus, I am happy to conclude that Lost Stranger is something I could wholeheartedly recommend on its own as a competent fantasy adventure tale especially for those seeking a story of someone trying to survive and achieve what truly seems a nigh impossible goal in a fantasy world setting.
Final Fantasy Lost Stranger is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com and digital copies are also available for purchase via Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Book Walker, Comixology, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.