Final Fantasy Lost Stranger Chapters 4-6 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):
Chapter 4 focuses on our heroes and their trek to face off against and the start of their actual showdown against the mighty and dreaded white dragon . It also further cements the series’ slow but inevitable descent into generic and predictable shonen tropes. From death flag-like dialogues immediately setting off a deadly event to our hero spouting the ‘inspirational’ quote made by death flag character within the very same chapter , there were several minor incidents that hint the already waning creativity of Lost Stranger. It’s not a completely unexpected development as being a shonen, there was bound to be quite a fair number of tropes in a series that seems made to milk fans of an extremely popular franchise but it’s disheartening given how the first few chapters managed to avoid certain major tropes or circumvent them into something interesting and character building, such as the hero’s struggle to grasp real life skills lasting more than a chapter. There’s also repeated scenes and dialogues where we and Shogo are reminded by the excursion leader that disobeying his orders or putting others in danger is completely unacceptable, something that’s done often enough that it’s bound to make it obvious how the showdown will be playing out, in particular for long time manga and shonen fans. This predictability is something that’s bound to irk readers with all the heavy handed hints being dropped so blatantly and so often.
Also, something that hinders the impact of Lost Stranger is its art and its medium. During the initial showdown in Chapter 4, it becomes hard to tell exactly what is going on in the pages. There is a big group attack that ends with what looks like the attackers being blown back and all apparently severely wounded..maybe even dead but it takes a few pages to really grasp what just happened. In the meantime, you’re wondering what just happened as without colour images, animation or sound, you cannot really decipher what just happened. Yes, things becomes more obvious as one continues reading but it makes the shocking development lose impact when you’re busy trying to guess exactly what you just read for quite a few pages, especially when you cannot even tell if the attackers are just severely wounded or completely wiped out.
This also brings me to my next complaint: the dreaded curse of nobody ever dies in shonen (save the character or two that need to die at the beginning to give our character motivation). It’s something that always undercuts any potential tension the story could have once it pulls that move. It not only makes the hero ridiculously overpowered but also removes any sense of threat or drama. It’s one thing to give the hero character a powerful moment where his true potential is finally revealed but it’s ridiculous to then tell us that the dreaded and feared white dragon, who’s been the bane of everyone’s existence and feared by all, didn’t succeed in killing a single adventurer during the big scary showdown. One might argue that the dragon was a ‘starter’ villain and that bigger, badder villains could always start mowing down characters in the future but the underwhelming and frustrating feeling brought about by the zero mortality rate in the first big showdown of the series is going to undermine the tension in the rest of the series and make one worried about how many more tired tropes it is going to chuck at the reader.
But that’s not all. The series isn’t done making the readers realize that our hero has come into his own. Not only does his game smarts prove to be a vital point for their eventual victory but he is praised and finally labelled a TRUE and strong adventurer by the one adventurer, Randolph who was touted as being one of the best of them all. It’s a sequence that’s unnecessarily drawn out and almost feels like it was written for a very young reader thanks to how Randolph breaks down every small point about his feelings towards Shogo and his heroic and stubborn actions. Had it been a bit more condensed, it could have felt like a decent and through exploration of both Shogo and Randolph’s personalities but unfortunately, it feels more like a unnecessarily lengthy and contrived sequence. All this happens in Chapter 6 which is just dripping with saccharine sweet moments. Not only is Shogo given recognition by Randolph but his brave actions completely reforms N’elute, a member of Randolph’s team and someone who tormented and teased Shogo and his friends for being sub-par adventurers. She goes from looking down on them to being so impressed that she resolves to be ‘recognized’ by Randolph the way he did Shogo. Some could take that as justice and/or inspirational but it again feels a little bit too cliche and cheesy, something that acts as a detriment to anyone starting to grow weary of the avalanche of tropes appearing as Lost Stranger pushes on. And we’re nowhere close to done with our happy ending because then there’s an appearance by the girl who was saved by Yuko and we get yet another super tearful emotional exchange between her and Shogo about how to best pay respect to Yuko’s sacrifice. All of these ’emotional’ moments jammed into one chapter the way they were makes it feel overcrowded and messy rather than powerful and heartfelt had they been inserted in a more organic manner.
If I sound extremely frustrated towards Lost Stranger, it is because I started out loving the series. While it did start off with cliches and flaws, it managed to be playful and inventive enough to make me care about its lead and about his journey to be a better adventurer for the sake of reviving his dead sister. However, chapters 4-6 have made me genuinely worried that this series is ultimately doomed to only appeal to fans of the Final Fantasy franchise and universe, and to new manga readers who are nowhere close to familiar or tired of shonen tropes. Instead of trying to handle classic tropes in a through or unique manner, the story has begun dumping them on the reader as if in a rush to keep moving on….to more tropes. Our hero went from being severely handicapped to being the ultimate hero and everyone seems to give him all the credit and ignore the fact that his ‘heroism’ would have been pointless had his comrades refused to help him out. Not once does the hero himself acknowledge their contribution once the praises are lauded upon him and it ultimately reduces Lost Stranger to yet another trope ridden Isekai story, with the only distinguishing factor about it being its setting in the Final Fantasy universe.
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.