Genshin Impact Manga Review
Synopsis: Aeons ago, the elder elemental gods granted civilization to the human race, but the world soon splintered as corruption and greed grew without check. Can the forces holding this world together be balanced against human desires, or is everything ultimately doomed to end in destruction? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Genshin Impact is the manga for the as of yet to be released action role-playing game of the same name. If the name sounds familiar, it is because it comes from the same company that made and released Honkai Impact 3rd a mobile game but doesn’t seem to have any direct ties otherwise. The manga seems to be an attempt to acquaint, entice and introduce potential future customers to the world and cast of Genshin Impact prior to release. With that said, Genshin Impact is a messy read and definitely not something I’d commend as a well done introduction.
The story starts with two lengthy prologue chapters, each close to or even over 40 pages in length compared to the rest of the chapters, which go down from 25 to 16 pages per chapter. These bloated prologue chapters tell the story of Vennessa, a slave girl forced to fight for the freedom of her enslaved tribe. However once we dive into the main story, aka once we are past Chapters 0.25 and 0.5, there is no mention of Vennessa or the fate of her clan. All that reading upfront almost feels like a waste of time and is bound to leave most readers confused and questioning the need for them to be so lengthy. We spend so little time getting to really know Vennessa and her tribes folk that the emotional impact of their condition or possible fate fails to truly grab the reader. Even if one were to argue their significance as world building and lore enriching, the extremely convoluted storytelling and rushed pacing, combined with the flurry of unusual terms, makes for a rough read.
In fact, even several chapters in, Genshin Impact is so laser focused on plot delivery that it’s near impossible to find a character to really latch on to or even familiarize yourself with as the chapters jump from new setting to new character with the emphasis being on establishing the plot over the cast. The onslaught of unusual names, terms and phrases keep piling on as well, making it harder and harder to immerse yourself into the world and story that is being thrust at you.
Even when Genshin Impact gets to more ‘permanent’ cast members, it does not bother to introduce them all that well, shocking considering this is something I assume was written up to woo potential players. It’s so heavy with lore and history that it’s hard to ignore how clunky it reads and even harder to absorb oneself into as the information is dished out in a manner and pace that feels more like they’re refreshing your memory or referencing information you are already supposed to be familiar with. We learn more about the history and events a person has faced than their personality or inner thoughts. It makes the characters feel hollow, like a compilation of events meant to hit specific tropes or story points than craft colourful or convincing individuals. This isn’t too surprising once you consider this as most likely promotional content for a game but nevertheless truly disappointing for a reader in search of deep stories and characters.
The good news is that as the story progresses, it resorts to more simple and familiar storytelling beats so those uncommon terms don’t make it impossible to understand what is going on and the thin characters seem to fade into the background for a bit. While the manga takes you on a long winded journey simply to let you know that some seedy power hungry organization is using manipulation and cunning to extend control over small nations and towns, once it introduces and has two of its female cast members, Amber and Collei meet, the story becomes more focused on their budding friendship and the conspiracies/troubles they are going to end up in or are unwittingly part of already. When the story focuses solely on them, it ranges from charming, heartwarming to comedic and comes together in a nicely presented dramatic crescendo. Their personalities and journey together aren’t all that unique but after the chaos of the first few chapters, it feels like a fresh breath of air to have this easy to follow tale of two girls just hanging out together while one of them draws the other one out of their shell and away from their traumatic past. Instead of scratching your head over a new term or wondering who this new fellow on the page is, you can just lean back and enjoy the antics these girls get up to and feel yourself grow attached to one or both of them as their story gets more emotional. And as is the case with manga released by miHoYo, all of Genshin Impact is in full colour with solid art that makes it a visual treat if nothing else.
As of writing this review, Crunchyroll only has up to Chapter 13, which ends on a big cliffhanger. My research shows that the series is still ongoing but with no official English translation and the game without a confirmed release date, it’s hard to predict where the series will go or how it might end. As things stand, unless you were/are interested in the upcoming game, Genshin Impact doesn’t feel like something worth reading on its own merit. The main overarching plot of an evil corporation/organization indulging in human experiments and all kinds of extortion and underhanded manipulation isn’t new nor is it handled in a manner that makes it all that engaging. None of this is aided by how rushed and poorly introduced its cast and world specific plot elements are. Even with its full colour pages and the eventual injection of a somewhat heartwarming story, Genshin Impact seems fated to be only enjoyed by a certain and specific group aka future customers of the game.
Genshin Impact is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.