By Deanna Nguyen
A relative newcomer to the shounen anime family, RADIANT offers plenty of reasons as to why it differs from all the rest. While the show follows a leisurely pace to unravel its plot, the characters and their interactions are at the forefront of RADIANT’s unique approach, namely through its all-inclusive cast.
As with many shounen protagonists, Seth is paired with a mentor who instills life lessons in him that naturally affect his decisions throughout his journey. But how often do we come across a mentor figure who can represent so much more?
Characteristically and age-wise, Alma shares similarities with Genkai from Yu Yu Hakusho and Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. These women are stern teachers, but they come to regard the protagonists as their own.
As far as training arcs go, Alma doesn’t physically train Seth (Myr picks up that torch in Season 2) but instead trains him morally and emotionally. She raises and protects him as a cursed child despite society’s scorn for him. All that she asks in return from Seth is that he “[Does] not turn into a monster.” But this monster isn’t just shorthand for the curse that turns Seth into a destructive force, but also the hate felt by other humans simply because they’re different, a theme the characters of RADIANT grapple with on a regular basis.
When Seth leaves the nest, Alma sheds tears and hopes for him to stay safe. Although she doesn’t show those tears in front of Seth (or viewers for that matter, since half her face is only shown), she continues to hold strong with a smile. This glimpse of her vulnerability further cements just how deeply she cares for Seth.
While Alma doesn’t appear in the show as much after Seth’s departure from home, her presence continues to bear a large significance in his life. When Seth is at his most vulnerable state in Artemis, Alma pays him a visit to help him sort out his emotions, reminding him that he’s not a monster. She appears again in a flashback, when Seth is about to be consumed by his curse. But when he sees all the faces of those he cherishes—with Alma at the center—he reaches for her first. Simply put, Alma is Seth’s guiding light.
A more humorous instance of Alma’s constant presence is when Seth forgets to call and update her on his journey. It’s also refreshing to see a protagonist keep in touch with his mentor instead of going radio silent until the next arc requires the mentor’s presence.
But Alma isn’t the only positive female figure in Seth’s life. There’s also Melie, who’s as much of an ally or partner as she is a mentor. Different from Alma, the ways she pushes Seth to grow as a character are considered more aggressive despite her sweet voice and kind demeanor. This is especially the case when Seth heads for Caislean Merlin by himself to avoid hurting Melie and Doc. When Seth stumbles across them in Caislean Merlin, she gives him the cold shoulder.
Melie has a persona switch curse, but in this tense situation, she’s still “normal” Melie, which comes as a shock to Seth. Showing another side to her that isn’t part of the curse is a reminder that the actions of others can impact someone emotionally, despite an outwardly happy appearance. Seth is forced to confront the consequences of his actions through communication, which he continues to struggle with the longer he tries to justify his reasons for leaving.
Doc, the adult in the group (though currently in child form), doesn’t even try to control the situation. Instead, he leaves it to Melie and Seth to work it out. Melie has a stronger presence than Doc, if only because she urges Seth to realize the importance of friendship and doesn’t give him an easy way out. She doesn’t let Seth’s actions whittle down her own characterization, though. She is his equal and should be treated as such. In turn, Seth sets his emotional priorities straight.
And in the currently airing Season 2, we’re introduced to Ocoho, a mentor who teaches Seth about knighthood and how there’s a society of people who must obey rules rather than act on their own whims and impulses. She offers Seth a different perspective in a world that’s still fairly new to him, and the two have a give-and-take relationship that develops through training. Like Melie, Seth treats Ocoho as an equal, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn what he lacks from her.
RADIANT offers fans a strong supporting cast that truly shines in its display of strong female mentors. Their compassion, empathy and communication, in spite of all the hardships of this world, strengthen their characters as they build a bond with Seth.
In a genre that often capitalizes on fighting sequences and the pursuit of power, RADIANT places emphasis on dialogue and character interaction, and grants itself a slower pace to fully flesh out its dynamic characters. It’s truly something special.
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