A Returner's Magic Should Be Special Volumes 1-3 Manhwa Review (2024)

Despite hitting a lot of very familiar beats, there's something about A Returner's Magic Should Be Special that's incredibly readable. Yes, our hero Desir Herrman is the typical overpowered protagonist seen in so many isekai and time loop stories, and yes, he's facing off against the usual specters of prejudiced snobs and strange otherworldly powers. But there's something about how the story is told across these first three volumes that makes it feel like more than it is, a facility of text and image that moves the story along and renders it engaging.

Part of that is down to the character interactions. No one is particularly unique – Desir is determined and overpowered, Romantica is loud and obnoxious, Pram is cute with baggage, and the villains are almost cartoonishly evil. However, the way that they all come together really works. This comes down to Desir and the way he handles everything and everyone. He's truly invested in saving Romantica and Pram this time around; there's a strong implication that Romantica, as her name suggests, was his romantic interest in the first loop. It doesn't matter that she sees him as someone annoying and/or weird, because he knows who she is deep down and makes sure she can live up to her potential and survive. Although Desir himself made it to the end before, his treatment of Romantica suggests that her death gravely affected him, and that makes us wonder whether or not her survival alone could help boost everyone's chances of making it through.

It also helps that Desir knows what Romantica and Pram will be capable of in the future. Right now they're being brushed aside by the school, but Desir plans to help them realize their strengths sooner this time, and he sets out to do so immediately. With Pram, that means getting to know him earlier in the timeline, while with Romantica it involves making sure that he creates a team for classwork that she joins, rather than going with another group. Since Desir has his capabilities from the previous loop, he's well on his way to making this happen – but first, he has to combat the biggest issue facing his team: class warfare.

If there's one particularly satisfying story beat across these three volumes, it's watching Desir stick it to the snobs at Hebrion. The school is fairly typical for a magic school story in that it's divided into two distinct tracks: alpha and beta. The alpha class ostensibly is for the more talented students. In reality, it's just for the aristocracy, with the country's social stratification ensuring that commoners can't access the schooling needed to be placed in the alpha class. Whether this has gotten worse over time isn't clear. By the time Desir, Romantica, and Pram enroll, the idea is fully entrenched among the faculty that commoners are inherently worse at everything than nobles. When Desir (who is even more undesirable as an orphan, because everyone knows that orphaned kids just don't deserve families) aces the entrance exam, even beating out top contender Azest, members of the faculty vehemently oppose his placement in the alpha class solely based on his social status. They don't care about his incredible skill and talent as they only see him as commoner scum. They're too blinded by their prejudice. It thus becomes Desir's first goal to make sure that he, Romantica, and Pram can be promoted to alpha class to forcibly show how blind the adults are and ensure that more students have access to an actual education that could help prevent the tragedy he knows is coming.

That's the primary plot across these volumes. It plays out against a background of both magic school basics and actual battles, with Desir quietly shaping events in ways no one else is entirely aware of. Azest, not being stupid, figures out that maybe she ought to stop with the senseless bias, and in volume three she seems to have realized that her wounded ego is not a good reason to ignore someone who very clearly knows what he's doing. She stands in contrast to almost everyone else, although some of the teachers and higher magic officials are starting to see the error of their ways. This is all according to Desir's plans and we can see him facilitating meetings and alliances far earlier than he made them in the past. His easygoing façade belies the intense determination he's moving with, and frankly, the fact that he's not just crowing about his awesomeness and power saves this series from devolving into just another similar story we've all read a hundred times before. It's still not new, but different enough to make it work.

The art, full-color as is typical of webtoons, is decent, though not great. Wookjakga has some trouble with perspective and clothes physics, with Pram suffering the most from that last one. There's an attempt to make things dynamic that doesn't always pan out, and backgrounds are generally blank blocks of color, although they are present when needed. Interestingly, Wookjakga goes out of their way to avoid fanservice shots; even when it would be easy to offer us a gander at Romantica or Azest's underwear, and Brigitte's clothes aren't ludicrously revealing, although it would have been easy to make them that way. It feels like the focus is trying to stay on the action, which is a solid choice.

It's worth noting that there's a definite difference between the physical editions of volumes one and two and the most recent volume three. The cover stock feels different, with the third having a texture while the first two are smooth, and the pages of volume three aren't as thick or glossy. They're not thin per se, but you can feel and see a change. There's a substantial amount of time between volume releases as well, which may be a factor; as of this writing volume four isn't slated to come out until July of 2024. For reference, volume one came out in July of 2022, and volume three in April of 2023.

A Returner's Magic Should Be Special isn't the most innovative series, nor hugely unique. Despite that, it is a fun, easy action fantasy read with decent art and a generally smooth translation. If you like time loops and are tired of them being the domain of villainesses, this is a good time.

A Returner's Magic Should Be Special Volumes 1-3 Manhwa Review (2024)


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