Everything i have seen so far seems to forebode a pretty dark future for manga, because all the Manhwa that i have come across so far, no matter the genre, seems to stand a notch hire than most manga that i have read, at least in terms of quality, both art and story. Though it would be safe to say that Manhwa's biggest selling point is its superb art, clearly unmatched by an manga i have seen so far; which does actually prove itself problematic to some Manhwa, seemingly too concerned with art to place any considerable thought into the quality of a story.
820 years after entering his slumber, Cadis Etrama Di Raizel, creature of the night, noble among nobles, awakens to a world wholly transformed and different from the realm he once inhabited; separated from his kind, convalescing from an eight century old tragedy, Rai ventures into a city darkened by human ambition, the infestation of vampires the least of threats as an ancient coalition of human knowledge takes giant yet deadly strides to achieve the power only privy to those of noble blood, those that have always stood above humanity, once reaching out a protective hand towards their lesser cousins, but no more
There are so many reasons why this is the best Manhwa i have ever come across, okay maybe second to The Breaker: New Waves, but other than that Noblesse stands at the very top of the Manhwa mountain, for a myriad of reasons, but all of which do not really matter as much as this one fact; this manhwa is thrilling as heck.
Do you know those manga series you read that seemingly take you on a wild ride, a crazy roll coaster of breath taking ups and downs, each somehow more awes striking than the next? That is what noblesse is, but times ten.
Honestly, i am not even sure what is so great about this manhwa, or rather it isn't anything i can quantify. For a shonen series there is a disturbing sophistication to it; yes purely shonen battle manga, yet considerably dramatic where necessary and heartfelt, the fluid art only accentuating the brilliance of the story.
+PREMISE- vampires; these are the waters that the series initially seems to swim in, a world of ghouls and monsters, vampires and hunters. Yet no so, the story doing what all manga and manhwa does, twisting a traditional and fictionally rational concept into something vastly superior, this story following the conflict between humanity and those that it once worshipped; though not really a conflict, at least not on both sides.
Once the nobles watched over humanity, their honor behooving them never to interfere in their petty quarrels, yet obliged to provide assistance and safety whenever the weak creatures where threatened. If there is a central message in this story it is pride, this particular failing nursing envy in a human race that saw nobility not as benevolent protector but as an enemy, a being to be envied; and thus strived to rise, committing horrible atrocities to grant their bodies power, their urge to reach the heights of nobility surpassing any mercy and humaneness they should have displayed.
War, that is what the comprehensive story of this manhwa feels like sometimes, each new chapter allowing usa glimpse into the fold of the Union, masterful in crafting hideous creatures from the flesh of men to display their superiority, moving strings in the shadows, manipulating sovereign nations in an effort to take from the masters of the world their rightful place.
Noblesse is shonen and does little to hide this fact, the battles particularlywild but each designed to further the plot, allowing one a glimpse into the secrets of the past, which one could call the anchor of the show. Rai wakes up from a 820 year long sleep, and all that follows his awakening is a consequences of those mysterious events that took place in Lukedonia centuries back, those movers and shakers that dared raise their hand against their lord, his lord and status quo and the ripples that were cast into the future as a result. Yet i do not think the premise of this story-which by the way isn't the vampire story it is promises to be, casting these legendary creatures aside as experimental failures, instead raising the status of darker monsters- would be worth the hype without the characters.
+CHARACTERS- Noblesse is solely driven by its characters .scratch that, Noblesse is solely driven by the presence of Rai, noblesse as he is termed, the most awesome protagonist i have had the pleasure of encountering this year (okay, maybe second to Eren Jaeger); any sophistication this manhwa displays is mostly attributed to this one character: handsome, alluring, mostly mute, yet so deep, elegant and powerful, deluging every panel with drastic amounts of drama andsophistication with his every brief appearance.
Not that he stands alone in the spotlight (yes he does), because rather than massively large and aimless, noblesse is endowed with a reasonably sized cast, each character playing a practical in the story, each visibly supporting a specific pillar of the plot. The villains are cruel, and manic when they need to be, their powers growingly increasingly hazardous with each new chapter, yet only serving to allow our heroes to evolve, displaying meteoric levels of courage and bravery in the face of danger.
As i have mentioned before, the mark of a great cast is its ability to deliver contentment and satisfaction outside action heavy plots; in other words any cast of any anime, manga or manhwa that can keep you entertained just by interacting for several scenes on end has captured that special 'X' factor that allows series to rise to greatness. And noblesse has that; be it M-21 and his broodiness or Regis pushing the pomp of nobility aside to cook, there is not end to the awesomeness these characters can unleash in any scene so long as they are together-kind of remind me of the straw hats, but better (straw hats do no have Rai- seriously i have not come across a cooler protagonist, not even in breaker).
+ACTION- the show thrives in the action section, literally inundating its arcs with explosive yet entertaining fights, never once boring, never excessive or elongated, always just the right length to allow the characters to shine on both sides, through conversation, reminiscing the secret past and almost always bringing to lightnew secrets that usually confound the conflict; yet it isn't the fighting itself, not the powers or transformations that stand out, but the characters, the depth of relationship revealed within, the camaraderie or hate, specifically in the case of Frankenstein, so powerful yet so subservient to Rai, displaying extreme levels of violence against any that might show the slightest of slights against this master, be it a threatening action or a harsh word.
I should also point out just how funny it is, surprising just how humorous the most violent of scenes can seem 9which actually goes to highlight how awesome Frankenstein himself is).
RATING: 10/10, AMAZING.
+ART- It is official, Lee Gwang Su is the best artist i have ever come across in manga and manhwa, noblesse vastly superior even to ; that claim might see somewhat erroneous if you have read Feng shen ji, yet i have made my thoughts on its art clear; impressive as it is, it is way too plane, too unimaginative. Noblesse is a superbly drawn series, the colors designed to perfectly match the scenes, the action scenes so fluid as to rise to the level of God of high school, sometimes surpassing even it; their is a movement within each panel, like the images were words, so intricately describing to you the logic of each and every scene within each battle, all in one image; and as i have said it before, i love manga that is easy to read, action scenes that do not need me to squint, to study the entire page to figure out what is happening in this one panel.
RATING: 10/10, actually more like 20/10; in comparison to what i have read so far, Noblesse truly is superior, even to my favorite, . If nothing else the means through which the powers, thrown, unleashed, poured, are displayed will wow you. Simply put, reading Noblesse is pleasant.
VERDICT: No, i cannot decide whether Noblesse stands above or below Breaker, because both of them are incredible manhwa, with incredible stories of hardshipand regret, with amazing characters; though Rai most definitely stands above Shion as a primary protagonist. Noblesse is a must read, one of those manhwa/manga that must feature on any otaku's reading list, or even none otaku. Because Noblesse is, in many places, basically a comic; that is how well drawn and colored it is. Any criticisms i can think of are limited to the characters, specifically the same old human characters playing the same old role of victim. If only Noblesse would assign them some actual roles to play.
RATING: PERFECT 10/10, higher if possible. Each new arc has managed to raise the stakes, revealing so much about the Noblesse world, yet so inundated with story that there is always more to tell as the story progresses, more to reveal, more awe striking battles, more character surprises and betrayals, more, more, more, more why haven't you read this yet? Seriously, why not? There isn't a more elegant manhwa or a more elegant cast of characters. And did i mention how funny Noblesse is?
-Noblesse is a web comic written by Son Jae Ho, illustrated by Lee Gwang Su and has been running since December 2007.