Record of Ragnarok: Watch, Read or Skip?
The Record of Ragnarok anime is a direct adaptation of the manga with the same name written by Shinya Umemura and Takumi Fukui. In this article, I want to unpack the details regarding the story, the quality of the anime and whether or not this is something you want to watch or maybe even read.
The main story of the manga and anime starts off during a council of the gods where they are deliberating on a proposal to exterminate all humans as they deem humanity as not worth saving due to their irredeemable qualities and history of war, genocide and destruction. Before this gets passed however, their intentions are subverted when a Valkyrie, Brunhilde, suggests that instead of outright extermination, humans should be given an opportunity to defend their existence in a contest between them and the gods. If humanity wins they earn another 1000 years of life and if they lose they get exterminated.
Initially the gods refuse this suggestion deeming humanity as too weak to even provide the gods any sort of challenge but due to the prideful nature of the gods and some cajoling from Brunhilde the gods eventually concede and the contest is set as a one on one battle between the best of gods and humans. There are a total of 13 battles with the victorious side being the first side to collect a total of 7 wins. The majority of the story follows these 13 battles but does eventually move away from focusing on only the battles to the scheming and politics happening behind the scenes especially involving the gods.
The progression of each arc or fight follows a pretty much set pattern where at first each of the combatants are given a brief introduction, and is followed by a few skirmishes and bouts between the combatants. After this the story typically elaborates on the background of each combatant such as their history, abilities and details out their story. This serves to explain in more detail how strong each combatant is to set up the conclusion of the fight where the combatants use their “ultimate” move and a victor is named. For the first 3 fights this pattern is pretty much a standard but later on the story does evolve to have sort of a side story with main players influencing the fights in the shadows. While this pattern may seem monotonous and boring on paper each fighter is quite unique and comes from a well known mythology or is a historical figure such as Thor from the Norse mythology and Lu Bu from the Imperial China history.
Now the first thing some people are going to ask is whether these representations are historically accurate and the answer to that is somewhat. The characters are loosely based on their historical counterparts for the large part but some changes are made to fit the narrative more while other changes are I suppose purely for entertainment value. If you’re expecting the historical accuracy of a University level research paper you’re out of luck here as the writers take some creative license to better fit the story they want to tell. I personally wasn’t bothered by these changes despite knowing the true stories behind these figures but I have had friends tell me it ruins their experience.
With any anime, the animation style also needs to be discussed and before we get too into detail I’d like to just point out that I’m not an expert on this and won’t be talking in detail about the nuances of the animation work or art style. The animation for Record of Ragnarok in general is good and there’s no scene that comes to mind where if you pause it at the wrong time you may see lazy transition animation *cough-Seven-Deadly-Sins-cough* but that being said I do have 1 primary complaint. Some animation studios have a tough time animating the transition especially in a fight scene so what tends to happen is it appears as a still image with a lot of flashy background animation which then transitions to the next still image taken straight from the manga pages. The animators for some reason do not flesh out the actions and movements of the characters between one scene and another making it appear more like a flashy manga than an animation.
Now I don’t know if this is done to save money or time but for me personally it does take away from enjoying the anime especially if you’ve read the manga beforehand. It’s similar to if you’ve read a book before seeing the movie, the characters that you’ve imagined in your head are going to be more expressive or more elaborate in their movements than the animation. One example of this is if you’ve watched season 1 of the One Punch Man anime and season 2 the animation differences are very obvious between the 2 and I feel this problem also exists for Record of Ragnarok.
So with this exhaustive explanation, the ultimate question is whether you should watch, read or just skip Record of Ragnarok. From a story perspective it doesn’t really make much of a difference as the anime does follow the storyline of the manga quite closely. However season 1 only covers the first 3 fights so if you wish to continue with the story you can pick up the manga from chapter 53 onwards. In terms of overall enjoyment I would personally suggest the manga overall because while the fights are animated well enough, there is something about imagining these fights unfold in your mind and leaving some things to the imagination that makes this series fun to read. That being said, those are just my preferences and the Anime does a well enough job of following the source material making it really depend on your own personal preferance.
Overall I think Record of Ragnarok is worth picking up either in manga or anime format as long as you don’t go in with extremely high expectations for historical accuracy or deep complicated story telling. That being said the story is still ongoing and may become deeper as we go along but as the writing of this article a majority of the story is being told revolves around the main 13 fights. The story is fun to follow if you’re just looking for straight up fights between man and gods with a bit of intrigue thrown in for good measure. So I would not consider this a hard skip.
The manga is still ongoing with over 100 chapters with a new chapter releasing each month and the anime is currently out having been recently released on June 17th 2021 on Netflix and was adapted by Graphinica with a total of 12 episodes with a 30 minute run time of each episode.