Hey Guys! With this month being July, and seeing as #JRPGJuly is a thing on Twitter that I’m currently taking part in (which, by the way, you should totally go and follow my Twitter *shameless plug*), I decided that the content this month would attempt to focus more exclusively on JRPG-related content, be that the games themselves or manga/ anime inspired by such games. As a result, for this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, we’ll be taking a closer look at the isekai manga Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger, a manga produced by Square Enix, based on their hit franchise to help celebrate 30 years of Final Fantasy, and published by Yen Press. Without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
Our story this time follows siblings Shogo and Yuko, Final Fantasy Superfans that have managed to work for their favourite game company, Square Enix. Disillusioned by the disconnect between the work and their favourite series, they lament the hardships of their lives – that is until a truck comes hurtling towards them! They both soon awake to find themselves somewhere that seems insanely familiar, a place filled with Moogles, buff Black Mages and magic crystals, although things aren’t exactly a perfect fit to the game series that they loved so much. Quickly joining a quest to rescue a village from a rampaging dragon, Shogo and Yuko are treated to a very harsh reality check, where it is revealed that, in this world at least, there are no second chances, no Raise spell or Phoenix Down to bring back the dead and that death is just as final as the fantasy they find themselves a part of.
However, after a period of grieving, Shogo discovers that he has the rare ability to see the hidden properties of items, i.e. Libra – an ability never before seen in this fantasy world. Re-invigorated by this revelation, Shogo and friends prepare to set out on a new adventure and exact revenge against the dragon who wronged them and to hopefully combat the natural law of this world to revive those taken before their time. A fantasy tale with a dark bite that will at times make you laugh out loud in one moment and gasp in utter despair the next, this manga is an interesting and, honestly, surprising take on the world of Final Fantasy, all while seamlessly merging the tried and tested tropes present in the isekai genre into an intriguing and compelling tale that culminates in a beautiful page turner. This first volume does its job of setting the scene spectacularly and, when I reached the final page, I was horrified that there wasn’t more to be found here and that I had to stop reading, which is honestly the highest praise I can give this manga!
While at times a little predictable, Lost Stranger has its fair share of surprising moments that will turn your expectations on their heads. This manga also makes full use of its status as a Final Fantasy title and is an absolute fanservice dream for long-time fans of the games. Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger provides some small and not-so-subtle nods to staples of the long-running series, be that the adorable Moogles, monsters or abilities and spells that are so synonymous with the series. If you’ve ever picked up a Final Fantasy before, you’ll be treated to a great story and served up with a warm and comfortable slice of nostalgia that will wrap you up like a warm blanket on a cold day. What has to be noted here, however, is that Lost Stranger doesn’t rely fully on its legacy, as it holds a refreshing confidence in its ability to challenge or completely smash the expectations of those reading. For an example of this, you need look no further than the Black Mage, and uncharacteristically beefy, Duston Volta – a small but considerable change from the Black Mages of old! Considering that this manga was announced as part of the 30th anniversary event for Final Fantasy back in 2017, it will come as no surprise when I say that it is undoubtedly a manga by fans, for fans. However, to those of you reading that have never given a passing thought to Final Fantasy in your lives before, please don’t let that fact put you off – I can guarantee that this manga is something special, and whether you’re a fan of the isekai genre, tales of fantasy and magic, or are just in the market for something new to sink some time into, this manga is a little diamond with some dynamic, yet lovable characters and interesting ideas that are definitely worth the price of admission.
Final Fantasy, as a franchise, is synonymous for stunning visuals, and Lost Stranger is continuing this tradition with style. Each and every frame of this manga is oozing with that Final Fantasy polish and charm with distinct and memorable character designs that help to easily set them apart from what has come before while simultaneously giving a fleeting glimpse into their personalities before we get to experience them in all their glories. Classic Final Fantasy monsters like Bombs and Coeurls receive a monstrous level of detail in their designs to further set them apart as terrifying beasts that provide a real threat to the world and its inhabitants, and makes the world feel all-the-more believable for it. Additionally, the two-page art spreads scattered throughout Lost Stranger are a testament to the love and attention poured into this manga as a whole, as they showcase the beautiful character designs alongside the breath-taking environments, often to fantastic effect.
Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger is a return to the fantastical for Final Fantasy, providing a world of magic and adventure, while also showcasing how real the threat is for the inhabitants of this land. While the Final Fantasy series has lost some of its mass market appeal in recent years, with some of the more recent entries being more polarising than their nostalgic brothers, this manga is a refreshing return to form due to its pace and setting. At present there are two volumes of Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger for you to pick up and enjoy, with a third on the way shortly. Having only read the first volume myself, I am most definitely hungry for more and cannot wait to continue the tale of Shogo and friends as they set out to right the wrongs levied against them, and hopefully revive those who have fallen. I hope you’ve enjoyed your time here on the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and if you did, then please consider sharing. Apart from that, I hope to see you all again real soon and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!