The Breath of Fire video game was a lot of fun so it was time to see how the manga would fare. Adapting a complete RPG in only 6 chapters is definitely quite the task. I’d say the manga did a good job but of course for obvious reasons it does cut a whole lot out. Things tend to move quickly here, particularly the climax which has to go at lightning speeds. Some of the villain generals also don’t get to appear here. For example you’re not going to see Goda here unless he had some kind of wordless cameo. Even in the game these guys didn’t appear much until the end though so it’s not too surprising.
The manga starts off with a ton of lore and the cliff notes version is that the world was once inhabited by a bunch of dragon clans. One day the Dark Dragons decided to go and murder everybody for some reason. The White Dragons were the only ones that could have stopped them but unfortunately they decided to become complete pacifists so they just watched as everyone got slaughtered instead. I’d be steamed if I was anyone living in that world tbh. Well, eventually the dark dragons got to the final survivors and nearly murdered them too but Ryu’s sister Sara made a deal to keep it as a 1 on 1 fight. She sacrificed herself so that Ryu could live.
Fast forward a few years and Ryu has made it his life’s goal to destroy all of the dark dragons. This will not be easy but he’s ready for this. Inn the meantime he also comes across other characters who have had their lives ruined by the dark dragons as well. The heroes will have to move quickly though or there won’t be a world left to save. They are also heavily outnumbered and so the heroes have to make sure that their plans are completely on point.
This feels like a very classic action adventure story. You’ve seen the characters and this kind of adventure before. It’s not trying to be super ambitious or anything like that and is just trying to tell a good story. It works well at doing this and if you like fantasy adventures then you will definitely have a good time with this one. Ryu makes for a solid main character. He’s your classic heroic kid who has a personal grudge against the villains. As the series goes on he learns that rage isn’t the way and that he must fight for justice instead.
Ryu never backs away from a challenge and will defend his friends to the end. He jumps right into action whenever there is danger and so I definitely don’t have any issues with him. I thought he handled all of the situations really well. Then you have the main heroine Nina who is rather retro in how she’s always beating up on poor Ryu. She can’t fight super well or anything but she does have healing abilities which come in handy. What Nina lacks is self confidence as she is easily set off by the sorceress Deis with rather light teasing. Nina needs to stay strong so she doesn’t cause any trouble.
Danc gets a fairly important role here as he has a tragic sob story as well and is ready to help out. The kid can’t really fight but helps give a motivational speech as one point. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of his but he’s not bad. If you want a bad character, Manillo fits that bill. They try to play him off like a decent guy by the end but I wasn’t buying it. He wouldn’t let the heroes get a boat so they could go save the world because he wanted extra money. His offers to them were pretty bad on the kinds of other tasks they could do to raise money. I don’t see how any of the characters were cool with him after that. They should have just knocked the guy around instead.
Builder gets his moment to shine as well. Things started out rather rough for him but the heroes helped him regain his confidence and make a comeback. Ultimately he got a happy ending which was nice, things almost got pretty dark for him there. Gillian also has his own chapter and that’s probably one of the perks of being an early character. I feel like you get more time to shine since you’re also around in the background for the rest. He’s a good character and helps everyone stay calm.
Mogu is an example of a character who came in too late. By the time he appears the series is pretty much over so there’s not much for him to do. He is a nice enough character who wants to help out but you don’t really feel like he can fight as well as he may think that he can. Deis is the final member to join the group and she’s a fun character like in the game. Her abilities are actually really good so she can help Ryu on the front lines unlike the others. Her spells have a lot of versatility to them and you can count on her help in any circumstance. She does enjoy teasing Nina for sure but you can say that it’s to help make Nina stronger. Deis has quite the strong personality and definitely helped to enhance the overall team dynamics.
As for the villains, most of them didn’t really make the cut here so the roster is rather small. You have Zorgon who thought he was the leader but he is manipulated from start to finish and never actually gets to look all that good. In the end this guy was really all talk and his role is so small that you may chuckle at the end. Judas is definitely the standout villain. He makes his presence known at all times and is incredibly powerful. He lands a lot of super big blows to the heroes and is relevant for the whole series. He gets more to do than I would have even expected and it makes for a great character arc.
Naturally Ryu’s sister Sara is also really solid. She’s determined and has a lot of power just like he does. She never backs down and doesn’t end up playing second fiddle. Sara just goes in and keeps on fighting all the way through to the end. She gets one of the most emotional moments in the manga. Finally you have Myria who is really the big bad here. The destroyer of the universe and she has other cool titles like that. She can fight and has kept up with the power creep over times.
While her goals may not be much more than total destruction, she does a good job of setting this into motion. Myria is strong and I liked her well enough as a villain. She may not stand out in terms of personality but her abilities are the real deal. This is where I would have liked another chapter or two though because the final fight ends up being a little rushed due to the length. In the span of 10 pages the heroes have to try and land their first blow on her and then the series ends. Not a lot of time for a real fight considering how powerful she was right?
The artwork is nice and retro. This looks like a very old time manga and it does adapt the video game designs well. At times the action can be a little hard to follow along so I think the manga could have been clearer there. It’s still good but it’s what keeps the good art from being very good. This would lose to a lot of modern titles for example but it’s solid enough where I wouldn’t call it bad. You’ll be able to blast through the chapters either way. The series has a little fanservice like with the obligatory river washing and Deis messing with Ryu but for the most part there’s not much here. It feels more like the series was ticking off a box than they were trying to add a lot of this. I’d argue that’s a box you don’t need to tick off since the scenes don’t add anything but they’re minor enough where they don’t bring the series down.
The story has good vibes to it and stays upbeat for the most part. There are a lot of tragedies as each character has a sob story but there is no time to really dwell on it. Even the characters are quickly back to having fun as they travel the distance. I’d say the manga does a good job of showing just what an adventure would feel like and how the characters adapt to it. It’s fairly low key even with the world at stake which helps on the retro feel.
I still say that the manga should have been longer but ultimately that’s not something that would shave a star off of the final product. It just means that this will probably encourage you to play the video game to really get the full experience. That’s my recommendation here as well, if you like the manga then definitely play the game. You get the bullet points here and all of the big story moments but it’s just not the same compared to a 20-30 hour experience on the game version. You get more time for the twists and character development there.
Overall, Breath of Fire is a solid title. It’s a very quick read at only 6 chapters long. It’s ultimately 2 volumes long as a result but they would feel like fairly short volumes to me. At least you could also say this speaks to the quality of the series as you will have no problem binging it all the way through. It’s what I’d consider to be a fairly safe pick. It’s not really going for any outlandish twists or bold story choices. This is a traditional adventure with fun characters and really plays out exactly how you would expect it to. So it’s a fun story that should appeal to most without trying to test the waters. I’ll be checking out the Breath of Fire 2 adaption soon and we’ll see how that one stacks up. I’d say I’ve got pretty good hopes on that one as well. Should be a solid adventure too.