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Manhwa: Ragnarok

The winds of fate are stirring, and a great storm will descend upon the land. The world is awakening from a thousand year slumber; many great powers long forgotten are returning.
Soon, a new master will rule over Midgard ...

Soon, it will all end. Ragnarok will come ... again!
Sara Irene, Volume 7

If you've ever played Ragnarok Online, this is the series you get to thank for its existence.

In 1997, Myung-Jin Lee (AKA Lord Kaho) returned from his mandatory stint in the South Korean military and formed Studio Dive to Dream Sea (Studio DTDS). Ragnarok was the very first series he worked on under this studio name for Champ Comics, Korea's top manhwa (what the Koreans call manga) publisher. Ragnarok broke a lot of ground for the Korean manhwa industry; in a roundabout way, it was the first Korean manhwa to get a Japanese anime in the form of Ragnarok The Animation (Even though it's loosely based on the MMORPG instead of the manhwa).

While full of direct references to Norse lore, Ragnarok deliberately and intentionally rearranges many aspects of it to produce an entirely different world. In this version of Midgard, Ragnarok marks a period where the Aesir and Vanir battle one another, the giants seek to unmake all creation, and mankind is stuck in the middle of it all—but one faction of the gods is fighting to protect the mortal realm's interests.

At the start of the series, Ragnarok is about to happen again. Fenris Fenrir, the female reincarnation of the eponymous god-eating wolf, is searching for the similarly reincarnated god of light, Balder, in order to finish what they started in the previous cycle. A faction of the Aesir led by Freya is also searching for him, in order to put an end to Fenris' plans before they can even begin ...

... and in a far-off corner of Midgard is Chaos, a Rune Knight who's forgotten everything about his life beyond two years ago, is off bounty hunting in the wilds with Iris Irene, a cleric and heiress to the city of Fayon ...

Currently, there's ten volumes of Ragnarok available, and all ten have been translated to several different languages. It's presently on hold due to the work Myung-Jin Lee is doing with Gravity on Ragnarok Online as well as other series in his studio. Although he's said that he plans to make Ragnarok span over forty volumes, it's looking like it's become an Orphaned Series, as the last volume was published back in 2002.

Not to be confused with the Roguelike named Ragnarok. If you're looking for the actual Ragnarok from Norse lore, check here.

Ragnarok provides examples of:

  • Action Girlfriend: Iris Irene may not overtly have a relationship with Chaos, but it's pretty clear they're headed that way. Even though she's a cleric and has many powerful supporting and healing spells, she's more than capable of wreaking havoc with combat spells and her Blue Dragon Sword.
  • Adaptive Armor: Loki's bone plating can change its shape to act as shielding.
  • Armor Is Useless: The regular soldiers from the varying cities and countries visited are often very weill armored, sometimes wearing full plate mail ... and it does them absolutely no good against magic-wielding warriors. Most of the protagonists and antagonists wear very little armor—and if they do, it's of a magically enchanted variety.
  • Art Evolution: Early on, Myung-Jin Lee handled production of Ragnarok almost entirely on his own. By Volume 8, however, other Studio DTDS artists (such as Gogo) were assisting him—and their influence on the series' style is quite noticable (especially in the difference of inking and shading).
  • Badass: Loki is definitely the biggest one in the series in epic proportions. The guy almost curb-stomped Chaos, and even managed to mortally injure Skurai in their first fight by piercing through his heart with one bare hand and had it not been for Chaos blocking his last attack on Skurai (which is a gigantic bolt of Cosmic Energy) to protect an innocent little girl, he would've killed the main antagonist of the series already, and he is a wielder of the most powerful form of magic, Cosmic Energy, which makes him stronger than both Fenris and Iris COMBINED. Oh, holy fuck. Bad.Ass.
  • Bastard Understudy: Despite Freya's orders, Himmelmez wanted control of the Prontera's shard of the Heart of Ymir for herself, to become a full-on goddess. Sara Irene is aware of this and does not take kindly to it.
  • Black Magician Girl: Fenris Fenrir's a good fit, considering her "player handbook" pegs her as a Warlock class. The vast majority of the spells she uses are powerful attack magics, backed up by Laevateinn.
  • Body of Bodies: Bijou the Witch's creation, Geirrod. Originally thought to be an undead troll of some kind, it's leater revealed to be a large mass of corpses melded together.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Early on in the series, this was done strictly with magic spells, usually after an Invocation. By Volume 8, though, even the melee fighters were shouting these for their techniques (Loki's "Thunder of Odin," Chaos' "Dragon Strike").
  • Cosmic Keystone: When Odin slew Ymir, he used fragments of the giant's heart to create Midgard. The fragments mantain Midgard's integrity and feed its growth. And some of the fragments have regenerated into a whole heart with Lost Technology.
  • Crows And Ravens: Muninn and Huginn, Odin's beholders. They can shapeshift from crows with an eyeball-and-fang necklace into women. And did we mention Huginn's human form is tall and busty?
  • Culture Chop Suey: While the series does include clear influences from other cultures, they're nowhere near as blatant as those in the Spin Offs. Aside from Fayon and all its Wutainess, there is also Morroc and the Arabian influences from that (the character names found among many of those in the Assassin's Guild, for instance, as well as the very concept of assassins).
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Skurai versus most of the Assassin's Guild.
    • Fenris pulls this on Fay Kanavion during the Geffen Magic Tournament.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Sara Irene has shades of this, with Parental Abandonment of the worst kind leading to her Start of Darkness.
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Sara Irene.
  • Deep Cover Agent: The Assassins of the Cross, the most powerful of all the Assassin's Guild's agents. There's only seven of them, all dispersed throughout Midgard (with Loki operating out of the guild's headquarters itself). None of them know the identities of the other six. The second one we meet is Julianna Lucille, working for Geffen's Viceroy.
  • Doomed Hometown: Chaos has bad luck with this. The village he lived in as a boy was destroyed and all its fleeing citizens slaughtered (implied to be the work of the Assassin's Guild). Fayon, his new home, gets similar treatment when Sara Irene makes a homecoming appearance.
  • Dub Name Change: Several names are changed so they jive more with the Norse setting. "Satan Morroc" was changed to "Surt" and "Tiamat"note  was changed to "Nidhogg", for example. In a pseudo-example of Inconsistent Dub, many of these characters also appear in Ragnarok Online, but use their original names even in the international version.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Julianna Lucille appears in artwork from Volume 7, standing behind Loki in armor similar to his own, before she was actually introduced in Volume 10.
  • Elite Mooks: Himmelmez employs a kind of four-armed undead creature that's intelligent and capable of speech—as well as powerful enough to slice buildings apart.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Loki.
  • Eternal Recurrence: It's implied that Ragnarok is cyclical. It happened a thousand years ago, and it's about to happen again. More specifically, the Aesir and Vanir warred with one another a thousand years ago—an event that, in Norse lore, is not part of the events of Ragnarok. However, at the same time Surt and his fire giants attempted to burn away the world, an event that is.
  • Empathic Weapon: Laevatein, the Rod of Destruction, can respond verbally to Fenris' commands.
    • Evil Weapon: Talatsu, the demon sword. Forged by the Aesir, who then feared their creation and sealed it away, until a luckless knight stumbled across it ...
  • Fanservice: Plenty of this to go around just in the outfits alone. More so with the female outfits than the males, though Loki's Spy Catsuit With Bone Armor has caused many a Squee from a fangirl.
  • The Four Gods: Referred to as "the four constellations" in the manhwa, and are followed by various Wutai cities like Fayon (see below).
  • Friend to All Children: Huginn might be responsible for directing an Omnicidal Maniac at Odin's enemies, but that doesn't mean she'll stand by and watch children get slaughtered. Muninn, while having similar sentiments, is less concerned about taking action to protect them.
  • Götterdämmerung: Aside from the mentions that Ragnarok already happened a thousand years ago, this is not-so-subtly made a recurring theme. Fenris knows how to cast spells that, according to one of the Geffen Magic Tournament commentators, have been lost to time. The Heart of Ymir Prontera keeps under the King's Castle is nestled within extremely advanced technology far ahead of the Dungeon Punk-esque magic and technology of the present world.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played with several different ways—
    • Played straight in the battle for Payon. Not even a bridge full of cannons can make a dent in frost giants—but it's implied that they were protected by Sara Irene at the time.
    • Doubly Subverted in the invasion of Prontera; the guard's guns and cannons were perfectly highly effective against the undead, destroying hordes of them to the point where they could no longer fight. The problem is, there were always more zombies.
    • Later on, an airship captain attempts to protect his vessel from Gremlins with a pistol ... but shooting at them only made them angier.
  • In Their Own Image: Freya's planning to undo the creation of Midgard and remake it in her own image. Somehow, she's strongarmed Odin, the All-Father and creator of Midgard, to go along with this. It's not been revealed how Freya managed to do that.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: By Volume 8, Fenris comes to terms with the fact that her former lover, Balder, is already close to Iris Irene as Chaos. She decides just being near him is enough for her.
  • Ki Attacks: Apparently Loki's cosmic energy magic is heavily implied to be the mystical martial arts energy we know in the real world as ki.
  • Lady of War: Fenris Fenrir.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: All over the place in the series. Both Chaos and Fenris Fenrir had their memories sealed by the Aesir. Iris Irene also doesn't realize that Sara Irene is her sister because the Fayon elders had done similarly.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Played with to several different ends. Chaos initially wears the same green robes under his pauldrons, even after buying a new enchanted set of pauldrons. Iris wears the same outfit for a while, as it's the traditional training gear for Fayon's clerics. Loki's armor is revealed to be easily summonable and dismissable after the Prontera Invasion arc. Just about everyone in the A and B lists got a new outfit as of Volume 8, except for Lidia.
  • That Man Is Dead: Sara Irene says this to Lord Irene when he calls her his daughter.
    Sara Irene: Your daughter is twelve years dead!
  • Mad Love: Lidia takes one look at Loki and this is exactly what happens.
  • Magic Knight: Chaos is at first shown to be a Rune Knight, a Fayon warrior equally proficient in swordsmanship and magic spells. Then we find out he was trained in a very different school of martial arts as a child.
  • Mega Manning: Skurai reveals that Talatsu does this in Volume 9 by drinking the blood of its enemies ... and proceeds to demonstrate this by using Chaos' own Dragon Strike against him.
  • More Dakka: The one single bridge leading into Payon turns out to have an entire batallion of cannons hidden within it.
  • Morph Weapon: Talatsu's sudden change in appearance in Skurai's appearances in Volumes 4 and 8 is explained by Volume 10. A bonus joke comic has Talatsu claiming that it can take over 57 forms.
    • Laevatein can also extend itself on Fenris' command.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Skurai's known across Midgard as the Cursed Prosecutor. (It's also his class in the fake "player's handbook" that introduces the protagonists and antagonists in every novel.)
    Skurai: Innocents? There are no innocents. All are guilty. All must pay.
    • Himmelmez, the Life-Eater.
  • Norse Mythology: Why, yes.
  • Onmyodo: The "runes" that Iris and Sara Irene use to cast spells are very similar to Ofuda.
    • Asian Rune Chant: Iris Irene and Sara Irene both do a Norse (or Latin) take on this when casting a spell with their runes.
  • Omnicidal Neutral: The Assassin's Guild's modus operandi, swiftly and brutally killing off anyone who threatens to give the Aesir, Vanir, or the giants a foothold in Midgard. Their rationale for doing this is that by keeping Midgard a "no man's land" for the gods and giants, it will stop the mortal realm from becoming their battlefield.
  • Organic Technology: Himmelmez's fortress, the "Dark Whisper," happens to be this, and it is horrifying. The Frost Giants of Joutenheim also look suspiciously as if they were constructed instead of born ...
  • Power Trio: Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, the Norns in Ragnarok. While they aren't facets of a single being, they are like the Norns of Norse lore in that they are keepers of the past, present, and future respectively. They're allies of Frigg, and covertly aid Chaos in his mission.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: The advanced technology maintaining Prontera's Heart of Ymir has been operating in pristine condition for at least a thousand years, and its current owners don't appear to have the technology to maintain it.
    • Balder's former sword, Sentinel Breeze, is also erosion-proof. It remains pristine even though his former abode, Breidablik, is in ruins.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Karl Johann Spiegel. After Volsug's royal army arrested Chaos, Iris, and Fenris when Loki and Sakray attacked them in Prontera's streets, General Spiegel later visited their jail cell in disguise to let them know he'd seen that they tried to protect the citizens and heal the wounded. He offered to be their witness in the coming day's trial.
  • Red Baron: Loki and the assassins who accompany him on his mission in Morroc:
    • Loki, Assassin of the Shadows
    • Hajatu, The Spider
    • Taulin, The Blood Rose
    • Mustafa, The Dead One
    • Ibrahim, He Who Hungers
  • Retcon: A few of these happen throughout the series, with little explanation as to why:
    • In early circulations of Volume 1, Alberta is briefly shown as "a small village on the eastern border of the Midgard Kingdom." Later localizations changed the caption to read "a port town on the southeast coast of the Midgard Kingdom." Ragnarok Online probably had something to do with this one.
    • In Volume 4, Lidia says she's searching for the riches of Thralgard, the lost ancient kingdom. When she reappears in Volume 8, she's instead looking for Alfheim. Thralgard is not mentioned at all.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: You know you've got a hands-on ruler when the lord of your city comes to the rescue of his own army by punching a frost giant in half.
    • Iris Irene and her mother aren't slouches about this, either.
  • RPG Elements: Done subtly but noticeably in the series itself, and clearly visible in the faux "player's handbook" character guide in every novel's opening. The volumes made when Ragnarok Online started development only intensified this.
  • Schizo Tech: A core theme of Ragnarok from its start. There's enough background events to suggest that there used to be a really advanced magical/technological civilization in Midgard, and was probably laid low by Ragnarok. The series' present day is a Medieval European Fantasy with cannons, airships, guns, and modern-looking apparel.
  • Shout-Out: Myung-Jin Lee loves these. Here's a few examples:
    • Cameos from Final Fantasy Tactics are everywhere in background panels, especially during the Prontera arc. Be on the look out for Razia and various character classes!
    • During the invasion of Prontera, certain characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas can be seen among the hordes. So can the zombified versions of Virtua Fighter characters, snarfing down on another fighter from the series.
    • A number of the iconic characters for classes from Ragnarok Online itself show up both in the background and overtly by Volume 8. Especially notable because Volume 8 was published in 2001 (when RO was in its alpha stage), and the "2-1" and "2-2" classes were appearing in their finalized forms well before Gravity so much as released their concept art.
      • Several of the RO class characters are even given names. The female Alchemist's name is Fay Kanavion, the female Wizard's Rebecca Vernene, and the male Magician is Gustaf.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Translating from Korean to English has a few problems similar to translating from Japanese to English. This resulted in inconsistent spelling of names between the Tokyopop localization and the English version of Ragnarok Online:
    • Skurai (Tokyopop) / Sakray (Gravity)
    • Altevaran (Tokyopop) / Aldebaran (Gravity) note 
    • Fayon (Tokyopop) / Payon (Gravity)
    • Tanat (Tokyopop) / Thanatos (Gravity)
  • Start of Darkness: How Sara Irene and Skurai came to be the villains they are now is shown to the reader via flashbacks in Volumes 2 and 10, respectively.
  • Stripperiffic: Fayon's clerics seem to specialize in this kind of outfit, as both Iris and Sara Irene wear very revealing clothes early on.
  • The Stoic: Loki.
  • Vagina Dentata: Alluded to with Fenris Fenrir's first outfit, which has a metallic crotch guard in the shape of a feral-looking face with sharp teeth. Make jokes about biting Tyr's hand off at your own peril.
  • Valkyries: Twelve of them serving as agents of Freya, to be exact. In this world, it seems that women of any race could potentially be made a valkyrie; the human woman Sara Irene is a valkyrie, as is the dark elf Zenobia Sadi Frieile. Himmelmez, another human woman, is alternatively called a general and a "dark valkyrie."
  • Wutai: Fayon (or Payon in Ragnarok Online) is the Korean variant of this, and a source for many Korean culture artifacts. In an odd twist, Chaos explains to Lidia in a fast-spoken rant that Fayon is is a sanctuary for "descendants of the four constellations," and that there are many other similar sanctuaries across the mortal realm. Fayon is the capital city for all these city-sanctuaries spread across Midgard.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Fenris is often depicted with lavender or purple hair. Skurai's hair tends to be some shade of blue. Loki's also depicted with blue hair, but sometimes has brown or black hair as well.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Himmelmez's army during her invasion of Prontera, with a bit of Dem Bones thrown in for good measure.
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