Ozanari Dungeon is what I’d call a typical fantasy adventure series. This was released in 1989 which is more than 30 years ago although I must point out that it ran from 1989 to 1996.
Typically, in a fantasy adventure, there is always one thing: The MC has hidden powers of some sort.
The main character of Ozanari Dungeon, Moka, has none. Seriously, she has got no hidden powers. Her class is a barbarian. Thus, she does posses well above average physical strength. That’s about her only advantage. Alas, her physical strength comes at a cost; she has low INT. I would say she has decent wisdom however. More on that later.
She is accompanied by a rouge (Blueman) and a wizard (Kiliman). This group is missing a healer but they don’t need one.
The series begins as a man (if you can call him that) seeks emergency help after he was forced out of his tower after a successful coup, leaving his wife inside of it. Having no money whatsoever, his request is rejected at a normal guild. Instead, he is given a chance at a shadow guild. A team is quickly assembled which is where Moka, Blueman, and Kiliman enter.
The fact that they are guild members quickly becomes an afterthought however.
It starts really slowly. There are 17 volumes to this series, and until you reach around volume 5, there isn’t much substance to its plot. However, once the plot starts to pick up, it does really run.
This trend was rather common in 90s where manga authors would begin their works without having clear visions, and then having grown into the world they created, they would end up creating an excellent story.
I would say this manga would fail in 2020. Not many are going to wait around volume 5 for its plot to pick up nowadays. In fact, 5 books of material would warrant a season thingy nowadays. A whole season of filler episodes won’t fly, for sure.
I mentioned that she has low INT but above average WIS. Let me explain.
A good example of a typical character that has high INT but low WIS is wizards who tend to know how to solve complex issues but don’t have a clue in how to implement solutions. INT in fantasy worlds (for an example, D&D) is generally about complex problem solving. WIS, on the other hand, is about quick wits (street smarts) and implementations of actions.
Moka, for the life of her, can barely perform any math. Even 6 + 4 is an ordeal for her. However, when it comes to being fooled, she is surprisingly resistant. She seems to know from her gut when she is being fooled even if she can’t piece together on how exactly.
In fact, her wisdom seems to be high enough not to be fooled by an ancient black dragon of doom in very late plot. If she was a D&D character, I think she would have like 8 INT and 24 WIS.
Now, let’s talk about Blueman.
He is a catman and a rouge. He loves to take things from others but do not generally steal mindlessly. What I mean by that is that he is a good rouge. He does not steal from the poor and steals only from the rich and bad guys.
The manga does not explain their past history on how he and Moka met, but based on their conversations, it is indicated that they are just members of the same guild who just happen to venture out together and end up sticking with each other.
He has far less coverage than Moka in the manga which isn’t surprising. But his role really diminishes as the plot advances. In the last volume, he is literally an afterthought.
Now, finally, let’s talk about Kiliman.
He is a wizard. Originally, I thought he was a sorcerer. That was when I didn’t really know real differences between the two. There are scenes in the manga where Kiliman has to take out his spellbook to recall spells he has forgotten, so he is a wizard for sure.
His race is, well, Kirin + man. “Kirin” means a giraffe in Japanese and Korean. I am positive that his name is originated from Kirinman.
He never speaks a single word in the entire manga. He can speak some gibberish which only Moka and Blueman can seem to understand to an extent. Otherwise, he uses the sign language. He is a true sidekick and has no role at all in later volumes. He does, however, cast ancient magic from time to time, saving Moka and Blueman occasionally. Regardless, he becomes an afterthought like Blueman in later plot.
I haven’t really talked about its plot so far. Well, there is a reason for that. This manga may be old but English scanlations are readily available until 15 or 16th volume, I believe. Since it is readily available, I am keen not to spoil the plot.
So, do I recommend this manga?
Ozanari Dungeon cannot complete with modern series for one simple reason; it starts way too slowly. Volume 5 covers Moka’s past, and that is the point where plots begin to get some traction. Even then, you will need to wait around volume 8 or so before you are able to see what really is going on in the world of Ozanari Dungeon.
Once its plot starts to roll, it really is intriguing and it will have you glued to a seat until you are done with it. Alas, the wait of 8 volumes will deter majority of readers.
This is also probably why there is a short OVA series only. No matter how brave a company is, it would be ludicrous to fund a full anime series based on the plot of Ozanari Dungeon.
17 volumes means about 40 episodes. Out of 40, about 18 episodes would be fillers. I don’t think it’s work out well.
It just would not work no matter how brilliant the series was. Still, the manga is there for you to enjoy.
A little fun fact about the manga, in Korea, the publisher who was working on this went belly up after releasing 16th volume. Since then, nobody picked it up, leaving the last, 17th, volume hanging.
And it appears that a similar stuff happened in other regions as well. Aside from the original Japanese version, no foreign publisher has managed to complete it, dropping it at either 15 or 16th volume.
Funnily enough, even English scanlation could not complete it, either.
If you are wondering how volume 17 unfolds, I can shed some light on that. Given there is no way to find that out if you don’t know Japanese, I am willing to give out spoilers on this.
What I am about to write, you won’t have any idea about if you haven’t read the manga up to volume 16.
The half of volume 17 is about Moka versus the black dragon. The dragon, who is losing his vitality rapidly since his lifespan is over, simply cannot defeat her and eventually Moka defeats it.
This fight is literally Moka beating down a dying old man. The black dragon would have died on its own soon. But it has become insane at this point and would have done a lot of damage if left alone.
The other half of the volume is about the baby (Abel, named by Moka herself. She is his God mother.) warning Moka that future himself may not be welcoming to her due to harsh deeds he had to perform to alter the past.
Basically, he is telling her that he won’t be an innocent little kid.
And that is it. Finally, since Moka’s blade which is an Astral is gone now that his job is done, she is given a new blade from the Great Soul. It is crafted from Logos (the black dragon)’s tooth.
If you notice, this is not exactly the end. It says “To be continued Next Stage”. There is another Ozanari Dungeon series after this. But I did not follow it up. I simply had no interest.
Ozanari Dungeon is overall an okay-manga. It has its moments of brilliance but it’s a little too inconsistent to be overall great. It also starts off painfully slowly which will put off a lot of readers in 2020.
In the end, I do not recommend it to you only because the last volume hasn’t been translated to English.