In this episode, the ancient blerd Cryptte discusses the webtoon, Ordeal by Brent Bristol. Set in a world similar to ours with an alternate history, Ordeal is a story of super-powered beings called kimyo and their impact on the world.
My name is Cryptte and on this podcast, I’ll be geeking out on light novels, manga, manhwa and other types of comic books. Welcome to Lyfeblerd.
In this episode, we hit the Caribbean islands, specifically Trinidad & Tobago. This time we’ll be talking about a webtoon, technically a manhwa, called Ordeal by Brent Bristol. It’s a story set in Trinidad & Tobago like I mentioned earlier.
So if you’ve seen Dragon Ball Z, you probably know what I’m talking about. Think special powers, superheroes, but then with martial arts, a lot of it. A fine blend that makes it actually different from the few titles that are similar. Now, since it’s set in Trinidad & Tobago, the first thing you will probably notice is a lot of black characters. This is the only comic book I’ve come across with a focus on coloured people that is a mix of martial arts with special powers.
Now, in the world of Ordeal, there are these beings called kimyos, humans born with abilities. So, like any other story that has super beings, there’s prejudice, racism and all of that. But it’s also similar to, which I don’t really agree too much with, My Hero Academia. With superheroes being part of society, humanity has adapted or found a way for them to serve and protect the people. Of course, that means that there are also super villains, vigilantes, etc.
The story picks up with Che Heart, our hero, protagonist with dreads, a really cool looking character. He’s a human unlike the rest of his friends that are kimyos. He frequents a gym or Dojo and their master is also a Kimyo. Whether it’s to compare himself to others or something else, Che continues to compete in street fights and tournaments, facing off with kimyo opponents, which sounds crazy and is.
Now, one thing you immediately notice about the fights in Ordeal, and there are a lot of them, is how technical they are. It’s not a matter of just beating your opponent till they black out. It takes understanding the strategies of opponents and how one is able to outwit the other not just from brute strength, but also technique.
So, something happens to the Dojo that sets the boys lives ablaze and the situation just seems to keep on getting worse from then on. They realise that they can no longer continue their lives in the Dojo, training, living as a pseudo family.
Besides Che, their Dojo also has Tevin, who’s probably Che’s best friend. I won’t get into their abilities because it’s kind of fun figuring out what each character can do. There’s Louis Hemlock, Azam and Anton King. Their master, Leo Thomas with flashy fire powers.
We are soon introduced to one of the main antagonists who happens to be Leo’s former student, Rokash Ramperad. A cocky old fighter who is a bit sadistic and is trying to surpass his master. This is a bit funny considering he’s actually been able to rise up the ranks and become one of the best Kimyos in the world.
They have a ranking system also similar to My Hero Academia which okay, I’m beginning to see a lot of similarities. A ranking system for all the kimyos and I think Rokash is in maybe the top 16. To go any further would be spoiler territory, so…
I stumbled upon Ordeal (I think I’ve been stumbling on a lot of stuff for this podcast) when I saw a panel of Che, can’t remember what he was doing. He was a black character. You could see his dreads, the art, it’s just really expressive.
It kind of has the same energy as your typical shonen manga because this is definitely inspired by shonen manga even if you don’t know anything about Brent Bristol. Reading it, you’ll get all the shonen vibes. The art has that shonen energy, but at the same time it has this realistic touch. It’s like a mix of eastern and western art which makes it look a lot more realistic.
I think some of the backgrounds are really good too, but most of them don’t seem to have had much work put into them. But you’re not really going to notice or care much. You’re really going to be focusing on the characters and I think character development is also really good. You’re able to quickly understand the relationship between characters like Che and his friends who treat each other more like brothers. Leo Thomas, who’s more of a father figure to them. Ramperad, you quickly love to hate.
There are a lot more characters that you are going to meet along the way and you’re going to be feeling all sorts of emotions regarding them. You’ll see a lot of the characters grow. You see them evolve into deeper people.
And while I say there are a lot of fights in Ordeal, it’s not just about the fights. There’s a lot of drama in there too. There’s definitely a story behind it. There’s occasional flashbacks that don’t feel annoying. I think they were well planned, well-spaced, helping to weave or help us understand the world that they exist in and the circumstances of their situations.
But the thing I probably love the most about Ordeal is the fact that it’s set in Trinidad and Tobago with a lot of coloured people. With an art style and action that could rival a lot of manga out there. A lot of manhwa too. But then I can’t say everything is perfect. Like I mentioned before, the backgrounds aren’t too detailed, but then there are certain scenes that look really good.
The powers too are really good. How he’s able to come up with them and how they actually play a major role in the battles. It’s like the powers were picked specifically to create awesome fights. That’s the only way I can describe it. Everything is perfect. The way the opponents are picked, how they are able to use their abilities against each other. It’s really interesting.
It’s definitely inspired by shonen. And as a result, it has some of the tropes which make me kind of distance myself from the genre. The whole hero complex where a lot of the progress being made, most of the growth is focused or most of the story is focused on the lead character, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that I prefer to have a larger cast and not have to be forced to like the lead character. It’s not done intentionally. It’s just how the hero always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Brent wanted to create a story that isn’t just set in his home country, but also in familiar places. So he used locations that actually exist. Places that fans of the comic that live in Trinidad & Tobago or have been there would see and get excited about. It would actually help conversations outside of the manhwa. It just gives you this feeling of dedication.
Okay, so I’m black and I know that when it comes to content, especially geeky comic book culture stuff, we tend to be in the minority. Like, there are fewer stories with lead characters that are coloured, but then also when our people do write things like that, some of them are highly celebrated. Yet, it seems to be for the wrong reasons. Not because they’re really good stories, but simply because a coloured person wrote it or drew it or sang it or something. Like because it’s out of the norm. Tokenism.
But you don’t get that feeling in Ordeal. Brent actually deserves the praise he gets. He’s able to create a world that doesn’t seem forced. He’s not imposing black characters or coloured characters in a world full of white people. These people exist in this country. And this country is used to having coloured people, and they all coexist. If you don’t come from a community or society where this level of interaction is normal, then maybe you might find it weird. I’ve never been to Trinidad & Tobago, but I think Brent is able to show us aspects of life there. So that’s kind of culturally significant, even if it is just a comic book.
Now, the first time I read it, I didn’t understand how I never heard about it before. I binged Ordeal and it was only later on that I realised that Ordeal had actually come out earlier. I think it finished its original run, well at least its first season sometime in 2020, during Covid. Around that time, Ordeal was picked up and turned into a Webtoon Original and as a result Brent re-mastered the comic and then re-released it on the platform. It ran until sometime early 2022, this year. And everybody is still impatiently waiting for season two. That shows how dedicated he is to the story.
The origin story of Ordeal is that it started off as a school assignment, I think a school project. And knowing his teachers are also anime fans, he wanted to make his project a comic that had those elements that would appeal to them. I think it was originally supposed to be three chapters he submitted. But then the feedback he got from that comic was so good that he decided to continue the comic. He uploaded it to Webtoon just to gauge people’s reaction. And the feedback he got was really impressive. I think it was a competition that he applied for at the time. He didn’t win, but then I think that was the push he needed to take things more seriously.
I believe it was sometime around the end of the first season, the original first season, that Brent got picked up by Webtoon. When they decided to turn it into an Original. I think more people should read Ordeal, mainly because the only people I’ve seen talk about it are black and I think it shouldn’t just be a cultural thing. I think that’s just because it hasn’t made the rounds. It hasn’t been seen by people of different cultures. I think the more people see it, the more we spread it, the more we share it, Ordeal could actually get a lot more publicity, could grow a lot bigger. And it wouldn’t be a racial thing. It would be because it’s a good story. Not because it’s coloured people.
While preparing for the episode, I also came across this interesting interview by TheOtakuFix with Brand Bristol. It was illuminating and one you guys should see.
My opinion of Ordeal is that it’s really good. And this is coming from someone that doesn’t really like shonen. There’s just a handful of shonen that I watch and read like My Hero Academia. I plan to get back to One Piece at some point. What other shonen do I like? Well, Dragon Ball, itgoes without saying. Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball, in general. Yeah. I’m not really a shonen fan, but then I loved the Ordeal. I think the art is great. I think the story is great. I would still prefer it if it had an anime artstyle, but he’s really good, colours, lighting, all of that stuff.
I would definitely recommend Ordeal to everyone. Try it out, you might like it. Since it’s a webtoon, I think you’ll be able to read it for free without spending any coins but yeah, easily available on webtoons, the free app. If you don’t know what webtoons are, they’re just online Korean comic books. Let’s say a Korean comic book company decided to create online issues, creating their own style which makes them stand out.
I call books like Ordeal manhwa because Webtoon is originally a Korean platform.
The comics are arranged horizontally in long panels, like they’re all in one picture, running down as if on a single sheet of paper. You scroll down instead of left to right or right to left that.
Another thing that makes Ordeal stand out is the music. Yes, it has music that plays that has a kind of hip-hop vibe. It sets the mood. I haven’t read too many webtoons but I’m assuming that there are others out there that have music as well, and sound effects too.
They really take control of their own medium, taking advantage of the fact that they are a mobile platform, well, online platform but I think they’re mostly read on mobile.
If you’re looking for other things like Ordeal because you’ve already read it, or you want to move on to that after you finish Ordeal, it really depends on why you like Ordeal. If you like it for the martial arts, then I’d say you should pick up something like Tenjo Tenge. That’s an old manga by Oh! Great. There is Dragon Ball, but maybe just start from Super, by Akira Toriyama. Both because they’re about martial arts and characters with mystical powers.
Thunderbolt Fantasy. It’s supposed to be an anime, but it uses puppets, written by Gen Urobuchi. Yeah, I think those are good for now.
If it’s the art you’re interested in, then you should look for comic books by Jim Lee. Coincidentally, he happens to be a Korean American. Check out his Uncanny X-men run, Alpha Flight, maybe WildC.A.T.s and Gen 13 from Image Comics. Batman: Hush is a really good comic that I would recommend. Check that one out too. So stuff from Jim Lee if it’s the art that you’re interested in.
And if it’s comics about coloured people, diversity, then maybe look up Saga by Brian K. Vaughan. Also check out any Miles Morales Spiderman comics. On the manga front, I think Bleach had a lot of black characters as well. So yeah, there’s actually a lot out there, just none that has this ratio, the ration that Ordeal has.
I won’t go into stuff you should check out if you’re not interested in Ordeal, simply because I’m not sure what genre you’d prefer over it.
I guess that’s it. Definitely check out Ordeal. Let me know what you think. Hit me up on Twitter and Instagram, @lyfeblerd or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to like, share, subscribe to the podcast, review as well, because that helps us tremendously.
Below are a couple of links to follow for all the stuff discussed on the show. A few of them might be affiliate links. If they are, and you do decide to purchase any of the books, thanks, we really appreciate it.
- Thunderbolt Fantasy Omnibus I (Vol. 1-2)
- Bleach, Vol. 1
- Tenjho Tenge, Vol. 1 –
- Dragon Ball Super, Vol. 1
If you’d prefer to take a break from reading, you can watch the animated versions of Batman: Hush, Bleach, Tenjho Tenge, and Into The Spiderverse on Amazon Prime Video. Follow the link below to get a 30-day trial to binge all of them before the next episode of Lyfeblerd comes out.
Hope you enjoyed the show and see you in the next one.