Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Men’s Society: a Guide

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When you think of a self-improvement guide on how to be more manly, what do you think of? You’d probably think it would include, among other things, a few useful how-tos on tasks like jump-starting a car. Maybe you’d think to find an outline on an exercise regimen. You might even expect something philosophical to get you to consider what you stand for and how strongly.

If you’re expecting anything as useful from Men’s Society: a Guide, then you’re already set up for disappointment. Like it or not, there is a new kind of manliness in town; a kind that is obsessed with image and with defining your identity with what you buy, rather than your character.

Men’s Society: a Guide comes to us from menssociety.com, and it largely reads as an advertisement for items featured on their online store. I mean, their website, because their online store is their top page. The commercial agenda screams “ethics” as loudly as some energy scam kiosk right inside the doors of a grocery chain.

Let’s keep it real here: real manliness came to be because the traits associated with it were what was necessary for men to get by in times when resources were limited. Real men are strong, smart, skilled, nimble, adaptive, and strong of character. The new form of manliness that’s obsessed with an outward show of old-timey rusticness is nothing more than a sham that was crafted to get people to spend money on things.

Where does Men’s Society fit in the scheme of things? To find out, let’s look at the topics discussed in this book, one at a time:

  • Grooming – a few fundamentals and a list of grooming supplies for you to buy
  • Drinking – a list of alcoholic beverages for you to buy
  • Style – a few staples of outward appearance for you to buy
  • Culture – a list of books, films, and other media for you to buy
  • Travel – a few pointers about getting from one place to another, so you can continue buying things somewhere else
  • Manners – the part of the book that was rushed because it’s not intrinsically conductive to you buying things

Whether it’s consumption of media or consumption of products, the main point of this book, again and again, is consume, consume, consume. The commercialization of manliness weakens manliness in the same way that the commercialization of Christmas led to the weakening of the Christian identity. Commercialization is nothing more than a means to an end, that being to line the pocketbooks of a few with leafy greens at the expense of the rest of us. To the entrepreneur enriched by this endeavor, any identity weakened in the process is considered an acceptable expense.

The authors of Men’s Society are British, so the perspective of this book is from that of a British man. There are a few points in this book that indicates that real manliness in the UK is in serious trouble.

For one thing, there is a section in this book on how to survive a flight. Fast fact: surviving a flight is easy. Flight is considered the safest way to travel, and it’s no mistake that nearly everyone who attempts flight survives the experience. All there is to surviving a flight is to sit down and not make too much noise. Do it right, and none of the other passengers will have much reason to throw you out a window.

There is a paragraph that discourages manspreading. Non-ironically. It opens with this gem:

MANSPREADING

This is a derogatory term that you don’t want used to describe you.

Sorry, Men’s Society, “manspreading” is a verb, not a noun. You have failed.

And it gets worse, as three pages later, the book includes a similar section on mainsplaining. Again, non-ironically. The term “mansplaining” was obviously invented in a cynical effort to shut down productive conversation because feminists can’t stand being proven wrong. A willingness to hold water for the intersectional agenda is a sign of weakness and isn’t a trait of one qualified to teach manliness.

When the advice isn’t bad or geared towards marketing, it’s usually lazy. One can imagine that a book packed with advice on men’s style would include at least a few informative pages about hats. Instead, there’s a short paragraph at the end of a chapter which says little more than that it’s acceptable to wear baseball hats and “street-style go-tos” (whatever those are), and that if you were to wear any other style of hat, “you’re a bold man.”

Really? That’s all that Men’s Society has to say about hats? What a cheap cop-out. There’s a lot more to say about hats, but I suspect that the brevity to this section is owed to the fact that I found no hats in their online store (but two pages of shaving products and three pages of haircare products). I imagine that they’d have more to say about the style of a derby or the protection of a bucket hat if those were products in their online store.

This is a bit of an aside, but Men’s Society has an obvious obsession with mint tin kits. I get it, pocket-sized kits are awesome. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to buy them. Mint tin kits are packed with cheap items that would usually set a person back just a few dollars altogether if one would construct them themselves.

Men’s Society understands the profit behind giving some trial-size products their own label then selling them for 25 British pounds (about $30), and here’s an example of one from their website:

men's society beard removal kit.png

Yes, a beard removal kit. They think so little of your ability to accomplish the task with the items you have on-hand that they put together a kit designed to assist you toward that end.

Speaking of shaving, people can stop patting themselves on the back for using a razor to shave, as though that were any kind of accomplishment. Technology should be embraced as an expression of how adaptive and nimble men are, not shunned for that smug glow of superiority that comes with refusing to keep up. I use electricity to shave because I’m not a luddite.

You don’t have to pay piles of money for mint tin kits. You can make one of your own. Assembling one for yourself shows ingenuity and is rewarding when you finish one up. It’s so simple, I can give you a short guide right here:

  1. Procure a mint tin. An Altoid’s tin would work.
  2. Throw out those suspiciously non-Kosher Altoids mints and wash the mint smell from the tin. (Is there pork in them, or something?)
  3. Put what you want in them, whatever would reasonably fit. Fishing hooks, band-aids, twine, it’s up to you.
  4. That’s it. You now have a mint tin kit, and didn’t pay someone $30 to do it for you.

While we’re at it, here’s an article on how to make mint tin kits on Art of Manliness, a much better page on manliness than Men’s Society.

Part of the book that I found myself sometimes liking was the “Don’t Be That Guy” sections, which added a little bit of humor to an otherwise commercial experience. A couple of my favorites include “Don’t Be That Guy: You know, the guy with longer hair who thinks he’s Kurt Cobain?” and “You know, the guy who leaves the top four buttons of his shirt unbuttoned?” However, these are short blurbs in what is otherwise a paid advertisement (one that the reader paid for, not the marketer).

As it is, Men’s Society: a Guide could be more appropriately called, “Men’s Society: A Buyer’s Guide”. It’s written with the expectation that if you’d pay for a book to tell you how to be manly, then it can suggest a bunch of other things for you to buy, leading you down a deep rabbit hole of continual spending in a vain attempt to find identity. And that’s assuming that you’d want a bunch of posh blokes telling you how to be manly. Men’s Society brings to mind the words of an Asian proverb:

“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”
-Confucius

The time has come to give this book it’s score. Men’s Society: a Guide gets a score of Don’t Be That Guy out of ten.

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Because the Don’t Be That Guy sections make up around 1% of this book, that comes to 0.1 out of 10.

The PokeBall Plus: Is this thing worth buying?

Pokeball-Plus

When Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! were released late last year, they came alongside a peripheral that was intended to act as a dedicated controller for the games. Not only that, it also functioned similarly to the Pokemon Go Plus accessory for smartphones.

Is this thing worth buying?

I ended up getting one a little while back, and after having played with it quite a bit, I think I can answer the question: it really depends on whether you play at least one of the two Let’s Go games, and whether you play Pokemon Go. And even if you play both, it’s still a “maybe”, because there still wouldn’t be a guarantee that it would appeal to you. Personally, I think I got my money’s worth, but not everyone would have the same tastes in game accessories as me.

The PokeBall Plus functions as a dedicated controller for the Pokemon: Let’s Go games. As far as I know, any attempt to use the controller with any other game would only result in failure.

When used with the Let’s Go games, the PokeBall Plus is a motion-sensitive controller. As a controller, it’s pretty simplistic. It has a main button, which would be the button of the pokeball that we’ve been seeing all these years. The main button basically acts as your “A” button: you use it to talk to people, make menu selections, interact with Pikachu, that basic A button stuff.

But here’s the catch: the main button is actually a “click” feature by pushing down on a control stick. So, the button that you use to make selections such as executing attacks? You also use it to move around, and to highlight different options and different attacks. I’m not a fan of it. It’s way too easy to attempt to select something accidentally because the stick is moved in a direction.

The spherical shape of the controller does make it disorienting when it comes to moving in a direction. There’s not really much in terms of tactile feedback to determine how the controller is oriented in one’s hand. That means that you have to look down at it to determine whether you’re holding it right. At the very least, the rubber coating of the controller does prevent it from slipping, so you don’t have to reposition it very often. Having said that, a spherical controller isn’t terribly ergonomic.

There’s also a “B” button on the controller, and it’s on the top of it. It’s simple, you use it to cancel selections. There’s not much to it, and it works just as you’d expect. But when outside of battle, it acts as a “pause”, which brings up the menu, and also closes it.

Shaking the controller acts as the “Y” button when prompted, but also provides a shortcut to interacting with Pikachu/Eevee. When in battle, and Pikachu/Eevee’s special is available, shaking also provides the shortcut to using it.

Now, here’s the big thing: when confronting wild pokemon, the PokeBall Plus provides that extra bit of simulation. The motion controls work similarly to the joy-con, but you get that added satisfaction of swinging a Pokeball at a pokemon with an accessory designed to expedite the experience. It’s accurate, too. In fact, it seems like the PokeBall Plus is more accurate when throwing Pokeballs than an ordinary joy-con.

Another nice touch is that the opening around the control stick of the main button is illuminated by what may be RGB LEDs, which can glow certain colors depending on what you’re doing in the game. It glows certain colors when attempting to catch pokemon, and when you catch one, it emits a color that corresponds to the pokemon that was just caught. Cooler still is the fact that the PokeBall Plus also makes sounds, such as cries of pokemon that were just caught. It’s little things like that that makes the PokeBall Plus a very thoughtfully-designed product.

Having said that, it’s still the case that the right way to catch pokemon in Let’s Go is to undock the Switch and play in handheld mode, especially if you intend to chain pokemon for large amounts of candy.

Another added function of the PokeBall Plus is that you can send one of your own pokemon to it, and take it around with you as you go about your day-to-day business. When you do this, the controller acts as a step counter. You’ll be able to “play” with the pokemon inside by making it active with the control stick, and it’ll respond to shaking, “petting” motions, and moving the control stick in circles. I’m still not entirely sure what the benefits of playing with the pokemon might be, but certain activities might increase the rewards obtained when sending the pokemon back to the game.

Players that wish to raise legendary pokemon or other pokemon that are very difficult to obtain candy for in Let’s Go would appreciate that the PokeBall Plus makes it possible to obtain candy for these pokemon in substantial quantity. Just put the pokemon in, take it for a long walk, perhaps use the device with Pokemon Go, and when you send your pokemon back to your game, you’ll likely get quite a few species-specific candies.

Aside from sometimes enjoying the novelty of a Pokeball-shaped controller, the main thing I use it for in Let’s Go Pikachu! is getting lots of species-specific candies. It’s not hard to get tons of Oddish Candies in-game, but getting lots of Mewtwo or Meltan candy? Obtaining lots of candy specific to legendary pokemon is a tall order in Let’s Go without the help of the Pokeball Plus.

Now for the main thing that I use the PokeBall Plus for: as an accessory for Pokemon Go. As a Pokemon Go accessory, the PokeBall Plus rules. It functions basically the same as the Pokemon Go Plus accessory: when you pair it with your game, it allows you to play Pokemon Go somewhat passively.

Here are the main perks:

  • It vibrates when a wild pokemon is nearby. Push B to consume a regular pokeball attempting to capture it. If it works, you catch the pokemon. If it fails, it flees.
  • It automatically spins PokeStops you’re near. Wild pokemon seem to take priority, so you might have to attempt to capture them, first.

That first point is great, because if you manage to accumulate regular pokeballs in massive quantity, you can just spend them out quickly, and if you catch something with one, great! You get the EXP, candy, and stardust that you normally would, but if you use the PokeBall Plus in this manner, you’re currently only able to use regular pokeballs this way, and it’s only ordinary throws. But hey, if you’d otherwise just chuck those pokeballs out to make room for great balls and ultra balls, what’s the harm in spending them like this?

Also, this provides a quick way of gaining experience: Just set a Lucky Egg, walk through a WalMart parking lot or some similar place, and use the PokeBall Plus to try catching lots of pokemon. Using the PokeBall Plus to attempt a capture may not be a sure thing, but it bypasses the long animations associated with using the app, so you could gain lots of EXP fast if there’s lots of pokemon around to capture.

I’m able to accrete pokemon to myself while walking down the street. What an age we live in!

And if you’re wearing a heavy coat and don’t have your phone out, how would anyone know whether you’re playing Pokemon Go? Of course, that would only be a selling point if you cared whether anyone found you out.

Overall, I’m pleased with the PokeBall Plus, but I know that it’s not going to appeal to everyone. If you have one of the Let’s Go games, it adds a novelty to the experience. But to be honest, I found myself using a joy-con while playing, instead. If you play Pokemon Go, and want to add to the experience what feels like a late-game power-up in a video game, then you might find yourself enjoying the PokeBall Plus. But it’s most likely to appeal to you if you fall into both categories.

However, if you don’t play Pokemon Go, and you’re starting to move on from Let’s Go to some other games, then the PokeBall Plus would likely start to spend a lot of time sitting in your entertainment center as a conversation piece.

Also, for the modders out there: the matte nature of the rubber may make it difficult for paint to stick to the thing. It’s a shame, I was looking forward to seeing what people would come up with.

But hey, while the promotion is still running, you can still get a Mew out of the deal. Supposedly, it’s a limited-time thing, but I don’t know how long it’s supposed to last. Also, if it’s the Mew that you’re in it for, it would be much safer buying the PokeBall Plus new. Only one Mew would be distributed for each individual device.

The very specific nature of this accessory makes it difficult to score. If you don’t have at least one of the games it’s specifically-designed for, the PokeBall Plus is likely to be an expensive piece of plastic. But for hardcore Pokemon fanatics that wanted more of an element of immersion, it might be a dream come true.

Based on my own feelings about it, I can give the PokeBall Plus a score of 8.4 out of 10.

I wonder whether this thing would be compatible with any future Pokemon games? There might be some potential for expansion, here.

Webcomic Review: Assigned Male

ugly.pngYou’ve just been treated to a new flavor of ugly.

(Notice: This review refers to the author of Assigned Male and its main character with biological pronouns. When dealing with horse-puckey of this magnitude, it helps to keep at least one foot in reality.)

The author of Assigned Male is a self-styled first order left-wing mind who believes that he knows what’s better for us than we do, and he’s on a mission to save us from ourselves. The way he’s going about that is by writing a ridiculous webcomic that furthers his agenda. His whole mission backfired when the people who like his webcomic mainly like it ironically, while the rest of us ridicule it soundly.

Because it’s a given that Assigned Male is such a horrible webcomic, it’s predictable that it’s going to be getting a low score. You probably already know it’s bad, so this is another webcomic review that’s kind-of superfluous and it’s hard to say something about it that hasn’t already been said. Yet, the webcomic is so famous for being bad that it’s kind-of hard to ignore. So it’s like another Sonichu.

Transgenderism is one of the current perversities being propped up by the left-wing establishment, and people pretend to be tolerant of it for fear of backlash from said establishment, even though pretty much everybody is secretly afraid that their children may become one. It’s an issue where people pretend to be “progressive”, yet on a primal level, pretty much every sound-minded individual recognizes something is seriously flipping wrong. When someone pretends to be a homosexual of the opposite gender, it doesn’t tend to result in grandchildren for their parents.

There’s something that I’ve noticed when it comes to webcomics, especially when it comes to the bad ones: there seems to be a disproportionately high representation of transgender themes in webcomics as of late. It might sound like conspiracy theorism, but I personally suspect that there’s an agenda at play, especially considering that the transgender crowd just happens to politically align with a certain movement that believes that there’s getting to be just a few too many human beings running around.

Having said that, the type of transgenderism depicted is the no-op male-to-female variety. That seems to be the more prominent kind, because most doctors inform those considering gender-reassignment surgery that, among other forms of damage, those undergoing the operation permanently lose their reproductive capacity, and they don’t actually gain the capacities of their new gender. Most transgenders are discouraged by this, and settle for wearing a dress and accusing those who use the wrong gender pronouns on them of hate crimes.

If someone does undergo gender reassignment surgery, the usual result is crippling depression, as a body is no longer producing adequate hormones for their biological gender, so a person would end up chemically messed up even without taking a bunch of pills. The suicide rate for post-op transgenders is disproportionately high. Gender reassignment surgery is castration, and it messes a person up in the same ways.

Also, unicorns aren’t real.

It may seem like a sufficient introduction to red pill the trans agenda to death, but there’s something more to what’s going on with Assigned Male. If Sophie Labelle, the author of Assigned Male, were yet another transgender snowflake using the webcomic format to have her characters vicariously win the victories that he does not win in real life, he’d only stand out for how zealous and militant that Assigned Male makes him look. But there’s something more to it.

Sophie Labelle is a known and professed child recruiter.

So, you know about that webcomic that he has which indirectly promotes castration? Its target audience is the most vulnerable members of society. Sophie Labelle is just the kind of guy you should want to keep your children away from, and he’s determined to use his webcomic to get at them.

You know what? A review provides more dignity than this trash pile of a webcomic deserves. Why don’t I straight-up bash it?

Sophie Labelle does not know how to draw, but that doesn’t prevent him from trying. After all, he’s got an agenda to push, and he’s not going to allow something like an inability to properly express himself artistically stand between him and the children he’s trying to prey on.

I went and pulled a random example of Sophie’s art, so I’m not being unfair in presenting this as an accurate representation of how badly this webcomic hurts to look at:

assigned male discussing batman.pngThe characters in Assigned Male discussing media we’d rather be consuming.

When you’re trying to present transgenderism as beautiful, then you want to depict them beautifully. Otherwise, your endeavor is going to be self-defeating. Because as they are, the cast of Assigned Male, the main character in particular, looks like they were stuffed into a potato sack and beat against a jungle gym.

I know that when someone uses webcomics as the vehicle for their agenda, they may say that the quality of their art really isn’t the point, as an excuse to produce art that is sub-par. If that’s the case, why even use a visual medium at all? If your art is something that a reader can make fun of, that would end up being a liability for the overall message.

The art in Assigned Male does improve somewhat, as Sophie eventually decides to shade his characters. They’re still ugly, but in a different kind of way. After the style change, the children in the comic look like middle-aged dwarves.

The self-insert main character of Assigned Male is Stephie, a boy-to-girl no-op transgender child who is pretty much everything you’d be afraid of in a transgender you’d meet: overly-sensitive and hard-rails into throwing temper tantrums at every perceived slight, no matter how unintentional it may have been. While this already makes him rough-him-up-and-dump-this-mess-across-town material, in execution, the comic itself makes him much more unbearable.

stephie sans.pngMain character Stephie, ruining Sans for those who like Undertale.

For example, the comic opens with a short story about Stephie going to the doctor’s office with his parents, but Stephie storms out after he discovers that their records still indicate that he’s a boy. Because the physiological differences between males and females may necessitate differences in medical treatment of patients, one would think that Stephie would be understanding that doctors would want a pass when it comes to his game of gender pretend. But no, Stephie’s delusion is more important to him than his being treated for the illness that he went to the physician for in the first place. Much later in the webcomic, the issue of gender for medical identification comes up again, showing that Sophie still hadn’t learned his lesson.

Most of the conflict in Assigned Male involves Stephie taking on some kind of strawman representing whatever argument that Sophie feels like taking on. If that sounds familiar, it’s like another comic I’ve already reviewed, Vegan Artbook. But the comparisons don’t end there. Like Vegan Artbook, some updates are one-panel atrocities that throw some blurbs out there that sounded clever in the author’s mind. Here’s an example that pretty much sums up what’s wrong with Sophie’s outlook:

stephie delusional.jpg

Until you’ve read a medical encyclopedia, right? No, it turns out that Stephie is more comfortable with kidding himself. What Sophie should understand is that the truth of any matter is never determined by mere belief. That’s the important understanding that separates those in touch with reality from those who are deluded. Again, because this is important: The truth of any matter is never determined by mere belief. Either something is true, or it is not. The only fact that pretending changes is the fact that you’re pretending. Societal distinctions of gender are based on the reality of biological sex, and any perception about it doesn’t change that reality, it merely flavors it.

Now, where can we find something scientific to illustrate the gender differences in a simple and straightforward manner?

Pioneer 1 plaque man and womanThe Voyager plaque says “Hi”.

Another thing to know about Sophie is that he has no problem with attempting to use his webcomic to talk way over your head. Stephie and the rest of the children in the cast talk like English majors in their senior year. And Stephie is supposed to be 11 years old.

you kids following along.jpgYou kids following along at home?

I have my doubts that that’s the way children in Canada talk. And this is supposed to be a webcomic that’s targeting children?

If you’re an adult and don’t like his webcomic, then you’re not the target audience. But if you’re an impressionable child, then Sophie has no qualm with intellectually substantiating his nominal designation. Sophie punches below his weight class, and punches hard.

You probably don’t need to be told that skepticism is a great thing to bring with you if you were to plan on reading Assigned Male for yourself, but the author does use the comic to make numerous claims as though supported by studies. It’s an intellectually dishonest move that preys on the unsuspecting and shifts the onus of verification onto the readers that might not bother to look into the claim being made. It’s hard to expect more from a person who doesn’t just feel entitled to his own opinions, but also feels entitled to his own facts.

Another thing to know about Sophie is that he does get trolled pretty hard. Surprising, right? Some of his comics are specifically-designed to answer critics, such as this one:

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Not really all that funny, especially when you realize that Assigned Male was written to prey on children. If someone points out how badly your webcomic sucks and they are outside your target audience, your webcomic still sucks.

Here’s another example comic:

kids talking.jpg

Talking heads is pretty much what it comes down to. It seems like the assumption is that the suspension of disbelief favors conversations that are highly unrealistic for children to actually have. The dialog is so ham-fisted that it doesn’t seem to go with the faces, which are actually conveying emotion. It’s hard to imagine a pair of robots having a conversation so dull.

By now, you’ve seen a total of 4 different comic formats used by Assigned Male presented in their entirety. In webcomics, there’s less pressure to maintain a consistent format, which frees up webcomic artists to express what they want to with fewer restrictions of the kind that you’d see in a newspaper’s funny pages. However, sometimes it’s obvious that an artist like Sophie is settling for something simple (like the one-panel splash pages) because that’s what he feels like he’s up for making. That’s his choice, but it does take some effort to pull off in a way that doesn’t seem lazy.

But hey, Assigned Male was never about the reader’s satisfaction. It’s about the agenda, and how the author feels about himself for pushing it. If there’s something that bad webcomics like Addanac City and Robot Hugs can do to improve, it’s give a care about the reader’s experience. It’s what a webcomic author can do to keep their comic from being mere participation in the medium like Boss Rush Society, or a self-serving suckfest like Vegan Artbook. Because as it is, Assigned Male is like a crusty lover whose mission is to blow his load then say he’s done.

Now onto the score. I’ve already shown my hand when it comes to my opinion of Sophie Labelle’s agenda, but the fact that he’s targeting the minds of children pisses me off enough to take away any points that his comic might have otherwise gotten.

Assigned Male gets assigned a score of 0 out of 10.

zero.png

Sophie has actually succeeded in having another review taken down because he didn’t like it. I kind of wonder whether he’ll find this review, read it, and blow his stack.

Webcomic Review: Sonichu

CWCSonichuLeer.jpgMain character on left, title character on right.

Here we go, it’s a review of Sonichu.

Sonichu is a terrible webcomic. It’s famous for being bad, and it’s the deuce in all categories in which something can fail. But I’m not likely telling you anything you don’t already know. At this point, we know that Sonichu is the worst webcomic ever made. You might have guessed that I’m going to give this a score of 0 out of 10. You might have even heard about how bad it was from a friend. You might remember how he went on and on for what seemed like hours about how bad it was, like he’d continually find something wrong about it. His description may even have made you so curious that you decided to check it out for yourself. At that point, you’ll have discovered that not only was everything he said about the comic true, he was only scraping shavings off the tip of the iceberg.

That Sonichu is bad is public knowledge. It’s so infamous that it’s even caught the attention of some of Sega’s staff (and it likely horrified them). As far as I can tell, pretty much everyone who has heard of Sonichu knows its bad, which renders a review superfluous.

Yet, I’ve decided to write one. I’ve read the webcomic, and perhaps I’ll feel a lot better for having reviewed it.

If you’re planning on reading Sonichu, be warned that it’s weapons-grade terrible. Sonichu is so bad that your brain may interpret the comic as an attack against it. Sonichu is so dreadful that it integer underflows and somehow becomes strangely great. It’s still a bad webcomic, but it’s bad in a way that only a total mistake can be. A grand assembly of sadistic minds have conspired to develop inhumanity to their fellow man, resulting in the likes of MKUltra, and an autistic man-child with his head in the clouds outdid them without any effort.

Sonichu is such an immense beast of a webcomic that it’s hard to get through a review of it without breaking it down into sections.

Art

sonichu bad art.pngCan you find anything right with this picture?

Sonichu has the worst art in the universe.

What the author Christian Weston Chandler draws wouldn’t even be accepted on the amateur level as rough sketches, yet it’s what he decides to go with for his comic. It’s painful to look at. The crooked line art, the garish bright colors, his insistence on using Crayola markers to color, Chris doesn’t bother to get anything right.

The line art in Sonichu is jagged and unrefined. Mistakes he makes are not properly corrected; instead, he attempts to compensate for them by doing things like drawing over them and hoping his readership won’t notice. That’s assuming that he does attempt to correct his mistakes at all.

It’s tempting to say that one should not color their work using Crayola markers, but there are some artists out there that can masterfully employ them to make some pretty outstanding work. Chris is not one of those artists. It seems like Chris lacks the coordination to color within the lines. Not only that, Chris is not skilled enough with Crayola markers to avoid their key flaw: that overlapping strokes result in streaks of darker color than what is intended.

Chris is inconsistent in how he draws his own characters. If he wasn’t so easily identifiable by the shirt he is depicted as wearing, one might assume that different occurrences of Chris’ self-insert were actually different characters, as their body shape, facial structure, and proportions can radically change from one instance to the next.

At one point, Chris decided to adopt a more anime style for the comic. What this amounted to was drawing the eyes differently. That’s pretty much it, and it’s hard to notice considering the difficulty Chris has with consistency.

Chris simply doesn’t have artistic talent, and if he did, he didn’t use any of it to make Sonichu.

Characters

I_am_not_Gay.jpg

Sonichu has the worst characters in the universe.

The characters in Sonichu generally fall into one of just a few categories:

The male heroes
The male heroes are mainly the same as each other, just with different colors and slight variation in physical features. Each of them, including the title character Sonichu, have exactly the same motives: To shack up with a female and to help Chris with whatever it is that he’s trying to do, which is usually attempting to shack up with a female. Even Blake, when he heel-turns from being a bad guy to a good guy, quickly becomes indistinguishable from the other males except his color.

The female heroes
The female characters are basically similar in motivation to the male characters, but the main difference is their primary sexual characteristics, and the males are their targets of their affection.

The bad guys
An assembly of copyrighted characters that Chris doesn’t have the rights to, and people Chris knows about in real life that caught his ire, with at least one OC thrown in (Count Graduon). All have pretty much the same motivation: to prevent Chris from finding a girlfriend. Too bad Chris never bothered to establish what exactly they’d have to gain from this endeavor when they could instead try to take over the world or something.

The various permutations of Chris
Chris’ self-insert. His goal is to shack up with a woman. It’s considered a sign of lazy writing when an author uses a self-insert for a main character, but in later issues of Sonichu, Chris installs several self-inserts. I’ve actually lost track of them all.

The heroes in Sonichu are actually morally worse than the enemies that they fight. Disproportionate retribution is a recurring theme in Sonichu. For example, Chris feels justified in cursing a man, causing him to lose his family, just because he was doing his job as a security guard in asking Chris to leave a store he was staying in for too long. Another man had his face raped because a company he ran posted drawings of Rosechu (one of the female heroes) with a penis. In a special episode, Chris shot a man in both kneecaps because in real life he impersonated Chris and Chris was interested in his girlfriend. Chris stages a mock trial so he can sentence to death four men that he didn’t like, and had himself and his characters personally attend to the executions. And there’s more. So much more. The hero-centered morality in this story isn’t just awry, it’s perverse.

It’s bad enough that the characters in Sonichu are so horrible, they were also stolen. Nearly every character owes more than simply inspiration to existing copyrighted characters. Most of the hero characters are obvious recolors of characters from Sonic the Hedgehog, a brand that’s already famous for its recolors and template-driven designs. These characters also have elements of design from Pokemon characters. As if that weren’t enough, he pretty much used pokemon as characters outright, such as Reginald Sneasel.

There are OCs invented by people other than Chris that have been included in this comic, such as Jiggliami and Megagi, whether or not they were used with permission, some of which belonged to people who were trolling Chris in an attempt to influence his webcomic while it was ongoing. What personalities and goals that these characters had depends on whether they aligned with Chris, meaning that they too fell into one of the categories outlined above.

Every character in Sonichu are objects in Chris’ power fantasies, and Chris does jack all to develop them beyond this end.

Story

expositional abuse.pngNotice how even they look bored to tears.

Sonichu has the worst story in the universe.

When one would hear the characters and their abilities described, one would assume that Sonichu is an action comic. After all, what else would a writer do with super speed and commanding electricity for attack? But while there are action scenes employing these abilities, Sonichu is primarily a relationship comic, with the main point of the comic being whether his electric hedgehog pokemon characters find partners, which they quickly do. But Chris doesn’t find his girlfriend as quickly, so much of the story focuses on that.

The narrative flow is dictated by Chris discovering concepts that he finds interesting in anime, video games, or whatever, which he then implements into his comic. Then, when he later loses interest in the concepts, they are quickly and quietly dropped, not likely to be brought up again until the readership reminds Chris that it seemed as though he might have been going somewhere with them. Then maybe Chris reintroduces them, likely to try to conclude that particular story arc because he’d rather be working on another concept that he found out about from some other media franchise.

Sonichu’s story as it is today can be broken down into four main parts:

The Sonichu Episodes
The first episodes focused mainly on Sonichu and his adventures with his recolor friends, including Sonic the Hedgehog. It largely reads as an insipid crossover fanfic written by a five-year-old, except it was written by a man in his twenties.

The Chris-Chan Episodes
The self-insert takes over, and from here on out, the comic is mostly about him and his love quest.

The To-the-Hilt Insane Episodes
Wow. When did it seem like a good idea to Chris to include in a comic intended for kids a sex scene between his cartoon hedgehogs, complete with an explanation for how their genitals worked? Or to commit mass-murder against a bunch of people who were merely hypnotized? Or to off one of the characters with a bomb behind a toilet? There’s so much more, too. Chris would later retcon huge chunks of these episodes.

The Boring Episodes
After a years-long hiatus, Chris continues Sonichu by shifting the attention to other characters, including a bunch of new obvious self-inserts. What’s worse than a comic starring Chris? How about a comic starring a whole bunch of Chris? Even though Chris really unleashes the plagiarized concepts, this set of comics is horribly boring.

Chris is so lazy with storytelling that he often leans on long walls of exposition, some of which nearly the whole page long, instead of breaking down what is being spoken to a number of different panels with accompanying visuals. Comics are a visual medium; as such, a rule of storytelling in comics is “show, don’t tell”. When Chris gets into long walls of exposition, it’s obviously an attempt to move the story along to the point that Chris would prefer to be working on by fast-forwarding past this thing called “developing the plot”. If you’re using dialog to convey the gravity of the situation in a visual medium, then you’re not likely using the medium to its full potential.

But hey, it was obvious to begin with that Chris wasn’t using the comic medium to its full potential. There was a point in which the dialog was numbered so the reader would know what order to read it in.

Saying that you read Sonichu for the story is like saying that you eat muffin bottoms to fight communism; the endeavor and the cause just don’t go together at all.

Verdict

Sonichu is the worst webcomic in the universe. Do not attempt to write a webcomic that’s worse than Sonichu. You wouldn’t be funny, and you’d be committing a crime against humanity.

Sonichu gets a score of Sonichu-itself-out-of-ten:

sonichu out of ten.png

Which would be a zero. It’s the worst there is.

But as bad as Sonichu is, it’s actually quite interesting. It’s a window into a mind that is distressed. Because of Sonichu, we all know Chris-Chan like we would know a brother. A beloved brother who is truly disturbingly fascinating.

Sonichu truly does zap to an extreme.

Webcomic Review: Robot Hugs

Warning: The reviewed webcomic contains explicit content. Reader discretion is advised.

robot hugs rough

Have you ever hoped that depression had an official webcomic? Me neither. But there is one that stands out as being sadder than the rest. And by “stands out”, I mean “slumps down in quivering half-hearted mediocrity”.

Robot Hugs isn’t so much a random, slice-of-life webcomic with a well-defined premise as it is a webspace where the author can dump his sad doodles, and sometimes make long, rambling illustrated tangents on whatever social justice activism that holds his interest, usually things like transgenderism, which the author identifies as being a part of, and feminism, because the author so desperately wants the female community to accept him as one of their own.

Early entries to Robot Hugs are usually random, inane drawings that really have nothing to them. Take this random example:

2011-08-25-A good way to go

That’s not a random panel from a strip. The previous and following comics have nothing to do with it. This is the build-up, delivery, and punch line. There is only one panel in this entry, and that’s it. No point, no effort, and no worthwhile thought.

Stick figure art is something that can be done well. In fact, some pretty good webcomics have been done with stick figure art, such as Cyanide & Happiness. In the vast majority of cases, however, it’s a cop-out that’s used to produce a sub-par product with a minimum of effort while leaning on the crutch of “style”. In some of those cases, it’s how talentless artists are enabled to coast along with a minimum of effort. In the case of Robot Hugs, there is some small sign of improvement as time went on, but it usually involves the bare minimums of stick figure art, such as good color choices and better-defined lines. Expressive facial features are sparse, but that can be sold as minimalism. At one point, he even takes on shading, but gives it up before long. Robot Hugs takes a style that’s mainly ironically likeable for its minimalism, and takes it even lower.

And then, with no warning, the author backs down from all the progress that he’s made on his style and goes to a hand drawn style that’s even worse:

2017-11-01-analogue

To be fair, he does give a reason for why he does this. However, there’s something more to it, which we can read about on his profile: The author studies in UX/IA, which has to do with website design. So he actually does spend a significant amount of his life staring at display screens. However, when one looks at his own website, how exactly is he putting his knowledge in website design into practice? He’s obviously not new at this, as his archives indicate that he’s been at it since 2009, and he usually updates about a half-dozen times a month with webcomics that are sub-par in quality.

Considering all this, and assuming that the author is trying hard, I suspect that the source of his ongoing sadness is that he’s putting a disproportionate amount of effort into something that he doesn’t really have a talent for. As children, nearly all of us are told that “we could be anything we want to be”. This is a disastrously terrible thing to tell a child, as it sets them up to pursue interests that are outside their own talents, and develop such an emotional attachment to their pursuits that they make them a part of their identity, making it an even stronger hit when they fail to live up to the expectations set for them.

The author of Robot Hugs doesn’t want to stare at display screens for long periods of time, and his webcomic has been insubstantial in quality since its inception over 9 years ago. Perhaps it’s about time for him to admit that it’s not his thing to either design websites or write webcomics. What he does instead, I don’t know; that’s the kind of thing that he can only determine after careful consideration of himself and how he can benefit society. However, it’s clear that making webcomics is not his thing.

Unless you can look at this and think “talent”:

2017-02-17-types of rats

The parts of his comic that are the most well-thought-out would be his SJW ramblings, which is not a compliment. If your only exposure to the SJW ideology would be YouTubers who make fun of them, go ahead and read an opinion piece from a veritable SJW. What you’ll find out is that the aforementioned YouTubers aren’t making up strawman arguments, they are actually taking on the SJW ideology itself, exactly as it’s presented when SJWs speak for themselves.

Here is a link to an example comic. (WORKSAFE WARNING: If you click that link, your employer’s IT department might think you’re an idiot.)

And speaking of worksafe warnings, the following came from the Robot Hugs “About” page:

NSFW comics are generally labelled as such.

Except they’re not, so his archives are a minefield of cartoon penises and vaginas that you might object to if you are somehow upset by naturally occurring features of human anatomy, or if you have a problem with these things being drawn poorly. The main character’s nipples might be considered explicit, considering that he’s a biological male who identifies as a female. Would they be? Have we figured it out yet?

And, as if it weren’t already obvious that this comic stars a self-insert, the author uses the webcomic to give us life updates:

2012-10-19-New Tablet

Whoop-dee-doo. Too bad your new tablet didn’t do anything to make your comics any better. You know what would? Having someone else do your art. And your writing. And your website design, for that matter. In fact, maybe you should pull a George Lucas and sign over creative control of your comic. Too bad that a guy would have to be insane to take this mess on, and once they come to their senses, they’d deep-six the whole thing.

The author of Robot Hugs spends too much time trying to be something he’s not: a webcomic artist, a decent website designer, even a woman. He doesn’t have what it takes to do any of these things; it’s time for him to stop kidding himself.

Robot hugs gets a score of a-sad-excuse-for-a-comic out of ten.

sick score

Which would be a 0.5 out of 10. If you’re thinking of making your own webcomic, you can do a better job than Robot Hugs with just a little something called effort.

Webcomic Review: Addanac City

addanac city miserable

One of my favorite comics while growing up was Calvin and Hobbes. It was about a boy, a stuffed tiger that seemed real to him, and it had tons of social commentary.

Being a kid, I didn’t immediately understand what Calvin and Hobbes was about. To me, it seemed to be about what a bad kid Calvin was in spite of his intelligence, and the misadventures he could get into when his imagination would run away with him. It wasn’t until later, when I had grown up and long after the comic had concluded that I realized just how much of it was clever criticism of commercialism and syndication of the comic industry in particular.

Of course, I was a kid, so there wasn’t much expectation that I’d understand just what Calvin and Hobbes was really about. But imagine if someone not only missed the point of the comic, they made a comic that attempted homage, claimed the original as its inspiration, did everything that the author of the original pined against, and failed in just about every way imaginable.

You really don’t have to imagine such a thing, because Addanac City exists.

addanac city hank

Addanac City features Hank (pictured above), the worst possible thing that could happen after a night of drunken sex that you don’t remember. But while Calvin misbehaved but was generally relatable, George Ford (the author of Addanac City) went well out of his way to make Hank out to be a horrendous child with no redeemable qualities. So yeah, Addanac City goes the Allen Gregory route in storytelling where the main character is so abrasive and rancid that it befouls just about everything else that the comic is attempting to do. Not that it was doing any of it particularly well to begin with.

Addanac City is supposed to be a gag-a-day strip. It fails every single time because the jokes are so horribly repugnant that it’s almost as though someone were struggling to make something bad on purpose.

I was going to post an example here, but I decided to instead post a link to the archive. Go ahead and pick any one at random. There isn’t a single one that won’t prove my point.

Speaking of the “bad on purpose” thing, people can quit it with the whole “make-something-that’s-only-ironically-likable” dealie. I know that it seems easier to win a race to the bottom, and thus stand out as being the worst at something. But there are so many people running that race that it’s an actual challenge now and takes some effort to “win”. Because of this, it’s harder than it’s ever been to plod along with a minimum of effort. So, why not put some effort into making something that’s actually a positive contribution? Besides, Sonichu exists, so you’d already be beat, anyway.

Because it’s classified as a gag-a-day strip, George doesn’t have to bother with something called “plot”, freeing up his precious little effort for characterization. But he didn’t bother with this either, because the personalities of each of his characters are various degrees of fulminating rectum. Even Susie Derkins Christie, one of the victims of Hank’s antics, has her moments.

As far as art goes, each of the characters are to the eyes as farts are to the nostrils. It takes someone with some funny preferences to not be totally disgusted. George takes the concept of cartooning to mean that there’s no need to consider either anatomy or consistency. While it’s acceptable for cartoons to have colors that are vivid, George makes them so stark that they’re an attack on the eyes of the person who views them.

Another example is not being posted here. Here’s another link to the archives. You can pick any one; the art hasn’t improved at all since the comic’s inception.

There is an inconsistent use of gradients for shading, which makes everything that’s not shaded look flat, and in some cases, clothing textures are Photoshopped in for some outfits, but not for others. It’s as though George wanted to use some Photoshop effects for his comic, but neither knew how to use them properly or consistently. The result is a comic with a mish-mash of improperly applied effects with bright, painful colors.

Okay, fine. Here’s an example:

addanac city bad

See all the problems? Now you know why I don’t want them on my blog. I don’t want George Ford’s content dragging mine down. I also don’t want men blaming me for erectile dysfunction or women blaming me for not self-lubricating.

Everything about this comic conspires to make it terrible. What makes it even more of an insult that he’s comparing his work to Calvin and Hobbes. If any humorous irony can be had from this, it’s that the author is so inept that he doesn’t recognize his comic as being the very thing that his source of inspiration warned against comics becoming: a bunch of illustrations for bad jokes that can be completed to the author’s satisfaction before lunch.

If you want to see something really interesting, here’s a YouTube video of George having one of his comics read aloud:

What’s interesting about it? That he got a woman to read it with him. And that woman is his wife. HIS WIFE. Something to think about if you’re one of those lonely men who find themselves wishing for a woman with low enough standards.

Now for a score that reflects how this comic holds up against my own standards:

0.2 / 10

You know how I usually find something funny in the comic to use as it’s score? Not this time. I just don’t want to go back there. Jack was a better webcomic than this. Vegan Artbook was a better webcomic. Even Boss Rush Society holds up as a better webcomic. Addanac City is just a mess.

Review: Metroid: Samus Returns

metroid samus returns

If you like cheesy sports games, you might want to sit down for this one, because believe it or not, there are game series’ out there that only release a new entry when someone can think of an idea or few that would make a great game, not just to tweak some rosters a bit. One of them is Metroid.

The Metroid series is one in which the game makers usually put in a monumental effort to make something enjoyable to play, and most gamers just sit it out even as those who’ve played the game rave about how great it is. Once again, those passive sit-this-one-out types are missing out while those of us who like Metroid games are once again enjoying one of the most immersive, atmospheric, and enjoyable games that gaming has to offer.

Metroid: Samus Returns is a retelling of the story of Metroid II: Return of Samus. Calling it a remake doesn’t do it justice, because the entire game has been redone from the ground up, leaving just the basic scenario intact. What this means is, having already played Metroid II doesn’t mean you’ve already played this game.

Samus Returns starts you off as Samus Aran, who has just landed on the planet SR388, tasked with the job of exterminating the metroids there. Apparently, at this point, the Galactic Federation has found the metroids to be more trouble than they’re worth, so they’ve decided that they’ve just got to go. What better way to exterminate a bunch of dangerous super-monsters than to send a lone bounty hunter to do the job, with no backup whatsoever.

This game is huge. Because the caverns you’ll be exploring are so immense, it helps to have plenty of tools at your disposal. As one might expect, typical Metroid series upgrades are here, including High Jump Boots, the Varia Suit, and the Spring Ball, which is to be expected because they are in the original. The Spider Ball is included as well, which is welcome because it definitely adds to Samus’ mobility and makes tons of areas accessible, and itself is available early on. So much freedom is given to Samus’ movement, that Samus Returns doesn’t feel like a typical platformer. Whereas in most platformers the walls are obstacles, in Samus Returns the Spider Ball makes them feel like a tool that can be used to reach new areas. Because of this, one can imagine the care that must be taken to take into account Samus’ abilities as each area is designed to keep the game balanced and consistently challenging. This is something that developer Mercury Steam succeeded at. What’s more, there is a real sense of empowerment in the number of options Samus may have in overcoming an enemy or obstacle. It really feels as though the player is in charge, and that if something can’t be reached, then the player simply wasn’t intended to access it just yet.

However, power-ups aren’t the main keys to progress in Samus Returns. Samus progresses by collecting metroid DNA, which can be obtained by slaying metroids that Samus comes across. This DNA is then scanned with a statue, which removes progress-blocking acid once Samus collects enough, and there’s just enough metroids in the area to do this. One could ask how an ancient race can know just how many metroids will be in an area and their exact DNA compositions decades in advance, or just what they’d have to gain by roadblocking an exterminator that wasn’t even born yet. But hey, it’s a video game, what matters is that the game is mechanically sound.

Samus does get some new abilities that weren’t present in the original, which add to the uniqueness of the experience of Samus Returns. Among these is the melee counter. This is achieved by quickly pressing the X button as an enemy charges you (easy to tell, because they’ll “glint” a certain way just before they do it). This stuns the enemy, giving you the opportunity to kill them while they’re stunned. If you respond with blaster fire quickly enough, you’ll automatically lock on to them and kill them with a single shot. As much as I’ve played Samus Returns, I’ve found this satisfying every single time.

Taking advantage of this isn’t a bad idea. Because otherwise, the enemies in this game are tough, taking more shots than I remember similar enemies taking in most other Metroid games. What’s more, the enemies in this game are very aggressive. Some of which will charge you on sight, which is usually right when they appear on screen, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to use this fun new mechanic. Thankfully, there’s no cheesing it like the sensemove mechanic from Other M, so your timing has to be on point.

One welcome new mechanic is the inclusion of Aeion abilities, which are pretty powerful, but their use consumes an Aeion bar, which gets replenished by pick-ups, and its maximum is increased by Aeion tanks that can be found throughout the game. There is variety in these abilities, which can be switched on the fly due to them being mapped to the control pad. There’s an ability that helps offensively, one that’s defensive, one that just about renders the Speed Booster obsolete (how’s that for cryptic?), and one that’s controversial because it makes exploring the huge map much easier. In my opinion, it really didn’t take anything away from the game, and was great to have considering that the maps in Samus Returns are huge. The Aeion meter depleted faster than I would have preferred, but that’s fine, because these abilities would be broken if players could constantly use them as a crutch.

Another great ability that’s welcome is the ability to “analog aim” by holding down the L shoulder button. Doing this causes Samus to stop in place and you can aim her gun using the control slider. Because of this, Samus is no longer limited to the 8 traditional directions to aim her weapon (though this can still be done while moving), and you can now aim with more precision. This might take a little time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great to have, as you no longer have to reposition Samus to hit certain targets, and can be used in boss battles to get more attacks in.

In the original, the boss battles were the metroids themselves, and there were a few dozen of them. The original was repetitive because the variation in experience between metroids of the same form was supplied by the environment you fought them in. In Samus Returns, however, that repetition mostly vanishes for several reasons. For one thing, there’s more variation in the obstacles the environments provide. What’s more, the metroids themselves are no longer straightforward in their attacks. Each one will usually have several attacks, which call for different responses. Better still, metroids also have attacks that can be melee countered, giving you the opportunity to deliver some serious damage.

Speaking of boss battles, there are a couple new battles in there to change things up, one of which has some pretty significant implications for the Metroid series continuity. It’s a welcome addition, especially for fans of the series.

Amiibo Corner
Would you be missing anything if you didn’t use Amiibos? Yeah, but whether it’s a big deal would depend on who you are. Amiibos supply backup tanks for health, ammo, and Aeion energy, but they really aren’t game breaking and don’t count towards your item collection rate. There are more post-game bonuses, such as gallery images and a music room, but whether these are a big deal will depend on whether you care about such things.

The really big Amiibo to own would be the squishy Metroid one. During the game, it gives you the location of a metroid in the area. This can be a big help, but not always. It doesn’t always give you the location of the most practical one for you to find next. Still, this comes in real handy considering that otherwise you might be spending a lot more time combing these huge maps. But even more significant would be the post-game bonus that it provides: an extra mode that provides even more challenge than the Hard difficulty.

That’s something to think about right there. This game’s normal mode is already hard. Which is just how I would have wanted it. Each of the games challenges are just hard enough to offer a sense of satisfaction upon overcoming them. Then there’s a Hard mode, in which enemies do double the damage. The difficulty level offered by the Metroid Amiibo is Fusion Mode, in which the enemies do four times the damage, and you see Samus in her Fusion suit, serving as a reminder to watch your step. Having this hardcore difficulty behind an Amiibo paywall may upset some players, especially considering how difficult to find these Amiibos are right now. And we certainly don’t like the idea of rewarding Amiibo scalpers for what they’re doing, which is taking advantage of those who weren’t able to get their Amiibos on day one.

If you’re one of those gamers that don’t own a 3DS just yet, it would be worth going out to buy one, even if just to play this game. It’s that good. How many stars would I give it? How about a galaxy out of ten?

galaxy out of ten

Which is a 10 out of 10. This game deserves it, and so does developer Mercury Steam. This game offers tight controls, atmospheric visuals and sound, high replay value, and novel gameplay mechanics that only add to the experience. The only catch is, you gotta buy it. Which I did. Twice. I did my part to encourage excellence in game design. How about you?

Welcome back, Samus.