Category Archives: Webcomic Review

Webcomic Review: Rain LGBT

not cleverNo, it’s not.

We have yet another one of those. By now, you should know what I mean; yet another wannabe non-Japanese manga artist attempting the manga style.

This one has a very obvious agenda. And no, I didn’t pick this one out just to hammer on something with its subject material. It just happened to be a webcomic that caught my attention.

Rain stars a boy named Ryan, and the story picks up with his first day in high school in which he dresses up as a girl and starts going by the name “Rain”. By the way, I’m referring to Rain with pronouns corresponding to his biological gender, because it’s easier to touch on issues such as this with at least one foot in reality. Because science wins.

And speaking of reality, no, science cannot change a person’s biological gender. The most that a person can do in that regard is have their body butchered to closely resemble a person of the opposite gender. This means that the legend of the “sex change” operation is only a myth. Most trans people who learn of this get discouraged and settle for wearing a dress and accusing those who use their biological pronouns of hate speech.

But hey, this is a webcomic, so there’s pretty much no such thing as too fantastic. They’re expressions of someone’s fantasies, so they can be about any made up thing they want. The author’s fantasy in Rain is that a cross-dressing high school boy happens to find some of the most supportive friends he can happen across, all in one place. In fact, almost the entire cast encompasses the wide range of diversity in sexuality, which would be pretty amazing in real life considering that the school setting for Rain is an American school, where anyone can be picked on at any time for any petty thing.

Because this is the fantasy of someone with an agenda, it should come as no surprise that there are straw men for the heroes to ideologically trounce. And in Rain, the main one is Gavin, who is initially depicted as being a cisgender bundle of toxic masculinity. Gavin was Rain’s childhood friend who finds out that Ryan is going by Rain and dressing as a girl, and he does not take it well. No prize for guessing that we’re allowed to think that he’s a jerk, but he does get over it. There is also the principal himself, who can be called an old stuffy suit.

The conflict in Rain comes mainly in verbal interaction between the characters, rather than physical action. Considering this, special care must be taken to prevent the comic from descending into a collection of talking heads. Care to guess whether this happens? Sometimes, large portions of the comic are dominated by large walls of text, such as this particularly egregious offender.

This is certainly the worst one in the series, though the next page is also pretty bad. When writing a webcomic, it’s best to keep in mind that what you’re authoring isn’t a light novel, it’s a visual novel, and one of the main rules for writing for visual media is “show, don’t tell”. The potential to engage the audience by conveying plot development visually is wasted with walls of exposition. And it comes off as lazy. Even if you take the effort to redraw your characters in each panel, the talking heads approach to storytelling is just bland. Check out this example.

There’s pretty much nothing exciting about it. And it’s the kind of thing that you can look forward to in each exciting installment of Rain.

And speaking of lazy, let’s talk about Rain’s artistic style. As mentioned already, Rain is done with an attempt at manga style. All the tropes associated with manga style are there: oversized eyes, tiny mouths, pointed chins, etc. It comes off as a cheap shortcut, because it pretty much is.

When you criticize someone for using the manga style as a crutch, they usually go on the defensive, and claim that it’s their style. Which it isn’t. The manga style has evolved over the course of decades at the hands of countless professionals including animators, mangaka, and freelance artists. They did not do this just so someone can claim it as their own. And for that matter, why anime or manga style? Why not the style that Jim Davis uses for Garfield? Or the style that Berke Breathed used for Outland? Why do so many people think that they’re being cutting edge for using a style that has been used in Japanese cartoons for the better part of a century? For that matter, why not use the Disney style that inspired it?

I do want to make it clear that I like the manga style, and you’re welcome to try it if you can do it justice. LittleLynn84 doesn’t do it justice. It’s hard to choose one stylistic mistake to pick out as the worst. Such as that the eyes seem just a tad too close together for how big they are. Or how the faces look too elongated, despite having little forehead (note: manga style characters usually have large foreheads, even if they’re covered mostly by bangs). Or the fact that LittleLynn84 doesn’t seem to like to shade. It all adds up.

Ironically, the people most likely to be offended by Rain would be trans people themselves. This is because Rain referred to his condition as “dysphoria”, a word that is used by opponents of the trans movement to point out that “gender dysphoria” is officially recognized as a mental illness by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a disease that usually runs its course in just a few years. And yes, I actually recalled the name of that book from memory. Go figure.

Of course, it doesn’t help the trans cause that it’s being championed by such an insipid webcomic. Because as it is, even a trans person would find very little to enjoy. In fact, I admit that I didn’t even read the whole thing. I got 150 pages in, and after that, I flit about to look for signs of stylistic improvement and to see whether the story picks up. The author uses a different tool for drawing, but that’s about it. Usually, when a webcomic continues for nearly 1000 pages, there’s some sign of improvement somewhere, but in Rain, there is none. Even the storytelling remains just as dull and uninspired. There was so much potential and so much unbroken ground in the subject matter, but it was largely squandered.

Don’t believe me? The last several issues were spent leading up to a prom that still seems far off. If you’re going to build up to something, then the build-up itself has to be entertaining. Otherwise, it’s going to seem like there’s nothing going on in your comic. And that’s Rain in a nutshell. It’s a long, painful, ugly comic where nothing happens.

Oh, by the way, here’s a picture of Kagura from Azumanga Daioh, for some reason:

woe indeed

Oh, hold on. That’s not Kagura. My mistake. Here’s the real Kagura:

kagura azumanga

Now to give Rain it’s score:

3.2 / 10

Yeah that’s right, nothing cute this time. Just a number. As I see it, if LittleLynn84 doesn’t want to make a halfway-decent webcomic, then I’m under no obligation to give it a cute score, as I’ve done with the others up to this point.

By the way, the fan art looks awful, too. But considering the source material, the fan artists didn’t really have much to work with. The very fact that something like Rain resulted in such a volume of fan art is sobering in its own sense.

Webcomic Review: Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets

save yourself

Can we agree at this point that randomness alone doesn’t make something funny? I understand the mechanics of humor: it involves building up a person’s expectations and then presenting them with an unexpected outcome. Randomness involves unexpected outcomes. But when randomness is the only element used, it loses its effect.

The webcomic we’re looking at today is Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets. My first problem with the comic would be its name. Hot Pockets suck. I’ve spent much of my adult life living like a Spartan, so for me, something like Hot Pockets was a “too-rich-for-my-blood” kind of thing. But one day, I tried them, and I was disappointed. They come with those weird cardboard boxes that are gray on the inside, likely to use to attempt to heat the things evenly. They fail. Usually, one bite can be as cold as ice, but the next is so hot it burns your mouth so that nothing tastes right for days. And if you made the sad mistake of getting the kind with pepperoni, have fun having the skin on the roof of your mouth stripped away by the hot oil.

hot pockets yuck.png

Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets doesn’t star Yuyuko. It stars a couple self-inserts named Xephious and Dzelda. That’s right, this comic has two authors. When we get into just what this webcomic is made of, it’s going to be apparent that the authors were sabotaging each other every step of the way, and the result was Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets.

One of the authors has their age as 28 on their profile, so at least one of them was college-aged when they started on this webcomic. The profile of the other one includes the following tidbit:

dzelda's profile

That’s an endeavor that definitely failed. And considering that her webcomic is Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets, it’s safe to say that she’s done enough to contribute to it.

Yuyuko Likes Hot Pockets takes place in the fictional realm of Gensokyo, which is the intellectual property of ZUN of Team Shanghai Alice, the creator of the Touhou Project series of video games. Obviously, the authors aren’t going to go professional with this, but it is a common mistake among webcomic artists to believe that they can go professional using someone else’s copyrighted material. What’s more, characters from Touhou are also used, further anchoring this webcomic to an intellectual property that the authors don’t have rights to.

clone cap

The picture above should give you a good idea of what to expect from this comic’s artistic style. While the chibified anime style comes off as a cheap shortcut to begin with, this comic uses what appears to be the same template for every individual character. I feel I’ve seen the same style used for Touhou characters before, which makes me further suspect that the authors are using yet more properties that aren’t their own.

Like I’ve said already, this webcomic is random. There’s practically nothing in terms of storytelling. There’s something about clone capsules and Utsuho having her arm cannon stolen, but that’s about it. There’s even a random demotivator thrown in there for good measure. May as well; just about everything else about this comic is template driven, just like this meme was when it was relevant over a decade ago. I have my doubts that the art used for it was their own, though that part doesn’t seem to be from any cut-and-paste template I’ve ever seen.

Failed storytelling aside, the wordbubbles suffer from “tiny text syndrome”. I’ve found myself using the zoom function on my browser to try to figure out what the tiny text says, but Xephious has found another solution on this page: to provide a transcript in the comments section. That’s nice, but how about getting the word bubbles right while you’re still in the process of editing your comic? Not that I’m expecting much in the way of technical expertise from someone who asks in the comment section “how to compress an image without stretch/skewing it”.

It’s about time to give this comic its score, and I give it a Nitori’s frog out of ten:

nitori's froggy

Which would be a 1.6. And I think I’m being generous with this one.

Webcomic Review: Classes

classes webcomic 1.png

I did not alter this.

Today, I did something painful. I’ve read through another bad webcomic. This one is called, “Classes”. It’s a name that’s strangely fitting, because it’s one thing I can recommend to its author.

Classes is easily the whitest webcomic I’ve ever seen. Don’t believe me? Read any page of the webcomic for yourself. Such as this one, which happened to be the most recent one as of this posting. Then do your eyes a favor and return to this page, quick.

I can assume that the reason why this webcomic is so white is because the author is trying to make it stylistic. Most pages don’t use panels; the comic reads from top to bottom with sequential drawings. It’s an interesting idea, but the result is a webcomic that hurts my eyes. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded narrowing the many super-wide margins, because as it is, Classes is like staring into an LED flashlight.

classes webcomic 2

He’s not alone.

If you’re a non-Japanese artist and you want to draw in the manga style, go right ahead. I don’t mind it. I’m not one of those super-snooty weeaboo freaks that think that only the Japanese can do the style right. But be aware that not everyone who attempts to draw in the manga style is good at it. In fact, there are people out there that draw in the manga style for the wrong reasons.

When some people see the manga style, what they see is something stylistic and visually appealing that they’d enjoy drawing and that their audience might enjoy seeing. They would be the people drawing manga for the right reasons. When other people see the manga style, they see a formulaic and easily-replicable art form that they could use as the visual vessel for their poorly-written stories with minimal effort, which they can sell by saying that they’re being stylistic. They would be the ones that decide on the manga style for the wrong reasons.

Yes, I know that there are high-quality manga out there. Some of the best ones have a simplistic and messy style, such as those drawn by Ueda Hajime, while others pay heavy attention to anatomy and composition. Those manga aren’t a problem. What’s problematic is when the manga style is used as an excuse to put less effort forward.

A novice artist might discover the manga style, then start drawing his characters with rounder faces that look flatter when viewed head-on, and drawing pointed chins that often disappear when a character’s profile is viewed. Part of the style. But then you notice that they’re drawing each of their characters in the chibi (simplified and child-like) style, and you suspect that they’re cutting corners, as Japanese artists typically only use the chibi style in certain circumstances. Even that can probably be sold as being stylistic (not that Teen Titans Go is off the hook).

But look closer, and you’ll see the mistakes. Okay, you probably don’t have to look close. The art has a rushed look to it, like manga is going out of style, and someone is in a hurry to make a quick buck off of it, even if they don’t know how.

One of the biggest mistakes that novice manga artists make is drawing the eyes as blank and shallow. Unless the character you’re drawing is in some catatonic state, the eyes should always look deep and expressive, even when it’s clear that everything else about your character is heavily chibified. Consider this example:

Umaru eyes

To make your manga characters really pop, you get the eyes right, even if you get nothing else right. There’s a reason for this: when people look at other people, their gaze is naturally drawn to the eyes. When looking at a person’s eyes, it’s easy to determine their mood and sometimes even their intentions. Because of this tendency, manga style is easy viewing because the eyes are larger and easier for viewers to find.

How does Classes do eyes? See for yourself:

classes webcomic 3.png

If you’re curious, that’s how the eyes for characters in Classes look by default.

I’ll give the author of Classes this much: she does choose her colors very well, and the shading is okay. Still, it’s pretty obvious when an artist chooses a semi-chibi manga style to hide the fact that the artist has a difficult time drawing things such as clothing. Yes, I know it’s challenging to keep track of things such as pressure points and how they would affect how a fabric wrinkles. But if a person doesn’t bother with that, the clothing can look like it’s skin-tight, or even floating in place.

As for the story, Classes is about a group of children who join a military academy that uses elemental magic. It’s about as cliche as it sounds, but because it’s in the anime style, there’s bound to be an extremely dangerous and competitive shounen-style field examination led by a severely disinterested proctor. Is that in there? Yep.

And while we’re discussing worn-out conventions, this thing where the characters are color-coded by the elemental magic types that they use is beyond stale. Sometimes, I suspect that writers do this to keep things straight for themselves. Is it too much to ask that writers express the creativity necessary for their characters to deviate at least slightly from the standard archetypes? Even the personalities of the characters seem to follow the color-coded conventions. For example, one character uses the ice element and has blue hair. No prize for guessing that she’s aloof and distant, that would be too easy. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s not much of a leap to imagine that she’s an overpowered child. It’s almost as though Classes was optimized for TV Tropes.

The main character is Kiwi, a young girl who is unrelatably irresponsible. If you thought Giga from Boss Rush Society was bad, Kiwi will make you wonder how even a fictional universe can host a creature so prone to bad decision-making.

I know that giving your characters flaws can make them more relatable, but going too far with the flaws can have the opposite effect. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, Kiwi missed her own graduation just to goof off, and ended up missing out on gaining magical powers. She was allowed to graduate anyway, and was allowed to take the field exam without them, which goes to show that some people wanted her to die. She was also responsible in part for a huge disaster during the exam, wherein she was provided with just the substance needed to do so by chance.

Also, to give you a heads up, the narrative is sometimes broken without warning by non-canon sequences featuring the dog doing things like gender-swapping experiments. It’s tricky enough guessing the genders of some of the characters already, so these sequences didn’t help. They add nothing to the comic except to pad it out, which can really hurt if you just want to get it over with so you can get to writing a review about it.

I think it’s about time I got around to giving this webcomic its score. I’m a little surprised that I went out on it as much as I did, but Classes made some mistakes that brought to mind some problems that I’ve been noticing in creative communities, so I took an opportunity to vent a little bit. I know what some of you may be thinking: “But Raizen, webcomics like this are free. You get what you pay for, right?”

You know what else is free? Malware. And malware does take something away from people: their time. Time is something that a person only has so much of, and once they spend it, they don’t get it back. If someone doesn’t enjoy something, they feel like their time is wasted. A moment enjoyed is not wasted. Based on this criteria, I can give webcomics like Classes a score that reflects how I feel about the time I’ve spent with them. And on that note, here’s the score for the webcomic: Angry out of ten.

angry manga out of ten

Which, if you prefer numbers, would be a 3.2.

 

Webcomic Review: Boss Rush Society

giga kay

It seems like there’s someone out there that has me beat when it comes to confidence. There is someone out there who likes what he likes, and is not at all ashamed of saying so. That person is TokenDuelist, the author of the webcomic Boss Rush Society. TokenDuelist posts to his DeviantArt account with furry lesbian art, MLP characters (at least one work of which being lesbian art), Pokemon fan art of a ten-year-old with huge breasts, and a bare-breasted woman pawing at a blurred-out banana. That he is a male should be evident considering the nature of the DeviantArt material described. He also posted a picture of himself using the same DeviantArt account. That’s some confidence, there.

As mentioned already, he is the author of a webcomic, and that’s what’s primarily getting the attention in this review.

Boss Rush Society stars Lucas (a.k.a. Giga), a young man who enters a battle tournament, but shows up late, and the tournament starts without him. When he does show up, there’s only one contestant remaining, and he’s permitted entry, leaving him only having one weakened and tired opponent to trounce before being crowned the winner of the tournament. Which, predictably enough, he does. Isn’t that every layabout’s fantasy? Getting the prize just for showing up and saying his ABCs.

The art style can be likened to a combination of manga and the work of Phil and Kaja Foglio (but not in a good way). There is an obvious problem with proportions, and that is particularly evident in the first panel of this page, where the claw game is taller than the woman standing in front of it, but the woman is much taller than the arcade machines right next to them. There are other, similar problems, but I think you’d see them if you were to read the comic for yourself.

Also, almost all the female characters have huge breasts, except for one, which was probably a character that we weren’t supposed to like. Again, it’s obvious that the author of this comic is male. He has this thing for huge, swollen, gravity-defying breasts. What the obsession is with oversized breasts, I don’t understand. When they get too big, they sag and can actually be pretty gross.

Usually, small expressions of sexual immaturity can be ignored as a quirk in some webcomics, but that’s really hard to do when it’s used as a punch line in the very first issue. An example of this can be seen on this page, where one of the characters, apparently the main character’s girlfriend, shrugs off that she could have seen the main character almost nude. After he throws her out of the room, she starts pounding on the door. Not only does Giga get an easy tournament victory that he didn’t deserve, he also has a nymphomaniac girlfriend. What a guy.

There are a couple reasons why tournament battles are a recurring concept in so many shounen manga: the arranged battling environment allows for matches that otherwise might not easily occur in the flow of the narrative, and it’s very easy to write for. However, the concept is hindered in Boss Rush Society by several problems:

  • Too much meta humor. The main character actually stalls during his only tournament match to explain his weakness to spikes using video game logic. Yeah, you probably already figured this out, but Boss Rush Society has a video game theme. Not only did Giga show up late to the tournament and only have to face one tired opponent, he called for a time-out as a stall tactic to charge his energy. Perhaps for his next match, he can take on crippled girl scouts.
  • Too much exposition. One of the elementary rules of a visual medium is “show, don’t tell”. The first few pages established nicely that the backbone of the plot would involve tournament battles, so one would assume that any other dialogue would serve to set the stage for the next tournament battle. An excuse can be made for this for character development, but that leads to another problem:
  • The characters are seriously annoying. Every single character in Boss Rush Society is needlessly grating. Because of this, I wanted to see every character lose every match, regardless of which side they’re on. TokenDuelist needs to get the memo: you only portray a character as annoying when you want them to be perceived as annoying, such as when you don’t want your audience to like them. There isn’t a single character in Boss Rush Society that comes off as likable, the main character least of all. The single action of taking advantage of a weakened opponent for an easy tournament victory is more morally reprehensible than anything that the “bad guys” are ever shown to do.

Boss Rush Society is an excellent example of what can go wrong when someone who is not Japanese and plays lots of video games and watches lots of anime attempts to draw a manga of their own. Japanese manga and anime artists are better at it for a reason: they typically go to an art school where they do lots of practice drawing manga and anime before going on to become professionals. At that point, they can work shifts as long as 16 hours animating, get paid about as much as fast food employees, and some of them don’t even have homes because they’re allowed to sleep at their desks. It’s usually by about this point that many of them realize that they’ve made a mistake. Weeaboo artists typically aren’t aware of what being a manga/anime artist is like, otherwise, they’d probably stop trying so hard to be one.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take much more, I’ve read the entire series. As of now, there’s less than two dozen pages. One might think that this is because TokenDuelist is just getting started, but his archives indicate that this isn’t the case. He only releases his webcomic one page at a time, with updates as far as several months apart. TokenDuelist had nearly two years since the inception of his webcomic to carefully craft it’s 23 pages into a masterpiece, but it seems like he waived this so he can draw lots of furries on DeviantArt, and what we got instead was Boss Rush Society.

Worse yet, the spaced-out timing of releases for pages of Boss Rush Society suggests that, for each page, he carefully considered it’s content, and deliberately decided that they were worthwhile additions to his series. There is a reason why most suicides are quick: otherwise, a person might realize that what they are doing is a bad idea, and not go through with it. TokenDuelist gives himself as many as two months at a time to review the content of each page before making the conscious decision to add it to his webcomic.

Like I said before, TokenDuelist is confident. So confident that he actually links to his webcomic on message boards. Obviously, he thinks his webcomic is great, otherwise, he wouldn’t have such confidence.

I think it’s about time to give Boss Rush Society it’s score, which is a Robbie Rotten out of ten:

robbie rotten out of ten

Which is somewhere around a 2.3.