Category Archives: manga style webcomic
One of the most mockable aspects of anime is when the characters have a big brother/little relationship when the two characters are not actually related. (And, let’s face it, sometimes when they are.) There’s usually a sizable age difference. The girl will be barely into her teens, and the guy will be college age or older. The girl is typically portrayed as somewhat infantile, especially when mewling something along the lines of “onneeeeeiiiiisaaaannnn!” (Alternately, “neeeesannnnnnn!”) The guy, on the other hand, is some aloof, emotionally distant dude who appends the heroine’s name with “-chan.” While this is typically portrayed as sibling closeness, there’s a little bit of creepiness in the subtext of how that same closeness can easily translate into something more serious. (And it can get really weird when it actually does happen.)
In Strays by Samantha Whitten and Stacey Pefferkorn, we’re introduced to a young 12-year-old girl named Meela. She’s homeless and trying to survive in the big outdoors by herself. Suddenly, a fight breaks down nearby, which destroys her rickety lean-to. She meets the 28-year-old Feral. Feral, while being a silent badass, takes some pity on Meela and decides to let her tag along.
So many alarms were going off in my head.
So many alarms.
(Incidentally, I was writing this on the day before Easter — a huge shopping day, due to the many sales at the mall — while sitting at a window facing an American Girl doll store, which is abundantly populated by many tiny girls. I imagined a terrible scenario where someone called security, and they confiscated my laptop which currently has the first paragraph written up without any further context. I think that chances were high that I would’ve had to register my name on a list of not very nice people. These are the sorts of sacrifices I make for you, dear readers. Blogging is more dangerous than it sounds.)
At some point, I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that exposition is a very hard thing to do in high fantasy comics. It’s more natural in books, where characters can stop at the ruins of an ancient kingdom, then ponder the long elaborate history of Fantasy Magic Land while gathered around the fire eating roast oliphant. It’s actually pretty natural in video games, too. If you ever want to go more in depth into a world’s history, you can head over to the nearest abandoned dungeon which happens to have a fully stocked library regaling the history of Middle Landia.
Elaborating the history of a fantasy land in webcomic form, though, is more difficult. Sure, you can banish all the relevant stuff in a separate tab, but most of the time it functions in the same way an appendix works for a novel: it’s more or less ignored except for the diehards. If you try to do it the same way as the novels and have the characters spout exposition every time they see something culturally significant, it can seriously halter the pace of what is a visual medium. Out of webcomics, Order of Tales struck the balance between plot and exposition the best. The main character was a scribe, which gave the story a ready made excuse to switch to prose in order to flesh out the world’s background story.
In most webcomics, though, attempts to explain the backstory come off as rather forced. This is, unfortunately, what happens in Gaia, a comic by Sandra and Woo creators Oliver Knörzer (from Germany) and Powree (from Indonesia).
The opening sequence of Cari Corene’s Toilet Genie is not unlike having escargot at a classy French restaurant: the atmosphere is pretty, the appetizer is kinda gross, and yet it’s still pretty compelling and makes you hungry for the main dish. Then suddenly, the main dish arrives, and it’s a college philosophy thesis. Slathered in barbecue sauce.
“Aeria” is pretty unfortunate name for a fantasy realm. I doesn’t sound too bad at first. It’s got the “aerie” in the name, which is the nest of a hawk, eagle, falcon or other bird of prey. There’s an implication of loftiness and grim (some would say hawkish) determination. Since the world of Aeria is a bunch of islands defying laws of nature and physics by floating in the empty confines of space while somehow retaining an atmosphere, then it’s sort of appropriate, right?
It also sounds like “aria”, the musical composition made popular by Puccini, Mozart, and Bizet. It puts you in the mood for some classical music, an appropriate accompaniment when you’re traipsing around a fantasy world with a team consisting of a mage, a paladin, a thief, and a ranger.
And yet … it feels a tad unimaginative. I’m going to blame it on the fact that “Aeria” also sounds exactly like “area.” “Well, we’re going to start off in north area and journey down to middle area. We’re then going to go to west area so we can catch a ship heading over the sea of area until we reach generic brand islands.”
It’s middle of the read, which incidentally is also how I feel about this comic. Aeria is the title of the land and the name of the manga-style comic written by Fabian Rastorfer, illustrated by Songwut Ouppakarndee, and assisted by Kridsana Rattananen and Tim Harding. The comic is something of an international production. Mr. Rastorfer is from Switzerland (though studying in New York), and Mssrs. Ouppakarndee and Rattananen are from Bangkok, Thailand.
(It’s also alternately known as The Tale of Aeria in the browser header, but since the banner truncates it to the single word title, I’m just gonna go with that.)
Stories of disenfranchised youth are all the rage these days. None strikes to the heart as much as the story of a young greaser named Ponyboy. (I should probably make this clear in this day and age that he’s not named “Ponyboy” because he’s way into My Little Ponies.) The rich kids are known as the Socs — short for Socials. Early in the story, Ponyboy gets attacked. This bings to a head a class struggle set against a dusty Oklahoma setting. After a tragic incident occurs, Ponyboy soon finds himself many miles from home, trying to sort things out and in the processes becoming wiser than when he started.
Wait — what? It’s a different Outsider? …. With no “s”?
OK, look. Time out. Obviously I didn’t really mistake the infamous S.E. Hinton novel — whose movie adaptation launched the careers of Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Diane Lane — for today’s reviewed webcomic. I mean, geez, this isn’t Young Adult Novel Overlook. To tell you the truth, though, Jim Francis’ Outsider is not that much different. Just substitute Ponyboy for Alexander Jardin, the Socs and the Greasers with the warring Loroi and Umiak, and Oklahoma for outerspace. It’s fairly easy to confuse, admittedly, so here’s the big difference. The Outsiders is the one you were forced to read in junior high. Outsider — no “s” — has alien space babes.
There should be no question which one here is the superior product.
When you stop to think about it, sports are totally ridiculous. And I don’t just mean the obviously weird ones like chessboxing, which, incidentally, was inspired by a comic book. And which the RZA is a big fan of, despite his song, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” not actually being about this particular iteration of the sport. I’m talking about mainstream sports.
Take football, for instance. (Just to be clear, the American brand, not that other game that actually uses feet. Which I think is called “handball.”) It’s one of those things that just make no sense. Why are there so many positions? How come you can’t throw the ball to the beefy guys up front? How come if you kick the ball between the uprights, it’s three points, except after you score a touchdown and it’s one point? What the heck is a “line of scrimmage”? Is there any reason why there’s one guy called a “cornerback” and one guy called a “safety” when they do they same exact thing? Why is there also a play called a “safety”, and why is it worth two points plus possession for the scoring team? Why are the people on defense not the same people on the offense?
It’s like a game where the rules are intentionally obfuscated so that anyone who has a passing interest gets a headache within five minutes. And it’s even more baffling when you realize that the rules of American football were codified by the best and brightest minds of the Ivy League.
It’s crazy. It’s nonsensical. And, if you’re a sports fan like me, it’s just another thing to embrace as part of the mystique behind it all. The sport behind Tyson Hesse’s Boxer Hockey, one of the very few sports webcomics in existence, is even more weird and inscrutable as, say, grown men in their undershirts tossing a big rubber ball inside a peach basket … but, hey, give it twenty years and perhaps we’ll look back at it as some sort of beloved past time.