The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And the blind jokes... Ohhhh the blind jokes.

Blind joke! From No Need for Bushido

Welp, another semester "down the hatch" so to speak. Tonight I drown my finals sorrows in webcomics and old movies. Tomorrow, 24 hour comic.

It's amazing what you can do when you've actually got some free time. I only finished my finals a scant few hours ago and I've already knocked off No Need for Bushido and Shortpacked from my "To Be Read" list, and made some decent progress on Zap. Once I finish that it'll be back to Dominic Deegan, which I should finish before the end of the week. Life has once again returned to that state which I like to call "good".

But I digress. This post is a review of No Need For Bushido. I first came into contact with No Need For Bushido via the Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon, where Kolesar and Kovell had one of the more amusing entries. Then I saw them again a few weeks later when they did a guest comic for VGCats, which was enough to get them on the "To Be Read" list.

Interestingly, looking at the list of webcomics I read, really the only one done in Manga style is Megatokyo (and Fantasy Realms and RPG World, I guess, but they haven't updated in like an eternity... er nevermind, I just pulled up Fantasy Realms to grab the link and they actually updated), which is funny because before my obsession with webcomics one of my major obsessions was anime and manga (which I do still keep up with, but it's more on the back burner these days), so you'd think I'd be all about the manga-style webcomics, but for some reason I could just never get into any of the online ones.

Well, No Need for Bushido has broken that trend. For those of you who are new to the comic, No Need for Bushido is basically about a band of travellers who pretty much just wander from town to town looking for excitement. In the strip's own words, they're traveling "North, because there's lots of cool things North!" Of course, like all manga flavored delights most of the character have either a dark and troubled past or some prophecy concerning their role in the future tagging along with them. And there is a serious plotline going on with wars, political intrigue, hired assassinations, betrayals, and the like. But for the most part the strip keeps a very light-hearted tone, such as the ever-present fear that the blind Taoist monk Cho is going to bring about the apocalypse because it has been prophesied that "A Taoist, a Hindu, and a Christian priest will walk into a Japanese bar and end the world."

Of course, the artwork is definitely nothing to sneeze at. One thing you can always count on from manga style artists is cool looking battle scenes, and No Need for Bushido is no exception. The only interesting thing about the art is that while Kolesar started with a very warm and homey feeling soft shaded coloring method, as the comic has progressed, the coloring has become much more traditionally cel style. I personally liked the older style better. I think the soft lines and tapered shadows highlighted the "tongue-in-cheek" aspect of the strip and really fit the characters much better than the hard-lined cel shading. The comic almost looks too professional now, like it's taking itself more seriously than it should be.

And that's one of the major flaws of the strip. Either it's taking itself too seriously, or it's not taking itself seriously enough. Even a quick browse through about ten strips in the archives will give you a good feel for the schitzophrenic tone of the strip. It's like Kolesar and Kovell just can't decide if they want a spoof of the cliches in the samurai mangas, or if they're trying to actually write a legitimate samurai manga, albeit a light-hearted one. It keeps wavering back and forth. Of course, I can't blame Kolesar and Kovell for this entirely. I'm sure they were inspired by some popular animes like Rurouni Kenshin, and the more recent Peacemaker, which often blended intense drama with outrageous humor. The trouble is, that's not really something they should be trying to emulate. In my opinion, the frequent bouts into the absurd really cheapened both of those works. And No Need for Bushido loses a lot of it's punch when you have a strip with some serious discussion of Japanese feudal era politics immediately followed by a strip in which the characters visit a hot dog stand. If the goal is purely to provide a humorous diversion, don't bother with all the serious stuff. If the goal is to provide an action/adventure strip with a more light-hearted tone, keep the humor within the bounds of the world of the strip and don't resort to anachronisms just for a cheap laugh. It devalues the work as a whole.

Another thing No Need for Bushido suffers from is some cliched characters. Quite frankly, the two lead characters, Yorikiro and Ina, are just boring. Yori's the typical "bumbling idiot with a heart of gold who's probably actually got some hidden skills." I've seen enough carbon copies of him over the years that it's beginning to get a bit old. Ina's the typical "loud obnoxious stubborn screaming punching girl who's actually really sweet deep down inside" that's been the female lead of practically every anime and mange series in the history of the art form. Fortunately, they are saved by their supporting cast. Cho is a work of sheer genius. No matter how many times they make blind jokes or tao jokes or he says some nonsensical proverb, he STILL manages to make me laugh without fail. And Kenta, while he is the "tough guy" archetype, manages to be so over the top that he manages to transcend the cliches and actually be darn funny and complex at the same time. And then there's Yukizane Masamune, who while only being a bit player is probably the most complex and fascinating character in the entire story. The supporting cast really carries this comic, and it shows. No Need for Bushido suffers when it's just Yori and Ina onscreen.

So, if you're a fan of the manga style, or if you like jokes about samurai and feudal Japan, or if you just want to read some really, really good blind jokes, head on over to No Need for Bushido. But if you're not into the manga scene, you'll probably miss a lot of the humor and probably won't care for the serious stuff at all, and you may just want to give this one a pass.


At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review. This is actually one of the earlier webcomics I started reading, and that thing about the schizo-ness of the story is definitely something I would agree with. But I still read it; and I think the recent art has gotten quite amazing. Would you really call it "manga style", though? Despite the stereotypical Japanese subject matter, the art always struck me far more as a cartoony American comic book style.

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that those who favor American comic books (typical superhero type stuff) tend to call it anime, and those who really like anime will call it "Disney-esque." In the end, I guess it really doesn't matter.

As for the schizo-ness, it reflects our own ever changing mood. It's not the best way to write a professional story, but we're having fun, and I hope people have fun reading it.

Thanks for the review, and the kind words on the alternate scripts. :)


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