Creator/s: Katsuaki Oda
Section: Act 4
While looking around for the next comic to review, I saw a poster on the Drunk Duck forums suggest that Rangetsu is the most underrated comic on Drunk Duck. So, I decided to review it. It's manga, and for the record, I don't think I've ever seen online manga I wasn't underwhelmed with. But I haven't reviewed manga before, either, and I didn't want to let my bias get in the way. Maybe Rangetsu would be the first step in changing my outlook on online manga, right?
Website: Just the comic, basic navigation, a place for readers to leave comments, a white background, and a link to the creator's portfolio. It's about as minimal as you can get and very underwhelming by today's standards. One suggestion: A story summary would probably be useful, since this comic's well over 100 pages already. Even print comics usually have a blurb in the beginning to help the reader catch up as to what's been going on. Also, the "This comic reads right to left" note is very important and should be displayed more prominently than in the comments section.
The site also doesn't list an update schedule. Does the comic have one?
Writing: While writing's usually an extremely complicated subject, I can generalize the writing in Rangetsu with one word: dispassionate. While reading the comic, it became increasingly clear that the creator has minimal interest in the plot, dialogue, setting, and even general direction. It's essentially the inverse of a stick-figure comic -- the art's all-important, while the writing's just there to serve the basic contextual needs. The story simply jumps from one brief and confusing action sequence to the next, with no clear impression of relevancy or substance. In the 22-page section I read, I estimate there were at least six separate fight scenes, none of which were at all interesting, even stylistically.
These numerous fight scenes all followed a sequence I noticed as setup-action-outcome. The setup: macho, profane posturing. The action: fighting. The outcome: one side is defeated. This is pretty standard, but in this comic, the action is actually fairly trivial since the fights are short and the setup-action-outcome sequence gets replayed every time. It's a constant start-stop, ADHD-type scenario where you have a multitude of crappy fights in place of what could've been one or two good ones. And it's not like the fighting is getting cut short for something important -- lines like, "Now lay there and die, you little turd of shit," "Hey, shitbag," and "Save the insincere formalities, brickshit" don't leave me eager for more dialogue. Ultimately, it seems like most of the fighting is left up to the reader's imagination, which is an unfortunate state for a comic that blatantly tries to be action-oriented.
Lastly, the large amount of typos in the comic is simply inexcusable. I've counted up to half a dozen typos in a single page, and some pages have obvious typos even when the dialogue is minimal. I've already indicated that the writing is half-assed, but this lack of attention makes me doubt the creator even wants to read his own comic. And even if the creator's unwilling to proofread his own work for whatever reason, it shouldn't be challenging to find an acquaintance or two to show the page to before posting it.
Art: For placing so much emphasis on the art, I'd expect it to be a lot better. It's initially more attractive since the creator's particularly skilled at faces, and that comes across quickly and bluntly, but the more I read the comic, the more it seemed like a one-trick pony. A lot of the comic seems like the "extreme close-up" scenes from Wayne's World. From a holistic point of view, the bodies always seem to be lumpy and sketchy, more like concept art than a finished product. At first I assumed this was a temporary effect for the sake of mood or emphasis, but by the end of my reading, I had yet to see a single body drawing that didn't seem crude. And don't expect to see any backgrounds in this comic -- I wasn't even able to get a basic sense of where the story's taking place. (This page is all I had to go off of.)
I'll add that the inking seems pretty strong, maybe even as strong as the faces. But it isn't as strong as it would be if the problems with the line art were less distracting.
The creator's clearly a capable artist, so it's strange there's such an obvious lack of detail. It might be similar to the "pocket effect," where an artist tries to minimize the areas they're weakest in. I call it this in reference to a phenomenon where an artist uncomfortable with drawing hands will often draw their characters with their hands in their pockets, behind their back, or somewhere else out of view in order to get around it. The result is that they get even more uncomfortable with drawing hands, and get more creative about hiding it until it gets too obvious and someone points it out to them. It might even be mostly subconscious -- after all, artists naturally want to highlight their strengths and obscure their weaknesses. In relation to Rangetsu, this may help explain why there's so many close-up shots. It could also partly be because the creator feels like he needs to rush, in which case I suggest slowing down.
I'm also confused at all the kanji (?) symbols around the artwork. Are they supposed to be sound effects? I'm not going to suggest the creator takes them out, since he obviously likes them a lot, but he can at least provide an English translation for them somewhere.
Lastly, I found a lot of the scenes to be generally confusing, but I think this page is one of the most confusing I've ever seen. I've read it multiple times in both directions and still have no clue what's going on. The scribbly word bubbles and kanji aren't helping either. Another confusing page is this one. The guy gets mowed down by an execution-style firing squad, and then in the next panel he's punching guys out? Obviously he's either invincible or the gunmen have Stormtrooper-level aiming abilities, but I think it's clear there are at least a few panels missing here.
Overall: This might be one of the harshest criticisms that I can give, but I think the creator should seriously consider pairing with a writer if he wants his comic to be more successful. This isn't to say the writing's merely bad, because a writer who lacks skill can improve his abilities. Rather, I don't get the sense the creator cares about writing, in which case improvement is impossible. The other upside of this is that a collaboration would likely be more challenging since the creator would have less creative control and would have to go outside his comfort zone more.
Although, it could just be that I dislike online manga, and this comic's actually a lot better than I'm making it out to be. But at the same time, it has to be considered that others will be less critical of a work because it's in a preferred style.