Koji Takahashi (Stops the World)

URL: www.drunkduck.com/Koji_Takahashi_Stops_the_World
Creator/s: Emily Robinson
Run: 12/10-current
Schedule: ?
Section/s: Ch. 2

Website: Aside from the nice-looking banner, the website's just a white background with no bonus material. As I've noted in previous reviews, I think a webcomic should always have at least some sort of extra content. The comments the creator posts with each page are a decent start, though.

There are several pages of filler within the chapter, and I found them somewhat distracting while reading the story. These filler pages, such as the Christmas drawing, should find a home in a gallery page.

Writing: "What if..." is a good premise for a story, and Koji asks the question, "What if a normal teenager acquired the ability to stop time?" The title character utilizes his power in a variety of ways, including leaving snarky notes, helping out classmates, playing pranks on teachers, and pausing an awkward situation. It's all dopey high-school stuff, which is amusing, but then it gets weirder, indicating there's a more significant context behind the story's events. I think the creator's successful at balancing the contrasting elements of the comic, and not just between the mundane and the fantastic, but also in a dramatic sense between the goofy parts and the serious parts

The creator's fairly competent with dialogue, with this humorous scene being notably well-done. Here, here, and here are some other instances that seem particularly clever and natural. I don't like this page, though, because the awkwardness is overstated, making Koji's flop very predictable. It should already be obvious to the readers that Koji's uncomfortable, as he's on a date with a girl he's blatantly attracted to.

Koji clearly intends to use his powers to help people, but his actions seem more ambivalent to me, which I find somewhat intriguing. For instance, his idea of "helping" is providing anonymous life advice to the people he knows, but he seems somewhat condescending in doing so, as if he feels his newfound power entitles him to judge others in a way he wouldn't do otherwise. It also seems kind of cowardly -- why can't he criticize people directly instead of being sneaky about it? And Koji feels his pranks are doing good by making people laugh, but they're also disruptive to the classroom and disrespectful to the teachers. I think this ambivalence is done deliberately by the creator as a way of showing Koji's immaturity, and it's a solid approach, certainly making him more interesting of a character than if he was purely benevolent.

Art: The standout feature of the comic to me is the glitchy abstractions that pop up frequently in the latter half of the chapter. It gives the comic a unique personality, and creates the impression of reality starting to fall apart, which is pretty neat, like it's a consequence of Koji messing with the natural state of time and space. It reminds me of King Lear, where there are violent storms after the king gets kicked out, like nature's going berserk in parallel with the order of civilization getting messed up. The cyan glow around Koji when he stops time is also a nice-looking effect.

The quality of the artwork's fine, with the creator skillfully drawing the goofy and expressive teenagers, the backgrounds and objects in the school being fairly detailed, and the coloring and shading being done competently. The comic seems like a mix of Western and manga styles, so it's a bit weird to me that it got nominated for "Best Manga of 2011," but there's no "Western-Manga Hybrid" category, or even just a "Western" category, so you take what you can get. Personally, I don't generally like manga webcomics, so it was refreshing to me to get to see some manga elements without being overwhelmed with them. Although, the manga-onomatopoeia's confusing to me, and I don't understand what instances like "Tadghalicious," "Sparkle Smack," and "Normalcy" are supposed to suggest. The creator also uses descriptions like "phase," "trustfall," "morph," "pull," "shove off," "scanning," and "back up-right" to convey character actions, and while I suppose this is a feature of manga-style comics, I'd prefer to see actions shown through the illustrations.

Lastly, the fading panels are a really cool idea.

Overall: Koji has some obvious manga characteristics, but it should have some appeal for potential readers who prefer Western-style comics. The creator's an experienced cartoonist, and her inclusion of surrealistic concepts and eccentric visuals in the comic helps make it fairly exceptional.


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