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Furry Experience

URL: furryexperience.smackjeeves.com
Creator/s: Ellen Natalie
Run: 8/09-current
Schedule: M/F
Section: Pp. 300-331

Website: The first thing readers should notice is that it's on a gray background on top of a gray background on top of another gray background. It's boring to look at and doesn't reflect any sense of creativity.

The Archives page is just a list of hundreds of page numbers, and it'd be useful if the list was separated into chapters or stories. Having read a section, I get the impression that filler pages are inserted to mark where one story ends and the next begins, but I haven't seen this technique used before and it wasn't immediately obvious at all. Personally, I initially clicked on Page 301 because it's the first page of the "Pages 301-350" section, and I discovered later that it isn't the beginning of the story.

The features are generally pretty good, with the forum being surprisingly active. And the comic's posted on at least five different sites, so readers have no excuse to miss the latest update.

Writing: I wrote in my review of Insert Image, another Christian webcomic, that the focus on religious topics limits the comic's ability to appeal to a wide audience. Christians make up about 76 percent of the U.S. population, according to surveys by the American Religious Identification Survey, the Association of Religion Data Archives, and Pew Research; in comparison, the Mormon Church, which is the basis of Furry Experience, is only around 1.5 to 2 percent of the population. Further, the comic's setting, Utah, is about 68 percent Mormon, and accounts for around one-third of the country's Mormons. In other words, this might be a great comic for a Mormon living in Utah, but for everyone else, not so much.

The story focuses on the Church's expectation for young men and women to volunteer as foreign missionaries, and even most Christians would probably have a difficult time relating to this situation. It's common for people to feel pressured by family and friends to do something they don't particularly want to, but pressure from a religious institution to spread the religion is a very unique situation. The creator fails to present the Mormons' predicament in a way that would be interesting to most readers, instead focusing on the difficulties the characters face trying to please Church authorities.

The reality of the situation's that most people outside of Utah essentially see Mormons as cult-like weirdos. When Rhonda loses her friend on Page 308 because he considers her a "temptation," readers aren't going to feel sorry for Rhonda, they're going to think that Mormonism is a dumb religion that ruined their friendship. Reading this section actually made me feel more negatively about Mormonism because of how much control the Church is shown having over the characters' lives, and the cutesy way this is presented makes it unclear if the negativity is intentional or not.

The current story's about an unpopular girl trying to one-up a clique of mean, popular girls, and, so far, it's very juvenile, like one of those shows on Disney or Nickelodeon that are aimed at preteens. It's really predictable so far: The unpopular girl's pretty, smart, talented, and unique, so the popular girls get jealous and try to sabotage her at school. Judging from the previous story, I assume that the comic's target audience is college students, and I don't see how something like this is going to appeal to them.

Art: The backgrounds in this comic are terrible, and they ruin most of the appeal of the character illustrations, which are actually pretty good. To start off, the scene in pages 300-306, this living room, is depicted as being a huge room that only has two couches, a curtain, a small whiteboard, and a TV on a TV stand. Not only is this a ridiculously basic portrayal of an interior setting, but the whiteboard and one of the couches disappear and reappear throughout the pages. See for yourself:
  • Page 300 - Two couches, no whiteboard
  • Page 301 - One couch, one whiteboard
  • Page 302, Panel 1 - One couch, no whiteboard
  • Page 302, Panel 5 - One couch, one whiteboard
  • Page 304 - One couch, no whiteboard
  • Page 306, Panel 1 - Two couches, no whiteboard
  • Page 306, Panel 2 - One couch, no whiteboard
In addition, pay attention to the space between the living room, which has carpet, and the kitchen, which is tiled. In Page 302, in the first panel, the couch is clearly right at the edge of the kitchen; then, in the fifth panel of the same page, the couch is suddenly in the middle of the room, at least four or five feet from where it just was. In Page 304 and the first panel of Page 306, the couch is at least 10 to 15 feet into the living room, and then the second panel of Page 306 has it right next to the kitchen again, like in the start of Page 302.

Then, when the story changes to a different residence, the same problems occur. In Page 310, Panel 4 has a large poster, which vanishes in Panel 5, and there's only one door at the end of the hallway. The poster comes back in Page 312, and then disappears again in Page 313, and there are suddenly four doors in the same hallway that was just shown as having one door.

I could keep going on with examples... and I will, because I'm still shocked that someone could be this careless about their artwork. In Page 318, there's a large room where the whole thing is just one chair and a small table. In the first panel, the room has red carpet, and then in the fifth panel, the area shown by the entrance suddenly has yellow tile. In Page 319, the exterior of the house is shown, and it doesn't have any windows. Then, in Page 327, a character is shown standing in front of a wall, and in Page 330, she's shown in the same spot from the same angle, and the wall's gone and replaced with a large, open area.

Another issue with the backgrounds is that they're obviously quickly made with a computer program. For some background scenery, like the kitchen, the training center, the apartments, and the school, the perfectly straight, uniformly wide lines and copy-pasted details make the scenes look sterile, and the style clashes with the soft, cartoony style of the characters. (I complained about the same thing in my review of Moon Crest 24.) The outdoor scenery looks like it was scribbled on at the last minute, with the foliage in Page 307 being a good example. The comic also suffers from relying on simplistic mountain backgrounds, which is a "trick" I've seen several other webcomics try to get away with. Obviously, Utah really does have a lot of mountains, but when the creator chose it as her setting, she should've put more thought into how to present the scenery in a more appealing manner. Finally, there are way too many abstract backgrounds, and the lack of visual context prevents the comic from functioning as a realistic, slice-of-life story. These abstract backgrounds are also poorly executed, and Pages 319-324, as well as Page 313, are filled with yellow backgrounds that are so bright, it actually makes them difficult to look at.

Also: weeaboo cheek-mouths. Don't do it.

For a little bit of positivity to conclude the section, the characters are well-drawn in terms of anatomy and poses, and their clothing is reasonably modest for religious characters. It's also easy to tell the characters apart and identify what species they're supposed to be. The coloring's alright, although it's somewhat bland and overly bright, and the characters are sometimes left unshaded. I also really like the background in Page 315, and it stood out to me as being a much better illustration than anything else in the comic.

Overall: In the latest thread on Furry Experience's forum, out of the 14 fans with avatars, 12 of the avatars are of animals. And in the Off-Topic section, the discussion's dominated by furry webcomics, furry games, furry music, furry clubs, furry conventions, fursonas, and a four-page thread on My Little Pony. In addition, the comic pages are posted to Fur Affinity, giving it extra exposure to the furry community, and comic's a part of Top Furry Comics, Jade's Top Anthro Webcomics, and the Anthro-Writers DeviantArt group. The comic's title is also a little weird, giving no indication of what the comic's about other than that it has furries in it. (The comic's banner also says "furries" on it just to make extra sure that visitors realize it's a furry comic.) Furries are probably the most rabid fanbase in webcomics, and any webcomic that has furries, updates consistently, and has passable artwork is guaranteed to be fairly popular. Because of this, the creator doesn't have a strong incentive to improve the quality of her comic, and she has the freedom to write about any subject as long as the tails of the dialogue balloons are pointing to bunnygirls and catgirls. It's a pretty good situation to be in if a creator doesn't mind pandering to furries with extremely low standards; however, readers with higher expectations will be disappointed with this comic.

2/5

8 comments :

  1. Thanks for your time, Officer! I'll take care of those citations as soon as I can get to the courthouse.

    Seriously, though-I appreciate you taking the time to look over the comic and offer feedback. It's important to hear back from a variety of sources (both in and out of the fandom) to help find focus where to improve.

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    1. No problem! I appreciate how polite you've been.

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    1. I read through the first 200 pages. I don't know how the last 31 pages were, but I'd have to disagree with what you said about the Mormon stuff. Despite not being a Mormon, I found those parts interesting (like the LDS General Conference) and it made the comic stand out from other slice-of-life college comics.

      I also liked how it took a somewhat nuanced view on religion. A lot of religious/atheist fiction tends to either view the religion as completely perfect or the source of all human misery ever with no shade of gray. Vikki, Dawn, Brian, Dawn's mom, and some of the others all seem happy and benefit from their faith, while Ronnie doesn't believe in it and isn't treated badly for doing so. She also tends to point out a lot of flaws in the religion (being turned away when she tries to go to a service because she isn't in the community, Cat's abstinence only education, pointing out how creepy and ultra-orthadox Vikki's roommates are, etc). I'd say everything else in the art criticism is spot on though.

      Note: I accidentally deleted my own comment, Lol.

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    2. I give the webcomic some credit for originality, sure.

      I agree that presenting a "nuanced view" on the Mormon religion would be interesting. This section doesn't do that well. There's too much emphasis on drama, and it feels shallow. I also had a tough time taking the subject matter seriously when everything's so kawaii. It's largely a wasted opportunity.

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    3. I looked over some of the latest section, and I agree that the latest arc between Alice and Diana isn't that compelling because it's just two girls jockeying for popularity in college, which is like a cutthroat battle over Chuck E. Cheese tokens. It might be important when you're there, but once you leave it's worthless.

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    4. I was actually referring to the section before that (pp. 300-316).

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    5. Read though it yesterday. While what happened to Ronnie is what you described, I wouldn't go so far as to say the arc was completely negative. The reactions of the characters varied from positive to mixed to negative of being able to serve earlier. I'd say that Ronnie's negative experience is negated by Helen's, as she shows Vickie the letter that says that Henry became a missionary "for the wrong reasons" but still considered it a positive experience and his relationship with Helen isn't jeopardized by it. The only real problem I have with it is that the characters aren't directly affected by the lowered age requirements because like they mention, men are pressured to be missionaries more than women, so the whole arc is just them sitting around talking about it.

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