Part II: "Earthsong"

(As seen at www.earthsongsaga.com)

 

What happens when you combine anime with Dungeons and Dragons, girl the fuck out of it, throw in a dash of Gargoyles, and add in the same style of "originality" seen in every other webmanga out there? Well, you get Crystal Yates' Earthsong! And it'll have you singing, alright! Singing that song Adam Sandler sang in the Wedding Singer (second time I referenced that movie, folks)! You know the one...

"I WANT TO DIII~IIIE! PUT A BULLET IN MY HEEE~EEE~EEE~EEEAD!"

Fantasy webmanga can arguably be the worst of the lot. There's always an extra spark of the geeky in the fantasy ones that even other geeks can't stand. Like D&D fanatics at an anime convention. While the comic does show glimmers of originality, it's the kind of glimmer that doesn't really increase the value of the comic. Kinda like seeing chunks of food you don't remember eating in your vomit; it's different, but it's still vomit.


The Story
 

Okay, so there's this gray chick who ends up in a magical world and doesn't know how she got there. Normally I'd attribute this to alcohol, but this is magical, so that's out. She ends up meeting a variety of obvious good guys, fighting against obvious bad guys. Oh yeah, the characters in this comic are some of the most aesthetically one-sided designs I've ever seen. See, there's Earthsong (whose name is ridiculously nonsensical considering the context of the comic's story), the good planet spirit chick, and Beluosus (who's name apparently means "full of monsters" in some probably-made-up language. Coincidentally, I'd call most of this comic "Belushit". Infer from that what you will), the evil planet spirit guy. Their respective designs are so one-dimensional you'd think that you've been sucked back into the days of He-Man and Skeletor.

 

Which one do YOU think is the bad guy?
 

Even the character traits of the two are so transparent it's almost insulting. There's nothing more to Earthsong other than her being a good, benevolent force, and there's nothing to Beluosus other than being dark and evil. If Cowboy Bebop taught us anything about good guys, it's that you should never be able to describe a character in one sentence, and if One Piece taught us anything about bad guys, it's that you can put some subtlety to their cruelty, and make them 100x cooler and more evil than any graduate of the Snidely Whiplash School of Blatant Villain Stereotypes.

So anyway, the gray chick joins this group called Haven's Guard (the good guys, in case the name throws you off), and they give her the name Willow, just to up the comic's "fruity fantasy" quota. The group contains a token Japanese samurai chick with a Japanese name, plus a cast of characters that seemed like they were either named by a drunk J.R.R. Tolkien or a drunker H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, yeah, and two gargoyle-ish characters who look so much like they were pulled from the Gargoyles cartoon show, it's borderline plagiarism. I can't recall, but I'm willing to bet money that they do the wing-cape thing from that show, or that they will do it at some point.

 

So, as expected, this cliché group of heroes fights against Belusuos' group of anti-heroes, the Mandragoras, which makes no fucking sense as a name if you know what a Mandragora is, or what it means (they're either plants that're kinda shaped like people, or they hurt cattle... Except there isn't any cattle involved in this comic... Maybe they all scream when you yank their heads...). If this merry band shows us anything, it's that Yates is completely content with writing off her villains, putting about as much effort into their conception as a man does holding in a fart in the car when he's got a courtesy sniff handy. And just in case we were forgetting that Earthsong is a webmanga, Yates also threw in an angsty, waif-boy vampire to sulk up the joint.

Oh, and some characters have the tendency to be backwards-androgynous. Seriously, unless you can see her tits, you can't tell Tengu is a chick.

The story is basic at best, trite on average. Now that I've given you the characters, I'm willing to bet you can accurately predict the majority of the comic's storyline. Oh, and there's also some plot device in the form of these things called soulstones, which is so mind-numbingly convoluted that it's best I didn't go over that, since it took the comic MULTIPLE PAGES OF PURE, DIALOG-FREE EXPOSITION TO EXPLAIN THAT SHIT! And that brings us to another major problem with the comic: Yates has absolutely no concept whatsoever of subtle exposition. The comic dumps every bit of information regarding a certain subject on the reader in the form of many, many paragraphs. Earthsong shifts from comic to essay on the fly and without warning. It got to the point where I had to skip chunks of the comic because I just couldn't take the shit—and I've read entire X-Men comics, for god's sake! There really is no excusing this; it's poor storytelling any way you slice it.

 

STOP.... TALKING!!!
 

Plus, the wishy-washy dialogue REALLY doesn't make that crap any easier to read. Not only that, the comic is chock full of Deus ex Machina (just look at how Beluosus is beaten in the 'Genesis' chapter), and stiff dialogue being exchanged by characters with stock personalities. It's not a pretty sight, and it really is painful to read.

What's worse, characters overreact like a sunnuva bitch. Willow throws a hissy fit because Token Japanese Girl and Earthsong are talking about her, screaming "IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME", except that what they were talking about was hardly negative enough for that kind of reaction, making Willow's tirade seem like the result of a bad PMS episode. And Earthsong and Token's overly somber, funeral-esque responses make the viewer feel like they're reading some shitty soap-opera script, and that any minute, one of them will huff, quickly turn away, and launch into some violin-accompanied monologue. And don't get me started on her "I don't belong" scene, with the crying and the looking away crap. I laughed, she cried, it was like some twisted movie review. Tristam, the emo vampire, emotes like someone imitating Calculon from Futurama, and the chapter that primarily has him and Willow chatting it out (chapter 4: Lament), is so melodramatic it's, literally and absolutely, hysterical. I laughed my ass off!


The Art
 

Yates does have a concept of personally stylizing her art, as well as rudimentary knowledge of proportioning, which is good. However, she has serious issues with perspectives. You won't find any dynamic angles here, and action shots are awkward at best. While some of the more recent standalone pictures are well done, the pages look rushed, all in all. I'm sure someone will try and justify this with excuses of deadlines, but try and remember that professional artists have deadlines, too. Kentarou Miura has deadlines, and have you seen Berserk?! Holy shit son, that's no rush-job!

 

As for Earthsong, little effort seems to have gone into details such as clothing, and backgrounds. The art really takes a hit during close-ups; something anime copycats always seem to fail at. They get so focused in their formula for style that when the time comes to blow up an image, they have nothing to add (and any half-decent artist knows that you need to add more detail than usual on a close-up). This is evident, for example, in one of the newest redrawn pages, which features a close-up of the medusa-with-cornrows girl. She's drawn with the same level of detail as she would be were she half that size. That's a big no-no.

Really, the best art you'll see on that site is Yates' self-portrait (which I suspect of being prettied-up, as is the style of most anime artists who draw themselves). It's evident that Yates does have potential to develop an anime-influenced style all her own, with practice, and I could really see her fine-tuning these problems with a bit of work, but as long as she clings to the copycat-anime stigma, her work is only going to stagnate. Really, I must give the devil his due; Yates has the potential to be a professional-quality artist.

 

Brooding male jailbait? Check.

Dialogue that looks like it came from a daytime soap opera script? Check.

Self-inflicted head wound? Double chOHGO;ERHG;
 

If only someone would stop her from using those fucking mock-anime reactions! It's enough to make a man go on a murderous rampage, carving giant sweat drops into people's heads. And if you hear about someone doing that on the news, KEEP QUIET, ASSHOLE! The cops ain't yo' friends, I'S YOUR FRIEND!

Of course, all compliments go strictly to character design. Yates seems to have forgotten that you can DRAW backgrounds! That's right, just like characters! It's an amazing practice that's been around longer than most people think! Even the amazing Japanese, with their anime and their actual genuine manga, do this! It gets very annoying to see every backdrop in the comic done with an airbrush. And it looks damn awkward to have characters drawn in lineart on backgrounds made in Photoshop. A backdrop is one thing, but when they're standing on, or interacting with, backgrounds that weren't drawn with them, it looks awful.

...And the cover to episode 4 looks like SHIT!


The Author
 

Yates, herself, doesn't have much wrong with her to speak of. She hasn't pulled any major stunts, and the most there is to speak of her is her work. However, like TwoKinds, the fact that something this amateurish was picked up to be published professionally bugs the ever-loving shit out of me. The fact that this thing may sit on the same shelf as great artists such as Jim Lee, Pat Spaziante, Todd MacFarlane, Akira Toriyama, Kentarou Miura, Eiichiro Oda, etc, just doesn't seem right. Simply because there are people numb-minded enough to lap up this lukewarm shit, Yates gets a shortcut to share a shelf with those greats?!

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing the system of published-when-popular. Far from it, I think it's a great way for GOOD artists to get out there. What I'm pissed about is the people; anime-whoring masses retarded enough to give unfunny pet names to arbitrary objects that last three pages that somehow buy this shit as quality, AND the fuckheads at Seven Seas, who couldn't find a good property to put money behind if they were spoon-fed it! These people have signed on so many terrible, terrible "manga" I cannot comprehend how they stay in business! Are people buying these pieces of shit?! Are people putting out actual legal tender that they acquired one way or another so that they can waste it on these moronic franchises?! So they can OWN printed copies of them!? This blows my fucking mind! First these people lap up shit like Fullmetal Alchemist, and try to tell me it's anything other than horse-piss, now THIS!?

G'ah, I'm getting worked up. But hell, can you blame me?!

 

It's a pretty bad sign when you can picture a comic's dialogue being overacted

by Jon Lovitz, and working as a joke.


Aside from her god-awful taste in everything (see the "Me, Myself, & I" section), I really don't have anything against Yates personally. She's just your typical run-of-the-mill fangirl with her own comic. I do, however, think she should really sit down, forget any of the ego masturbation her fans are giving her, and work on her art style. Oh, and maybe DRAW MORE THAN JUST PEOPLE! If Berserk taught me anything, it's that a person can draw a background a million times better than Photoshop ever could.

Also, knock off the fucking super-deformed bullshit.


In Conclusion...
 

Earthsong isn't really outstandingly bad, but rather an archetype of a base, fantasy webmanga sorely lacking in any real creativity. It FEELS amateur. It reeks of fanmade. There's so much lukewarm content that it averages out to frozen bullshit. Nothing here is interesting; there isn't a single good idea or fresh concept; this is the truest definition of trite. You see, Dictionary.com defines trite as "Lacking power to evoke interest through overuse or repetition; hackneyed". This describes Earthsong to a ridiculous level of detail. The only real drop of originality, the soulstone crap, was better left unused, and most of the character designs are so uninteresting and derivative they practically insult the intelligence of the reader.

All in all, Earthsong is a template for everything you shouldn't do when making a webmanga/webcomic, plain and simple. Although I'd like to see what Yates can do with some major improvement, I hope it's in something other than Earthsong.

- Cody Baier

 

 

Alex's AFTER Thoughts

 

Earthsong!? It should be Earth Song! God, why the hell do webcomic authors do that!? You can't think of a decent title, so you just pick two words randomly and combo them into one new word? "Hey everybody, come read my awesome new webcomic, uh... Lampdesk! No, wait, Treewindow! Err, Speakerphone! Oops, hold on, that last one already exists..."

Its lame-ass title aside, I really don't see what this comic has going for it. Cody seems to think that 'Lady Yates' there has potential as a professional artist if she changes her approach a bit, but to be honest, I think the closest she'll ever get to pro status in the real world is painting unicorns and marijuana leaves on the side of neo-hippie vans. Or maybe she'll become one of those people you always see with stands at the county fair who airbrushes abstract pictures of wolves and planets onto t-shirts, and makes a living solely by appealing to the sympathies of middle-class families who buy her stuff out of pity and then throw it away as soon as they get home.

No, I think she's probably better off continuing to pander to people on the internet who have no taste. Preteen girls and people who think FernGully is the greatest cinematic achievement in history might not be the most glamorous fanbase to have, but at least it's an unfailingly loyal one. After all, if your audience can call themselves fans of a poorly-drawn melodrama depicting an anorexic goth chick and an overemotional clone of Leonardo DiCaprio as they battle against an effeminate Protoss look-alike, then it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be able to pull whatever inane shit you want with your comic and the simpletons that fell in love with your work to begin with will eat it up like starving dogs.

 

I can only dream of what it must be like to have such an easily delighted fanbase... If this site appealed to the same kind of people who adore Earthsong, these last four paragraphs I've written would probably be enough to cause my inbox to be filled with so much elated fanmail that my computer would explode from a massive memory overload. And if Earthsong's zero-detail art style is indicative of the fans' collective "less is more" mentality, then it's a safe bet people would be kicking down Cody's front door at all hours in hopes of getting his autograph in exchange for blowjobs had he summarized his entire review in one line that read: "Earthsong sucks."

 

'Till next time!

MANGA!