The Webcomic Overlook #157: Blade Bunny
It took me maybe ten pages to become annoyed with the free-spirited, adorable antics of the title character in Blade Bunny. I started panickedly looking around and mopping imaginary sweat beads from my forehead. After the first chapter or two, I began to wonder what in the world I’d gotten myself in to. Every press of the “forward” button became an exercise in endurance, as I knew that the next page would treat us with yet another tiresome appearance of Bunny.
Incidentally, this is not to be confused with Blade Kitten, the manga-like webcomic about a fighting girl with animal ears who also had a video game made out of it. This is a different manga-like webcomic about a fighting girl with animal ears, only it doesn’t have a video game.
That’s a huge difference, people!
But let’s back up a bit. Blade Bunny is a comic written by Drowemos. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the guy behind the gender-bending fantasy comic Exiern, which was notable for having original artwork that would barely pass muster in the fourth grade (eventually he did hook up with a decent artist) and for its inescapable advertising on Project Wonderful.
I never did a formal review. However, I did mention in passing that I agreed with John Solomon’s review on the Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad site. Drowemos got wind of it, and he responded, via a firm yet reasonable email, why he felt that several of Solomon’s points were overreaching (specifically his practice of paying his artists). While I still think that what I’ve seen of Exiern as a comic is fairly amateurish, I though he raised some good points on his side. After all, it is perhaps unfair to criticize business practices when this blog is built on criticizing content. So, with his persmission, I republished his email. I don’t have anything against the guy, and I do appreciate that he drops by this site from time to time.
(This is, incidentally, one of the reasons I started gravitating toward longer and longer reviews. One tossed off line is way too easy to pick apart.)
I decided to give him another chance with his more recent comic, Blade Bunny. Drowemos bypasses his early artwork issues he had in Exiern, by hooking up with a decent artist from the beginning. The art is credited to Erwin Pasetya (Tyo Kuuma). It turns out Pasetya was originally tapped to be the artist for Exiern after the original guy struggled with the work load. However, when the original guy came back, Drowemos came up with Blade Bunny as a new project for Pasetya to work on. Pasetya’s style is pretty much the thing you’d expect in manga. Initial impressions were that while it’s fairly eyecatching, it’s also not that distinct from any random selection at the Borders manga aisle.
“Well,” I thought, “maybe without that early handicap, the comic will be much easier to like.”
Our heroine, Bunny, dresses up in a skin-tight leotard. She wears a pair of bunny ears and a puffy cotton tail. This was probably sexy and scandalous, like, 40 years ago, but nowadays it’s kinda demure. Bunny is also an assassin of some sort, which is why a bunch of thugs hire her to off a rival leader. She’s full of magic tricks, too: at one point she drowns a metallic demon by inducing a flash flood. Her abilities catch the eye of some powerful people, who want to recruit her to save the world or something.
Bunny is also a walking ball of adorable one-liners. And by “adorable” I mean “adorable for a three-year-old, kinda creepy from someone who looks at least fifteen.” Here is a sample:
I guess I should commend the Blade Bunny guys for crafting a kick-butt superheroine who is also clearly mentally challenged.
Bunny, I imagine, is shaped from the rich tradition of wacky, slightly crazy, yet irrepressibly cute anime girls. You know the type: they’re slight of frame despite consuming comically large amounts of food, yet they manage to effortlessly defeat much larger enemies. These include Haruko from FLCL, Lina Inverse from Slayers… probably that one chick with the flame bikini top from Gurren Lagann. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I have never seen this anime.) Blade Bunny is closest to Excel Excel from Excel Saga, a fellow motormouth who spent entire episodes coasting on her voice actresses’ incredible talents at spouting ridiculous lines (which, to be fair, are not too different form the ones you find in Blade Bunny) and generally looking kawaii.
Here’s the difference, though: Excel Saga‘s director, Shinichi Watanabe, was in on the joke. He intentionally made Excel super-irritating because, in half the episodes she’s in, she gets killed off. And that’s sandwiched in between gags about three losers in the apartment next door, the ghost of a dead migrant worker who accidentally finds himself in bed with God, and the cool spy adventures of the director. Excel functions more as a Looney Tunes character than someone you can hang your narrative off of.
Bunny doesn’t get quite that excuse. I suppose that, from the befuddled reactions of all the supposedly straight-laced characters, she’s supposed to be somewhat of a comedy character. (A mistake, I think: one of the best sight gags in Excel Saga is how her boss, Il Palazzo, stoically no-sells Excel’s jokes.) There are several things that work against this, though, and one is the limited range of Pasetya’s artwork. There are precious few visual cues in Blade Bunny that are comedic. Her words tell me she’s “silly” and “irrepressibly youthful,” but the faces either say “boredom” or “world weariness”. This is because all the characters carry the same expression most of the time… so when Bunny’s acts all goofy and stuff, it’s not too many shades of different from when someone pulls a badass expression or when her mentor gets serious. The huge disconnect between the “wacky” dialogue and the limited facial expressions is easily the number one reason that I was muttering, “When is this comic going to end?!?!” barely one chapter in.
To be fair, Pasetya himself seems to be a little aware of the problem. Later panels show some improvements, where comedy moments are punctuated by the tried and true method of going superdeformed. It’s still not really all that particularly funny, and it’s sort of a shortcut, but at least he’s trying.
Compounding that problem is that Bunny is that she’s not that interesting of a character. Her only character trait is being obnoxious all the time, and, as I mentioned, that’s undermined by the artistic limitations. Is it enough that the character is a one-dimensional female dynamo?
If so, than she shares the same rarefied air as the Mattie Franklin Spider-Woman (not be confused with all other Spider-Women) and the very Mary-Suish Superwoman (not to be confused with Supergirl). All are mainly defined by how much stronger than their opponents and by the single character trait of “perky.” All have also rather shoddily constructed backgrounds. Spider-Woman and Superwoman are cautionary tales, though: they’re also completely forgotten by fans, despite successful implementations of other female superheroines with similar powers.
And before you complain about that sounding sexist, it applies to male superheroes too. We root for Superman because, while he’s an incredibly powerful dude who can defeat most enemies just by looking at them, we know that deep down inside he’s a humble guy with simple Smallville origins. We root for Spider-Man because, while he may be recklessly juvenile by spouting one liners while fighting the bad guys, we also know he’s driven by a sense of responsibility and struggling with home life. They are more than just “perky” or “obnoxious.” If you don’t have any reason to care about the heroes, if you don’t give the reader any reason to at least understand where they’re coming from … you get Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. Perhaps cool in the short run, but are you really going to stick around for five issues of these clowns? They’re all style, no substance.
Which brings me to my final irk: if you’re going to do an action comic where you’ve got no vested interest in the main character, then the fight scenes better be good. And… they’re not. Most of Blade Bunny consists of characters smacking each other around. I mentioned earlier that, at first blush, Pasetya’s artwork is attractive. It falls apart, though, when you get to the fight scenes. A good fight scene will give you a sense of rhythm and pacing, an feel for the force of impact, a sense of weight and gravity, a personal investment in the emotional stakes, and a good idea that the combatants are going through some mental process to map out the fight. If you’re lucky, you get some decent character development and plot progression out of it. In a way, it’s the basic framework I followed when putting together my list of The Five Greatest Webcomic Fights last week.
To me, Blade Bunny is just a jumble of images that were picked out because the admittedly intricately detailed characters were making cool poses. There’s no build-up or anything to earn those poses; they just are. Which is fine for pin-ups and DeviantArt; just not very useful when you’re trying to tell a story. I guess it matches the character of Blade Bunny, though, in that the sequences are so much about establishing an image of being totally awesome that they bypass anything substantial.
So there you go: Blade Bunny has one unlikable character, flat and uninteresting fight scenes, and a nonexistent plot. (Which I didn’t go over in this review. Because it’s nonexistent.) On the plus side, it didn’t kill Krome Studios. So at least it’s got that going for it.
Rating: 2 Stars (out of 5)