Dare Sensei

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Broken1.png Someone (either the creator or the hosting service) pulled the plug on this webcomic. The links in this review are dead. If you want so see more of this webcomic for some insane reason, the Wayback Machine is your best bet. And even that's a long shot. Broken2.png
Theatre-Masks-Happy-And-Sad-Laugh-And-Cry.jpg
This author responded to a review on the site and his/her reply can be found here in the "Reactions" section.
Original review author: neallyriceguy (Art Review and Author Biography)
Author of Rewrite: SmashLampjaw (Everything else, excluding the supplemental material by Shan)
Webcomic name: Dare Sensei
Author: Mary Bell (author/writer) and Pietro of Palcomix (illustrator)
Start Date: September 19, 2009
End Date: Updates stopped with the end of chapter 2. It vanished off the internet some time between January 27, 2012 and June 10, 2012.
Genre: Fan Fiction (classic Doctor Who) / Animu / Desecration
Defining Flaw: The webcomic as a whole is basically one big metaphorical middle finger to originality.




Rating Summary


Art: Wiki.pngWiki.png

It's pretty clean, but still your standard copy-pasted quasi-anime "style." Nothing special. Move along.

Storyline: Wiki.png

A mash-up of other people's ideas with things that make no sense together, written with large communication gaps that will lose most readers everyone but the author everyone.

Characters: No character has characterization within the comic, with the exception of Jamie, who I hated. So little character introduction is done that any action taken by any character could be assumed to have been done for laughs or to move the plot along.
Likelihood of Being Sued for Copyright Infringement (out of 5 seals): Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png

Seriously. The only thing unique about this clusterfuck is how many legal cases could be made over it. -- neallyriceguy

Overall: Wiki.png

"My head hurts, my ears are ringing, and I'm not sure I can math [sic] right now." -- SmashLampjaw



Background

I originally joined the Bad Webcomics Wiki to clean up some of the articles I'd seen. I stumbled onto this review and saw it needed to be rewritten. The art review was pretty solid, but the rest of it was too vague about the problems (and there were many). It also struck me as a little too insulting for an author who was acknowledged as not a drama llama and whose response to the review was so polite it landed her in the Irregular Responses section. As such I'm doing a partial or complete rewrite on several of the sections.

That's not to say I'm going to play softball in this rewrite. There's a ton of terrible decisions to go over, but I'm going to make a point to throw out some constructive criticism along with the hostility. I'm also a long-time Doctor Who fan but not a fanboy, so I recognize that since some point in the 2008 season of the new series it's permanently devolved into nigh-unwatchable Gary Stu fan fiction. This is important to keep in mind, as Dare Sensei is borderline-Mary-Sue multiple manga mash-up fan fiction mostly built atop Doctor Who. (More on that later.)


Downfall

The Downfall can be pinned to one of three points that depend on the reader.

  1. If you're not overwhelmed by an unbridled love of animu/manga in all its forms, the second page is where you'll realize the whole thing is incoherent and close the tab on this comic forever.
  2. If you're still reading and a Doctor Who fan, it'll probably be chapter 1, page 11, where The Doctors Senseis are being chased by what looks like a Dalek crossbred with a train.
  3. For everyone else, it will be the end of chapter one. After a few pages of exponentially-growing complication, the story splits into at least two separate plot lines and both of them stand to be twice as complicated as the main one has already been.


Story and Plot

 We
 are
 not
 amused.

The story centers on The Sensei, an alternate universe version of The Doctor from Doctor Who. If you're unfamiliar with Doctor Who you will not be able to follow the comic at all. The important thing to know is the titular character is a time-traveling alien who looks human and transforms into a new version of himself when mortally wounded.

The cast page lists which characters from other anime/mangas that the characters in this comic are visually based upon. However, it also implies the Dare Sensei characters may be those anime/manga characters who've been merged with Doctor Who characters (whose names aren't mentioned), adding to the confusion. Did I mention these alt versions also tend to have the opposite gender of the original characters from Doctor Who they represent? To top this all off, there are four Doctors Senseis in this same comic at roughly the same time, each with their own companions, and none of the characters are introduced to us (except Jamie, who is profoundly easy to hate). So... good luck.

I have to bleed into the Writing Review section a little before I get into the story. Plot points are delivered using a technique of rapid hammer-blows to the reader's face. I've previously never seen, read, or heard anything like this. It's an extremely jarring method of story-telling I'm going to attempt to recreate in this synopsis.


Chapter 1


Two teachers are looking for Kenji (reasons unknown) the First Sensei's grandson, who is attending school in Japan (reason unknown) against her wishes. They force their way into the TARDIS (fucking impossible). Then the Fourth Sensei, who was asleep on the floor (reason unknown) wakes up, mentions the previously depicted events were a memory-dream, notes she only dreams about him when she wants to (reason unknown) but hadn't wanted to (getting convoluted), mentions abandoning him on Earth (reason unknown), ponders about how she doesn't know why she abandoned him, then nearly faints while having something like a heart attack. Her companions do the usual "You can't die!" thing, which is puzzling since one of them is later acknowledged as having seen regeneration... but back to the plot attack.

Sensei is fine again (reason unknown) but doesn't recall a grandson (reason unknown) then she sort of does (or doesn't?) remember him, and it's hinted by the vanishing picture of Marty McFly and his siblings First Sensei and Kenji that he's been erased from time (method unknown). Kenji's erasure is illustrated with him being dragged away as a teenager so that he'd never be born (wait, what?!). Fourth Sensei then decides to attempt to mentally commune with First Sensei (even though erasing someone from time would make First Sensei equally useless), accidentally merges their TARDISes (TARDISi..? TARDISese..?) together, and meets her and the two teachers from the flashback who became her companions... after presumably abandoning the same child they'd stormed the TARDIS to look for on Earth to do so (reasons unknown).


That was a lot of plot development, wasn't it? I mean a lot. In a normal comic, that would be a pretty healthy chapter of plot mixed in with character development (or at least character introductions), and ending on a decent cliffhanger. Maybe it would be from somewhere around the story's middle, to tie up loose ends while setting up a couple more arcs. In Dare Sensei that was the first 7 pages. They were the first 7 pages of the first chapter. They were the first 7 pages of the first chapter, using standard-sized comic pages, without essays from the author under them providing those details.

By now you're probably seeing the problem I alluded to earlier when I said this bleeds into the Writing Review section. While other comics are plagued by nothing meaningful happening over a multi-year run, Dare Sensei is almost entirely made up of plot events. It's impossible to summarize some of the story points because they last for less than a single panel of the comic. They arrive pre-summarized. They arrive in packs.

I'm going to continue now so that you might suffer as I have suffered. Just try to remember that this is a 2 chapter webcomic and not some 12,000 page trilogy that Stephen King wrote in the waiting room for his dentist.


The First Sensei and her companions realize that Kenji is fading from their memories. Then the TARDIS makes an emergency landing (reason unknown) on the Dalek home world (WHY THE FUCK WOULD THEY BE ANYWHERE NEAR IT?!), the First and Fourth Sensei get out to look around instead of just sending the TARDIS elsewhere (reasons unknown), and get chased by Daleks trying to kill them (actually self-explanatory). This is interrupted by an intermission in which regeneration and alternate universe versions are explained by Cameleon, a character who appears out of fucking nowhere (even some of the characters in the story complain about this; it's a pretty meta moment). Then we jump back to the action sequence that didn't start making sense in the meantime.

The Senseis blind a Dalek with the Fourth Sensei's hat and throw it off of a cliff. The other Daleks catch up and have abruptly decided they're trying to interrogate the Senseis. It turns out that of the 100 Daleks who are apparently THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE FUCKING DALEK HOME WORLD, 85 of them have vanished. Since it makes perfect sense that someone trying to harm The Doctor Sensei would do so by erasing her greatest enemies from all time (this does not actually make sense), that conclusion is immediately leapt to by the Senseis.

Skipping several pages that don't matter to the main plot line later, the Fourth Sensei is laying on the TARDIS floor again (reason again unknown) when she notices there's a knife and a medal in her hat (which currently should be at the base of a cliff). They conclude these are clues that other former companions may be at risk of being erased from time. This leads the First Sensei to suggest they split up (PLEASE NO) and join forces with the Second (NO) and Third Sensei (NO!), which would double the number of simultaneous story lines (MAKE IT STOP), randomly introduced alt characters (MY MIND), and intentionally obtuse, mysterious characters with the same name who are the same person (SDFLPSDMKFPKSDFPSDKFKP).


Chapter 2


I'm going to really, really cut this down because you otherwise won't be able to see through all the blood in your tears. I'm going to just leave things out on purpose, since there's no third chapter for them to matter to.

The chibi Second Sensei is hired to find out why Geisha girls are being kidnapped. It's memory-eating space monsters. Based on the dialog I think the script was edited and some panels never got drawn, because the Second Sensei goes from being at a brothel tea room to the street to hiding in a random house to hiding in the shogun's manor to hiding in the street - all without a scenery change. I literally checked two different sources to make sure my copy of the comic wasn't missing pages, because that happens a few times in this chapter.

The Fourth Sensei has another flashback/seizure cause by the erasure of another companion (who we were never introduced to, so we don't care). Then Fourth Sensei is nearly memory-eaten by one of the space monsters but is saved via deus ex machina by the Third Sensei hitting a gong. You're correct: the Third Sensei is not supposed to be here. Moving on. Jin from Samurai Champloo shows up and wants to kill the space monsters, is told by Second Sensei he can't hurt them with his weapon, kills them with his weapon anyways (not shown) because apparently we all forgot that it's useless, and in the meantime the Fourth Doctor gets attacked by some phantom-fear-monster-thing that shows up in the story entirely randomly.

The whole thing ends with the least likable companion, Jamie, being held captive by four memory-eating space monsters (please end him), and The Master Mistress being recruited by the unseen antagonist. We're promised chapter 3 will immediately jump away from this plot line to a completely separate one with the First and Third Sensei instead.

Art review

DareSensei.PNG

First off, there's nothing spectacular about it; in spite of the relatively harmless pacing and panel layout, the art itself is like every amateur usage of the anime and manga style out there, complete with the mindset "Screw anatomy and proportions! These characters have pointy hair and giant eyes!" On the very first page, you can see what I mean: the heads are all placed awkwardly, that one chick has giraffe neck, and the trend continues onto the second page. However, this time it includes the inevitably bad perspectives and anatomy so disproportionate it would make Henry Gray weep in shame. Also notice how distorted the perspectives are on this page.

A picture says a thousand words, but quite frankly, that second panel says a thousand words worth of nonsensical gibberish. And that's just the first three pages. The pages that follow don't get much better. Just look at how static those "running" poses are. Did I also mention that every character is drawn in a different style of manga - the style of whichever work they originate from? Well they are. Just be glad you can differentiate each of them.

SmashLampjaw Addition: The speech balloons are sometimes really poorly placed. It's pretty easy to read some of the dialog in the wrong order, and the comic's use of varying panel sizes, shapes, and positions exacerbates the problem when the speech balloon is close to (or over) an edge.


Writing review

Technical

This comic is a complete failure in terms of writing. As mentioned in the Story and Plot section, the reader is violently attacked with plot events. While some writers have a problem with filler, Mary Bell has a problem with writing anything other than plot events. Virtually nothing is done to introduce or establish characters to the audience; explain backgrounds, motives, or decisions; acknowledge (in character) developments that would otherwise look like bad writing (the Fourth Doctor noticing her hat has returned full of metal); or to make us care about anyone or anything in the comic. You're just beaten about the face with the plot hammer until your head is mush.

There are a number of times when I genuinely believe Mary Bell forgot to write dialog for things she heard characters saying in her head. That's not a convoluted insult; there are literally parts of the comic where it seems like a speech balloon (or three) are missing. You may eventually work out what was should have been happening at certain points retroactively once you've finished reading the entire thing. I attempted to go back and find examples of this, but my imagination filled in the blanks so I can't remember where one happened. I'm also unwilling to re-read it again (fuck you, no) just to prove this point.

Very little is explained to us, we're given almost no screen time to grow attached to any of the ever-growing cast, and the pacing is beyond hectic. One of the problems with fan fiction is that people tend to write stories that wouldn't hold up with original characters in an original setting. Using existing characters is a shortcut, as the part of your audience who are already fans of the canon don't need to you make as much effort to get an emotional connection. That shit goes right out the window when all of your characters are alternate versions that don't even have a shared history with the originals. It's compounded when you don't even tell us who's an alt of who.

Compared to the writing of Doctor Who, this comic was roughly on par with the mess Steven Moffat made in A Good Man Goes To War. It was also less terrible and more coherent than most of the 2012 season, particularly Day of The Moon and The Wedding of River Song. So I am going to have to give credit where credit is due. Mary Bell is writing fan fiction better than the current canon she was writing about (assuming she wasn't hired on their staff).


Content

If I wasn't ignorant of what you were hiding, you wouldn't have anything to hide, wouldja, bitch?

I'm going to have to start this with one positive note as a carry-over from the previous subsection. Although the Second Sensei is holding a sonic screwdriver on the chapter 2 cover, that fucking portable dues ex machina does not appear anywhere in the entirety of the comic. No multi-use plotted-myself-into-a-corner-with-bad-story-planning equivalent shows up in its place either. Mary Bell is still a better author than the hacks currently ruining Doctor Who.

As this comic was openly a piece of fan fiction based on classic Doctor Who, it's tricky calling it unoriginal. However, there are a number of times when she plagiarizes lines. Sometimes it's debatable, like when First Sensei says the same line the First Doctor did ("One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."). Other times I can tell the line was stolen because it makes zero sense in context and was clearly something that looked cool wherever she originally read it (pictured right).

The story suffers from some massive logic errors. Chiefly, if you're going to hurt The Doctor Sensei, why the fuck would you kidnap and torture Daleks? That's like "weakening" Batman by kidnapping the better half of the "Rouges Gallery" and keeping them in a dungeon on the Moon. Sensei's grandson's teachers are so concerned about (issue unknown) that they go looking for Kenji, find him in the TARDIS, and then leave on merry adventures with Sensei while she abandons the same kid they were just looking for behind on Earth... alone... without food or shelter. Then there's the Daleks setting a trap for the Sensei to kill her, yelling to each other to kill her, and then interrogating her about missing Daleks. What? Was it a trap to interrogate her or kill her? You really can't mix the two, at least not if the first thing you pour in is murder.


Author biography

It's been a bit since Bell and the Palcomix guy have done anything with this webcomic. Both are apparently furries though, and Pietro himself has recently been doing furry commissions (knowing that group of people, that means it's furry porn). Go figure. At least they were decent enough to keep that side of their life out of their work.

Conclusion

This is not the worst fan fiction I've ever read. It is some of the worst technical writing, though. My advice would be to try to learn how to create a character before using someone else's, and to learn how to deliver a story before adding to someone else's canon. I might even go so far as to recommend a technical writing course; a lot of this comic suffered from uncommunicated details that would have made it make more sense.

Canon Tie-Ins and Corrections (by Shan)

The direct use of events from the TV show answers what a lot of the (reasons unknown) in the review. That's not a problem with the review it's a problem with the comic; you really shouldn't have to be expected to know the details of a 50 year old TV show for what is nominally supposed to be it's own work, no matter how derivative. It should be able to stand on its own without requiring foreknowledge of the original material to make sense of it in the first place. For example, the TV episodes give the explanation lead up to why the teachers were in the junkyard (and so on) but that's not much help if the events aren't in the comic and you haven't seen the very first episode of Doctor Who from 1963. What's worse is they're referencing episode from all over the place including the 60s, 70s, and 80s rather than concentrating on a single run. A lot of the main plot seems to have been taken from the 20th Anniversary Special: The Five Doctors.

Had the comic kept running, apparently the long term intention was to show all the Sensei analogues to the TV doctors:

The Doctor-Anime pairings are:

  • First Doctor: Genkai
  • Second Doctor: Takemoto Chie
  • Third Doctor: Candice Audrey
  • Fourth Doctor: Marilyn Carry
  • Fifth Doctor: Ilse Burnley
  • Sixth Doctor: Princess Altessa
  • Seventh Doctor: Saotome Nodoka
  • Eighth Doctor: Sakaki (credited as "Sakaki Hiragana")
  • Ninth Doctor: Saotome Ranma (son/daughter of Nodoka)
  • Tenth Doctor: Osaragi Hazumu
  • Eleventh Doctor: Shiho Sannomiya

The first two Senseis are correctly matched with their equivalent Doctor in the above "We are not amused" images above in the earlier part of the review. The third and fourth image pairings are incorrect: the Sixth Sensei is paired with the Third Doctor and the Fifth Sensei with the Fourth Doctor.

Links