No Need for Bushido

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Original review author(s): BTIsaac (based on the review by Yaoi Huntress Earth)
Webcomic Name: No Need for Bushido
Author: Alex Kolsar and Joseph Kovell
Start Date: 2002
End Date: Ongoing
Genre: Adventure-Comedy
Defining Flaw: Comes off as unoriginal.
Things that are fucking terrible about this webcomic: On rare occasions, the art or the writing suffers occasional drops in quality, leading to some really ugly pages, or serious wall banger moments.
Things that aren't terrible but could use improvement: The art has visibly improved over the years.
Summary: Decent art, mediocre story. Attempts to parody the Jidai Geki genre but often falls flat due to overuse of clichés, anime references and anachronisms, as well as frequent failed jokes.


Rating Summary

Art: Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png
Starts out as mediocre at best, but quickly improves. Right now, the visuals are top quality, but the line art could still use some work.
Storyline: Wiki.pngWiki.png
Generic Jidai Geki plot, with most of the genre's clichés involved.
Characters: Wiki.pngWiki.png
Two dimensional character archetypes generally used in fighting anime. Most barely develop a personality of their own, but there are a few interesting and memorable ones.
Miscellaneous Details: Wiki.png
A large number of clichés and anime references, are forced into the comic, to the point where they tend to overshadow everything else. There are also several points where the comic suffers a serious drop in quality.
Overall: Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png
Not a really bad comic, in fact it's halfway decent, but it could use more originality. It's parodist nature tends to fall flat, and could do better without it.



Background

I started reading the comic about the time it briefly joined Keenspot, and pretty much dropped it for unrelated reasons about the same time it left. The comic was originally reviewed on this Wiki by Yaoi Huntress Earth, and while the review brought up valid points, it kept beating the same details while failing to address the comic's other, more serious flaws. I decided to read the comic a second time and adjust the review accordingly.

Story and Plot

The story starts out with Ina Senshin, the daughter of a Japanese noble, who runs away from home to avoid an arranged marriage. When her inexperience gets her into trouble with a group of bandits she is rescued by a wandering samurai called Yorikiro Wataro. Yori decides to tag along with Ina, despite overwhelming protests from the later. After being attacked by a group of ninjas, they are saved by the Taoist priest Cho Teko, and are eventually joined by vengeful wandering warrior, Kenta Daisuke, who wields what is most likely the biggest sword in existence.

It is later revealed that Yori was the guy that Ina was arranged to marry but he too decided to run away, because he refuses to play a part in the plans of his power hungry father. Now Yori seeks to stop his father from taking over the country, and is constantly chased by ninjas and other assassins his father sent after him. In true anime comedy fashion, Ina and Yori are actually beginning to like each other, but it still takes a long time for Ina to go from the whiny princess she was introduced as, to a more likeable character.

In the meantime, Ina's father is kidnapped by ninjas, while on the way to negotiate with Yori's father, Hirotomo, and his disappearance causes the tensions between the two clans to escalate.

Overall, if there's something you've seen a lot in Jidai Geki themed anime or live action movie, There's a good chance it will show up in the comic.

Downfall

The comic never really had a downfall, if anything, it has gotten better over time. However, there were at least four instances that one way or another were badly executed, two of which being the comic's absolute rock bottom in terms of execution and concept respectively.

The first one would be the encounter between Yorikiro and Kenta, which was supposed to pay tribute to the duel between Kenshin and Sanosuke of Ruroni Kenshin fame, suffered from a contrived setup, anticlimactic conclusion, and overall sketchy and messy art. The second was the conclusion of the fight between Yorikiro and Murasaki, which seemingly had Yori killed off for drama, by a (back then) nameless comic relief villain, and served as a framing device for a contrived flashback.

Art review

The art starts out as mediocre at best, but greatly improves over the past few years. Currently it's one of the better drawn webcomics on the internet. The visuals are pleasant to look at, and the coloring has shows evidence of effort on the artist's part. Unfortunately the line art still needs improvement, especially the stronger facial expressions that tend to look very goofy.

During the process of improving however, the art suffered some serious drops in quality. In the above mentioned encounter between Yori and Kenta for example, the art got a lot worse than in the previous comics. Not only was it terribly sketchy, the pages has a large frequency of compression artifacts. In a much later scene, namely a flashback to the second duel between Hirotomo and Genchu, the art becomes just plain ugly, due to the excessive amount of detail, the emphasis on teeth and beards, and water that looks suspiciously like urine.

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The comic could have done without the American slang as well.


Writing review

As mentioned earlier, the plot, is rife with clichés. While clichés tend to be inevitable in parodies, the humor fails most of the times. Speaking humor, the comic is filled with anachronisms, from hot-dog stands, to references to Canada, blond ninjettes, that sort of stuff. But the most blatant examples are doubtlessly Matrix, and Lex, two characters who look like they were pulled straight out of a cyberpunk comic. Their actual purpose and the reason behind their unusual attire is so far unexplained.

The plot is not entirely linear, and often switches between the main story line that follows the central cast and the side threads, like Ina's father's failed attempts to escape the ninjas, or the Wataro and Senshin clans preparing for the upcoming war, or the wager going on between Matrix and Lex, the specifics of which are as of yet unknown.

Like the art, the writing had it's own issues. There are at least three sequences which were very badly written. Once again I bring up unprofessionally done encounter between Yori and Ken as an example of bad setup and execution, starting out with Yori being forced to sleep outside the Inn for no other reason then Ina being a bitch to him, leading to him meeting Kenta, and ending abruptly, just before the climax, when Yori mentions the name of his master, in a passing statement The second sequence was Yori's above mentioned fake death. Back then, Murasaki was little more than a random nameless drunkard, not the type of character who usually defeats the hero. The circumstances of Yori's defeat, the later explanation of the workings of the trick sword, Yori's ridiculous memories of the comic's past events and the flash back that came out of nowhere, made this chapter the comic's rock bottom. Finally, there was a minor instance of the kabuki play the crew takes part in, which was supposed to be a point of convergence for several side plots. Unfortunately the play itself was unnecessary, and the plot development that took place could've used a better context. Ina's discovery of Yori's real identity for example was one major cop-out.

Characters

There isn't much to say about the characters. Yori is the generic shonen hero, who at one point acts like a bumbling moron, but conveniently becomes heroic and competent the moment things get real dangerous, only to revert back to his clueless self when the situation is resolved. Of all the main cast, he's probably the most two dimensional, and for a protagonist, this is unforgivable.

Ina was probably going to be the typical tough girl, but sadly, due to a common trend to miss the border between strong female character and insufferable uber bitch, she became the least likeable member of the cast, always whining, complaining, and forcing the man who once saved her life, to sleep in the rain, which is very likely to kill a person in real life. Shortly after Ken joins the group though, the author began to see the problems with Ina's character, and started improving it. While she became more likeable over time, there were still times when she would revert back to her old self. Recent developments revealed that she's also a skilled tactician, though the revelation was sudden and hard to swallow with her track record in mind.

Cho is the dime a dozen blind warrior (a staple of the genre), and probably the most competent fighter in the cast. He's also the primary source of comic relief, with his mind numbing sayings, freakish mindset, and large number of running gags he gets caught up in. Probably the most iconic character in the comic, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. One way or another, his character is far better executed than Yori's.

Kenta is a mash up of two different character archetypes, that don't really mix well. He's the homicidal maniac and the avenger all in one. On one hand, he's almost perpetually drunk, robs bystanders for money, busts up other people's property, and brutally massacres anyone who picks a fight with him, on the other hand, he's motivated by revenge for the destruction of his family, he's faithful to his companions even if he doesn't wish to show it, has a strong sense of honor, and is also cultured, and shows great fondness of the performing arts. Some of these traits go well together, but it's impossible to have one character carry them all without creating the impression of him breaking character in every chapter. Somewhat the opposite of Yori's problem: he ended up way too complex to be believable.

There's not much to say about the rest of the cast. Chances are, if you've seen a character in far east themed media a dozen times, you will see them here: The wise uncle, the Chinese monks, the scantly clad ninjettes, the mad warlord with his bloodthirsty general and backstabbing son, and the elite warriors the hero must face one by one, each possessing unique skills which may seem familiar to Shonen Manga fans (including a SECOND blind warrior, and an illusionist with an evil eye); Lex and Matrix are probably the only ones who stand out, but they are a different story altogether.

Author biography

I don't know too much about the writer, but it was the artist Alex who made the step-by-step tutorials and YouTube videos that eventually thought me how to use Photoshop properly.

They also seem to be good friends with the creators of Zap!, another webcomic with a similar problem of being oversaturated with unoriginal content.

Conclusion

The comic does little more then retell a story what many of us have heard a few times. It could be a decent serious work, but with so little originality to offer, it comes off as a rip-off. It could work well as a parody, but much of the humor fails, and recently it's been gradually declining. The presentation is good most of the time, but it has it's bad moments.

As I said before, No Need for Bushido is not really a bad comic. It has good art (in recent strips mainly), and is an enjoyable light reading. If you're familiar with fighting anime and Jidai Geki, it has nothing new to offer. Whether that changes for the better in the future, only time will tell.