Tsubomi Blue Dreams
|Original review author:||Norad Bush|
|Webcomic name:||Tsubomi Blue Dreams (Hosting site Smackjeeves has been shut down.)|
|Start Date:||February 1, 2008|
|End Date:||February 24, 2012|
|Defining Flaw:||Yet another manga fantasy story, derivative to the point of inducing pain/hallucinations. On the bright side, at least there’s mermaids instead of elves.|
The first time I saw Disney’s The Little Mermaid, I was six years old and hardly interested in some stupid, girly romance story. However, I had a domineering older sister who would commandeer the VCR and force me to watch it again and again and again. I know that fucking movie so well I can practically quote it by heart, and if anyone calls me gay because of it, I will cite the exact same explanation of every manhandled altar boy ever: "I’m not gay. I was FORCED."
That said, when I happened upon Tsubomi Blue Dreams in one of my many internet travels, some traumatized little voice in me cried out, compelled to read this thing. Perhaps I was trying to understand my sister and her terrible taste in movies. Perhaps I wanted to believe The Little Mermaid movie wasn't so bad when interpreted through a fresh set of eyes. Perhaps I just wanted you all to suffer just like I did back then by cramming what was likely a bad webcomic down your throats. Whatever the case was, I read through this thing and I've come back with the following conclusions:
- It's bad.
- I hate you all.
- ... But not as much as my sister. Which reminds me, does anyone know of any internet services that can send fish heads through the mail for birthdays and stuff? …No reason.
Tsubomi Blue Dreams: helping me to repeat the cycle of bad childhood memories since 2008.
I’m not sure if I ever had hope for this piece in the beginning. I think I began to read it anticipating terribleness, and that’s what I got. Her front cover is that of a book. Given that this is a webcomic, why am I looking at a wraparound like I’m reading a book? This is the internet, people. A webcomic can’t entirely be treated the same way as a traditional graphic novel, mainly because I can’t hold the internet in my hand like a book with a spine and a back cover. It’s not physically possible.
Next, we are treated to a Photoshop stamping extravaganza, followed by a filtered Google Image Search photo, followed by beautiful mermen with names as flouncy as their hair. Oh yes, we're off to a stellar start. However, things really take a nosedive around the second, more web-friendly cover, when things start to get REEEEAL EMO.
That’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Gone EMO. Fuckin' hell, the only reason I didn't open fire on a crowded shopping center after hearing that was the fact that I had been exposed to the material so many times before that I'm now desensitized to it. I guess everything happens for a reason.
Story and Plot
To be fair, the storyline is not quite so emo after I started getting into it. It borrows a bit from the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale in that we have our heroine, Kyra, who falls in love with a merman but dives into the ocean in an attempt to kill herself after he sees her beloved Aiden (hurl) with another woman. However, in a departure from the original fairytale, she’s the human who transforms into a mermaid to be with him, so when she throws herself into the ocean, she doesn't die. Instead, she wakes up to some other gorgeous merman, Telos, who’s dark and brooding and just waiting to sweep her off her feet (or lack thereof).
We find out this tall (I’m assuming), dark and handsome merman is a royal guard who’s doing double-duty hiding his younger half brother from other mer-people who are trying to kill him. However, Telos must be the worst bodyguard ever because he proceeds to tell Kyra all about how he’s protecting his half brother, instead of, you know, NOT telling her in case she may actually be an enemy spy or something, which she could be for all he knows since they just met.
But it’s all good. See, Kyra is a sweet, darling angel who is the victim in all this, and she’s extra lovable
and tastes great with salt and lemon butter and pretty.
Meanwhile, Kyra’s beau, Aiden (puke), remains on the shore and, get this, I promise you totally didn't see this coming, he became human to be with Kyra! Also, the woman he was spotted with isn't really his true love. She took his lips by force and he’s still in love with Kyra.
Oh snap, I just blew your fucking mind, didn't I??
Sarcasm aside, the story is not very original and its characters aren't very well written. Really, the only part that shows any promise is Telos’ tortured relationship with his family. Since he is the bastard son of a king, he despises his father’s legitimate family. However, he is forced to compromise his feelings when he is served with the duty of protecting his younger half brother (however inept he may be at that). That’s pretty much all the positive I have to say about the story, so on with the art.
King tries her little heart out to play with colors and give us a dazzling underwater world to look at, but she comes up quite short. The artwork overall is very amateurish and riddled with anatomy issues. Why do all the humans and mer-people have four fingers on each hand? Why is the fourteen-year-old boy completely ripped and bishonen-looking like every other mer-dude? Why does King not think this is creepy? Why does Kyra look cock-eyed here? Why does King insist on drawing mouths cut into the face when seen in profile when it looks so very ridiculous? Why, why, why indeed.
Yes, there are many problems with the artwork, and I believe they may be attributed to King’s slavish adherence to the anime style. Look weeaboos, an anatomy mistake is an anatomy mistake any way you draw it. Just because manga artists repeat this crap over and over again doesn't mean that they must be mimicked mindlessly. If one learns to draw people from anime, he or she is not really learning to draw people so much as imitating a bunch of angles. Don’t do this, artists. Take some freaking life drawing classes and get your anatomy right.
Also, King doesn't seem to know much about lettering as she constantly drowns the reader in walls of text. How many fucking times do I have to say this? Telling a sequential art story is about balancing the art with words. The writing should be quick, and to the point and let the pictures do the talking. If you're making walls of text, that means the writer either needs to shut the fuck up or the artist needs to pony up some more artwork to even it all out. Otherwise, King, if you wanted to inundate the reader with this much text, you would've written a novel instead.
Aside from that, the background and character designs are more-or-less lifted from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and most shoujo anime. Kyra basically looks like Inu-Yasha’s Kagome meshed with Little Mermaid’s Ariel, except where seashells provide modesty on Ariel, starfish are in their place on Kyra.
Also, Aiden (vomit) has the standard-issue bishonen look, complete with pointy face and long, fluffy hair. The only major character designs that aren’t completely cribbed from Disney or anime are the designs for Telos and his brother Tai. Even though they too have symptoms of the bishonen virus (i.e. long, flowy hair, pointy faces, incredibly muscular yet lean physiques, etc.), at least King makes an effort to mix it up, giving Tai a koi-inspired tail and Telos some corn rows, because he’s so dark and brooding and so very street. Because, you know, the seas have streets too. Or something. I don’t know.
King is not only guilty of unoriginal background and character design. She gets lazy from time to time, relying on cheap Photoshop stamping techniques rather than actually drawing the backgrounds out. This isn't as big an offense as outright copy-paste, but it’s just as groan-worthy every time I see it. Seriously, King, will it kill you to draw your backgrounds out?
Interestingly, the answer is no. The odd thing about all this lackluster art is that Vanitra King’s DeviantArt gallery contains material that is noticeably better than this. Sure, the obvious explanation is that she has improved over time, but if one goes straight to the last page of the comic as of this writing, that improvement has not translated to the comic at all.
The art is amateurish and derivative, but the writing isn't that much better. Though, saying the writing is better than the art is like saying getting hit with a hammer hurts less than getting shot. Sure, this may be true, but neither one is all that desirable. The writing is loaded with wishful thinking and anime archetypes, but quite possibly one of the most abominable things about this story is this:
Kyra is a Mary Sue.
Imperative to the standard terrible romance story is the self-insert Mary Sue. Megatokyo's got it. Dominic Deegan's got it. Every fucking terrible shoujo anime has it, and so does just about every awful romance novel on the shelf of your local grocery store. The main character of the story is a desirable woman who says all the right things at all the right times and every little thing she does is magic (wee oh-oh). Kyra is no exception to this rule. She’s wonderful and sweet, and not one but two bishonen are hot for her sashimi tail. She also manages to win arguments with paper-thin logic. Finally, she’s so damned appealing that Telos pours his heart out to her, including information that could compromise his own brother’s life, even though he’s known her for only the better part of a minute.
Also indicative of the Mary Sue complex is how everyone talks about Kyra, even when she’s not around. In the scene where we finally get Aiden’s (spew) side of the story, he keeps gushing about how much he just LURVES Kyra and how he’s so depressed without her and how he actually changed for her and whatever. I suppose it’s not out of place, considering he had just been spotted inadvertently kissing a witch (that’s not hyperbole; she’s really a witch), but it doesn't make it any less annoying.
Everybody who Kyra meets just gushes over her because she’s wonderful and perfect. This is not good character writing, so why the hell do comic makers do this so often? They do it because their stories are wish-fulfillment fantasies, and in their fantasies, they are the wonderful, perfect heroines who always get the guy. Except no, this isn't how good writing works. Characters are supposed to be human, so they should have flaws. Not everyone should like Kyra (witch excepted), certainly not to the point of pouring out life-threatening secrets to her the way Telos does.
In fact, everyone here is good. The only character who's morally questionable is the witch. Aiden (upchuck) never had bad intentions; he only wanted to be with Kyra, but he accidentally got caught getting kissed by a witch. Telos comes off rough and hard, but only because he has a dark, tragic past. Everyone’s so wonderful I could spit.
I can see where this entire story is going. It’s all going to come down to which eligible bachelor Kyra will choose. They’re both SOOOO wonderful! It will be so hard to choose!
And it’ll be even harder for me to care once it happens.
Vanitra King evidently has a Bachelor’s in animation according to her portfolio site’s about page. This worries me, because anyone with a four-year degree in animation should know better than to make all of the mistakes she’s making with her webcomic.
I don’t know much about Vanitra King’s personality. She seems gracious enough, but I’ve yet to find anyone who gives her work any meaningful criticism, so I don’t know if she handles that well or not. I did find something very curious in her DeviantArt profile. She lists her favorite cartoon characters as Sesshomaru, Sylvester the cat, Yue, and Sephiroth.
- Cartoon cat
Yeah, that’s an odd combination.
I believe Vanitra King had the best of intentions when putting this comic of hers together, but she doesn't seem to get any inspiration outside of Disney or anime, so what we’re seeing here is just regurgitated material. I don’t get the feeling that she’s put much of herself into this piece other than how much of a weeaboo she is.
On the other hand, I now have a new appreciation for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. To give credit where it’s due, the artwork was excellent and the score won an Academy Award.
I’m still sending my sister some fish heads for her birthday.
UPDATE: Hosting site Smackjeeves is gone, and with it this webcomic.