|Original review author:||Yaoihuntressearth|
|Webcomic name:||Unicorn Jelly|
|Author:||Jennifer Diane Reitz|
|Start Date:||September 5, 2000|
|End Date:||April 14, 2003|
|Defining Flaw:||The creator's ego just gets in the way of everything.|
|Things that are fucking terrible about this webcomic:||Horrible art; confusing storyline filled with pretentiousness; lack of character development especially when more are added.|
|Things that aren't terrible but could use improvement:||Some thought is put into the pseudo-science and the side strips that explain things are good idea.|
|Summary:||In an attempt to be something bigger than it is, Unicorn Jelly is just a confusing, pretentious mess.|
I used to be a huge fan of Kisake (a computerized paper doll program) and the Otaku World website, and when I heard that one of the head honchos, Jennifer Diane Reitz, was coming out with a comic, I was interested. I really wanted to like it, but it came off too much of a cutesy anime wanna-be and I stopped reading. A year later, I found out what a loon she really was via the Portal of Evil as well as how dramatic she can get, especially when John Solomon did a review of one of her works. Since I'm pressed with the amount of space I can do for this review, I'll skip the phoney JDR response I had in my original review and get to the point.
Story and Plot
Unicorn Jelly is supposed to be a philosophical and metaphorical science fiction story with a definitive beginning and ending. It starts of as a cutesy wanna-be manga about a witch named Lupiko and her monster companion, Unicorn Jelly, a Jelly with a unicorn horn and tail. After Uni saves the life of a little girl named Chou by accidentally transforming her into a hyper intelligent crystalline hybrid, the story throws in Lupiko's scheming aunt, the council of witches, and alchemists keeping the truth of their world ending a secret, and the survivors trying to survive on their new home and along with the jelly creatures they discover. Toss in some massive scientific explanation, failed attempts at being philosophical (magic vs logic), and too many characters with too little development, and these potentially interesting concepts are ruined.
The early strips were a bunch of ultra-cutesy wanna-be anime stuff with Lupiko and Uni, and later, Chou. Sure, it was annoying, but it goes into a downward spiral in an attempt to be an epic, philosophical tale that could kick the crap out of Dune later on. While it’s not impossible to start off silly and then do a 360 into mature epicville (Dave Sim of Cerebus fame succeeded in this before he went nuts), UJ fails at it.
It’s normal for any writer to want to be recognized as the next Harlan Ellison, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, or whoever is one of the great minds of your chosen genre, but we eventually learn that we can’t be a clone of our idols and have to find our own voice. That and being smart is like being cute or a badass: the real ones don’t need to prove anything because they already are and there’s no amount of effort that can be used without looking like a poser.
JDR is quite the living drama herself. A trans woman with massive daddy issues, she lied on her psyche test to get the gender reassignment surgery and realized that she made a huge mistake. Since then, she has taken her lazy entitlement issues out on her husband from her group marriage, especially their husband Stephen when he was too busy doing his job (as the sole bread winner) to do all the programming for her video game, Kokoro Wish.
In an attempt to be retro, JDR uses DPaint2 (an old Dos program) to do all the art. This leads to melty-faced people, eyes that look like licorice jellybeans or anuses, dialogue that dominates the entire panel, confusing background "screentones", and enough naked little girls to make Bleedman proud (if you’re wondering, Lupiko counts since she’s still in her teens). And when her characters cry, God, they look hideous.
This is probably the part where JDR or one of her fans will scream that I should use my imagination when telling the characters apart, but let me tell you something: webcomics and Atari graphics are not the same thing. At least Atari had an excuse for their pixels looking like a child’s drawings. There are supposed to be about three races (elves, orcs, and humans), but God forbid you can tell the races apart since each one is the same crudely-drawn mess as the others and you hardly see examples of the other races.
I’ll give JDR credit for putting thought into the physics and science of her world and the cute idea of having side segments that explain it, but they often come across as boring, and even with these segments, the comic is often bogged down with mass scientific explanation at the expense of the story. Not to mention some of the ideas were not very good to begin with, like the bosom sow and the fact that unicorn piss is what made the title character into what he is today.
The characters aren’t any better. It’s not that they crawled from the depths of “The Big Book of Unlikable Console RPG Stereotypes”. They’re just dull and uninteresting. Not to mention many of the characters tend to have personality changes and behaviors that don’t seem to match the bios. Thilia is supposed to be irrelevant and witty, but I didn’t really see any instances or lines of dialogue that betray this. It’s like JDR is using the bios as an excuse to not have to write more for the characters than she wants to. Combined with the horrid art, it becomes harder and harder to tell the characters apart later in the series as she piles more of them in.
According to the bios, these are supposed to be wonderful, three-dimensional characters, but far too often they come off as story props. Take Chou, who’s supposed to be the coldly logical Spock-like character but comes across more as the player in a table top game that read the adventure module ahead of time and is giving out the important clues to the other players and there’s not a damn thing the DM can do about it except attempt to fudge some dice rolls in hope that the character gets mauled by a Kobald. Or Texto, a delightfully sadistic agent who loves screwing with the heads of everyone around him and for a while was the only character I liked. He slowly degrades into wuss territory when JDR has the brilliant idea of turning him good. A man who finds great joy in causing the suicides of grieving mothers and turning piss-filled Jellies into desserts isn’t going to mope about never truly knowing love and hate or accept the request of someone who killed his partner in crime just because he suddenly respects him.
She even tries to put in transsexual and gay male characters and it doesn't do a thing for me. I know, I know, the world is going to explode because I didn’t like something that had man-smut in it. I may be a pervert, but even I have standards. While it’s nice that JDR included a gay couple, it wasn’t handled very well. Even the few gay people I know don’t act all cutesy and 1950's domestic in their spare time. Hell, even those ultra girly mangas where the guys look like chicks and weep more than a five-year-old who just found out that Mr. Hooper died are more manly.
And don’t worry, lady-lovers. JDR has found a way to ruin your fantasies as well. While she thankfully never drew a side scene of Lupiko and Thilia doing the poorly drawn deed of darkness, it’s wonderfully tossed in with no warning to any of us. Lupiko suddenly gains feelings for the elf when there has been no evidence of any kind of romantic tension and the two hardly talked to each other before. And before anyone starts screaming "love at first sight", we’re not even given that. Come on, JDR. You can just draw some crudely doodled hearts over Lupiko’s head as she gazes at the old-looking witch and ties her to that ship.
Overall, Unicorn Jelly had aspirations that were bigger than the ability of its creator with a healthy dose of her own pride getting the better of her. Even with its complex, fruit-flavored layers, it comes across more like it's trying to cram too much stuff that has little substance in the first place that it ends up confusing, rushed, and lacking in areas.