Hey. Name's Machaeus, I used to be a fan of Slightly Damned and I'm not anymore.
I plan on only doing the one review, because I really need some closure on my Sunken Cost Fallacy.
Lemme know if this page, and my review, are okay.
My Slightly Damned Review
Slightly Damned is...was...something of a passion for me. You could legitimately call it an obsession. I wrote an RPG using the setting, I wrote more fanfics than you can stick a shake at, and I read it with an almost religious attention. I even donated to the author's Patreon.
And I regret all of it.
Bad webcomics are nothing new. Bad stories are nothing new. But when a perfectly workable setting and story are maligned by real-world political nonsense, nonsensical motivations for villains, and many characters that are made into complete monsters without any redeeming qualities, for no real reason other than "they're a race of bigots"?
I'm not joking.
This review is an attempt to overcome my own Sunken Cost Fallacy, because I still check in on what this once-favorite-storyline has become. It has become my Naruto Shippuden, which should tell you about my terrible taste in anime. With that, I'm Machaeus, and here's my review of Slightly Damned.
As I'm not exactly an art critic, my primary form of dissection will be the plot.
Here's the thing: as I tried to allude, to, Slightly Damned starts off really strong. It's still finding its footing and the art isn't great, but it's 15-year-old pages, what do you expect?
So we meet our protagonist, Rhea Snaketail. She's a Jakkai, an original species based on Raichu, because the author really likes Pokemon. She's dead, much like Yusuke Urameshi. Unlike Yusuke, she's going to the outermost ring of Hell because she was just a jerk, rather than a True Bad Person.
It is there that she meets Buwaro, a Fire Demon and the best boy in any medium. I may abhor the comic now, but I will fight you on this to my dying breath. Buwaro is clumsy, weak, and stupid, but he's very, very kind and doesn't like hurting people. He only hurts Rhea at first because, "That's my job." He quickly fails at it, and this becomes a running theme.
Anyway, we meet Sakido, his older sister, and Iratu, his older brother, here. Sakido is an angsty teen girl who isn't very good at writing, and Iratu is a drunkard. Buwaro and Rhea are our focus, though, and the two have a few adventures and learn about Demonkind a bit. Yes, even Buwaro does. He's that dumb. He has an excuse, trust me.
We learn along the way that Rhea was murdered, and that Buwaro has a very big problem. Rhea steals his Star Pendant, despite his warnings, and – for plot reasons – he goes Berserk. Berserk Demons slaughter everything they can find, until they die of wounds or exhaustion. His sister manages to save him, but it's clearly a close thing, and she's scared witless at first.
There are allusions to the Great War, and Buwaro and Rhea make up. Eventually, though, the pair escape Hell to Rhea's home world of Medius on a column of light, only to find Sakido has been slain by some kind of arrow. The problem? Demons die once, unlike Jakkai, Humans, and other Medians. It's a heartwrenching scene in the snow, and it's really well done, even in the old art style.
We end up near Rhea's old home, in her village's graveyard, and we journey through the woods to Rhea's house. They find a snow rabbit along the way, and end up naming it "Snowy" to distract a very depressed Buwaro from remembering Sakido too hard. We learn that Buwaro's even dumber than we thought and learn that the rabbit can become a very elven-looking girl. Turns out she's an Angel, and we learn a bit about the Great War between Angels and Demons.
Buwaro, being a naive gentleman, tries to defend this Angel girl, whose name is actually Kieri Suizahn (yes the author is a weeb, I am too so shaddap), and after a tense battle, they escape the wrath of the two Demons hunting Kieri by dropping them into a frozen lake. They make their way to a Human town, where Buwaro hides out while Rhea gets him a very, very poor disguise – a pimp suit.
Meanwhile, Kieri looks for her twin brother Kazai and their friend Zahariah Sanjulo, who were in the town, but they're not there now, looking for her to the exact opposite direction she was taken. She gets help from the two friends, Buwaro and Rhea, the next morning. We also learn that her rabbit form is a curse by one of the Twelve Elemental Guardians, specifically Toski, the Rabbit of Water.
So the now-trio join forces, going east towards Riverside City. They find some bandits along the way, we learn Kieri's good with Elemental magic and her sword, and discover that Medius has two moons. My headcanon is that these are Heaven and Hell, but we don't know for sure yet. Regardless, they make it to the new city, and Rhea shares a diary she found in Hell with Kieri – it's the diary of an Angel, one Darius Elexion.
After searching for Kieri's brother Kazai, they come across a boy playing on ice, and we get some character development for Rhea. We also learn about the Trouble Help Center, apparently a group of do-good-for-money businesses where people post about troubles and get help. We learn that the two Angel boys went to St. Curtis, and eventually meet one Heathcliff Sinclair, who threatens the fire-proof purple boy with Fire magic, until Kieri steps in the way.
Eventually, the trio team up with Heathcliff, who is a merchant with a small family, and head south, since the road due east is blocked by a landslide. However, Kieri learns about Buwaro's father, Darius – yes, he adopted three Demons, despite being an Angel. And it only gets worse when she learns about his Star Pendant, which was apparently Darius's. It gets even worse, despite Rhea fixing that problem, because Heathcliff starts being a big enough jerk to go to Real Hell and making Buwaro feel bad for being what he is.
Rhea manages to make him feel better not long after they get to Weyville, their stop right before St. Curtis. By this time, Buwaro – having been a toddler when Darius found him – has learned about his father. He adopts the man's name, and goes to talk to Kieri now that he feels better. He and Kieri are curb-stomped by an Angel with all three Angelic Pendants, also known as a Seraph – yes, they're power sources and insignias of rank – and Heathcliff barely puts a stop to his rampage before they both die.
A couple days later, Buwaro awakens, talks to Kieri, and the two become an item.
We're still talking plot, but it starts to go downhill right about here.
After the two clear the air and become closer, they head on to St. Curtis, where we get more "Buwaro is useless" scenes. Heathcliff continues to be vicious to Buwaro. Buwaro starts learning to read, we learn that Kieri was abused by her mother, and we learn that Angels like good singers and music – and Buwaro just happens to be a naturally-gifted singer.
They get into the city, we get more worldbuilding, and we see Angels and Demons out in the open for the festival that Heathcliff is selling his wares at. After learning that Kazai is in jail, but then learning he was let out, the trio help Heathcliff sell stuff, with more "Buwaro is useless" scenes, and a not-quite-fight with a Wind Demon and an Earth Seraph who isn't being a bigot.
The next Angel we meet is one, though, and Kieri has a bit of a meltdown when he attacks her boyfriend – after the previous attacker, you can't blame her. But due to her own past trauma, she goes overboard, and she ends up breaking down afterwards and hiding. We meet a friendly Guardian in Meeros, the Mortori Bird of Wind (I'm about 99.5% sure the species is original). Buwaro asks about her curse and whether it can be undone, and he directs them to another Water Guardian who's a little nicer than Toski.
Unfortunately, the weather takes a terrible turn, and then the Demons' attack begins with the death of another Guardian, Melli, the Bee of Fire, by a pretender Moku, the Serpent of Earth. (I'm giving them better titles, don't knock me.) Her death causes an explosion of fire and sets the city on edge for that alone – but the Demons' attack makes it worse. They slaughter Medians, but capture Angels alive.
And that Earth Seraph from before is helping them because of retarded reasons. This is, by the way, in spite of the fact that they're committing genocide against her people.
We find Kazai, lose him, and then Kieri gets captured in a desperate attempt by Buwaro to keep her alive. They find out Iratu's at the head of this Gathering, and Iratu decides to be a complete monster to his little brother. Every Demon there does, to be fair, and that's not even counting the fact that they're willing to commit a genocidal sacrifice-ritual to take over Medius because this war has been going on for 300 years.
Our heroes manage to escape, barely, thanks to a set of super-powered potions, and they hide out in the ruins of an old village in the Great Tree of St. Curtis while the city burns, recovering and trying not to get lynched. And then Rhea learns that all three Gods of their world – Gaia of Order, creator of the Angels; Syndel of Chaos, creator of the Demons; and Death of Judgment, creator of Medius on the whole; are all gone.
And it looks quite hopeless at this point. And that's about where we are as of the October 15, 2020.
The first thing we need to talk about is that the artist is constantly adding new elements (not of the magical kind) to her world. While most of these are fine, it's hard to argue that Rhea's friend Jake was always trans/non-binary/whatever-the-tumblrites-make-next, when, background-character-who-got-upgraded or not, we saw no hints of that before.
While normally you have to separate the art from the artist, Chu makes that impossible. Between her constant drawing, on the side, the Demon Army – and especially Iratu and his murderous boyfriend Azurai – as cutesy-wootsey, lovey-dovey, did-nothing-wrong fluffy people, it just gets worse when you consider that the protagonists are the butts of jokes and the Angels as complete monsters worse than the Demons – despite the fact that we know both sides of this Great War slaughtered each other, including families and children, for centuries.
And then we get the fact that Heathcliff is "redeemed" as a character, and starts being nice to him – right before he leaves the party.
In short, Chu is actually pretty good at worldbuilding, and her art is actually quite good, but her story leaves massive amounts to be desired. In fact, that is my primary concern with the comic: the story takes a great concept and falls flat on its face so hard it gave everyone brain damage.
The only antagonist whose motivations make sense, thus far, is that of Denevol, the Seraph who curbstomps the two lovebirds in Weyville. He lost his entire clan save for himself, and he's now desperately trying to slaughter every Demon because of that grief. Consider that this is the most sensible reaction the villains have had thus far.
The antagonists are also well above the heroes in power. They're going to die. And with the weather tied to the Guardians, and possibly the health of the planet, they're not going to die alone. Basically, the only solution to the heroes' problem is a Deus Ex Machina...or a VERY bad end.
The worst part, though, is that no one seems to make any progress. The story is basically half-way over, and Chu doesn't expect it'll take 15 years to complete the other half. That's a very bad sign for this story, unless she's trying to write the next 1984 – and trust me, Chu is no George Orwell. In fact, by her politics, she's everything he opposed.
The problem is that Chu refuses to see these criticisms. She somehow got it into my head that I'm a bigot, perhaps because I don't see forced representation as The Perfect Thing To Do (TM), but I haven't the slightest clue what her beef is other than my ability to get really angry and my inability to express myself perfectly under the best conditions.
Speaking of, if you ever read this, Chu, news flash: we're all human, and humans are flawed. My flaw is my anger, and I have only barely started to realize that being angry IS OKAY. I treat myself the way Kieri's mother treated her for getting angry, which leads to a Tantrum Spiral that would leave most Dwarf Fortress players wincing in sympathy. Think about that for a minute, if you dare. I sure won't hold my breath for an apology.
Slightly Damned is not a webcomic worth reading. Not anymore. To quote the Mysterious Mr. Enter, on his review of Family Guy's Seahorse Seashell Party: "It started out decently, and had a certain charm to it. But over the years, it got BAD."
I wish that weren't the case, subjectively or otherwise. I really wish I could still enjoy it. But I can't. I still read the new pages, just like I did for the Fourth Shinobi War Arc of Naruto Shippuden. It's for the same reasons, too: because I want to see how bad the train wreck becomes. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if we get a Kaguya Moment here.
I once said that if Chu really doesn't like this comic that much, then she should just dump it. She clearly likes writing stupid jokes and making people non-traditional sexualities, rather than writing serious topics like war and taking them seriously. It's like Twilight talking about Abortion, or Captain Planet talking about AIDS; she's just not talented enough.
And honestly, that really is a shame.
Art: 2/5 > 4/5 The art gradually gets much better. The author did redraw a few old pages, so if there's some jarring disconnect in style, that's what it is.
Story: 4/5 > 1/5 I've flushed better stories than what this becomes. Between identity politicking and villains that can't be stopped by anything short of Deus Ex Machina, expect even fanfics to be better.
Characters: 4/5 > 2/5 As the original review stated, they're really not that bad. The problem is they don't evolve at all as the story progresses.
Dedication: ???/5 I honestly don't know what to rate this one. Yes, it's over 900 pages long, but so is FATAL.
Overall: 2/5 There's worse out there. I know there is. I don't even want to get into what I know exists. I just wish I had more hope for this series and its setting.