A Webcomic Recommendation
The internet is filled with webcomics. There are one-shot joke ones and plot ones; beautifully drawn ones and ones based on stick figures. There is also a wide variety of quality when it comes to webcomics. While there are great ones of all varieties, my personal favorites are usually ones with high quality art and high quality story. If you enjoy traditional graphic novels and you haven’t checked out some of these then you are missing out on the newest home of the media. One of my favorite webcomics is Girl Genius. It is one of the best examples of the high quality of works you can find on the internet.
Girl Genius is a two-time winner of the Hugo for Best Graphic Story and it definitely deserves it. The plot focuses on the adventures of the titular girl genius, Agatha, as she uses her new-found talents and figures out where she fits in the world. Character is one of the best features of the story and Agatha is not only lovable but interesting to watch. She is not alone in this though because each character is bursting with personality. From Gil, the romantic lead to Zola, Agatha’s current nemesis, every character will make you laugh and draw you in. Girl Genius has a fun and fascinating cast which will keep you reading to find out what they will do next.
Aside from the characters, the setting is one of the stories best features. The location of the story seems to be an alternate version of Victorian Europe. This alternate version may come across initially as steampunk but it is slightly more complex then that. While it takes much of its aesthetics from steampunk (gears, brass), the powers of the Sparks seems to extend beyond the realm of what is possible in a normal steampunk setting. Sparks are basically mad scientists and they make up a large portion of the cast. They are each bestowed with a power called the spark. They use this to make anything from a classic ray-gun to biological constructs to performing nearly magical feats. Only those with the spark can complete such projects. The magical nature of their talents has caused the creator themselves, the Foglios, to refer to it as Gaslamp Fantasy instead of steampunk.
The art of Girl Genius is highly stylized but good. If you have ever seen the Brawl set Club Foglio or any of these magic cards, then you have seen Phil Foglio’s work. This stylized nature not only makes the characters distinct but makes it easy to understand the emotions they are feeling via their expressions. As well as being stylized, a lot of detail is put in to each frame. This makes everything look more interesting and adds personality to the world around the characters. As well as having high quality art, after the first volume (which is in black and white) the coloring is also top-notch. Though it has been done by many people over the years, each has brought a vivid use of color to a series which could be overwhelmed with browns and brass. The coloring job emphasizes the personality present in the world and the characters, ensuring that nothing ever appears dull in the world of Girl Genius. The stylized art and bright coloring make Girl Genius one of the best looking webcomics out there.
If you want to start enjoying Girl Genius, I recommend starting at the beginning which is linked above. Even if you don’t enjoy the whole weekly updates thing and prefer to read them chapter by chapter like a book, you will have nine years of updates to read through before you reach that point. You can also attempt to rent or purchase the published book form if you have an aversion to reading things on the internet. No matter how you read it, Girl Genius is a great piece of graphic fiction which I recommend wholeheartedly.
An Anime and Manga Recommendation
I’m a fan of anime and manga in general but for a series to become a favorite of mine, it needs to stand out from the crowd in one way or the other. Kuragehime also known as Princess Jellyfish is one of those that quickly went from being recommended by a friend to one of my favorite series in recent memory. It is a josei series with a tone that is two parts hilarious and one part heartwarming. Kuragehime is about an all girl apartment building packed full of the most awkward nerds you’ll ever meet. They refer to themselves as the amars which is the Japanese word for nun. Each of the girls has a different obsession from trains to kimonos and each of the girls is brimming with personality. Having a show where the majority of the characters are otaku is an uncommon feature that helps Kuragehime stick out.
Though the general group of the nerdy girls is interesting, the interactions of the two main characters are what will keep you watching. The first main character you meet is Tsukimi. She is the youngest of the amars and her obsession is jellyfish. She is awkward, creative and has no self confidence. One day she meets the second main character, a trendy girl named Kuranosuke. Though normally the amars don’t talk to stylish people, Kuranosuke helps Tsukimi rescue a jellyfish from a pet store, which causes Tsukimi to be slightly more friendly towards her then she normally would be. Kuranosuke takes this opening and runs with it, refusing to leave Tsukimi or the amars alone. Kuranosuke is an impulsive, stubborn dreamer and as the amars and particularly Tsukimi warm up to her, her influence causes their reclusive existence to be turned upside down. From trying to save their beloved apartment building to having their first encounters with love, Kuranosuke’s friendship pushes them out of their comfort zone and in to the world.
Kuragehime stands out from the crowd with more then just its unusual supporting cast and interesting main characters. Despite the plot revolving around the general concept of a trendy girl befriending nerds, the main focus isn’t about her making them all “beautiful”. Sure, Kuranosuke does give them makeovers but this is mostly due to her liking to play with clothes and hoping to give the amars more confident through the usage of these clothes. These trendy clothes are portrayed and even described as armor for the amars to use in their battles on the front lines of real life. Kuranosuke doesn’t think they need to change. She thinks they are beautiful the way they are and even yells at her old friends for mocking their attire. She appreciates the amars for who they are and doesn’t think they need to become stylish which is a refreshing take on the makeover story this series seems like it is destiny to become.
On this blog, I focus on character and plot most of the time so it may come as a surprise that one of my favorite features of Kuragehime isn’t writing related but is in fact the art. Every frame of the anime and panel of the manga blows me away artistically. It is not only detailed but also very pretty. Each of the amars is drawn with personality which makes them distinct and cute despite their awkwardness. Kuranosuke is beautiful and interesting to look at due to her constantly changing hair and outfits. Tsukimi is attractive even before Kuranosuke makes her over and the jellyfishes are surprisingly elegant. On top of looking great, all of the characters have vivid and expressive faces that get their emotions across. Kuragehime is one of the best looking animes I’ve ever watched.
To begin your Kuragehime experience, I recommend that you first watch the anime then once you are frustrated and disappointed with the rushed ending of the anime, read the manga. The stuff that isn’t just portrayed completely in the anime starts on chapter 20 but if you really enjoyed the anime, rereading the events in manga form can be a fun way to relive your positive experience. I truthfully recommend this series to everyone and hope that some of you will give it a try.