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Revolutionary Girl Utena: Series Review

Mangaka: Chiho Saito, BE-PAPAS
Copyright:  1997/2017(Japan)  2017(English Translation)
Genre: Shoujo, Action, Fantasy, Shoujo Ai

Setting the Scene: skip this if you just want the review!

*I just spent hours on this review and nearly had it complete: and it was all lost when I hit a button to that accidentally took me “back” to the page I was previously viewing. I absolutely hate this short cut (I need to disable it.)

But the show must go on! I hope I’m able to recapture the essence of my first, lost review, in spite of being vastly disheartened! Sob for me! Weep and gnash your teeth! Oh, woe what a loss!

At least I’ve had some practice, eh? Let’s get to it!*

I was first introduced to Revolutionary Girl Utena quite a few years ago. It was long before I’d ever heard of Steven Universe. Actually, it may have been before Steven Universe even was a thing. Why am I talking about Steven Universe? This is an Utena review!

Well, because this series, at least the anime, was very inspirational to Steven Universe‘s creator, Rebecca Sugar.

Okay, the above images seem like circumstantial evidence, but Sugar has actually created fan works of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The following can be found on her Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

I do not own this, please visit Rebecca Sugar’s Tumblr and/or Twitter!

In addition to fan work, there are many themes in Steven Universe complimenting, and even expanding upon, those found in the story of Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya. The ties of love, loyalty, honor, forgiveness, trust, and perseverance. The question of identity, gender roles, and gender stereotypes. Long before the ground breaking series of Steven Universe, Revolutionary Girl Utena shined a rose-tinted light upon gender stereotypes, breaking free of traditional roles and heralding forth a new type of heroine: one that is not bound by her gender, but rather one exemplifing the strengths, and weakness, of humanity (one could write a whole essay on this alone!)

Having first seen the anime, and then experiencing the manga, it’s easy to see what Rebecca Sugar liked about this series. And while it took me a second look at Utena, I think my experience with both stories have enriched each other. If you like non-traditional manga, regardless of whether you’re male, female, both, or non-binary, there’s much to be gained from reading this series.

*Before I get into the actual review, I want to impart the following upon readers.*

I am reviewing this series through Western eyes. I cannot speak on behalf of the Japanese audience. I cannot, and will not say, the views that I take are accepted within the Japanese culture (on the contrary, there are many struggles faced by the LGBT community abroad, to say nothing of the U.S.) To coin a phrase by Bob Dylan: “I can only think of terms of me.”

I am coming at this as (formerly) a rural Midwesterner, straddling the divide between “Generation X” and “Millennial.” And I guess I’m also coming from the view point of one who, although technically pan-sexual, does not really identify as part of the LGBT community.

What I mean to say is, although I feel attraction for whomever I feel attraction to, I’ve fortunately never felt the brunt of stereotypes and discrimination, at least not due to my sexual preferences. There was plenty more things to pick at! Oh trust me, I had my own trial by fire: it just didn’t have to do with gender or sexuality.

At the same time, I both empathize and sympathize with the LGBT rights moevement, and have found much inspiration, and well, identification with stories such as Utena. For me, I realize that any interpretation is going to be informed by my culture and upbringing. And here is no exception.

What I love about Utena is that like myself, she embodies both the feminine and masculine. She feels attractions for both, but is not defined by that attraction (and to be clear, I do identify as female.) And her love of both Touga and Himemiya is treated as both natural, and normal. No one, aside from perhaps those running the schools, really takes qualms with having homosexual crushes.

I understand this is a concept from shouji ai, and that at times girls are depicted as crushing on other girls, however, I want to make it clear that I do not know how prominent or accepted this is in the actual Japanese culture. I just like how, coming at this manga from my scope, sexuality, love, and gender, are handled very naturally and without a big “to-do.”

In other words, taking the manga outside of cultural context, one of its messages is “love is love.”

And that’s something I can jive with. Be excellent to each other! Enjoy the review.

A prominent sentiment within Utena, stated in Volume 1, echoed in Volume 2 (Saito 2, 2017).

Summary: Potential spoilers

Utena Tenjou is a teen being raised by her aunt following the untimely death of her parents. Following their passing, a young, grieving Utena nearly drowns when she slips and falls toward a rushing canal. She is saved by a rose-scented, mysterious prince, who imparts upon her the wisdom of retaining her noble heart in hopes of perhaps meeting her in the future. He gifts her a ring with a rose seal upon it as a token of that future encounter, then disappears from her life.

Utena becomes transfixed on her savior, falling deeply in love with him, while also desiring to embody all that he represents to her. This obsession becomes an ingrained part of her identity, and much to her school’s chagrin, even extends into her wardrobe, as Utena exchanges the traditional girls’ attire for a tailor made, pink boys’ uniform.

When her aunt accepts a huge commission abroad, Utena nearly postpones her search for the mystery man, however, with the help of her friend, the two discover a secret found in the rose-sealed postcards Utena received annually, assumed to be from her prince. She transfers to the prestigious Ohtori Private Academy with high hopes of getting closer to the man who saved her life.

But something is rotten in the state of Ohtori!

While trying to defend a fellow classmate, Anthy Himemiya, Utena gets drawn into a strange dueling ritual held by the Student Counsel members, and orchestrated by World’s End, the mysterious organization heading Ohtori Academy.

As Utena is swept into the enigmatic world of Prince Dios, and the tournaments vying for the Rose Bride Anthy, Utena desperately tries to impart self-worth and value to her introverted friend. And just when she believes she’s become the prince she longed to be and freed her friend from the supernatural ritual of the Rose Bride, a shocking twist causes Utena to question herself and her identity, her friends, and even her prince and savior.

Throughout the story, Utena aspires to always be a good friend, a protector of the meek, an inspiration to her classmates, and a prince of noble heart. A self-less sacrifice at last leads Utena to freeing Anthy, and herself, from the vicious cycle spurred on by World’s End and her very own Prince Dio.

Pros and Cons: No Spoilers except when specified

Let’s start with the good.

I am tempted to write so much about this story. There’s so many themes and underlying concepts packed into these two volumes. There’s the Hindu inspired look of Anthy, Dios, and Akio, as well as the duality presented by many Hindu gods and their encompassing several genders and personas. There’s the deifying of one’s heroes, and even issues of domestic abuse and, especially in “The Adolescence of Utena,” sexual abuse. This series is jamb packed, and I can’t tackle it all, nor am I qualified to tackle it all.

With that said, I intend to just touch upon some of the broadest themes and things that stood out to, and touched me, personally.

I’ll be brief and let the art speak for itself. Well, I mean, I’ll have captions, but aside from those, enough said!

Although sparse, there is a smattering of subtle humor throughout Revolutionary Girl Utena. The following are just a few scenes that garnered chuckles from me.

Okay, now is where I gush on the characters!

Utena. Utena, Utena! I may have a girl crush on her. She’s a stereotype-breaking rebel with a heart of gold and locks of soft pink. But while she sets a high moral standard, she’s also fallible in her gullibility and sometimes blind innocence.

She is imperfect, in spite of her overall nobility. This makes her relatable, especially to young teens. I watched Utena in my mid-20s, and I still got a bit starry eyed, despite my usual slight tinges of jading and cynicism.

She wants to do the right thing, and uses her moral compass in all situations. Unlike the other students, instead of shallowly judging by outside appearances, Utena takes the time to get to know people. While most of the girls are smitten with Saionji, she sees past his outer beauty and dislikes his abuse of Anthy. Likewise, while Anthy is a mystery, quiet, and hard to know, Utena takes her time try to understand and see another side of the shy girl. But even in her attempts to find the deeper truths behind each person, she is not impervious to failure, and those missteps in judgement have repercussions.

One of the most relatable aspects of Utena, at least to me, is her insecurity over, and questioning of, her identity. While on the exterior she is calm, cool, and collected, that very shell is the personification of her memory of another. In place of her missing “prince,” she has constructed her own identity to embody what she believes to be ideals he values: She is her own prince while she searches for the “real deal,” and in truth searches to validate her own identity. Does she need a prince? Or is it enough to be what she idolizes? Can both exist? Must they be mutually exclusive?

Furthermore, several times throughout the story, characters try to convince Utena that she should not be a prince, but rather take up the role of the protected and owned: to be a princess as society’s construct of gender implies she should be.

At times, she falls prey to this coercion. But in the end, she rises above her insecurities, becomes true to herself and her identity, and even sacrifices herself to protect the ones she loves.

Even the cover of Volume Two exemplifies Utena’s crisis of identity. Her usual vibrant colors have be stripped away, de-saturated, and faded to a purplish hue. The “blue” colored Akio, the cause of her mixed feelings, is confident and towers over her, as well as being in the background, which is indicative of his character.
Volume 2, Cover.

I want to also give credit to some of the male supporting characters. Touga, while seemingly nothing more than a womanizing manipulator, actually becomes Utena’s most loyal ally. He is the one who time and again states that becoming a prince transcends gender: it makes no difference, if you’re a prince in your heart, then you’re a prince. It is in fact Utena’s strength and perseverance which draws Touga to her, and that which he loves about her. He doesn’t want a docile, submissive “princess,” he wants a strong, self-realized woman with integrity. And Utena proves time and again that she is just as noble as any prince preceding her.

More than that, Touga loves Utena for who she is, flaws and all. The feminine, the masculine. It’s an admiration that rivals Utena’s own respect for her prince.

I need to break this up. Let’s look at how Saito uses the eyes to say it all!
Vol. 1, pg 231

*The following paragraphs have some spoilers*

I also like how we see that Utena’s hero, Dios, was also imperfect. She spends her whole life deifying him, just as others before her did, but comes to realize that for all her adoration, the being that is Dios was flawed and in a way caused his own downfall. He is kind, he is giving, but in giving too much he encouraged people to look to him for all answers, rather than looking within themselves to grow and become strong. And he created the divide within himself, setting the stage for a vicious cycle. This dependency extended even to his lover, Anthy. Rather than fighting for herself, her love for him and his unexpected downfall, made Anthy incapable of defending herself.

In a way, Anthy and Utena are alike. They are yin (Anthy) and yang (Utena.) Both are in a position of longing for their prince. But while Anthy internalized the power of Dios, allowing it only to come out and be used by another to save her, Utena externalized that longing to become the savior. Both loved the same man, but their reactions to that love are expressed very differently. It’s also very complex how Utena, while wanting Dios, is also possessed of Dios. The two are one, but they are also independent of each other. It’s an idea that I think someone else could better explore, but I wanted to touch upon.

Cons (some spoilers)

I want to keep this part short. There aren’t too many, but I should mention them.

Sometimes, especially toward the end of Volume Two, the story gets a little confusing. I feel the end was a little rushed, and could have been better executed. Without spoiling too much, I’m talking about when Anthy’s, Akio’s and Dios’ identities are finally revealed.

Likewise, the side stories and their placement in the storyline can be confusing, and also contradict the end of main story. I’m not talking about the silly little fun side chapters like “To Curry Favor,” I’m mostly talking about “The Adolescence of Utena.” The Anthy at the end of “To Blossom” is not the same Anthy in “The Adolescence.” It left me confused. Is this yet another life? What’s going on? She sure did change from just one side story ago! When does this take place, and why is this cycle still happening? I thought the chain was broken?

Some of translations are a bit cheesy. Most of it’s okay, but I rolled my eyes so hard at the line “honeyed words” (87) (Saito 2, 2017). Seriously? Likewise, Touga’s supposed to be menacing in one scene, but the dude’s got a Wizard of Oz shirt on. I mean, I guess if it was the witch or creepy monkeys, but no. It just says “Wizard of Oz” (297) (Saito 1, 2017). Hard to be menacing with that shirt on, man.

Sometimes the hands are comically large, such as on the cover of Volume One. I’m sorry, the art’s beautiful, but those hands on both of them are distracting (see the image at the beginning of the review.)

The incest. I could handle it among “gods,” but not so much humans. I mean, maybe I’ve been conditioned by the Egyptian gods, I dunno? It just seems it would matter less with gods than with humans.

I think that about wraps it up. I have a few other minor nit picks, but nothing worth mentioning at the moment. Feel free to comment!

Parting Thoughts

Much like with Sailor Moon, I have so many thoughts I’d like to explore with Revolutionary Girl Utena. I feel I’ve merely touched the tip of the ice-berg, and yet, there’s so much more uncovered. And that’s after nearly writing a full blown essay. Still, I feel this is a good start, and I think it’s more than enough food for thought for those going into the story for the first, second, or even third time!

I found it interesting that the Be-Papas team was founded by Kunihiko Ikuhara, who was the producer for the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena, but also for Sailor Moon. Ikuhara must have had one heck of an eye for talent, because in spite of Saito’s very humble comments found in the deluxe manga that I read, her skill for storytelling and art shine through in these volumes.

I highly recommend these manga, but with a caveat. I think it’s fair of me to warn persons who have had traumatic histories, that “The Adolescence of Utena” chapter deals with some pretty heavy topics, including date rape; incest; slavery; and pedophilia. If something of that nature triggers a stress response in you, I would caution you against reading at least that portion of the story. While the main chapters of Utena do touch upon the concept of slavery and have a cursory show of domestic violence in Saionji’s abuse of Anthy, these are much less graphic in their depictions. Not that “The Adolescence of Utena” shows any sex scenes explicitly, but there’s enough there I was a little disturbed.

That said, I do still recommend this compilation. Just recognize that you’ve been forewarned.

Thanks for reading!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Citations:

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Harman, William and Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Saito, Chiho and Be-Papas. Revolutionary Girl Utena. Trans. Lilian Olsen. Vol. 1. San Fransisco: Viz Media, 2017.

Saito, Chiho and Be-Papas. Revolutionary Girl Utena. Trans. Lilian Olsen. Vol. 2. San Fransisco: Viz Media, 2017.

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Sailor Moon, Pretty Guardian

I’m covering the first “Sailor Moon” arc in this review! Books 1-3 three cover that arc and the first part of the “Black Moon” Arc.

The Eternal Edition just came out in 2018. It’s fancy schmancy with color pages, nice coating, and new covers by Takeuchi. If you can afford it, it looks worth while. I can’t, so I’ll just ogle if from the computer screen.

Mangaka: Naoko Takeuchi
Copyright:  2011 (Japan) 2011(English Translation)
Genre: Shoujo, Action, Fantasy, Magic Girl

Setting the Scene: skip this if you just want the review!

I like a lot of older manga and anime. I was not part of the “first wave” anime fans, but I could probably be part of the second wave. I didn’t have cable or satellite, so my first introduction to anime was in the late 1990s when Sailor Moon aired on Fox. Well, anime as we know it today: Superbook and Thunder Cats don’t count. Neither do the Rankin and Bass Japanese animated films Flight of Dragons, The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn, or The Return of the King.

Suffice it to say, Sailor Moon was a force unto its own, and was very different in its execution than the aforementioned Japanese animated cartoons. While it was heavily edited and Westernized (the names, I mean,) at its core, Moon-chan was not at all like what I’d been introduced to in the past. It immediately became one of my favorite shows. I mean, I already loved the repetition of Scooby Doo, so why not add another monster of the week show only with magic and romance and pretty girls and guys? Glitter…allll that glitter!

Then it happened.

Hastings Entertainment was once a movie rental store, but had to change its focus as video rentals declined. They eventually became a book, movie, and comic book store offering new books at discounted prices, among other specialty items. To be clear: when it opened in Springfield, Illinois, it had already made that transformation. Before the abandonment and slow decay of the strip mall on MacArthur Avenue, the Springfield Hastings had a store front not too far from my favorite restaurant, Shakey’s Pizza and Buffet (later Diamond’s Pizza and Buffet.) It had pizza, they took special orders, and the owner Mr. Diamond was recognizable from his ads on television. So I could spend my hard earned money eating pizza, then take a stroll down to the Hastings with Mom to peruse the discounted books.

I was looking through the fantasy section, as I always did, something bright neon pink caught my eye between the regular black spines with gold font. At least an inch shorter than the rest of the books, were two compact Mixx manga of Sailor Moon. I was gobsmacked! Yes, I just used that word. Like Gollum coveting his precious, I quickly snatched the only two Sailor Moon books on the shelf: volume one and two.

Thus temptation called, and thus I sealed the deal for a life-long obsession with manga.

Well, here’s my Mixx/TokyoPop collection. To this day I don’t have them all.

Can you imagine! It was a comic version of my favorite anime! At that time, “manga” was not in my vocabulary, so for me this was my replacement for the Pirates of Dark Water western comic books I never got to finish.

I lived in the Midwest, not a major city center. I mean…Springfield may be the Capital of Illinois, but it’s really more akin to a large town than a city. It’s getting better with its diversity, but I’d still not call it a metropolis. So to find a comic book that I was not a Marvel or DC super herobook (well, some of the comic stores did have Image and some other comic brands) was a total turn on for me!

What I didn’t know then, was the rabbit hole (er…usagi hole?) of obsession I was soon to fall down. So without further ado, in the name of the moon, let’s do this review!

Summary:
Major SPOILERS in the summary

Usagi Tsukino is your average, air-headed 14 year old ’90s girl whose main concerns lie with food consumption, arcade games, and hiding poor test scores from her mom. She’s got her own group of friends, with Naru being her closest confidant and fellow air-head. But when rushing to school one morning, an encounter with a bandaged black cat sets in motion her transformation from an average teeny-bopper into a crime fighting, world protecting warrior: Sailor Moon, Champion of Love and Justice!

Through numerous confrontations with supernatural beings trying to suck the energy out of the almost deliberately oblivious masses, Usagi eventually finds and gathers her entire group of Pretty Guardian soldiers; Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus. In the process, she encounters the mysterious and churlish Mamoru Chiba, as well as his “dreamy” alter ego Tuxedo Mask. It’s a race against time as Usagi learns more about herself, her objective to find the “Legendary Silver Crystal,” and the mission to find and protect the re-incarnated Princess of the Moon Kingdom.

It all comes to head when Tuxedo Mask is revealed to be the man formerly known as Prince of the Earth, Endymion. Upon receiving a massive attack meant for Sailor Moon from Kunzite, Leader of the Four Kings of Heaven and brainwashed warrior of the Dark Kingdom, Endymion falls prone into the distressed Usagi’s arms. Realizing Mamoru’s true identity, Usagi’s memories come flooding back to her in a brilliant light, as her tear crystallizes into the Legendary Silver Crystal, and her former glory as Princess Serenity of the Moon baths the other guardians looking from below.

Shocked from her discovery, Serenity accidentally allows Kunzite to kidnap her beloved Endymion, who is later brainwashed by the Queen of the Dark Kingdom, Beryl, to fight against the Sailor Scouts in a ploy to steal the crystal and, at least on the surface, restore her master Queen Metalia. But Queen Beryl’s true objective is to take control over the crystal herself and depose Metalia, ruling the earth with the Prince, whom she herself had coveted in her previous life.

After many sacrifices, Sailor Moon, the other Pretty Guardians, Luna and fellow cat advisor Artemis (a male cat, in spite of his name) finally defeat Queen Beryl and reseal the evil dark force, Queen Metalia, healing the earth. After the loss of her guardians’ life, Sailor Moon, with the help of a healed Prince Endymion, journey to the moon to find the Silver Millennium restored to its former glory, and Usagi takes up the mantel as Queen Serenity. With permission granted from the remnants of the former Queen, her original mother, Serenity revives those who lost their lives in the Dark Kingdom’s attack, and returns to Earth to live out her reborn life as Usagi Tsukino with her friends Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minaka, as well as her beloved Mamo-chan.

The arc ends with the girls returning to their normal life, and Usagi and Mamoru finally kindling their romance as an official couple, when quite literally out of the sky falls a pink haired little girl carrying some heavy metal fire power!

Pros and Cons: NO SPOILERS HERE!! Yay!

Let’s start with the good.

I could probably write and entire thesis on why this manga, particularly this first arc, is so great. A lot of it, of course, is instructive of my own background: it was fresh, it was inventive, but it was also familiar. Let’s check the baggage at the door, and I’ll try to parse what I feel the strongest parts of this arc were.

The art. Is. Fantastic.

I don’t think I need expand upon that, but I will. Takeuchi’s style is…well…very stylized. At times, I do feel her mouths are placed a touch too close the the nose, but it’s a stylistic choice, not a proportional mistake. And generally speaking, by exaggerating the eyes and minimizing the other features, Takeuchi achieves what she’s intended to do: create extremely expressive, adorable characters who are “Pretty Guardians.”

Beautiful covers! Both are Volume 1 of Sailor Moon, Mixx & Kodansha respectively.

But beyond that, her screen-toning skills are just gorgeous! The art is very soft and atmospheric in moments when one is intended to feel entranced, or in a dream. She uses what looks like an airbrushed doily effect for many of the glamor shots meant to capitalize on the shoujo look. The whole feel is very ethereal.

Other times the art, particularly when focusing on the Dark Kingdom, is very shadowed and heavy. Many, if not most, of the early and even later depictions of Queen Beryl’s base is bathed in darkness and in fact has entire shadows of pure black ink. The hatching and tones are often very close knit, or at least function to drape even lighted areas with some sort of shadow.

The paneling and page set up is also easy to read and follow, regardless of whether your native language reads left to right, or right to left. I realize it takes time and practice to learn to read in a different direction, and that’s something I now have practice in. But the direction of the panels for the most part, with few exceptions, is almost always clear and tends to lead from one panel to another the way a comic should. I also like how this particular style likes to break out of the boxes. Nothing wrong with comics that follow a straight “inside the box” format, but for this particular story, I feel breaking out really adds to the beauty and attractiveness of this manga.

Expanding Beyond the Shoujo Genre…

Sailor Moon is classified as a shoujo. And boy, is it ever a shoujo! But I’d argue, and I think many would agree, it’s more than just a girly romance targeted at a young-adult female audience. Maybe that was the intent of the publishers. Maybe it was of the author. But what it became in the Western sphere goes beyond that. Maybe it does in its homeland, as well.

When I was a kid, I was a tomboy. I liked bikini-armor clad Chicks n Chainmail (and Chicks and Chained Males) science fiction and fantasy, playing in the mud, climbing trees, watching He-Man, She-Ra, and just about any other action cartoon that wasn’t particularly targeted towards girls. Probably ones you’ve never heard of, too, like the short lived Siegfried and Roy cartoon. I mean, yeah, She-Ra was action packed and starred many female characters, but of the girly cartoons I liked, that was very much the exception. I mean, Rainbow Bright would cower at the sight of She-Ra!

So when Sailor Moon hit the scene, I was more than ready. This manga spans several genres, and that’s a good thing. Yeah, it’s a romance, but it’s mostly an action manga dressed up in mystery, drama, fantasy, and even science-fiction: especially the deeper you get into the series. It’s a bit of a comedy, as well. There’s so many funny scenes, that re-reading aloud, my dudefriend kept giving me funny looks.

Some of my personal favorite funny parts:

“You’re looking a little weak. Maybe because I stepped on you?” –Usagi to Luna, Vol. 1 pg 8
“I’m not a trashcan, you know!” –Mamoru to Usagi after several wads of paper tossed into the face. Vol. 1 pg 64
A pair of glasses completely changing the length and shape of a person’s face (Princess D, Vol. 1 pg 173-4)
Sailor V’s love chain beating the shit out of Furuhata to bring him to his senses. (I don’t think this was meant to be funny…) Vol. 2 pg 222
And more.

The Story.

Wow. They take the whole “star-crossed” lovers thing, and bring it to a whole new level. They’re going to suffer, and they’re going to suffer again, and again. This section is going to avoid details that’ll spoil the story, but can I just say the protagonists work very hard to achieve their goals and make it clear they’re willing to sacrifice everything to do so. And while the concept of “good vs. evil” is a tale told time and time again, the new spins put on this story, and the way the tale unfolds, make it seem refreshing and new. The concept of re-incarnation is also something interesting that, at least for myself coming from a very Midwestern background, had not encountered in popular media. I mean, I was familiar with concept if for no other reason than my mom had several texts lying around discussing Hinduism and Buddhism, but I wasn’t getting that education from the pop culture of late ’90s cartoons or comics.

Doesn’t mean it’s not there, but again, it wasn’t something I’d encountered. So back to the story, what Takeuchi does here, is really roll up so many fascinating concepts and mythos into her own work which is really what gives this manga the feel of an epic. I mean, it’s episodic, of course, but it feels so incredibly grand!

Why do I compare it to an epic? There’s the obvious connection of the Greek story of Selene of the Moon and Endymion of the Earth, but beyond that, there are so many other very Greek nods in this story. Even the miko, Rei, you know, the priestess of the Shinto shrine? Her raven companions are named Phobos and Deimos: the two moons of Mars. But they take on their Greek names: Phobos being the embodiment of fear, and Deimos being the embodiment of terror. The architecture of the Silver Millennium is very Grecian, as well, with Corinthian columns and porticoes. It’s an interesting mixture of Islamic mosques with Grecian temples (and even some German castle call backs,) as the main structure also seems to have minaret-like towers, domed ceilings, and of course, the crescent moon symbol.

This combination enhances the romantic appeal of the story. While there are epic battles, there’s also the softer, romantic side. I’m going to expand on that, and why the Islamic architectural features appeal to romanticism and lends to the feel epic story of Sailor Moon‘s first story arc.

In a way, much of Islamic literature was (and still is) highly romanticized. Think of the Arabian Nights and carpet rides and Princesses saving themselves from being murdered by telling amazing stories! Think also of one of the most quintessential little poetry books to come to us in the West: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. My gosh, people! This poetry, is beautiful. And it’s basically a giant love letter.

Think also of the romanticized history of the Taj Mahal, which is what the Silver Millennium Palace resembles, only with a smattering of Grecian architecture. I’m sure most people already know, but for the sake of context, the story behind the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum commissioned by a Mughal Emperor as a final resting place for his most beloved wife. It was romantic…unless you were any of those other wives. But you know, so it goes! And how appropriate that the petrified Silver Millennium would resemble a mausoleum. That can’t be coincidental! Maybe it is. But whatever the reason, all these homages to ancient empires really helps to shape the world of the first Moon Kingdom into a glorious mythology of its own.

Silver Millennium Palace. Volume 3, pg 114

One last thing I want to touch upon that makes this first arc of Sailor Moon so iconic is the near–no actual–religious iconography. I don’t mean to say there is a god unto which the characters are worshiping, but rather to point out the underlying theme of having faith in one’s self, their companions, and their ancestors. This is where, in a way, the story could be moderately reminiscent of Shintoism. Usagi prays to both her mother, the first Queen Serenity, and to the moon in general. They pull upon their own strength and power, but also to fallen comrades and her ancestors long passed. The last chapter, Act 14: Conclusion and Commencement, Petite Etrangre, heavily employs prayer and faith in order to surmount their greatest enemy at their most desperate hour. There’s also the whole “sword in the stone” nod, where Venus is granted the strength to release the legendary weapon from its boulder, hearkening back to another romanticized story (the French version of the Arthurian legend,) and with it reminding us of the religious implications of that mythology.

Everything about the story is huge: it even takes place both on the earth and in space. It only gets bigger from here on out, and the following arcs are just as epic (though, some more so than others.)

And I haven’t even touched upon the characters yet!

Characterization

Where do I begin? Well, Usagi. And Mamoru. I’m going to be honest, these two…and maybe Luna, get the most attention in the first arc. I’m not complaining. It makes sense, since this is really her, and their story.

To be fair, Luna’s character is probably one of the best constructed in the story. Although towards the end it becomes more “master and servant” in Luna’s words, I would argue their relationship is deeper than that of Queen and subject. At some point, Luna begins acknowledging Sailor Moon as her master, and that she’s devastated to have failed her. But, in spite of their relationship being one of “master and servant,” it really is built to be more akin to that of Frodo and Samwise. Luna’s not just a subject: she’s a close friend and, in a way, guardian to Serenity. More than that, she becomes family to all the Tsukinos.

Well…except Shingo. Usagi’s little brother is by far the LEAST underdeveloped character. He could just be cut from the story, and I don’t think anything would be missed. I mean, the first time we see him, you can’t even see his face! It’s just his mouth while he’s kicking his sister’s behind. What a little shit!

Look at that little turd! Take him out! Volume 1, pg 21

If there’s one thing that bothered me, though, its how Luna degrades herself, when Usagi does not view Luna as a servant in the slightest. It perturbs me, but it does also build her character. If anything, Luna is Usagi’s senpai (not the troped up version of the word.) Particularly in the beginning, the two have a student/teacher relationship, and Usagi is the one not wanting to let Luna down. Even at the end, I think the wonderful thing about these characters, is that Luna and Serenity become one in a sense. While the student transcends the teacher, the teacher is not left behind: she, too grows. In this way, to me I feel Luna should not view herself as a servant, but more so a partner on equal footing. Usagi may be more powerful, but without Luna’s wisdom and guidance, Usagi would never reach her full potential.

And reach it she will!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tackle Usagi’s growth throughout this first story arc. I wanted to talk about Luna first, because…well, I love Luna, but also because Luna’s really what starts Usagi down her path of success. So yeah, I had to start with the catalyst for the whole story to unfold! The growth we see in Usagi as the story progresses is really quite wonderful. She’s first introduced as a bubble-headed slough-off, never getting out of bed on time, not studying, forgetting important things, and being a crying, whining baby before there’s really even much fighting taking place. To the comic’s credit, they play her early character off really well, as even her wailing crying becomes amplified by her bun protectors and helps distract the monster long enough for someone to get a hit in. That set up is used later in the comic, and eventually we get a pay off on page 43 of Volume 3, when once again her wailing is amplified and used against Endo. Only this time it’s not her crying feeling pity for herself: it’s progressed into her anguish for the one she loves.

The Pay off. Volume 3, pg 43

Another wonderful part of Usagi’s character is her question of identity, which mirrors that of Mamoru, who’s lost his memory. While Mamo-chan’s crisis stems from amnesia, and not knowing who his parents were, or even who he was, Usagi’s comes from within as each battle takes her further and further from being a normal 14 year old, and more into an unknown past life. What’s so well done about Usagi’s character, is how in spite of being a bit vacuous, she’s never cruel, or mean spirited. Instead, she’s very open, being friends with the school Otaku, Umino (although she’d never admit it,) and being adventurous and curious about Ami, Rei, and Motoko, where others in the school were standoffish and gossipy. Although she does her fair share of gossiping, unlike the others in her school, Usagi’s good nature invites strangers into her life to better get to know them. It’s that openness which is highlighted as virtue and pays off for her as she searches for the other guardians.

There’s so much more I would love to talk about when discussing Usagi, Mamoru, and the rest of the Sailor Moon cast, but I could very seriously write and etude on the subject, and I really need to wrap this up. Etude or thesis? Meh, I guess I could do either if I had the time or insensitive.

Okay, Let’s do the Cons Now.

This section is comparatively shorter. But no work is perfect, and Sailor Moon is no exception. There are a few elements that you either have to ignore and not think too much about, or just write off as…how things go?

Queen Beryl gets maybe two pages of backstory, three tops. While what we get is good, and helps explain a bit about her, I’m still not clear exactly who she was by reading the text alone. At one point she calls herself the Princess (vol. 2 pg 230,) but also Queen on the same page. Maybe it was a translation problem. Volume 3’s recap character page spells Queen Metalia’s name “Metaria,” but in all three volumes calls her “Metalia.” So, it could be chalked up as a typo, but it’s still a bit confusing. I really feel they should have built her character up more than just a crystal ball rubbing voyeur. She finally does see some action, but…yeah…I won’t spoil those moments.

Another qualm: the people. The people!

People in Sailor Moon are just stupid and materialistic. This is probably a symptom of the era it was published. The manga first appeared in the Nakayoshi Magazine in the early 1990s. So it was conceived and partly published right at turn of an economic swell, which came crashing down in the early ’90s (The Lost Decade.) Before the burst, there had been quite a growth in the economy, and I can’t help but wonder if that influenced the personalities of the people in the story. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe she just wanted to show the darker side of society. But the result is, even without the influence of the Dark Kingdom, people are obsessing over diamonds, and high society, and jewelry, and not treating each other very well. Most of the public who aren’t Usagi’s friends or acquaintances, are just jerks.

I’m sorry! There’s no nice way to put it. The parents of the missing Mii-chan are shallow jerks! Their child is missing, and reasonably so they beseech Rei to divine where she’s gone. But when she tells them that’s not how divination works and they should work with the police, they rebuke her as being rude. Yeah, they’re distraught, but their reactions and expressions are childish and unrealistic. Prior to the scene I just described, you actually see a bit of care for the missing child as Mii-chan’s mom genuinely looks worried: but the very next panel she’s literally waving it away, smiling as she claims she’s not accusing anyone of being bad at the shrine. It’s just not really very realistic for a parent missing their little child.

I feel that, although I love the art, if you removed their hair many of the main characters slightly suffer from “same face syndrome.” Takeuchi doesn’t do it all the time, but the differences are very subtle in some pages. To be fair, she improves as the story progresses.

To me, at least in this image, their eyes, noses, mouths, and faces are all shaped the same. Rei is puckering her lips, but the rest is very similar. Back Cover of Mixx Volume 2.

The Princess D chapter felt a bit contrived. There’s no reason why the enemy couldn’t have just possessed D quietly and made off with goods WITHOUT making a big production. There should have been a better way of executing that, which would have still resulted in Usagi and Mamo-chan’s big scene. Maybe Usagi stumbled upon D’s assistant trying to get her to stop, and D reacting violently and obviously possessed. It just would have made more sense than to have the villain shouting at the massive crowd and drawing attention to themselves. That’s not how you steal something!

There are more than a few serendipitous coincidences. So and so just happens to be in a place at the right time for such and such to happen. I’m not talking about Usagi and Mamoru, either. There’s an explanation for their crossing paths. Other times, it’s Mokoto just walking by when someone’s being attacked. She had no business to be there, but there she is.

The mind control trope is a touch overused. Everybody gets brainwashed! You get brain washed, and YOU get brainwashed! We all get brainwashed! Hurray!

And that’s it. I mean, I have little nit picks, but it’s fiction and I didn’t notice these issues until I became an adult. As a teen, I was too engrossed with the story to have time to scrutinize every page (as I did when I read this for the fourth time for this review.)

Parting Thoughts

How can I have more to say about just this first arc? Well, I do have more to say! I have lots more, much of which I’m omitting for the sake of hoping someone will still read this in spite of it’s length!

I want to be candid. This section is just a gush of things I’ve thought, related to, or came to mind when reading this story again.

Sailor Moon means a lot to me. Of all the magic girl, chosen one manga’s I’ve read, this one really struck a note with me. I like how it blended Japanese icons, like the rabbit on the moon and Tokyo Tower, and all the character’s Kanji holding special meaning, with icons easily recognized by a Western audience, such as Greek mythology and Arthurian Legend. I love how even though we don’t see them much, Takeuchi does a great job of at least give Usagi’s present day mom and dad some characterization. As much as Ukiko (yeah, Mrs. Tsukino has a first name) is a hardass to Usagi, she really loves her and Luna, and worries about her daughter (Vol. 2 pg 147 is a good one.)

I love the message of hope, faith in your friends, love, support, and perseverance even in the face of daunting prospects. I like how the characters are willing to give it their all to protect what they love and cherish. I love the message of teamwork, and to strive to improve oneself.

I also like how Volume 2 addresses why the Dark Kingdom is in Japan specifically, and mentions that they did search the rest of the world for the Legendary Silver Crystal, and it wasn’t just set in Japan because…Japan.

I like how Takeuchi’s real life experience as a chemistry major informs some of characters names and elements, and occurrences in the series. It’s still fiction, and this comes into play much more later in the series, but Takeuchi is BOMB! And I don’t care if that compliment is out of style. So are all the character’s clothes in Sailor Moon, and we don’t mind!

But most of all, I am thankful for a series that finally cast the woman (er…girls) as the ones saving the world, and physically and magically kicking some serious ass! It was so refreshing to finally have an action comic where the main characters were female, and they were saving each other. Yeah, Tuxedo Mask saves Sailor Moon, but she in turn saves him. And what’s even better, is that eventually, it’s the two of them working as a cohesive unit. And it was all done with a bit of comedy, a touch of romance, and a lot of really cool, beautiful visuals!

I can’t wait to review and reminisce the rest of Sailor Moon! And to those reading this whole review: thanks for taking this journey with me! Next time, I’ll have less to cover…er…at least ART wise, so the review will hopefully be not as long.

And do I need to even say it? Yes, this first arc (the first three volumes) is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

First six volumes all together.

Citations:

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Harman, William and Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 1. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 2. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 3. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Sailor Moon. Trans. Anon. Vol. 1. Los Angeles: Mixx Entertainment, Inc, 1998.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Sailor Moon. Trans. Anon. Vol. 2. Los Angeles: Mixx Entertainment, Inc, 1998.

Posted in Blue's Reviews. Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Coming Right Along!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I’m thinking of changing that a bit.

Years ago, I used to do manga reviews. And web-comic reviews. Then life got super busy. Life is still busy, but I’ve been *blessed* with  a dudefriend who wants to foster my skills and encourage my success as an artist: which is what I am passionate about  (and actually went to school for.) So I’m thinking of reviving the “Blue’s Reviews.” Apparently, Amazon also finally renewed Missouri’s (and a few other states’) affiliate program…which didn’t garner me much money, but was kinda nice to have on the site. But I also miss reviewing webcomics (um…ones I like…maybe I’ll change the theme of the web-comic review tab to just be suggested reading?) I’m kinda musing…but I think I will be reviving this either the end of July or early August.

The last year and half I’ve had the opportunity to work on my comic and my art in general. I think there’s been some massive improvements (this is not to say, I don’t have farther to go.) Want to see an example?

Here ya go!

Old/2015:                                                                                                                                                           New/2019:

This month (well, uh…this week) I’ve started to flip the Act Two revamp pages of Dark Horse to fit the “left to right” format. I’ve got about five pages done…so my weekly goal has thus been set to 5 or more pages flipped per week until it’s done. The revamped Act Two has 25 pages, so it shouldn’t take long to finish the flip and get it ready for .pdf. YouTube is still coming along. I am working on improving those videos, too. I’ve managed to streamline the “branding” so they match my business card, Patreon, and other sites. I think it looks pretty good.

Maybe this is a bit of bland update. I just wanted to let visitors know I’m alive and kicking, and most active on the Dark Horse/Crystal Lotus Chronicles website and Comic Fury. Oh! And Dark Horse has been accepted into a magic girl/magic boy/magic person collective: Aradia! Check them out, they’re pretty cool 😀

Lastly, Project Wonderful, which sadly shut down I think earlier this year, has been replaced with Comic Ad Network. This is a great way to support independent artists! I’ve joined up with the free ads, and currently offer ads on my Comic Fury site (it sees a lot more traffic than this site.) If you’re interested in indie comics and supporting artists/writers/creators, please check them out! There are some nice comics there, as well!

I’m a little distracted at the moment. It’s a Friday night, and my dudefriend’s got me chasing the dragon…I mean farming relentlessly on Stardew Valley. I’m having way too much fun with this game. Terraria’s feeling jealous, I’m sure XD

Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and keep on truckin!

~Ashleen aka Blue Dragon

 

Posted in Dark Horse Art, Newest Additions, Updates.

I’m Flipping My Lid…and Dark Horse!

As the Act 2 revamp of Dark Horse comes to a close (it’ll be posting soon on the main site,) as well as Act 5 on Comic Fury, with the help of quite a few people, I’ve made the decision to start flipping Dark Horse to read left to right. Some changes to Act 1 have already been sketched!

This is going to be the last major thing I do to change Act 1. I can’t get sucked into the “keep fixing” black hole that many artists get dragged into XD And I’m certainly as apt to do so as anyone out there, so I need to make sure I’m not looking back more than I’m looking forward.

That said, I am happy to make these changes. It’s giving me a chance to fix a few things that bugged me about the revamp. For the most part, I’m able to just flip or move panels around. Since I left the speech bubbles on different layers, the flip of Act 1 shouldn’t take too terribly much work. I have the help of a couple people editing my work, and with this assistance I decided to add a page or panel or two where necessary to make sure the flow of the page and action is moving smoothly.

Where are my pictures!? Where’s some art? This jabbering is boring!

 

You in my head ask, so I online deliver: Here ya go!

 

 

I am very happy with these sketches, and feel this final version of Act 1 is what I’ll get printed once I start going to conventions. We have a decent printer, so I may actually print some of the early copies myself (I’ve worked with printers in the past, and have a cutting board, so I think I could do some of that on my own before going to a professional.)

😀 I am also trying to be careful to make sure Rin and Kanna’s eyes/lashes are different, so people can tell the difference between the two a bit more.

Oh! One last change:

I completely created his background and eclipse on my own (well, I watched a tutorial for the eclipse.) The prophecy has also been updated, and I am suuuuper happy with it! I hope you guys are, too 😀

Thanks for reading, and keep on truckin’!

 

~Blue Dragon
aka
Ashleen Woods

Posted in Dark Horse Art, The Miscellany, Updates.

Dark Horse and The Crystal Lotus Chronicles!

You guys, gals, and people of all walks of life,

I have a super exciting announcement to make! With the help of my partner, I’ve finally been able to create a home of its own for Dark Horse and The Crystal Lotus Chronicles! This is going to be a long post, so strap in!

TLDR Version: I want to keep Dark Horse free, but also want to make money so I can exist. The new site, here, will help with that through ad revenue. My Youtube Channel, will also help. Go check them out, and support me using no cash directly in this way. If you choose to support me cause you like what you see, which is in no way mandatory, check out my Patreon here! Single Donation options will be coming soon…when I have a chance to set that up.

 

The Long and Winding Road Version:

 

Dark Horse is the first of the longer, at least four installment Crystal Lotus Chronicles series. For years (no, seriously, YEARS) I’ve been trying to find a way to get this series its own, professional looking webpage. That journey started here on WordPress. I had a couple people reading Dark Horse here, as a terribly sized image set in the middle of a page, like so:

Yon-Koma! I just learned this term last week XD Always new what these were from Sailor Moon and Wish, but never knew fans did them, too!

First Previous Next Last

(Ya’ll remember that crap?)

But…I didn’t think that was really…fair to readers (gah, or myself. Uploading pages like that, adding the navigation buttons, and updating the “latest” on every page…every week…was TERRIBLE. Not even joking, people. It sucked. I was soooooo unprofessional, and so naive about everything needed to get this going right. Not like I’m all super professional now, but…you know–I’m better than I was ten years ago!

So that lead me to searching for an idiot proof site to upload my comic. I had tried ComicPress, but people, I can’t program. I can do a bit of copy paste of some HTML, maybe change the color of something here and there (barely,) but I was in no way equipped to figure out ComicPress, which soon was outdated anyway (I did get back to that…which I’ll get back to in a few paragraphs.)

I had some choices to make, since there was Smack Jeeves, Duck, Taptastic (now Tapas,) and a bunch of others. Can I just say…I am so glad I ended up checking out Comic Fury. The dude who owns the site is just a peach: he’s funny, he gives a shit about his site (not that the others don’t,) he chimes in on the site and interacts with community, and it’s free! Seriously, once I get some more income coming in, I plan to support the site on Patreon: they’re a great community.

I have to say, I love hosting Dark Horse on Comic Fury. This site taught me so much about uploading comics, figuring out a schedule, and interacting with a community (I’m still not so good at that…I miss Manga Tutorials for that: I made some friends over there–one whom I am still friends with on Facebook.) So much growth from one site. I eventually was able to expand out to Tapas, then finally Smack Jeeves.

As much as I love these sites, though, I want to make sure The Crystal Lotus Chronicles have their own official website. I do not plan to stop updating on my mirror sites: to do so, at least I feel at this point in time, would be a slight to my readers on those websites, as well as the community I have been a part of since…oh I dunno…at least 2014 on Comic Fury (the others I just recently joined, but I am loving the interaction I have with my fans on Tapas, and I like that I have some silent readers on Smack Jeeves: you don’t have to be talkative, so long as you’re enjoying the story. :D) With that said, you can expect Comic Fury, Tapas, and Smack Jeeves to all update on their usual schedule.

But! I need to start monetizing my comic, if I want to make this my career. However, it’s against my personal belief system to charge people out right for this webcomic.

One, no one would probably buy it (although I’ve had some wonderful people in the past buy copies of the OLD Act 1 of Dark Horse. I feel like I let them down with the art, but they were so amazing, they saw what it looked like, and bought it anyway. Forever grateful to those awesome people who believed in me!)

Two, having suffered economically myself (not as bad as many others; I’m not so arrogant as to think that,) I know what it’s like to have no means of purchasing art and entertainment. For some time when I lived up in DeKalb, my friend and I couldn’t afford even Internet. I had to update Dark Horse from the local library, which was seriously only one block away. I was so thankful for that library (gah, Andrew Carnegie, I know you had a lot of guilt from that one fire, but man, I gotta thank you for the free libraries!!) In the winter, we kept our apartment very cold, and in the summer-the Chicagoland, corn and bean field sweltering, stifling humid Illinois summer-we had no air conditioner. We spent so much time at the library (well, when I wasn’t at work XD.)

While I’ve always had an affinity to free entertainment and supporting the artists directly (like going to small bars and catching local bands, donating at art shows, buying from small, local vendors, supporting local independent radio stations,) a few years ago, after seeing how many artists charge to unlock their comics–which is fine, it’s their right and I don’t blame them for it–I recall being frustrated that I’d start a story…only to have a newly uploaded chapter suddenly be locked. I just don’t have the money for it. When you can only spend about $25-$35 per week on groceries, unfortunately entertainment is one of the first things to get cut from the budget.

And I got to thinking how much I appreciated my library. How many people there were only able to access Internet, read books, check out films, music–only because of the library (yeah, Youtube is a thing, but some people believe it or not don’t have Internet.) And my partner, who’s very anti-censorship, and a big fan of fair-use, public domain use, etc…he got me thinking before I even joined Comic Fury, back when we were just good friends: why not just keep it free? He shared this video with me not too long ago:

 

 

As a huge Neil Gaiman fan, I was dead jealous to find she’s married to him. But…then I thought “yeah, that’s fitting. I’m okay with this.” As though, my opinion on other people’s happiness mattered XD. But you get it. More than that…I started listening to her music. And I really found I liked it, and grew an admiration for her art and some of the stories she shared in this video.

Why do I bring this up? Why babble about it? Well, it all comes back to wanting to do comics for a living, but not wanting to deprive working classes and even middle classes of free entertainment.  I remember what it was like to have…well, I won’t talk about some of the issues I used to have, but I will say in a small way I experienced what many go through everyday, and may never be able to dig their way out of. But…art…it connects us all. It’s our culture, be it pop culture or High Art. It makes us think. It makes us feel. It make us understand. And if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be deprived from people, it’s the enjoyment of the arts.

I know, Dark Horse will never be some great cultural work that brings joy to millions and makes statements that inspire great deeds by man. But…if it can bring a bit of joy to someone without any out of pocket cost, I want to provide that service (I’ve always…worked in the service industry: I think I just like to please people. My first full time job was a waitress. My second job was with the National Park Service, and I was a “cleaning technician”/janitor, as well as secretary. I find fulfillment when I can do something that falls inline with what I find valuable. We all do.)

So it’s with all this in mind that I’ve been striving very hard to find other means of both doing the thing I love, and trying to keep it free. I have opened mirror sites to spread my comic around. I have also started a YouTube Channel, which I plan to monetize once I get enough subscribers &  money to buy some licenses and donate some money to the sites I got some of the music from (one site doesn’t require purchase, but I want to pay it forward, so to speak.)

That’s where this new, more professional website for Dark Horse and The Crystal Lotus Chronicles comes into play. I know ads are annoying. I…do not wish to express my feeling about advertisements…but those of you interested can slide on over to this link to get a satirical idea of my opinions: Infinite Jest. However, that said, I have never personally been bothered by ads on the side or bottom of websites. They are there, they can be a touch distracting, but in the end, they don’t take away from my time. My Youtube channel I’m sure will be a bit annoying with them…but as for the comic, which is my main focus, I figure, a little advertising won’t hurt.

I know this is a long blog, more like a “dear diary” entry. But…I just felt like sharing this information with anyone interested in why I would bother creating a whole other site-which believe me, has not been easy to edit and make the way I want it to look.

And probably the most important part of this blog: I want to thank anyone who invests time in reading any of my comic, reading my blog, or visiting any other social media site I update.

Time is the one thing that can never be paid back.

It’s why I feel creating this comic, I don’t want to charge money unless there’s some kind of material or electronic exchange (the e-books take time to make and change pages to fit, number, and all that, so charging for something of this nature, which is just a .pdf someone is buying to help support me when the comic is free, I think is a fair trade.) A piece of art I create will require materials. A hard copy of the manga will incur production costs. The webcomic…I pour my heart and soul and time into it, and in return, I want to share it with people who are taking their valuable time to read what I’ve created. If I didn’t have to eat, that’d be payment enough for me. But since I do have to eat, I think that…having a free manga with some ads on it is a good compromise.

I want to close on a begging note. Well, not so much begging, but a posty note to let you know it’s an option, and I appreciate any support I garner.

As I mentioned in the TLDR part, just as I have felt the urge to support artists I love, such as with some of the artists and institutions I love (Flipside and KDHX, not on a regular basis, but as I get spare cash,) I know there are people who are willing to part with their hard earned pay to support the things they appreciate. So, I’m not about to miss out on that:

Okay, this is obviously supposed to be light-hearted. But for real, if anyone does want to become a patron, I have a lot of different options, starting as low as $1, because I can get 1 onion from that, or two lemons, or 4 limes, one bunch of green onions–oh, you get the picture? $1 buck, even after the Patreon deduction, adds up. Dudes, I get excited when I find a penny on the ground XD Can you imagine a dollar!?

And for you high rolling ZZ Top Sharp dressed peoples (you can be whatever gender you are–it doesn’t matter! As Kei demonstrates above,) I got as high as I think $50–which I would never really ask or expect, but I thought “the worst I could is put it there. If someone is capable and willing to do that–holy shit that’d be amazing!

I’m also working on getting a donate button, for single donations–which is what I usually do when I  have any spare cash at all. So keep a look out for that if you want to help out, but can’t/don’t want to donate monthly.

This was really long. I’m so sorry for bending ears and eyes like this, but I truly wanted to…express my feelings on the matter and go into detail about the choices I’ve been making with the comic.

Thanks to anyone and everyone who’s gone the distance to read this, to support me, to read, to be a nice well rounded human being, to be mindful, to be understanding (in general,) and to share existence with us 😀

Take care, rest assured, my next post won’t be this long!

 

 

Blue Dragon
aka
Ashleen

P.S.
Did I put enough plugs for the new site in this post? If not I can put more.
Did I mention also that my main site will update with the revamp EARLIER than my mirror sites? ‘Cause…yeah, it’s true! I already have this week’s page up a day early…but I will probably just update it as I get pages done so I don’t forget. There’s an incentive for ya. 😉

 

Posted in Newest Additions, Updates.

Comic Fury Comic Collabs!

Well, it’s about that time to drop in an update post!

If I fall quiet for a while, it’s usually because I’m busying “arting” around XD

Anyway, since fall of 2018, I decided to start participating in some of Comic Fury’s collaboration comics. The community of artists over there is really diverse and a lot of fun! And the collabs I’ve participated in (and ones from the past prior to my contributions,) really show the heart and soul that people put into these projects.

So I wanted to take a moment to advertise these, especially since the Valentine’s Day Blind Date is coming up! And I’ve been working hard to improve on my panelling, drawing the other illustrator’s character, and just make a fun comic to read. I can’t show any of my progress for this collab yet, but I am happy to show some of the work done in the past! And I’ll be updating here and DeviantArt once the comic’s revealed on Comic Fury!

Halloween Collab: The whole comic

This is the opening page for the fan comic. I also contributed to the main comic, which you can read by clicking the above link. To read the little comic I made, click the link below. I suggest checking out the whole thing, though, and checking out the Comic Fury community!

For my fan page contribution, click here.

 

Christmas Collaboration: The Whole comic

 

Since I was really busy for all of December, I was only able to do one page for the fan part :*( I wish I could have done a little comic, but I was just stretched too thin.

 

I also did a “speed ink” video of one of the positions I had to draw Rhina in for the comic. I only had time to draw 4 comic contributions and the one fan art image.

And more is soon to come! I have the Blind Date comic completely thumb-nailed, and sketched except for the last page (which is scheduled for Monday-tomorrow. I have to put myself on a timeline to get things done XD) I hope you enjoyed this little update, and hope you check out Comic Fury!

 

Cheers everyone!

 

~Blue Dragon

 

Posted in Dark Horse Art, Updates. Tagged with , , , , , , , .

Youtube Channel…Kind of Up!

Well, back from all the Holidays and it was time to get settled back in and back to work!

I recorded this video a while back, but editing, adding music, text, and all the like for videos is not as easy at Youtubers make it seem! But, I’ve got a video finally that I’m proud of, so I uploaded it to Youtube. I do not get ad revenue from the videos I plan to post.  At least at this time: once I start making income, I plan to purchase the music licenses for the songs in this video and start monetizing. That’s a long way off folks, so for now, this is just posted to show my progress and hopefully gain an audience of fine people who enjoy watching me flounder through the art world 😀

 

You can find this image for sale in The Shop, both digital copies and the hard copy painted here.

 

In other news! After having to skip a post for Act 5, and the Act 2 revamp, last week, our Dark Horse schedule is back on track! You can read Dark Horse FOR FREE (because, free stuff rocks, um…even when it doesn’t!!)

Comic Fury
Tapas
Smack Jeeves

You can find me hanging around the forums on these sites, though admittedly not nearly as much as I probably should be. I’m most active on Comic Fury, of course.

Another happy little addition to the family is, after much debating, good advice, cajoling, and ado about nothing, I finally opened an Instagram page. Now people can look at how terribly I photograph my art XD

But seriously, it’s actually been pretty cool. And there’s a lot of neat art out there.

I will not be opening a Pintrest, though.

Nope. I’m not going to be opening mouth, inserting foot later on this one. I hope. XD

Have a fantastic 2019 everyone! And keep on truckin’!

 

~Blue Dragon
aka
Ashleen

 

Posted in Newest Additions, Regular Art, Updates. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Act 1 Revamp FINISHED!!!!!

I am soooo excited to announce that I just completed the Act 1 Revamp!!!! Here’s the last page (don’t read, if you don’t want spoilers…though it is just the first act XD)

 

I am so happy with how this turned out! I hope others enjoy it, too. You can of course read Dark Horse for free over at Comic Fury and Tapas, but if you wanted to own a .pdf copy of your own, I have those for sale in The Shop. Feel free to skip on over there and check it out 😀

 

 

Posted in Blog: Cerulean Sessions, Dark Horse Art, Updates.

Dark Horse Volume 1 New Cover!

WWWWWHHHHAAAAAAA!

I’m so excited to unveil the new cover for Dark Horse!!! This took about two weeks to complete, as I’ve been retained working on a Halloween Collaboration on Comic Fury and also half-*ss participating in Inktober. I’m going to complete it, I’m just running behind.

But, after redrawing Kanna three times, and redoing Keisuma twice, I finally settled on a cover I think embodies the story better than the original cover. I can’t wait to complete the revamps cause I want to get volume one printed sooooo bad!!!! *-*

 

Once Halloween hits, I’ll be sharing the Collaboration I’ve been working on for Comic Fury, but we aren’t supposed to post it anywhere until Halloween :3
I’ve also started working on The Whimper in the Dark once more, so this comic will be updating again 🙂

That’s all for now!

 

Blue Dragon
aka
Ashleen

 

 

 

Posted in Dark Horse Art, The Whimper in the Dark, Updates.

Act 2 Dark Horse MAJOR Revamp!!!

Holy cow!

So…I just finished inking the last page for the Dark Horse act 1 Revamp….including a new cover image I’m in the process of mapping out and inking. I want it to be more epic looking, so I took a little inspiration from one of my favorite animated films, Heavy Metal, and set things up the way I wanted it.

Inspiration:

 

Creation:

This is the same outfit Kanna wears in the current opening of Act 2. The weird hair style is an homage to Usagi, from Sailor Moon. I’ve always been a big fan, so this was how I paid tribute 🙂

You can somewhat see the inked image behind Kanna, which is Keisuma. I still need to draw the Dark Horse, and Kanna’s lotus. It’s coming along though!

 

With the near completion of Act 1’s Revamp…I needed to start thinking about how to fix/improve Act 2. And…Act 2…is a mess. So….I’ve am engaging in a major undertaking: Combining and splitting Act 2 and Act 3.

The plus is that these two acts will make more sense, have some filler cut out, have more characterization (I’ve already gotten my “thumbnails” sketched out,) look better. And you won’t have to re-read the comic to still get what’s going on. It might be a good idea, but it’s totally not necessary if someone’s already caught up and doesn’t want/need a refresher.

The negative is…I’ve added more than 26 pages, will have to get the whole thing complete before I post it (at least, on Comic Fury, on Tapas, I’m just uploading as I get things done, which is nice,) and it is going to take quite a bit of time.

But! The end result is going to be, I feel, a much better telling of what happened to Odysseus, background on the plague and the new government (better world building,) and it’s going to make more sense. Rather than BOOM! Flashback, I’m taking the first part of Act 3 and making it the beginning of Act 2, then cutting into the flashback (where it currently just says “an act later”) and ending Act 2 in the middle of the flashback.

The flashback is also going to be indicated by black borders, which is something I meant to do to begin with but *stupid me* forgot :/

 

TL:DR: Act 2 and Act 3 of Dark Horse are getting mixed and split and will look and read better! Ideally 🙂 In lieu of these changes, Acts 2 & 3 may also get new covers! Which is exciting for me, because I love to draw fancy covers 🙂

 

Here’s a colored version of the above picture, to close this with an image 😀

Can you tell I don’t watercolor! Ach! My shading is terrible on this! Maybe I’ll go back and blend things better later. That’s one thing that’s nice about water colors!

 

 

 

Oh! And I forgot to post this little video I made for my Patreon page.

Thanks for reading! And Keep on Truckin’!

 

Blue Dragon
Aka
Ashleen

 

Posted in Dark Horse Art, Updates.