Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Revue April 24th: Doodling Around

Ladies and Gentlemen presenting Angelica and Rina and their act...

The cast of Doodling Around

Doodling Around is a slice-of-life anime webcomic created by the group at Skill:Draw. We follow Rina, Angelica and their group of friends through their day to day misadventures.

I'm a big fan of slice-of-life anime like K-ON, Genshiken, Working!, and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and if you're a fan of those shows, then this webcomic will be right up your alley.


A cute slice-of-life story about a group of friends.

The Raves

The art is a cute anime-like style and it's fairly consistent throughout the run of the comic. The lines are crisp and sharp on the finished comic pages.
I really love the expressiveness of the characters. Body movement and facial expressions are exaggerated for effect and it works well with the style and adds to the visual humor.
The exaggerated arm movements are overused but I like how silly it looks to have them all run like this.

There's a massive cast of characters and it helps that they each have a different silhouette. You can tell them apart at a glance (okay, except the twins, but they're twins...). There are several strong personalities that also help you identify who's who such as Tinaru's overzealous otakudom and Fieri's strong woman personality.

Height chart for all the characters
The romantic relationships in Doodling Around keep the readers invested in the characters. We want to see how Rina and Armando's or Chiqui and Pedro's relationship evolves and we're given bits and pieces of it within the other stories. I like that the plots don't just focus around the budding romances, but that they're present and guide character actions. In the amusement park story, when everyone is paring up, Chiqui and Pedro seem like an obvious couple but Fieri is quick to pull him away (she's the third vertex of this love triangle). The end result: I'm rooting for Team Chiqui. (Girl, you better step it up.)

This comic really grew on me as I read through the archive. The individual story arcs are hit and miss -- I mostly enjoyed the ones about the group's real lives going to comic conventions, hanging out, and getting into trouble at school as opposed to the more fantasy ones like the Clue episode or the Bumper cars, but that is personal preference.

I enjoy a lot of slice-of-life anime and that's what the writing reminds me of, which is both good and bad. What I love about Doodling Around is the warm, fuzzy feeling of being in a group of friends and the shenanigans they get into. After watching so many slice-of-life anime though there are various tropes that make many stories in this genre feel samey. The beach episode. The sleep over. The mid-summer festival. Doodling has it's fair share of that, but the creators of Doodling are Colombian and I like that, as a foreigner, I can get some insights into their culture -- like the latest story is about Vixen's QuinceaƱera. That's what sets Doodling Around apart and makes it interesting to me.

As for the presentation, the website fits the look of the comic. It uses the characters in the art which is a nice way to reinforce them. The social icons are done as doodles, and  the 'next' and 'prev' arrows animate when rolled over. It's fun and playful. I never felt bogged down by ads as they're restricted to the top and sidebar. The comic pages are large and readable.


I did happen to start reading Doodling Around during the week of their server upgrade, so I experienced some horrible lag on the site and resorted to the deviantArt mirror, but I'm happy to say that issue has been cleared up.
The only thing that ever bugs me about the art quality in this piece is the shading on Rina and Angelica's hair. It looks blobby and reminds me of a hazy airbrushed look. I'd almost rather they have harder-edged anime highlights to compliment the rest of the cel-shaded appearance. On further inspection, I see that most of the characters have that for their hair shading, but it stands out on the twins because they've got a ton of hair.

English isn't the first language for the folks who make Doodling Around. Sometimes the English translation is stilted and odd sounding or it's worded incorrectly, but I applaud them for making the effort to translate it into another language. It's double the work and I hope it's finding an audience in both languages.

I saw folks in the comments offer up suggestions to smooth out the English, but this is only after the strip has appeared online (not a bad way to get engagement though, if you want to look at it from that perspective). To do a translation before posting, you'd have to add another member of the team who could translate the scripts, or at least someone who can take the coarsely translated scripts and clean them up. I suppose you could try and look for a fan in the comments or in a webcomic forum and ask them to help with the translation. If you can't, maybe you could look for a freelancer on Fiverr to do it, but that may not be worthwhile since it'll cost you a pretty penny or delay the English release of each page if you decide to batch translate them.

For as much as I've discussed the issue, I can't really ding them. My parents didn't speak English as a first language (we're Chinese American), so I've always had to interpolate their broken English, and in reading Doodling, I did the same.

Comedy-wise, I found much of Doodling Around's humor to be more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, and that's on-par with most 4-koma slice-of-life manga. This actually seeps back into the discussion on language: if the joke isn't visual, then the dialogue would have to express it, but since much of the dialogue is stilted we lose a little of the "zing" that comes with a barb, or a joke, or a moment. For example:

Comedy is a subjective thing, and it's also a difficult thing to do, and I don't think there's really any advice I can give to improve it other than just try new material and refine it. What you find funny may not be what I think is funny so there's that bit of subjectivity involved.


If you like slice-of-life anime, then check out Doodling Around.

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