Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tsukiko: The Moon Child’s Wish

The stars are out! Quick, make a wish!
What’s that? You wished for a webcomic? Well, good news…

The Rating

If you can power through the less-than-stellar first volume, it does start to shine brighter as the creator improves in both artistic and storytelling skill. But boy, that hurdle is hard to ignore.

The Raves

The main premise of Tsukiko: The Moon Child's Wish is pretty simple. Tsukiko is a girl who descended from the stars and is destined to save the world. You’ve heard it all before, you know the drill. What sets it apart from other comics like it? Well, if you like cosmic, dreamlike themes and imagery, it’s definitely got that going for it. The entire comic, even in its early stages, had a cute, imaginative world. Just look at the design of this place!
Now that's what I call an out-of-this world setting design!
The black and white art improves over time, becoming cuter and more consistent, but you know what this comic really needed? What it was absolutely demanding all along?
Color! Glorious color!
Now that's more like it! I could see in the chapter covers that the author knew how to use color quite well, and this watercolor style really works wonders. It makes absolutely every aspect of the art, from the expressions to the backgrounds, come to life. Bringing full color into the comic was without a doubt one of the best choices the creator has made for this project.

The art isn’t the only improvement, either. The pacing of the writing also gets a lot better over time, as does the development of the main character. The Chosen One archetype is generally hard to write well because of its cliche, contrived nature. For that reason, I appreciate that Tsukiko starts out demanding and full of herself, as any real child would be if they grew up being told they were practically Heaven's gift to mankind. Through her adventures, she grows out of her selfish arrogance into a plucky, heroic young lady who, despite still being naive and temperamental, has become increasingly lovable. The emotional depth of the characterization also becomes more compelling over time. Who would have thought a foppish pretty-boy like Lord Valentine would deliver one of the biggest emotional gut-punches this story has had to offer so far?

The comic has a fun ensemble cast that hides layers of complexity under a goofy facade. As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that most, if not all of the characters are harboring some sort of emotional baggage or personal burden. There are the obvious ones, like Aiken, who is the last of his kind. Then there’s Knight Mage, one of Tsukiko’s allies, whose source of power turns out to be the same forces she’s fighting against. And there’s the very real possibility that her success in defeating those forces could endanger him.

All in all, I might be giving the comic a 5 as a whole, but it deserves an A for effort lately. Keep up the good work!

The Razzes

I mentioned some of the massive improvements the comic has made, and not only do I consider these “improvements,” but I truly think they are part of what makes the comic good now.

Erstwhile, the comic was…not so good. The pacing was rushed and awkward and the jokes were forced and unfunny. Even now, most of the humor seems to boil down to "character comically overreacts to something." The first three chapters were mainly "humorous" bickering playing ping-pong with the "serious" moments. The first sign that the writing had some genuine potential didn’t really strike me until the latter part of Chapter 3, when Tsukiko meets Aiken. Here, we get our first taste of some genuine selflessness and heroism from Tsukiko and the introduction of a character with a rather sad backstory who adds some much-needed gravitas to the disorganized fluff that was the first few chapters.

Oh, and he speaks in bizarre broken Old English.
Linguistically, it makes no sense. The only words he evidently doesn't know are basic verbs and pronouns, yet he has no trouble saying less common words.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the gist of what he’s saying and the comic provides translations, but this kind of awkward dialog gets in the way of the emotions the writing wants to convey. Most comics depicting a character who speaks in another language or has an accent just uses a different font instead. I personally prefer that approach. To be honest, all of the dialog is, in general. It's often unnatural-sounding. My understanding, though, is the creator is from another country, so if English isn't their first language, then it's understandable that the dialog might have some problems. To that end, I suggest getting some help from a beta reader who speaks English fluently. Having another person checking the writing is a great source of constructive input.

This next bit of criticism comes from a somewhat subjective place and not all readers might agree with this, but certainly there are those who would find it disconcerting that Tsukiko has a crush on her adoptive family’s eldest son. And lest you think I’m reading too far into it…
The fact that she had a crush on him right off the bat is understandable, but for it to go on this long is a little iffy...
And there’s no ambiguity regarding him essentially being her adoptive brother, either.
Honestly, if the comic wants to switch gears to focus more on a sibling-like affection, I'd be all for it. But that's only going to work if you make Tsukiko actually treat him like a brother.
It's just…awkward. I know they’re not biologically related, but still. Granted, the story doesn’t seem to focus on this infatuation of hers much anymore, and it’s a plot line I’d happily see vanish from existence.

While Tsukiko herself becomes more well-rounded, keeping her verve and charm while growing out of her early selfishness and childish behavior, not all of the characters seem to experience major personal growth. For that matter, some of them hardly seem to matter to the plot. For example, you have Nana, a witch turned into a broom. Funny, but it seems like she exists only for that joke. Most of the other characters almost seem like window-dressing, irrelevant but for their involvement with Tsukiko. One of the things I like about characters like Valentine, who starts out seeming like a joke, is that we get to see him develop his own personal story separately from her adventures.

The thing is, as the comic goes on, I've come to like these characters. They've got personality and interesting backstories. The little bits of development the comic does throw their way are pretty good, and it's yet another sign of the creator improving with practice. I'm confident they will develop into even more well-rounded people with their own personal journeys.

This last point regards a done deal, but hear me out. Many aspects of the early chapter art were…pretty substandard. Enough to potentially turn people off. Things like sloppy inking, bad lettering placement, and slapstick comedy that really doesn’t work because the art quality makes it hard to even tell what’s going on. For example:
The key to slapstick is clarity. If you can't tell what's going on, the joke is an automatic failure.
There were certainly good pages early on, but also a lot of pages like this—and this was from Chapter 5, right before the end of the Volume 1. Not only is the art a mess, but the grammar is poor and the dialog is wooden. Now, the improvement curve following the start of the second volume is remarkable, and I applaud how much the comic has grown, but getting through the first five chapters was a bit of a grind.

I bet that sounded unfair. And it kind of is. But keep in mind, readers are not reviewers. They won’t keep reading a webcomic just to see if it gets better. Which is why, as a reviewer, I am heartily recommending anybody who sees this on Tapastic to judge this comic by its cover. I assure you all, the cover is no lie when it comes to how beautiful the art looks once it hits its stride.
Who can say no to that face?

The Revue

This comic’s biggest flaws are also a testament to its biggest strength—a creator who is clearly working hard to improve despite starting out at a very amateur, awkward level. If you like magical girl-inspired fantasy, give Tsukiko a chance. The steady improvement curve shows a lot of promise for future installments.

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