Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zap!: You Won't Believe it's Not a JRPG!

I've never actually played Final Fantasy VII, you see, I assumed that Nintendo would continue its dominance in the console wars, and it took me a few years to realize that the N64 wasn't going to make it. Which is a long way of explaining that I don't have the necessary background to think of Final Fantasy VII as anything other than the game that inserted a whole new set of painful cliches into the minds of impressionable youths that occasionally lead to disasters like Zap!

The eponymous Zap is amnesiac psychic with spiky blond hair. I believe these traits may make him one of the least original characters of all time. And his mysterious past? Yeah, he was working with the bad guys. The other characters include the initially distant love interest, the warrior alien (aka anime Worf), the robot with attitude (aka Bender-lite), the tech-girl, the androgynous evil guy who is clearly evil, and yet must be revealed as being evil, and the cat girl, for if the otaku of Japan have one dream for the future, it is that they will meld the features of the cat onto that of the schoolgirl, and that is why medical licenses must never be given to fans of anime.

But hey, a good story can make up for good characters, right? Okay, well, Zap! is the story of a ragtag band of rebels fighting an evil empire controlled by a cabal of evil psychics. So, you've got a bunch of derivative characters in a derivative plot. I'd talk more about the plot, but well, you've seen it before, trust me.

The art is competent. Actually, that may be underselling it, because, unlike most webcomics, there is clear improvement. Compare this to this and it's clear that the art is better now than it used to be (although the writing is still shit). It's not great, but there are many, many webcomics with worse art.

Zap! is actually kind of impressive, because I think that this webcomic is actually the ur-JRPG comic, a webcomic whose utter fidelity to the tropes of the genre is such that it somehow transcends its mediocre nature in order to become something grander. Shorn of any distracting outside influences or creative aspects, looking at Zap! is like looking into the base nature of this type of webcomic. Personally, I find such a view unpleasant and banal, but if you're looking for a sci-fi/fantasy comic with anime-influences, well, Zap! is certainly the exemplar, for good or ill.

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