(published on May 1, 2002)
Tsunami Channel is a mangart comic strip that focuses on the life of the unnamed Onii-chan (Japanese for "brother"), his 'sister' Kotone -- an android girl, and a tiny gaggle of supporting characters as they all go through the motions of a typical manga story, with all the standard trimmings. Romantic tension and comedy seem to be the order of the day for this Keenspace-hosted and Kickass Web Exchange -endorsed webstrip.
It's clear that Akira Hasegawa is an otaku of some note -- both the art and the writing reflect his profound knowledge of a host of manga and anime titles. Akira borrows, imitates, and emulates a number of artists and aspects of their trademark styles, doing so fairly well. His line work improves consistently as the series continues. Something to be noted is how his backgrounds (when he draws them) are usually nicer than the average amateur mangartist -- his characters are still better rendered than his peripherals, but the disparity is not as marked.
Akira has two other great visual strengths: he creates dynamic panel layouts with skill, regardless of the fixed amount of alloted space (600 by 450 pixels); "the whole page" looks as good to the eye as does each indiviual panel. His other great strength -- the ability to colour using photoshop and screentones. Like the pros, he knows how to add *just* enough screentone colour to enhance the look of the page, without drowning it in tones. He also plays with standard shojuo conventions like bubbles, sparkles, and flowers for emotive background (the bubbles are used a bit too much, though, and sometimes at inappropriate moments).
Overall, then, it can be said that the art of Tsunami Channel is potent, like its natural-phenomena counterpart. However, the similarities end there. Sadly, fanboy imitations of writing don't translate nearly as well as imitations of art. While a reader can admire how Akira can draw well, borrowing from the greats, the same reader will groan when noticing how Akira also borrows the same jokes from the artists, too. As such, most of the humour in Tsunami Channel is nothing more than a carbon copy of overused manga comedy clichés -- the same violence jokes, the same sexual jokes, the same suffering misunderstood hero jokes, etc. Anyone who has read/seen even but a few manga books/anime titles will recognize all the humour, having seen it all before.
The characters are likewise pure manga stereotypes: Onii-Chan, the innocent nice guy who always gets in "romantic/sexual" trouble (practically ANY anime/manga [male] hero, e.g., Keitaro of Love Hina); Kotone, the cute and nice robot girl with human feelings (Hand Maid May, Steel Angel Kurumi, etc.); the tough tomboy warrior-girl who secretly likes Onii-Chan, Laika (Motoko from Love Hina); the “obligatory” catgirl (and foxgirl!) who are both very protective of their loves (Merle from Escaflowne, Shampoo from Ranma, etc.); the perv and vain bishonen Konstantin (Hidaeki from Kare Kano); the lecherous, eccentric, and mysterious professor (Angelic Layer’s Icchan, Dr. Ogami in Nanako, etc.)… all of this is taken practically STRAIGHT from his favorite titles -- and Akira openly admits it.
Unfortunately, the fact that he KNOWS he is using other people's humour does not excuse his practise, nor does it make the tired gags any funnier. The only time that Akira shines is when he dares to go off on his own -- a triad of strips particularly impressed me, because he misdirected the reader with a stereotype, only to twist it in a new, surprise direction, verging on metahumour! When Akira wants to be original, he can be funny; disappointingly, he hardly ever does so.
The biggest problem with the comic, though, has nothing to do with the comic at all. Akira has added an "explanation" below most of the strips in the series, and while sometimes these blurbs are interesting or useful (e.g., showing his writing/drawing process, translations of Japanese captions), most times they prove highly detrimental to the comic. Akira has a bad habit of overexplaining, as if he feels the comic isn't strong enough to support itself, joke- or plot-wise. Moreover, he often spoils great mystery elements by explaining them the same day -- what could be used to hook readers is defused immediately by his unneeded 'clarifications'. And as the sour cream on top, he often mentions very important things that are NEVER addressed in the comic, things that are VITAL to the story! Akira has to learn to both let the COMIC do the talking, as well as let the man behind the curtain retain the power and appeal of mystery by STAYING behind the curtain.
Overall, Tsunami Channel is a very unbalanced mix of good art and overdone Xerox writing. Akira seems to have developed a slow flow in the last 70 strips, and the characters are getting to be a little more palatable, but he needs to stop using other writers' stuff and develop his OWN humour and story. There's nothing wrong with referencing or tributing, but out-and-out imitation, done over and over again, makes for a very tedious reading experience. Makes for a very tedious reading experience. Makes for a very tedious reading experience. Makes for a very tedious...
Just like a Tsunami, this comic generates the awe-inspiring beauty of the tidal wave -- it is a wondrous sight to behold. But rather than crash over you with the force of of fresh current, it simply falls flat, watered-down in its own repetitive Xerox-effect erosion, a mist of a wave unable to hurt a fly, much less carry a websurfer with much interest.
Or in simpler words: it sure looks good, but it ain't very filling.
FINAL TALLY: a hollow apple -- nice polish, little substance
Name of Comic: Tsunami Channel
"Sponsored" by: Kickass Web Exchange
Genre/style: mangart romantic comedy
First comic: October 8, 2001
Updates: 5/week, Monday to Friday
Total # of comics
(at time of review): 142 strips, half-page format
% of archives read at time of review: 100%