Every fan of kitsch knows that there are essentially two categories of good crap. The first is the most common – so awful that it’s funny. The second is much rarer – purposefully dumb parody by smart people.
The problem with the former is that it is completely subjective. What you find hilariously tacky may be someone else’s treasured item. The fact that it is someone else’s treasured item is, of course, what makes it hilarious to you. A hilariously awful movie/show/book usually means someone, somewhere, on the production side, was taking themselves way too seriously.
The problem with the latter is that it is open to misterpretation by people on the audience side who miss the joke completely and take the show/art way too seriously.
Tantric Stripfighter Trina is in the third category – neither bad enough to be funny, nor smart enough to be dumb. It’s a painful reminder that someone else has had their manga published and you haven’t. ^_^
(Before I pull out the review scythe I want to be be very clear with short words, so you all – most importantly, neither writer nor author – don’t jump on my bacon and accuse me of taking this book too seriously. I did not take this book seriously at *all.*. Nor, I hope, did anyone involved with it, because the title is *Tantric Stripfighter Trina* and if you are taking that seriously, you don’t have issues – you have whole subscriptions.)
Okay, so, let’s begin at the beginning. In the first few pages, we are introduced to a culture that is so advanced that they’re clueless idiots and, despite their mad skillz in every cool-esoteric-Asian-sounding thing evar, were completely taken unawares when the loud, brutish bad guys flattened their planet. I feel obliged to warn any suggestible 14-year olds that read this book that not only should Tantric Yoga and Shaolin martial arts not be combined in your practice – they are almost impossible to combine, as they are completely opposite in nearly every form of external, internal and energetic discipline. I’m just saying. It’s a good thing the bad guys killed everyone, or their mixed energy arts would have made them all go insane.
The naming sense showed throughout this manga rivals Marimite’s Yumi’s. Tantric Yoga devotees from the planet Rama, bad guys named “Curse” and “The Legion,” and to top it all off, the cleverly titled government – “Crown” and it’s religious arm, “Cog.” But the names aren’t really what make this book – it’s the writing, which appears to be cobbled together from a lot of other stories without discrimination. I’m going to give the writer credit and assume he was going for trite and amusing. But the poor grasp of timing and sense show in lines like, “If you lose…well, let’s just say that you’ll be in no condition to experience the bitter taste of defeat.” Really? Well…that’s a good thing, right?
The art is similary challenged. The characters are, as they are described in the back of the book, “boobalicious.” That should be an indicator that this book was written for and will appeal primarily to barely post-pubescent males who have not yet had the chance to enjoy actual boobs, which look – and act – nothing like the ones portrayed here. I do have to wonder where they found a 12-year old editor, though.
So, aside from the not-quite-laughably-bad story and the not-quite-giggle-making art, how was the book? After the initial setup, you find yourself sort of settling into a pattern – reading a few pages, then forgetting that you were reading and doing something else, then picking the book back up and being surprised that you’re reading it all over again, then reading a few more pages. By midway, you feel you have established a rhythm which is sustainable until the end of the book, where the tedium of the fighting vies for with the silly dialogue for fail. And then you are done, and you think – not really good. Not bad enough to be funny.
So, why am I reviewing this? Because happily – and predictably – there is fake Yuri in it. Trina’s reluctant, then annoyingly devoted “cybernetic sidekick” (I have no idea what that means, or how it relates to anything in the book,) Abbey, first encounters Trina in battle. When the Tantrika master (three languages cry every time that word is used) Trina “stimulates all of her pleasure centers” to take her out of the fight, Abbey decides to follow her. Totally original, I know. Abbey does manage to save Trina and later has a dream in which Trina thanks her for saving her ass by climbing on Abbey’s lap and kissing her. Abbey gets touchy with Trina, who is an advanced master of many advanced sexual energy techniques, but can’t recognize a crush when she sees one.
As a webcomic, assuming that both artist and writer knew that it was meant to be funny, this story has some potential. As a manga published by Tokyopop, for which real money was spent, I just have to wonder what they were thinking.
Art – 6 Good for webcomic art
Story – 3
Characters – 4
Yuri – 3
Service – 6 Pasties!
Overall – 3
My very real gratitude to Brigid Alverson of Mangablog, who nobly sacrificed her copy on this review pyre.