A few months ago, I had the pleasure of backing a Kickstarter for Alex Heberling’s webcomic The Hues. A post-apocalyptic magical girl series isn’t a new idea, but “new” and “original” are overused and overrated. What I am actually looking for is a good story.
By good story I mean characters that are not a checklist of components, have complexity and personality and a plot that actually uses these characteristics, not just tortures the characters for our amusement. I realize that by saying this I have castigated about 97% of modern media entertainment. In one of my reviews of Sound of the Sky (which I tried hard to like, but ended up loathing), I said this:
“…so many anime studios have [fear] of *telling us an actual story.* It’s as if they cannot, will not and obviously do not feel comfortable with a female cast in a serious drama, and must relentlessly infantilize them so we can never, not for one second, take them seriously.”
I had a similar problem with Sound!Euphonium, when I tried to watch it last night. When I watch or read a story, once the cast has been presented to me, I have a weird expectation of them actually doing something.
In The Hues, we first meet Sami, a young woman whose own fate she has been well aware of, but never understood, When everything hits the fan, Sami is shocked, but not surprised. She is joined by several other young women, Andrea, Hannah and Lauren, all of whom understand they have some part to play, but don’t yet know what that part is. And then the plot happens. That, my friends, is how you write a good story. The set-up is set up for the story, then the story happens. If the set-up *is* the story, it’s much less likely to be good.
The Kickstarter gave me Volume 1 of The Hues as a print edition. The color pages work very well in print and the print quality is exceptional, so everything has more depth and fullness to it than the webcomic. It’s a nice book and I’m glad to have it.
Volume 1 is primarily focused on setting the board and the pieces upon it, so we have little time to devote to character development. In Volume 2, we spend a bit more time with building the world, which admittedly is in flux, the characters and giving us more insight into the overarching plot.
In Volume 3, having carved out a refuge in this post-alien invasion world, the protagonists now have a bit of time to get to know each other. I pegged the lesbian character right away – not because she’s stereotypical. None of the characters embody stereotypes, in fact. Even the minor characters are diverse and developed. And while there is a fair amount of queerness among our protagonists, there is also a refreshing body type and ethnic diversity.
The Hues is an original, diverse and realistic take on magical girls in a sci-fi setting. It’s got solid, complex characters and a plot that still has a lot to be developed. Definitely worth reading. And since you can read it online for free, there’s no excuse, is there? ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8
LGBTQ – 7
Service – 0 so far
Overall – 8
See, Japanese anime studios? It can be done. Try using the characters you create to do something once in a while. You might like it. I know I would.