Sunday, April 13, 2008

It JUST hit me!

So for the last couple hundred years, it seems, I've been reading...Megatokyo. Not religiously, mind you, just every few weeks or months I would think, "Hrm, I haven't checked up on Megatokyo in a while. I wonder what's changed there." Were I thinking clearly, the answer would have been obvious. But I maintain that my judgment has somehow been clouded for a very long time--no doubt through some evil mind-control scheme.

And so, the other day, I was bored at work, and checked Megatokyo once again. I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. At first I thought maybe it was excitement--like how I feel when I read John Allison's masterful Scary Go Round, or play Portal again after a long hiatus. But when one of the "customers" walked up to ask me a question, I nearly broke my hand, I minimized the window so fast. And then I realized what the feeling was. Shame. I was unbelievably embarrassed to be reading Megatokyo after all these years, and it was from this realization that another one was borne: I fucking despise MT.

Before I'm stoned to death by hordes of prepubescent American anime spazzes (I'm SO avoiding using the word "otaku," simply because I think MT would love that), let me make some disclaimers. It's great that Fred Gallagher followed his dream and got to make his webcomic full-time. I'm sure that he's a wonderfully nice guy--I've got no reason to assume otherwise. And clearly, some inane thing made me check MT sporadically for the last six or seven years. At first, it was almost certainly my teenage "blue period," my years spent languishing in the deepest, darkest pits of nerddom. But after I put away my Dragon Ball Z tapes and stopped drawing "chibi" versions of myself in the margins of my notebooks, I don't think I really had any excuse except familiarity. You sort of want to see things through to the end, you know?

So Fred, if you read this, I'm very sorry. But please go away now, because I'm going to say some things you won't like.

One thing I hear people defend Megatokyo with is that the art is good. But folks, it's just...not. His backgrounds are generally pretty decent and I can get on board with his street scenes. But the people all look identical, male or female, save for their hairstyles--and even some of those are hard to distinguish. Their facial expressions are cardboard, and they aren't even pretty. And for the love of GLaDOS, what the hell is with their hands? They lack any definitive bone structure, and they're TINY. You know that prank kids play where they say, "If your hand is smaller than your face you have cancer," and then when you check they hit your hand into your face? I think if I tried that with these characters, I would freak out upon seeing the hand-to-face proportion and run screaming. This is something I ALWAYS notice.

And the real problem isn't even that the art is mediocre at best. The problem with the art is that it doesn't ever evolve or improve. Look at Scary Go Round over the years. It's gone through more stylistic changes than I can count, and each has been refreshing and excellent, as always. Megatokyo looks largely the same now as it did in 2000, when I was fourteen and thought it kicked ass.

I'm going to use the art to segue into my second huge gripe now--the schedule. Megatokyo has the most sporadic update schedule I've EVER seen. And for a comic that is just sketched entirely in pencil, with no inking or colors, this is ridiculous. There are weeks where Fred actually meets the three requisite comics, but they're very rare. Most of the time, there's a Dead Piro Day or Dom steps in with stick figures acting out inside jokes, or it simply isn't updated at all. This would be understandable if he were doing it on the side, but this is his JOB. His only job. Yes, the store and all that take up time. But ultimately, there would be no store if not for the comic, so quit designing new figurines and draw your damn comic. And yes, he has a new baby--but that's no excuse. These problems are not new. He's always been this sporadic. John Allison runs a shop for Scary Go Round as well, and he updates five days a week with a beautifully detailed, meticulously-drawn, fully colored and digitized comic. He has NEVER missed a deadline in all my years of reading--at the very least, he has guest strips, but these are once in a blue moon.

Speaking of which, for its seven-ish years online, Megatokyo has gone virtually nowhere. I've tried multiple times to chronicle how much time has actually gone by in the comic world, but I can't quite get it. My estimate is anywhere from two weeks to three months. In SEVEN YEARS. Scary Go Round (yes, I'm going to keep using it, so you may as well get used to the idea) utilizes short, concise story arcs which generally occupy about a week of in-comic time, and usually about three weeks of real-life time. After seven years, that would make about two and a half years of comic time, give or take some. And there is comic time in between arcs. The plot is moving so glacially slow that it's impossible to tell how much time has passed.

...If you can even consider its flimsy string of disjointed occurrences "plot," that is. There have been several "idol" press conferences, a handful of zilla cataclysms, enough emo-centric conversations to get any My Chemical Romance fan through high school, and more forgotten art lessons than I can count. And yet nothing has actually happened. Both the loserish main characters have attractive, smart Asian girlfriends, and yet nobody has scored a kiss yet. Has there even been a hug? Someone, please, let's get this show on the road. Actually, maybe the reason the plot goes nowhere is that Fred has come to the realization that he can't draw people kissing.

This will be my final point against MT, not because I don't have any more, but because it seems like enough and I'd hate to make Fred cry. But seriously--does anyone else see what an egocentric pile of wishful thinking this is? The protagonist is an "idealized" version of Fred himself, a sad, dorky, shy, and ultimately useless little man who inexplicably lands himself a gorgeous, newly-famous Japanese voice actress for a girlfriend. He has all kinds of zany adventures in Japan and manages to score a job with zero effort, and even though he arses things up in every possible way, everyone thinks he's adorable and ignores his fuckups. Romance! Intrigue! Laffs!

...I wish. Well, this was a much longer rant than I intended it to be, but I think it was needed. Seriously, guys, if you're so desperate for something decent to read that you've settled on Megatokyo, close that tab. Open a nice, fresh, new one, and read some fucking Scary Go Round.


Jessica said...

Found your blog through craftster, hello. :)

MT was good for a while, when the angst was still fresh and there was some sense of urgency. Really until Largo inexplicably hooked up with Erika and the boys stopped talking about going home. Now it's in a holding pattern, sadly.

I did find AppleGeeks through MegaTokyo and I'm quite fond of that. Hawk's art actually is good.

kate said...

Hey, glad to meet a fellow craftster! I agree with you, MT had promise in the beginning, but I feel that it died out a few eons ago. Applegeeks is fun, though.

Thanks for commenting!

Telor said...

I discovered MegaTokyo in 2003, I had just moved out of my parents' house on my own and suddenly had the freedom to spend all day on the Internet and I was going through an entire teenage years' condensed "otaku" period. It was pretty intense.

In 2003 I was reading a lot of webcomics. Entire archives of them. And the thing I loved about them and still do is that they give aspiring artists something to gain their chops on, so to speak. Art on a long comic almost always improved dramatically over the years (with a few sad exceptions).

And while I loved anime at the time, well there were some things I just can't frigging stand about it and it seems that MegaTokyo has distilled all of that into one frustrating package that I continue to struggle to enjoy.
Largo "hilariously" takes no heed of reality and pretty much destroys everything, any good he does is purely accidental. It was cute at first but I'm starting to not be amused.
While Piro seems to lack even the rudiments of social skills, blustering and stumbling along like some caricature of Hugh Grant. That was never cute. I never liked that. People just don't behave like that. Especially not adults.

MegaTokyo seems to have a syndrome that most long webcomics have, they aren't intended to end, and that cripples their overall story progress, as they get stuck in these holding patterns where they creator tries to keep it going so he won't have to do something new.

Today I went to catch up on MegaTokyo and was not all that surprised to find that barely a dozen strips have been added. I should add that the last time I checked was sometime last October.

The art is still pretty sketchy. I've known (amateur) artists that could sketch something like this within a few minutes working off of a storyboard. Some of the strips actually do look like storyboards.

I'm sorry, this is turning into a rant, and nowhere near as put-together as yours.
I just agree with you completely. :P

charm-stub said...

I agree with a lot of what you said about MT. I always had problems with telling the characters, especially the females, apart and the absolute lack of plot development combined with the erratic update schedule are probably why I stopped reading MT in 2004.
However, I just want to say the I also stopped reading Scary Go Round.
Strangely, for a lot of the reasons you seem to love it.
Personally, I HATE it when a comic noticeably changes it style. A gradual honing of skill over time is fine by me, but for me changes in style should be barely, if at all, noticeable. Things like going from this:
to this: . Is just jarring and unwanted.

Same with the passage of time between plots. I hate it. Oh, do I hate it. I have no idea why, but reading something and being inexplicitly bumped into the future, just so big events don't happen one right after the other bugs the crap out of me. That's not true, I just realised I do know why I hate it. I hate it because it screws with my suspension of disbelief. If you bump something along so that things seem a little more realistic it just makes me stop and think about everything and anything else that's unrealistic going on and it ruins the whole effect of the comic (especially when it a comic that features zombies and timetravel).

So yeah, sorry if I come across as just picking on your one of your favorite comics just to rain on your parade. I only wanted to share my opinion and give the other side of the coin some representation.

Face said...

I love you. I've always felt this way about MT, but people keep telling me I'm wrong. Thank you for validating my feelings. :D

John said...

This is possibly the best article on something I hate I've ever read. I too was a reader of Megatokyo for a while in my middle school "crazed anime nerd" days. But what's always amazed me is how someone who lacks proper anatomy in his art can possibly sell so much. Scary Go Round is something I've loved on and off for years, mainly because I keep forgetting to read it, but I agree with this article completely. Thank you for simply being.