Slightly Damned

Hello again. This is Bedlam. I’m sorry it’s taken this long to actually post something. I’ve recently passed a milestone in my life and I thought I’d take a little bit of time to get things set. I didn’t think it’d end up being almost a month. It wasn’t a bad kind of milestone, on the off chance you were wondering, but I won’t bore you with the details. That’s not why you’re here.

So, then, let’s get started with Slightly Damned.

Slightly Damned chronicles the (mis)adventures of Rhea Snaketail, a young jakkai who awakes to discover that she is dead, murdered by a mysterious assailant. Far from a saint, but not necessarily a sinner, she is sentenced by Death to spend eternity in the Ring of the Slightly Damned, a realm where virtually nothing happens… ever. There, her only real company is her clumsy but friendly demon supervisor Buwaro (and his pet rock Thadeus, we mustn’t forget her). As the series progresses, the pair interacts with many other characters, such as Buwaro’s sister Sakido and his brother Iratu, as well as the demon-dog Cerberus, other demons, and a few dead people. Eventually, the characters find their way to Medius, the land of the living, where they quickly meet up with their third main cast member, Kieri Suizahn, a young cursed angel searching for her twin brother, and the mysterious traveling Sinclair family. All the while, our characters struggle to adapt to the circumstances around them as agents of both heaven and hell pursue them, while mysterious forces plot in the shadows.

The art for Slightly Damned starts off looking like a combination of Crayola markers and Microsoft Paint, with almost every panel looking incredibly two-dimensional and awkward. The shading is basic and by all accounts, the art is just bad. At about page 209, however, is where the art improves to the point that it becomes decently noticeable, though still far removed from great. It’s a testament to the artist’s character that she actually learns how to draw better as the comic progresses and though the art is still not spectacular, by page number 500 it has improved considerably, though it still relapses from time to time and the artist seems to still have trouble with dynamic poses and fluid action. Compare page #2 with page #440. Through a hit-and-miss system, the creator experiments with lighting and coloring, poses, background, and perspective over the course of the comic and seems to genuinely try to improve through experience. Say what you will about the art, but that is commendable.

The writing for the comic is in some ways clunkier than the art, though. Dialogue often comes off a bit artificial and doesn’t sound like what ordinary people would say in real life (although the cast consists of a demon, an angel, and a creature that could have been submitted to a Pokémon fan art contest, so “ordinary” might not apply). The world of Slightly Damned appears thought out, with info pages dedicated to things like history and species information in addition to cast backgrounds. The thing that makes the comic’s world-crafting awkward is the sporadic info-dumps that take up entire pages. A character will just drop a wall of expositional text to explain something and while this is clearly meant to demonstrate the comic’s world to the reader, it inevitably jolts them out of it by bringing their attention to the fabricated nature of the setting. If you already have “about” pages for describing your world, then it shouldn’t be necessary for the characters to explain it all in universe. That said, you see info dumps like these all the time in series like One Piece and Pokémon so I’ll just cut it a slice of slack-pie for now.

As for the plot, the bulk of the series is essentially just Rhea and friends trying to get from point A to point B without drawing too much attention and, of course, failing spectacularly. There are scenes where the focus is on other characters, usually the antagonists, but while they seem to be up to no good, these scenes are brief and virtually nothing is revealed of their plot. Pokémon has been cited by others to describe the comic and, in a lot of ways, that’s actually an apt description. You have your main three characters travelling around, being silly and energetic, while someone plots evil in the shadows Team Rocket style (the intimidating Team Rocket, not the James-in-drag one), with the heroes remaining oblivious to them until they run into each other. Chu has even gone on record saying that Pokémon is one of her favorite game series and the influence is pretty apparent. The world of the comic is made of elements that have been done nearly to death before; there’s a Heaven and a Hell and a war between the two, there’s a fantasy world, a magic system based on the four main Greek elements, and numerous characters are drawn from outside sources and the web-comic is reminiscent of a Pokémon game. I do, however, believe that original works can be made from unoriginal material (or else there’d be little point to art), and while Slightly Damned may feel or look a lot like something else, at the end of the day, it does manage to be its own thing.

The characters also follow the typical three-person dynamic that you see in works like Pokémon; Rhea is sassy, down-to-earth (literally), and street-smart. Buwaro is the naïve, klutzy, loveable one, and Kieri is the soft-spoken, generally timid, protective one. Rhea herself has very little character development, so far, with the only real change being in how open and caring she is with her new friends. Both Buwaro and Kieri, on the other hand, have their fair bit of development. Buwaro struggles from time to time with the knowledge that, as a demon, he is feared and hated by non-demons and at the same time rejected by other demons for his kind-hearted nature. Though he’s simple-minded and jovial, there is a tragic element to Buwaro’s past that even he isn’t initially aware of. Kieri’s primary motivation is to reunite with her brother, but an oppressive upbringing and her inexperience in the world burden her along the way. Due to a lonely and abusive past, she is the most emotionally frail of the three, yet her training as an angelic soldier and her devotion to her new-found friends allow her to show a brave face and fight in order to protect them. Much of the story consists of the three growing closer and [SPOILERS] Buwaro and Kieri’s budding relationship. It’s incredibly cutesy and gushy, yet there’s a dramatic element to their relationship due to the fact that an angel and demon in love is intensely taboo and regarded as an abomination by both sides. This rift even presents a (small) obstacle to the lovers, as Kieri struggles with the beliefs instilled in her by her family and culture, while Buwaro wrestles with self-image issues and the fear that he could never be accepted for who he is.

All in all, the web-comic has a rough start, but improves considerably over time, at least visually. The story is basic, but still effective and entertaining, though final word will have to wait until the series ends, if it ever does. The characters are likeable and sympathetic, if a little flat on occasion and the overall tone is incredibly lighthearted considering the premise and subject material. It’s childish, but not immature (there’s a bit of profanity). It won’t make you think, but it’ll probably make you laugh or even just feel good. In the end, it’s an otherwise harmless web-comic that many would find enjoyable and it is most certainly worth a run through its archive.

Slightly Damned, was created in 2004; its world, and characters belong to Chu. The comic updates very regularly, currently every Saturday. A derivative series involving the characters acting out their version of The Legend of Zelda; Ocarina of Time is presented as an incentive to vote for the comic on TWC, with most of the pages available for viewing on the creator’s deviantart account (here) along with other works.

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About Bedlam

Reviews webcomics regularly because he's a little bit insane. View all posts by Bedlam

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