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Tril0kan by Suburi

These days you'll rarely find a webcomic that fits into just one genre. The concept, art style and tone can all affect the perceived intent of a comic, and most refuse to be pigeon-holed, weaving themselves into eclecticism. Suburi's Tril0kan is no exception to this, and manga-comedy is its hyphenation of choice. More hyphens will follow...

First up is the original Tril0kan, the Fantasy-manga-comedy. According to Trilokan's About page, it's "a parody of japanese fantasy mangas, meant to be viewed in good-natured humour."

The story itself centers on a cursed land where the townsfolk have lost their sense of touch, feeling neither pleasure nor pain. The one exception to this curse is a cocky youth named Arant Alot, who is The Chosen One to break the curse, though it's never been revealed thus far why he was chosen (think J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter). Unlike Potter though, Arant is more than comfortable with his heroic destiny, not to mention his elfin pretty-boy archetype. In fact, most of the jokes in this segment of Tril0kan seem to involve Arant being full of himself in one way or another. Rounding out the main cast is Poompi (whose sole reason for existing seems to be erupting in Dragon Ball-esque anger towards Arant), and Poompi's older sister Alelah, whom we see naked more often than not in the story.

Fast-forward about 30 pages and one short hiatus later, and we're on Tril0kan 2: Ramen High. Confused? What transpired is this: after setting things up in the original Tril0kan, Suburi announced that the fantasy story would go on hiatus, because he has a High School-manga-comedy in the works, which would now take center stage. It left about five storylines hanging when he hit the pause button on the original Tril0kan, but Suburi assures readers that he'd planned to do this all along.

Regardless, Arant is still around in Tril0kan 2, but he's had a bit of a changeover. No longer a self-absorbed elf, Arant is now an insecure, young doctor-in-training who's under tremendous pressure from his parents to become successful. So far the sidebar characters in Tril0kan 2 are Kutao, Arant's hentai artist wannabe roomie, and Myu-chan, Kutao's sugar-coated younger sister.

Suburi's art is breathtaking in both comics – he clearly spends a lot of time and effort on each page. The pages are generally rendered in grayscale, often featuring stylized halftone fills. The pages have a strong and authentic manga art feel, but with the Western "left-to-right" structure. Like the veteran webcomic Eversummer Eve, Tril0kan has the look of a comic that's being made for print, but goes online for the time being.

It's not easy to comment on the epic storylines themselves, as they're both very much in their infancy. Tril0kan 1 stopped rather shortly after it started, and Tril0kan 2 is still getting its gameface on, though already it shows stronger storytelling and better pacing. Only time will tell for these.

Shortly before its hiatus however, Tril0kan 1 *did* reveal some interesting villains. They seemed almost instantly funnier than Arant himself, who relies exclusively on his ego for comic effect. After all, the "self-absorbed hero" motif has been done since the Greeks, and its been used for comic effect since Ralph Roister Doister in 1550s Britain – it's nothing new. Overall, the comedic elements never really gripped me, despite Suburi's constant reminders that he's parodying something. That might be it, actually – sometimes it feels like he's trying too hard to make the comic funny, instead of just letting the comic be funny.

There are a lot of points where he has little notes below the comic, saying "exaggerated shoujo panelling", or pointing out references to Chobits. This diminishes the joke: if readers are familiar with Chobits, they'll understand the jibe without being told – if they aren't familiar with Chobits, it won't help to tell them it's from Chobits. When you're being told what you should find humorous, it's like seeing one of those shows with canned laughter or applause signs, and has an overall watered-down feeling. (Please note: in Suburi's defense, I'm not an expert in the world of manga by any means – if it's not readily available in the States, I'm probably not too familiar with it. Thus it's possible there are gags zipping right over my head because I'm not as comfy with the genre. If this is the case, I am not the intended audience and must make a note of it.)

All in all, the Tril0kan serieseses (serii?) show promise with their fantastic art and intriguing opening chapters, and readers can see a bit of storytelling evolution just between the two sequences Suburi's started. If its creator can relax and let the story unfold, Tril0kan will take over and make it a strong story through it own drive – whatever hyphens it adopts or genres it defies.