Saturday, October 09, 2004

13th Leg: Haiku Circus

Firstly, because someone requested it:



It's nowhere near my best, but I'm kinda starved for time at the present. Originally I wanted a backpacker, but I couldn't fit it in the banner.

Next, if you guys are familiar with Keenspace and the myriad comics that exist on it, AND if you're feeling adventurous, you might be interested in this post which presents this Random Keenspace Sampler. Like what it says: it redirects you to a random Keenspace comic.

In 9 cases out of 10 you'll probably run into something bizarre or horrendous (sprite, stick figures, MS-paint) but sometimes you can get a good find or two. For example, my last 10 attempts:


Entertaining indeed. Sometimes depressing and a tad hazardous, but ultimately fun. (Thanks to Mercury Hat of Gunmetal Annie for the initial heads-up!)

Anyway, for something else a bit on the unusual side: Today's Find.



Comic: Haiku Circus
By: Ken Sakamoto

Genre and Setting: Surreal (?)

Art Style: Various, ranging from digital art to pencil/pen line drawings. Greyscale.

Is About: Modern haikus... done in comic form.

Website: http://www.haikucircus.com
Frequency: Unknown
Availability: Free. Comic has been published in various university papers.

First Impressions and Presentation:
Interesting. This has to be the first comic I've ever seen that has uh... tomatoes as the main characters.

The description for the site reads:
A comic strip that combines drawings with haiku poetry (5-7-5 syllables)


The navigation for the site is a bit different... There's only a previous button (but no first comic button) and an archive page with a list of all the past haikus on the site. Strips are group according to month, so clicking each button gives you a page full of successive strips. There's also this little box under each haiku asking you to rate it. (1-10, Awful - Hilarious/Enlightening)

Yep. Like I said, whatever else this comic might be, it's definitely interesting


The Concept:
According to the 'About' page, a haiku is form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines, where the first line has 5 syllables, the second has 7 and the last has 5.

Haiku Circus takes this a step further by combining Ken's original haikus with sequential art. so imagine a series of comics, all in three panels, and each panel depicting a line of poetry.

You know, I don't think I've ever been floored by sheer originality before, but this concept is genius. And in my experience, absolutely unique.

And I don't think I've ever had this much difficulty trying to classify a comic before either.


The Art:
Is not exactly the best part of the comic.

I'm rather confused by the quality of the drawings, sometimes they look all right, sometimes the lines looks rather shaky and amateurish (you know, short scratchy lines, off poportions, scary looking eyes). In fact if I didn't know better I'd say they looked traced. But that's just conjecture on my part, so don't take my word for it. The digital stuff doesn't look very finished either, there are a lot of sharp jagged edges that should have been aliased.

I also notice a very high usage rate of 'cut-and-paste'. While in some places it works, at other times it makes the author look lazy.

But for most part the art, while not as easy on the eyes as the last few comics I've found, does what it's supposed to to, and that is: convey the message they are supposed to.


The Writing:
I'm no expert at japanese poetry, so I don't really know whether the haikus are good or bad, but I can tell you some of them are really funny. The following strips made me laugh out loud: Filthy cockroaches, Lunch Special, Whining Crosswalk, Triangles.

Like I said, I'm not sure of the value of the haikus literature-wise, but in terms of how funny they are, they vary. Some of them obviously have connotations that fly over the head of this humble reader, and some of them I didn't think were very funny. Like the previous comic it was mostly hit-or-miss, but the hits made up for the misses more often than not.

It's also interesting that there are no main characters or recurring themes, and the comic tend to focus more on interacting objects more than people.

By the way, having attention paid to the syllables had an interesting effect on the reading of the archives. I found myself subconsciously building up a rhythm (5-7-5-5-7-5...), so even when the particular haiku I was reading was a 'miss' the rhythm of the whole thing was so soothing I didn't really mind anyway.

I don't think I've ever read another comic that had this same rhythm effect.


Problems:
One very bad problem I had with the strips was the level of JPEG compression used. The level is set far too high, resulting in a horrible fuzzy JPEG artifacts appearing everywhere and blurry text, fractured text that challenge my eyes.

It doesn't help that the overall dimensions of the strips are rather small too.


Overall:
I'm not a big fan of this haiku thing, but I found myself charmed by the Haiku Circus because if its refreshing originality. It's not something I think I'd read daily, but I can see myself coming back next month to catch up on the strips, which IMHO are better read all in one go.


The Next Leg:
There's a small section put aside on the links page for webcomics. For no particular reason whatsover, I chose Deathworld.

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