A few years back I discovered a doujinshi that was both exceptionally cool, and yet incredibly strange. For the uninformed, doujinshi are self-published Japanese comics well known for their cult followers and crazy stories. Thanks to the internet it is easy to search for, find, and read them. Today I’ll be discussing one doujinshi I found that whether you want to view it as good, bad, creative, or just down right offensive, it begs to be discussed.
Back in my post about Katawa Shoujo, the game about romancing crippled high-school girls, I mentioned that novelty is something I am always drawn to. So when I heard about what the series ‘Seikon No Qwaser’ was about, I decided that It at least deserved to be checked out. Before I get to the weirdness, let’s look at the coolness.
In this comic there are powerful entities called Qwasers. Each one of them holds the power to control a single element, and when I say element I don’t mean the old school fantasy elements like fire, earth, water, and air. I mean the periodic table of elements. In this we get to see people who control titanium, hydrogen, oxygen, copper, etc, etc. The catch is that they can control only ONE element, and there is only one Qwaser of any particular element. Although early on it is revealed that with enough skill a Qwaser can create alloys of other elements as long as the key component is the element they control. The Qwaser of Iron’s trademark is to make a big scythe out of the closest piece of iron.
This aspect of the story hooked me. Since I have always been a fan of stories with magic or other-worldly superpowers, this felt new and unique. The story doesn’t go into detail on the how of their powers, but does use real world science (most of the time) to make the battles intense. One prime example is when the main character, the Qwaser of Iron, is battling the Qwaser of Oxygen and ends up with his weapons continually rusting to dust in his hands. How does he fix this and save the day? With science of course! It turns out that there is more than one kind of rust, one kind in particular forms a protective film over the metal and preserves it from further deterioration.
There are even points in the story where the protagonists aren’t immediately sure on what element their enemy can control. A later chapter has the Qwaser of Iron fighting against another Qwaser who seems to also control Iron, which in the story had been established as an impossibility. So what was happening? Turns out he was the Qwaser of Neodymium, one of the most magnetic metals on the planet.
The writer does a Nobel effort (See what I did there?) exploring how these powers work and what each element can do, but there are times when it is lacking. I was a little disappointing when the Qwaser of Lead only showed up for one page and was quickly killed off. However they make up for this though with some of the things they do explore, such as the powers of the comedic relief character. Who is the Qwaser of Roentgenium. The poor bastard is stuck with the power to control an element that cant be found in nature and has a half-life of roughly 25 seconds.
And now we get to the weird part. Which has already been spoiled by the title of this post. In order for the Qwasers to control their particular element they need something called ‘Soma’. The more of the element they wish to control, or the greater the complexity of what they are doing will expending more of this magical resource. Soma is breast-milk, and if your imagining these character drinking from a classic milk bottle in the middle of a fight then you’d be mistaken. They drink straight from the source. Each Qwaser is paired with a woman called a ‘Maria’ whom they can quickly resupply their Soma from…sometimes right in the middle of hostilities.
That was where I was struggling with this comic. You see, I loved the action, it was intense, well drawn, and well thought out. Hell, even the Qwaser of Iron’s Maria isn’t some damsel in distress, shes actually quite a bad-ass nun. Literally…she’s a nun. I kept coming back for the action, even though I felt the rampant, exploitative full frontal nudity and needless Christian imagery was sometimes too much to bear. (The Russian Cross is everywhere in this)
It’s clear that the idea behind Seikon no Qwaser was to take violence, sex, and sometimes even sexual violence, and crank it up to eleven. I feel that was where the story fell flat. As much as I hate the idea of saying something should be cut out from a piece of art, I think that part should have been toned down or removed altogether. I honestly believe you can make a good story out of anything as long as the proper care and effort is taken, but most of the adult content here feels needlessly exploitative.
It also raised a question I wasn’t sure I could answer.
How do you define ‘liking’ something? Can you really enjoy some form of media if you don’t like all of it? If I only liked one of the actors in Casablanca, does that mean I am not a fan of the movie? Does it mean that movie isn’t a good movie unless I like all of it? After all, if you’re enjoying it, it must be good right? Is it possible to like a bad movie because it’s bad? Or are you liking some small part of that bad movie that is actually good? These are the questions that filled my head as I read through this comic. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll find the answer anytime soon.
Any of you in the same boat? Ever read, watched, or played something that you liked a part of but not all. Or enjoyed, but couldn’t recommend it to others?