by Gina Biggs
published by Dark Horse; $9.95 US
I’d tried Gina Biggs’ minicomics, so I was interested in reading her manga-inspired series Red String. It’s early work, and although it has a great deal of charm and likable characters, they weren’t enough to completely balance out the flaws I see.
First, there’s the character design. The lead is named Miharu Ogawa but looks like a blonde-haired American in her manner and dress. The story is set in Japan and everyone else looks Japanese. I know those are standard manga conventions, but in this case, I found them distracting. I kept expecting Miharu to act like an American, based on the expectations of her appearance.
Next, there’s the premise. As a tenth grader, Miharu is suddenly told that her parents have set up an arranged message and she’s meeting her new fiance later that week. That’s tricky material, with lots of promise, but like most every conflict in this volume, any potential for it is dribbled away. One cute meet and Miharu’s in love, problem solved and on to some other conversation without enough feeling of resolution on the reader’s part. All the problems in this book are solved similarly, with good feeling and a vow of determination and never being mentioned again. It feels superficial.
(Apparently, that first chapter was originally a stand-alone story, kind of a pilot, which explains some of the structure. I’d still liked to have seen it fleshed out and expanded upon in the longer space when published in book format.)
The material reprinted here was originally serialized in print and online, and the result, under one set of covers, is choppy. Scenes jump ahead without much explanation, and a page turn might result in the reader entering a different part of the story without signifier of such or understanding how much time may have passed. This improves later in the book, with characters mentioning a new season and full-page images serving as breaks.
Plots wander in and out without a strong dramatic purpose or resolution. Scenes could be tightened. Much of what happens is told, not shown. The characters’ anatomy can be inconsistent, with the same characters having different face shapes and ridiculously long legs with no sign of the bones or muscles underneath the skin.
The attention to hair and clothes is good, though, making the characters seem like real young women, and all of these areas for improvement are understandable, coming from a young creator. Work with an experienced editor would solve many if not all of them. I suspect Dark Horse simply offered to reprint the already existing material instead of providing some guidance in this area. If so, that’s a shame.
Serialized webcomics require either a strong grasp of the overall plot, so what seems cute or fun to add this week serves a greater purpose, or a lot of luck, so the end result seems to have synergy when reprinted as a whole. I look forward to more threads coming together better in future volumes, because I think Biggs has a lot of potential.
Read for yourself at the Red String website.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)