Like everyone with a favorite comic, I’ve often wondered what it would be like if it were turned into an animé. I long ago decided that Sluggy Freelance would be like Inuyasha: 180+ episodes of a great idea going nowhere. But the one that would be made of win and awesome (do I overuse that phrase or what?), were it ever animated, would be MegaTokyo.
While he started slowly, Fred actually has a long-term story arc, and some amazing secondary characters that could be main characters in their own strip. Fans debate endlessly over Miho: good, evil, or just misunderstood? A recent fan fave is the plucky jr. high girl, Yuki, about whom questions started to be raised some time back. Now she’s found out only in the last day that Show ▼
Then there’s the heated discussions over whether Piro, the uncertain, shy otaku, is doing the right thing or the wrong thing in trying to protect his new girlfriend, Kimiko, a debuting seiyuu in a game-to-animé adaptation.
Fred is having a ball using or subverting all the anime tropes: harems, SEP fields, android girls (built by Sony), meido, online gaming, government conspiracies (that aren’t so secret), giant monsters (who get drunk before rampaging), magical girls (who retire and have kids)…about the only animé trope not to show up so far is combat mechs.
Oops, I take that back.
There appear to be at least four overlapping realities and one alternate dimension at work, and not everyone can “see” all of them. A powerful SEP (Somebody Else’s Problem) field protects those not able to handle the weirdness–even if someone not of that reality notices something odd, they quickly forget it or explain it away. For instance, Ping, an android girl, is a prototype PS2 “Emotional Doll System” accessory. Even though such a realistic android girl is utterly science-fictional, everyone accepts her as a robotic game accessory — if they’re told that’s what she is. Otherwise they think she’s a normal girl, prone to padding her bra, wearing weird earrings, and dying her hair pink.
Note that I call these “realities” for lack of a better term. I’m a believer in the “one world” theory; different people can see only certain parts of it, because that’s all that they can handle. If they meet incontrovertible evidence of a reality they can’t handle, they forget about it, as Kimiko has forgotten about Show ▼
Specific reality views I have identified:
Normal: Almost everyone functions in this reality. Somehow, they completely fail to notice zombie invasions, giant rampaging monsters, magical girls, and so on. They’ll climb right over wrecked tanks without noticing. People think Ping is a normal girl. Otaku watch animé, organize obsessive fan groups online, and, in general, think it’s all fiction.
Magical/Animé: Animé characters like magical girls really exist. Giant monsters really exist. Android girls really exist. Aliens and zombies really exist, and invade from other dimensions/outer space. However, not all of the things above exist for all people able to perceive this world. There appear to be up to three separate levels. In the lowest, the police have neat mechs and Ping is a highly advanced PS2 game accessory. In the second, zombies, vampires, giant turtles, ninja organizations, magical girls and other monsters exist. Piro can see only the first; Largo can see both. Kimiko and Erika can see the first. Miho, Meimi, and Yuki are all in the second. There is no evidence thus far that any layer can see the Moral worlds. (Update 2010: Erika can see and converse with Boo, the hamster conscience. They even trade career notes.) People in the lowest layer appear to also see the Illuminatus world, and any distinction between the two may be an artifact of my classification system.
Moral: Right and wrong exist, and physical consciences, protected by the SEP, appear to advise people. “Evil” consciences urge them to follow base desires or give in to anger and temptation. Good consciences try to steer people clear of trouble. Both answer to some sort of bureaucracy (although Evil’s is less in evidence and Good’s is in a budget crunch); each also uses intelligent animals as temps and assistants. Interestingly, the embodiments are free agents, can switch sides, and even appear to have their own families. Consciences’ perceptions are limited to those of their “host,” thus Boo is able to see all sorts of things that Seraphim cannot. Of course, he can’t communicate it very effectively.
Illumanatus: This is the layer of the government and its minions. They control the media, including popular entertainment icons, due to the damage that such can do if they run amuck. They even have a program similar to the Witness Protection Program for retired ex-idols. The police operates a special unit (Tokyo Police Cataclysm Division) that schedules and watches over large-scale events, such as monster rampages, alien invasions, and fanboy riots, etc. They have construction groups that can replace entire buildings within minutes. Basically, their goal is the orderly supervision of a chaotic world. Large corporations, such as Sony and Sega, hire violent agents to “acquire” or “neutralize” certain properties for them, such as renegade PS2 accessories and popular seiyuu.
The story has been building towards a climax for sometime now, as the “Dinner of Doom” and Zombie Invasion happen just as Kimiko’s fledgling career reaches a crossroads, and the minions of Sony and Sega battle for advantage in the middle of an incipient fanboy riot. Meanwhile, Show ▼
. Every time I think the artist, Fred Gallagher, has come up with the ultimate “Yuki’s kawaiiiiii!”, “Miho’s kowaii and kawaiii!”, or “Largo’s crazy!” strip, he out-does himself.
There are a couple of minor, well, criticisms. Sometimes, the omake’s Fred throws in to try a new technique or (because he’s gotten blocked on the main story) are annoying, because they delay the main strip. Fortunately, if you’re reading the archives, it’s a minimal disruption, and they’re always good reads in and of themselves. There was also a period in the middle (around chapter 4) where he gets sidetracked onto a story involving the consciences. And Fred’s incessant whining about how bad his art is, and constant promises (and failures) to keep to a 3-per-week schedule do get tiresome. (2010 Update: he’s fallen as far as once per month, however it’s because his wife has been increasingly ill, and has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.) Still, MT long ago took over as my favorite webcomic… and whenever I get tired of Fred’s humor, I can just dive into the forums and read the hundreds of “rescripts” where fans take the artwork, and run with hilarious new dialog. Baka_Bomb and Zahooie are the two masters of that genre; if you see their names beside a post, be sure not to have any drink in your mouth. I will not be responsible for any new monitors or keyboards, and neither will they.
So, if you like webcomics, give this one a spin. It starts out slow, taking well over 100 strips to set up the initial situation and introduce characters, but it’s worth the wait. I’m not sure how much of Tokyo will be left when Fred’s done, but it’s one terrific ride, so far!
Update 11/7/07: As of today, “what will be left” does not include City Hall. I want to know who do those johnny-come-lately Zombies think they are? Ten-year waiting permit my ass, I’ve been waiting eighteen, and we don’t even HAVE a permit process!
Update 10/11/10: Three years later I wondered why the TVTropes was one of my top referrers, and so I find that someone linked to this article. I’ve gone back and fixed up a few typos (every time I update the WP install, it changes how the é displays). Since I first wrote this article, a lot of things have changed — the hilarious Dinner of Doom was superseded by the wild Club of Catastrophe — and now we’re mired in a soap opera (not in a bad way), as Piro and Miho confront their past — and Miho confronts her present. On the forums, Baka-Bomb and Zahooie have moved on from making side-splitting rescripts.
And here, I’m still waiting for permission to demolish City Hall.