August 31, 2011
Part Afro Samurai, part Samurai Champloo, minor dose of The Matrix. Bake for…however many hours are left in the day.
No Need for Bushido (Or NNFB for all your character limitations) is a comic that’s been running since early-2002 by artist Alex Kolesar and writer Joe Kovell that takes feudal Japan as the setting for purely-fictional romp with many fighting disciplines across a broad range of characters lightly dipped in pop culture references and action movie physics.
To be clear, if you have a passable knowledge of feudal Japan and Japanese history, or if you perhaps even consider yourself a connoisseur of them, this comic will absolutely drive you batty. Whilst Japan is made clear as the setting, both in the language, environments, and styles of architecture and clothing, little effort is really made to adhere to the historical events and characters and even the social conventions of the time are little observed. Instead, the setting of NNFB can be more likened to Hollywood’s idea of feudal Japan, where feudal lords frequently battle one another and the samurai is the deadliest thing alive.
That aside though, NNFB provides a visual feast to enjoy. Characters are very visually distinct, environments are drawn in loving attention to detail in terms of material, lighting, structure etc. be it the interior of a dark hut in the rain or a sunny field outside a village. Mind you, that is largely so from fifty or so onwards, in increasingly excellent levels. The first few pages are clumsily drawn, with vibrant textures on pretty shapeless blobs, and a similar version of the empty-mouth syndrome that Remember had for a lot of its run (wherein the open mouth is drawn as just a blank colour-filled object, giving no hint of depth or structure). Compared to more modern pages however, things have taken a quantum leap forward and the art is now akin to a full-blown graphic novel that you’d purchase in your local comic book vendor (or in my case, the Forbidden Planet two cities over…).
Writing has similarly improved. The first few pages are shoulder-deep in efforts at comedy that just end up clunky, unoriginal, and ultimately not that funny, but whilst the comedy has declined substantially in more recent storylines it has improved significantly. Characters are less one-dimensional, less “W + M1″ as Team Fortress 2 players would say (meaning “run forward shooting”, or one-track minded), and in general the stories have gotten more complex and region-spanning, certainly a change I greatly recommend. There are still jokes, notably in the NNFB trademark fashion of their onomatopoeia which is more often the name of the action taking place than what the action would sound like, and they’re a lot less cliche and overdone.
As well as the main comic itself, there’s also NNFB Remix, wherein the creators take finished NNFB pages and rescript the dialogue to produce a very different event, typically in the form of a one-shot gag comic page. The archive also has a few different short stories to enjoy.
The update schedule of NNFB is…shall we say…”irregular”, and indeed you can wait a few weeks between updates, but the wonderful detail and improved writing I think more than makes up for it. If you like over-the-top martial arts action, oriental fantasy stories, and/or intense blood-soaked combat, you will definitely find something to enjoy in No Need For Bushido.
That’s it for tonight, be sure to leave suggestions for other webcomics to feature by @replying to Remember’s Twitter!