— Either of the eponymous brothers greeting the reader at the beginning of almost every episode
"Brother Chan, you can't sit around counting all the things that could go wrong. The Tanaka way is to barrel ahead, eyes closed. That way, should disaster strike, we can look legitimately surprised for the news cameras."
— Hsu, more or less summing up their business practices
In October 1999, a two-page comic appeared on the pages of Electronic Gaming Monthly. That comic, by Jeremy "Norm" Scott, continued to appear in the magazine for nine years, continued on a blog on 1Up.com, and even got eight issues and a compilation published by Slave Labor Graphics with a ninth issue announced. The comic follows the misadventures of the brothers Hsu and Chan Tanaka, two American video game designers of Japanese descent. They created a company called "Tanaka Bros. Game Development" that releases "top quality games with the occasional rip-off." Their misadventures usually show them trying to market their new game with humorous results, putting up with the antics of their non-human employees, and competing with their rivals at Yamomoto Games, known as the "Most Evil Video Game Company in the world" (though there wasn't a lot of competition for that title). The comics are known for their style of humor and the wordiness of some issues, especially the Slave Labor comics.Sadly, since there has been no print collection and the author refuses to archive the comics, it is nearly impossible to find a great deal of them outside of buying old issues of the now-defunct Electronic Gaming Monthly. Though it was rumored that the comic would continue in EGM's revival, the magazine has only mentioned the comic once since its revival (though blog posts suggest that the editors and reviewers stay in contact with Norm). Most of the Slave Labor Graphics comics are available in a TPB, however.New episodes of Hsu and Chan, older strips, and some of Norm's other works can be found here.
This comic provides examples of:
All Just a Dream: The final comic in the Hsu and Chan 1up.com blog revealed that all the characters in the blog's comics were robot duplicates.
Anticlimax Boss: Subverted in The Mummy's Tooth. After dumping an entire shelf full of cursed items on a rampaging mummy everyone in the room is mutated in some way, for example, Hsu grows rabbit ears and Arnie grows a third eye. After looking for the mummy Hsu apparently locates the mummy who had been transformed into a cute mummy kitten. However, after looking up, Hsu sees that the mummy actually transformed into a giant monstrosity that spits up tiny mummy kittens.
Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In Deep, Hsu tries to think of distractions to throw in a game he was working on to keep the player's interest. However, rather than add sidequests or extra missions or pointless collectibles like the most real life companies do when trying to employ this trope, Hsu just included a roll of bubble wrap with the game.
Beware the Nice Ones: After hiring a peace loving hippie to reenact a scenario from a first person stealth based game they were designing, the brothers watch in horror as multiple guards are murdered after the hippie is driven mad from being beaten within an inch of his life.
Spoofed in another issue where the brothers do test to see if video games really make people violent where Hsu begins begins asking the reader to consider the possibility that the cute little child standing next to him simply had a hidden dark side, long awaiting the chance to rear its ugly head. When he looked back at the child, he still appeared to be an adorable, innocent little boy. Irritated, Hsu orders security to drag the kid out and begins a regular test with a clearly unstable teenager.
Egopolis: The setting of the brother's MMORPG, Tanakapolis, where all fees must be paid in the form of large sacks of money placed at the feet of two giant statues of Hsu and Chan under penalty of being tarred, feathered and placed in stocks.
Random Player: Oh mighty brothers Tanaka, we offer this tribute that you may not smite us for another thirty days.
Hsu's statue: Louder!
Exploding Barrels: Subverted in Hsu and Chan #8. See the quote next to You Fail Physics Forever below.
Fluffy the Terrible: Most the killer bear minions from Brand Loyalty whose names are mentioned have cutesy names like Hickory P. Cuddlesworth and Angus the Pooh. The other named bears had average, non-threatening human names like Kyle.
Just Between You and Me: Played with in Brand Loyalty where the Tanakas hide in a tent plotting how to escape an army of killer bears while two of said bears stand just outside listening in. After a minute, one of the brothers admits that the whole thing was a ruse to buy more time since they could see the bears' shadows through the tent.
Lampshade Hanging: Many tropes and cliches are called out or questioned when they occur, for example:
Chan: Hsu, our problems have just intensified. He's found the secret munitions cache on the second floor!
Hsu: ... Since when do we have a secret munitions cache in the office?
Chan: Since '95. Door-to-door munitions dealer dropped by and you know how I am with salespeople.
Mons: Since the initial purpose of their creation was to rip off Pokemon, the recurring characters Chernobyl and Gila Mobster, as well as the one time characters Chiasaur, Uselessbug, Rock Lobster, Scangar, and Decatops all qualify as mons.
New Media Are Evil: Parodied hilariously when Hsu does a test to see if video games really do make people violent. His test subjects include a stereotypical 90's teenager and another teen who is clearly mentally unstable. For the test, the 90's stereotype plays MDK 2 (a Dreamcast third person shooter) and the other plays an educational game for the ColecoVision. Guess which one goes on a murderous rampage.
Nintendo Hard: Apparently, a lot of the Tanaka's original games are very difficult. Chan claims they make the games difficult, not to challenge the players, but so that they will give up faster and go buy another one of their games.
No Fourth Wall: The brothers sometimes spend whole episodes addressing the reader.
Non-Human Sidekick: The Tanakas seem to have a habit of hiring these. Their sidekicks include a chipmunk, a gila monster and a ground squirrel.
One-Winged Angel: The Mummy from The Mummy's Tooth. The Tanakas themselves in Curse of the Ancients.
Subverted in Wrestlemania Yarrg! by Satan, who transforms from an ominous looking man in a white suit into his true demonic form... a harmless looking, skinny, red-skinned guy with horns and pantaloons.
Quote Mine: Done by the Tanakas in Review Back where they took a particularly wordy negative review for one of their games and cut and pasted to create this.
Quote on the game's box: "Not... That... Bad!"
Real Is Brown: Parodied in Monochrome Your Wagon where the brothers perform a play based on First-Person Shooters like Killzone 2 or Gears of War.
Chan: What's this foolishness? You know the dirt harvest is about to come in! Without our constant efforts the planet would be consumed with rampant greenery. Flowers! Trees! ANARCHY!
Sealed Evil In A Sofa: Apparently the previous owners of the Tanaka's house tested occult magic on the living room sofa. Because of this, the sofa acts as a gateway to Hell which is only kept sealed by the cushions (specifically the right one). When Hsu releases the demons out of curiosity, the brothers begin to seal all the demons in various trinkets that they were planning on selling in a yard sale and lock the objects in a closet labeled "Evil".
Sorting Algorithm of Mortality: Lampshaded in Cave of the Tyrant Lizard by Hsu, who argues that by using a group of clueless teens on spring break to test the safety of a dinosaur infested park, the brothers are actually increasing the teens' chances of surviving.
In the end commentary to the Too Much Adventure collection, Norm points out how he submitted the comic to EGM, Game Pro, and Tips and Tricks. Apparently Gamepro was the only one of the three not to respond to Norm.
Vapor Ware: Back in 2004 when Norm released the Too Much Adventure collection, he commented that he was considering releasing a comic that contained a collection of the strips that have run in Electronic Gaming Monthly. 5 years later he seems to have made no effort to create such a book.
The first comic to be uploaded on the 1Up blog, House of Miyamoto, has been left incomplete for half a year so that Norm could post many short comics rather than one large one. Despite its "ongoing" status, it will most likely remain incomplete for a long time as Norm is busy with his website and its VERY incomplete archive of the series.
Norm has stated on his website that the chances of him continuing that comic are extremely slim.
Norm: (on whether or not he'll complete the comic) Ha, I would say, conservatively... probably not. It ends happy, if you're wondering. Miyamoto gets his groove back.
This is apparently due to 1up.com holding the rights to the comics which he made exclusively for them; considering the legal nature of Norm's stumbling block, it's probably permanent.
Epicdemic was seemingly cancelled after part 3.
Norm himself has stated that Hsu and Chan #9 will most likely suffer from some sort of Development Hell.
Artistic License - Physics: Subverted and lampshaded in Hsu and Chan #8 during a scene where Chan and Gila Mobster are attempting to elude a pack of werewolves. Gila Mobster tells Chan to drive by several barrels full of gasoline and begins to shoot at them while they were driving past them, causing Chan to panic due to their proximity. However, rather than explode, the bullets simply put holes in the barrels causing the gasoline to leak from them. After witnessing this, Chan remarks:
Chan: If you can't trust video game physics, what can you trust, you know?
You Suck: Norm's views of the Tomb Raider games and movies which is reflected in the comics quite frequently.
Video Gamers Are Morons: The brothers believe this especially when it comes to RPG gamers who they consider too stubborn to admit they can't beat a broken game the Tanaka's market to them. This trope is also employed when the brother's explore creating an illusion of depth and consequence in a video game.
Wall of Text: There's a lot of em. Possibly the biggest complaint about the comics are their enormous walls of text. While the walls scare off new readers, fans of the series will usually claim that Norm's style of humor justifies the intense word count.
Norm loves lampshading this on his website:
Norm: (commenting on the strip, Deep) Oddly enough, nobody complained about the wordiness in THIS comic. It's possible nobody ever made it to the end.
From a recent blog post:
Norm: For anyone who was afraid that my new comics could never be as densely wordy as my old ones, I submit part four of Epicdemic — I think there's, maybe, one square inch of actual illustration in this one.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Happens to Hsu in Schooln' when he becomes the head of a graphic design school the brothers founded. As he rapidly goes mad with power, he makes chewing gum in class punishable by 30 lashes and demands that all students and faculty refer to him as "God-Emperor Hsu." At the peak of his madness, he holds a young child hostage because Chan is explaining his concern about Hsu's actions.
Happens to both brothers in Curse of the Ancients when an artifact transforms them into a twin headed dragon beast and replaces most of their reason and self-control with bestial instincts. Eventually they managed to overcome the instincts and regain control over themselves... then celebrated this achievement by going on a destructive rampage.
"You!" Squared: parodied when the titular Tanaka brothers encounter their lifelong rivals, Akira Yamamoto and his father, each of them says "YOU!" at least once, prompting a passerby to say, "...Me?". Chan slaps him upside the head and shoos him away so the confrontation can begin in earnest.