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Manga: Serenity

Serenity is an English-language manga written by Buzz Dixon and drawn by Min Kwon, at least until the artist change. It depicts the adventures of a teenager named Serenity Harper who, underneath her scrappy and obnoxious exterior, is a girl who only wants to be loved and accepted. After transfering to a new school, she draws the notice of the school's Christian prayer club, who decides to help her find her place whether she wants it or not. The manga chronicles Serenity's ensuing dilemmas as she tries to find peace and meaning in her life through Christianity.

The manga ran for ten volumes and concluded in 2008, though Buzz Dixon promised in May 2010 that new installments are coming, with old chapters available at Snokie Stories. (So far none of these old chapters seem to have materialized.)

The characters include:
  • Serenity, the main character, who comes from a broken home and troubled past. While the manga doesn't show her doing these things, she has used drugs and has participated in premarital sex in the past.
  • Derek, de facto leader of the prayer group and Kimberly's boyfriend. It's revealed that he goes to rehab because of an auto accident he was involved in when he was twelve.
  • Kimberly, Derek's girlfriend. Often harbors negative thoughts about Serenity and has tried to outdo her once or twice since Serenity began to try and draw Derek's attention towards her. Lives with a strict pastor father who also heads the prayer club, so you know where this is headed.
  • Sally, the youngest member of the group. Her mom is disabled and it's shown that she prays to God to help her mom heal. Constantly makes dreadful jokes.
  • Lori, who is often Serenity's go-to girl for the deeper religious questions. The subtext of the manga implies that she is homosexual and is praying to God so she can 'drive THOSE thoughts out of her head'.
  • Tim, the big guy. He is passionate about making movies and also serves as the DJ during a rave the characters attend. It is mentioned once that he stays busy so he has an excuse not to date and be lonely, and the plot point is never resolved.
  • Eddie, the kid who kinda blends into the background. Serenity forces him to take her to the movies at one point in an attempt to make Derek jealous. It doesn't work. We also learn that Eddie is fascinated with sex and routinely visits adult pornography sites.

The manga has gained some notoreity on 4chan, where it was hated by Anonymous for portraying the prayer group as a bunch of creeps who claim to love Serenity but not like her, for giving Serenity a massive stroke of bad luck as if God Himself is out to get her, and for overall lazy artwork and writing. Normal 4chan reactions, to be sure...until Christians also reported in to denounce the comic's backwards message.

Suffice it to say, Serenity's Christian subject matter is ripe for debate.

Absolutely no relation to Joss Whedon's Firefly film of the same name.

Serenity contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Kimberly.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Lori.
  • Artist On Board: The ugliest characters in the comic are Serenity's mother (who may or may not be Pagan), and Mrs. Baxter, the Hollywood Atheist, while the more "attractive" characters are all either Christian, or Serenity.
  • Author Appeal: There are WAY too many close shots of Serenity's bare feet for this to be anything else.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: After she's egged on by Serenity, Sally proves that she is a fuckin' swear master when she wants to be.
  • Be Yourself: In volume ten, Serenity learns that changing for the better is one thing, and changing who you are is another.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The entire Prayer Club really but special mention goes to Sally, the youngest member of the group who specializes in two things: bad puns and blackmail.
  • Brutal Honesty: Lori, I don't think telling Serenity that her group "loves her but does not like her" directly is a really good idea.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Serenity drops a ton of these in the first volume.
  • Covert Pervert: Eddie. Lori to a lesser degree, seen when she hears Serenity talking about an urge she's been suppressing ever since she got her leg broken and her mind immediately goes to the gutter.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: In volume ten, when Serenity volunteers to lead the prayer, we see a Super-Deformed devil seeing snow.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Serenity, so much she melted! She did shape up properly at the end.
  • Designated Monkey: The audience is supposed to pity Serenity because she hasn't found God, but with her notorious streak of bad luck and how the prayer club treats her sometimes, they pity her for completely different reasons.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: In volume 9 Eddie confesses to Serenity that his babysitter raped him; the actual line is When I was eleven my sitter thought it would be "cute" if she initiated me. I've been obsessed with sex ever since. and it's delivered with a look of absolute horror and leaves no doubt to the fact that it's traumatized Eddie completely. Serenity's response is to say that "EVERY guy is obsessed with sex, Eddie!" and the subject is never brought up again.
  • Flipping the Bird: "Whoops! Can't show that in a Christian manga!"
  • Good Costume Switch: After deciding to devote her life entirely to God, Serenity dyes her hair a normal brown and starts wearing a long, conservative dress. Ultimately subverted when it is hammered home that the changes that caused her to adopt this outfit were in some ways as bad for her as her old lifestyle. She switches back to her old costume style in the end, but keeps God and her changes for the better.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Ms. Baxter, one of Serenity's teachers, is so obviously a strawman for the stubborn atheist that she should wear a neon sign.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Sally never lets up on these. Ever.
  • Innocent Innuendo: In volume six, after Serenity finally gets her cast removed from her leg, she finally gives in to her urges (rape face and all)... to scratch that itch in her leg!
  • Jerkass Woobie: Sure, Serenity may act like a jerk at times, but that doesn't mean we can't feel sorry for the things she's putting up with.
  • Kick the Dog: Mr. Grandy/Dr. Claw admits in the last volume that he's glad that Serenity was brainwashed because "somebody had to do it". To be fair, that's how Ms. Baxter put it (no surprise here), and Mr. Grandy had no idea how empty Serenity was feeling with all that radical change she was doing to herself.
  • Never Live It Down: Even after the prayer club becomes friends with Serenity, they never cease reminding her of how bad she used to be. Granted, good friends can make fun of each other in a friendly way, but judging by how the prayer club used to treat her...
  • No Tarantulas Were Harmed
  • Omake: From volumes seven to ten, the second halves are fan films that Tim made with his friends. Guess what people were more interested in...
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Sally, if you could consider her funny.
  • Police Are Useless: After a police officer visits Serenity's house, Serenity's mom promptly freaks, rushes to the bathroom, and starts flushing things down the toilet. Despite this suspicious behavior, the officer never tries to find out what Serenity's mom is doing. And judging by what the manga shows us about her mother, she was probably flushing drugs.
  • Real Is Brown: Serenity's makeover in volume 10. It didn't last long, fortunately.
  • Shout-Out: During a story featuring Eddie, he places the prayer group girls in fantasies that team them up with characters like InuYasha and James Bond. In the same chapter, Eddie also imagines Serenity dressed as Harley Quinn.
  • Shy Blue-Haired Girl - Serenity's is definitely shy and smart enough to find questions and holes in things the other characters can't or wont even explain, but her aggressiveness sometimes subverts this.
  • Stealth Parody / Deconstruction - It's a long shot, but it's possible. See below.
  • Strawman Has a Point - Serenity's harder questions to the youth group are rarely answered in a substantial way, and the plot relies heavily on her forgetting them when she's brushed off or fed a poetic-sounding line. Ms. Baxter also falls under this. At several points she makes attempts to restrict Serenity's exposure to Christian information on campus, or during school hours in recognition of separation of church and state. She provides condoms to Serenity, while the theme of the comic is to insist on abstinence only, equating owning condoms with premarital sex. She also calls Serenity's mother in the final arc, warning her that Serenity's conversion to Christianity has come at the abnormal price of forsaking her sense of self. None of her efforts to help Serenity are portrayed in a good light, though there is nothing inherently wrong with these actions, and as a stern teacher, is to be expected.
  • Snark Bait: It has become a favored target of /b/ and /a/.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot - Several potential subplots involving the other members of the youth group are brought up but never explored. Tim's self-loathing, Lori's sexuality, Derek being in rehab, etc.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Serenity really knows her fashion.
  • What an Idiot: Two men were trying to pass off scouring powder as drugs to sell them at a Christian rave. There even was a big sign at the building! They obviously got arrested.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Volume ten; not only do Serenity's two closest friends want her to return to being herself, but the readers, too. She does return.
  • Word of God: Someone on 4chan actually e-mailed Buzz Dixon about Serenity and what message he was trying to convey in it. His response implied future volumes where all those seemingly dropped subplots about the Prayer Club's issues would come back and it would be Serenity who would get them through it. Dixon's response made it clear he was aware that the Prayer Club was practicing shallow Christianity and they were just as screwed up as Serenity. Sadly, these volumes have yet to materialize.
  • World of Ham: Fan film of volume nine.
  • The Woobie - Serenity, largely due to her horrible luck, but the Woobieness reaches critical mass in the final volume, which she spends much of moping around, feeling empty. The miserable girl seen post-conversion is a sad sight after so many volumes getting to know her as the plucky young punk girl. Fortunately...
  • Artistic License - History - Serenity's history teacher/spiritual advisor, Mr. Grandy (given the Fan Nickname of Dr. Claw due to his prosthetic hand.)
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Serenity has blue hair for the entire series except one large section in the final volume. She dyes it back.

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alternative title(s): Serenity
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