"In one little corner of the universe, there's nothing more irritating than a misfile…"
A webcomic by Chris Hazelton, Misfile (first page) is the story of "a girl who was a boy, a Harvard-bound genius missing two years of her life, and the pot headed angel who did it to them" via a Celestial filing accident. In the small hillside town of Tempest, Massachusetts, Boy racer Ash was turned into a girl, studious Emily had the past two years of her life erased—including her admission to Harvard—and angelic loser Rumisiel was exiled to Earth for his incompetence. Fortunately, due to a side effect of the accident, only these three remember the universe-as-it-was. Lucky, because Rumisiel fears his superiors would likely 'correct' the misfile by making it permanent.Mixing street racing, girl-bonding, and car tuning sessions with angels, supernatural weirdness and the trials and tribulations—from getting hit on by guys to bras—of a boy suddenly transformed into a girl, Misfile defies simple categorization as the two heroines struggle to deal with the craziness that has taken over their lives while trying to get Rumisiel back into heaven so he can fix his mistake. Complications arise, of course, not the least of which is Rumisiel's perpetual slacker nature.The comic is notable for dealing with a Gender Bender plot in a much less Fanservice-ey way, and with much more emotional depth and serious character consideration, than is the norm. Essentially, if you left out the supernatural and fantastical elements of the story, you'd still be left with a good tale about the challenges faced by a transsexual boy dealing with life in a girl's body. Also unusual is the fact that the "old universe", where Ash is a boy with emotionally distant parents and Emily is a college-bound senior with a mean streak, has literally never been seen in the comic, although it's often alluded to.
Aesop: Ash not only gets the usual Aesops about sexism and the Double Standard but also gets some unexpected ones about Positive Discrimination. Meanwhile, Ash also provides some unexpected Aesops to Emily due to her outsider perspective on female behavior. Finally, the readers get some insights about the battle between the sexes that Ash and Emily are either too obtuse to get or too proud to acknowledge.
All There in the Manual: If you really want to understand how the Celestial Depository works and the effects of reversing the misfile, and find out just how Tempest has such a cool mountain racetrack you need to have read the "about" section on the website, read the Ask Ash column, and ordered the print books so you could read the liner notes.
Given that Vashiel, the angel who owns a flaming longsword and is an angel of vengeance who Cannot Tell a Lie, thinks that Doris could do something to Cassiel much worse than what he could, at least some in-story regard her as one as well.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Angels? Okay. Ghosts? Why not? People's lives affected by changes in files? I'll give you that one. But a guy who can talk to cars? Get outta here…
Armored Closet Gay: While the applicability of the word 'gay' to Ash is debatable, Ash still pretends to be a straight girl because she is afraid that coming out of the closet as a girl will carry over to her male life when the misfile is eventually corrected.
Art Evolution: Over the years, the main characters (of both sexes) have filled out and/or bulked up noticeably, proportions a little more accurate, the clothing a lot more detailed, and the anime-style eyes have become much smaller (with their mouths getting much larger as compensation).
As an inverse, the cars have become much more simple looking, and the shading (for shadows, at least) is now all but non-existent.
Attempted Rape: It's implied that this is what was about to happen here if Logan hadn't stepped in on the next page.
Badass Driver: Kamikaze Kate. Ash to a lesser degree. Emily is working up to it.
Batman in My Basement: Rumisiel has nowhere else to go, but he sleeps on the couch. Then to explain his presence, he's passed off as Ash's boyfriend. When Vashiel arrives, he gets the bed in the basement.
The Beard: Rumi and later Ash, to Rumi's older brother.
Berserk Button: Vashiel gets one that's closer to a 'Berserk Light Switch' from how quickly he can turn it on and off. When Cassiel comes calling and he's the only one home, he threatens to wreck Satan to get to her if she brings any harm to Rumisiel or Ash. From Cassiel's reaction to his reminder not to forget his history, and the simple fact that he can't lie or deceive, he fully means every word of it. The next page, he turns on a dime back to his polite self and offers to get the door for the now terrified Cassiel.
Bizarre Alien Biology: Turns out angels aren't born, they just sort of...become. They only have genders and so on to interact with humanity. Rumisiel doesn't actually have any biological relation to his brother or father.
Brilliant, but Lazy: While Ash is a talented driver, he has no motivation to do anything beyond drifting through life, not even attempting to fix the Misfile beyond yelling at Rumisiel. This could be because the Misfile happens to be his go-to excuse when confronted on his behaviour.
"Under code 37 'B' of the Emergencies Act I authorize a complete lockdown of the filing depots until further notice."
Cerebus Syndrome: The murder of several high ranking angels, including "two keyholders" has heralded in a steadily darkening plotline. However, for the most part the story remains dark only when the story focuses on the angels. One might say that the knights of God are in fact Knights of Cerebus.
Averted with Missi, which is one of the problems with her character. There was that one time in the shower where she mentioned her parents being neglectful and her feeling like an outsider with Ash and Emily, but that revelation seems to have mostly been ignored.
Comically Missing the Point: Missi badgers Ash into answering why Ash prefers to be around Emily and gets her answer in that Missi is overly aggressive sexually and Ash hates that. Missi takes this to mean she needs to continue this behaviour so Ash can be the same way.
Conflict Ball: Ash, Emily, and Missi seemed to take turns passing it off. Missi cleverly managed to spike Emily and Heather with it at Kate and Harry's wedding, precipitating their grudge race.
However, Ash is still dreadfully afraid of her even after said Character Development, to the point s/he only accepted to be maid of honor in her wedding because s/he was afraid a refusal would end in her/his murder. Case in point.
Cool Car: Pick a car, any car.: either inherently cool or made cool through street racing modifications.
D-Cup Distress: Ash, who has the largest breasts among herself, Emily, and Missinote Though they're actually C's. Justified, as Ash still thinks of herself as male and considers them an aspect of a body that isn't hers.
Dear Negative Reader: Chris wrote one after getting a verbal response from this page. In it he reminded everyone that it was his comic, he was doing it for free and he owes us nothing. Also, he informed us Ash and Emily will be getting together at some point in the future.
Defeat Means Friendship: Averted in oh so many ways, from a mild subversion like Kate (Ash finds a "friendly" Kate just as terrifying), through straight aversions like Tom and Heather (both of whom hate Ash passionately) to an extreme aversion like Sheldon (who manages to alienate all of his own friends as well). It's only played remotely close to straight with Brent, who made it clear that he respected Ash from the start.
Inverted with James. They stopped being friends after he lost to Ash, but that's mostly because he couldn't deal with them not dating in this reality.
Also occurs in the forum. When guys can't take a hint, they're douches. But when Missi shoves her face into Ash's cleavage in front of their schoolmates, even though Ash has repeatedly said he is not interested in a relationship, well then it's cute and funny.
Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female - Missi molesting Ash is usually played for laughs, although the party in book 15 points out the hypocrisy by juxtaposing it with Colin hitting on Heather.
Eating Lunch Alone: Emily on the first day of school after the mishap. As a sophomore, she no longer dares sit with her senior former friends.
Education Mama: Ms. McArthur, to a T. Emily's having to deal with this is a major plot point.
Embarrassing Cover Up: Rumisiel proclaiming that he and Ash are dating. Further down the line, Ash realizes that this isn't actually such a bad thing, given that it helps prevent guys from asking him/"her" out.
Potentially, there's a window after the Misfile is corrected where Ash needs to get used to being a guy again. Missi's feelings and how they are affected by him being a boy, his relationship with Emily as well as with his mother, James (who she had sex with but he was just friends with), dealing with Kate (who cooled her jets a lot toward Ash because Ash was a girl), on top of getting used to NOT walking into the girls locker room and other such everyday things. There's a lot of comic to cover, even after the Misfile's fixed; at least a good year's worth, if the author wants to go that route.
Filler Arc - Book 13. It doesn't contribute to anything over all and Ash learns a lesson he learnt back in book four.
Filler Strips: 39 fillers and over 1800 comics. Pretty good record. Fillers usually are for major holidays and 'Day of Remembrance' pages, but there have been extenuating real life issues (such as the artist's wife going into labor).
Fun T-Shirt: Rumisiel usually wears a shirt with an unsmiling Smiley and the caption 'Have A Day'. The shirt Cassiel wears when meeting James for the first time qualifies (see Everything's Better With Princesses above). Then there is the shirt Marie imagines Jenny Jr. wearing when mentioning her for the first time.
Game Face: Halos and Wings out guys, it's hero time.
1st Law Of Gender Bending: Debatable, since it's not so much that circumstances keep conspiring to keep Ash a girl, it's just that the original circumstance is almost impossible to fix in the first place.
2nd Law Of Gender Bending: Averted thus far. Ash does not enjoy being a girl. Even though in some ways it has arguably improved his life (like his relationship with his mother), Ash is very much a boy on the inside, and hates that his body does not reflect his inner identity. However, some in the fanbase believe that beneath the surface, Ash really does enjoy his bent gender, and simply can't admit it yet.
And possibly inverted as it has improved everyone's life, with the (Questionable) exception of his.
Have You Seen My God?: God is entirely hands off as far as has been shown. He supposedly knows about the misfile, but hasn't done anything about it. Fans have speculated that God may be playing a deeper game to smoke out some problems in the angelic ranks, place two angels where they can do some good and hopefully cause a little Character Development in Rumisiel.
Heaven: Where this whole mess started and where Rumi hopes to get back to, if only to fix Ash's file. Looks kinda like a back drop to some old Doctor Who episode.
Hellistics: Missi causes problems between Heather and Emily, to be solved on the tracks. Emily wins. Heather gets pissed. Heather gets a racing prodigy to try to beat Ash. Said prodigy, Logan, and Eponine, a friend of Cassiel's, hit it off at a party. Cassiel takes it upon herself to try to help Logan win the race with magic (not knowing that she's helping Heather, whom she despises). Rumisiel attempts to keep Cassiel from rigging the race, which causes Logan to crash. The police arrive to check up on the accident, also finding Emily, who they were already looking for since she ran off in the middle of the night to watch said race. Emily's mother blames the night on Ash, forbidding Emily to hang out with Ash ever again, though Molly quickly steps in and takes the blame while also calling Ms. McArthur out on being so overbearing toward Emily. Ms McArthur orders Molly out of the house and grounds Emily for a month. This results in Ash inviting Missi to a movie instead of Emily. Long story short, Ash eats with Missi somewhere. Leaving said eating place, Ash and Missi are approached by two men who seem rather… vehemently interested in them. The subtext seems to imply a threat of rape.
Humiliation Conga: The universe seems determined to bombard Ash with a never-ending barrage of girliness right up to and including bridesmaid duty (maid of honor, no less.)
Ash passes the manhood litmus test on that count, though, as according to the tagline for Made Of Honor, "it takes a real man to become a maid of honor."
Sheldon's is more traditional.
I Choose to Stay: It's possible that a situation in which Ash must choose to either remain in a female body or return to his original timeline is on the horizon, since it's heavily implied that Emily would have died on the last night of summer break in the original timeline (see Sadistic Choice, below, for further details).
Not necessarily. When Rumisiel gets back into Heaven he can replace Ash's file but doesn't necessarily have to put Emily's pages back. People seem to forget that he is doing that manually, not just hitting a reset button.
Part of the theme of the story is that the world of the Misfile is actually a better one. In the end Ash might still choose to go back, because most of the improvements can be made again, knowing how to do them. However, if Emily turns out to be lesbian (And not bisexual or Ashsexual), then Ash may be forced to choose between his old body, and a relationship with Emily.
Except that if the misfile gets undone Ash won't remember that it ever happened, so won't be able to use the information to improve his original life.
Interrupted Intimacy: Ash and Emily walk in on Harry and Kate right on the verge of having sex. Kate takes it rather well, but Ash's initial reaction screamed "brain bleach".
The Internet Is for Porn: Rumisiel has an angelic multi-tool that can do sound recordings, take pictures, and go online. Ash assumes he just uses it to look up porn.
Ash: Let me see your bookmarks. Rumisiel: No! I'm sending it back into the ether! It's not for mortal eyes!
It's a Wonderful Plot: Subverted. Despite Ash's angst over it, the world does seem to be much better off thanks to the misfile. Of course, the fact that everything IS better just adds to the Humiliation Conga for Ash.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Inverted; boy Ash was a virgin and is thoroughly squicked to learn girl Ash is not.
The Masquerade: Rumisiel claims that the misfile must be kept secret or his erstwhile superiors will cover their asses by making it permanent. Maintaining it becomes increasingly difficult once Vashiel and Missi join the crew.
My Beloved Smother: Ms. McArthur makes great efforts to get Emily to study so she can get into a respectable (read: Ivy League) college. The problem is that most of her efforts don't leave room for Emily's growing social life.
My Girl Is Not a Slut: Ms. McArthur overhears Ash telling Emily about his girl self sleeping with James the previous year and believes the worst until Emily assures her that Ash was horrified by the incident and won't do it again. Okay, Ash and Emily aren't dating, but we all know what's going to happen in the end.
My God, What Have I Done?: Ash goes through a freakout after hitting a girl, which he/"she" views as tantamount to surrendering his manhood in a Call Back to an early strip when Emily told Ash that he can hit a girl only if he is willing to admit to being a girl himself.
Emily has one here, after she and Missi piss off Ash enough with their sniping so that she quits talking to either of them.
No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Ash very much likes Missi, and feels truly happy for the first time since the Misfile while dating her, but becomes extremely uncomfortable upon realizing that Missi is playing the traditionally masculine "pursuer" role in the relationship, always trying to convince Ash to get physically intimate, while Ash is the one who keeps resisting in a stereotypically feminine way. Somewhat justified because Ash is trying to hold on to his male identity despite the Gender Bender, and so whenever he finds himself playing a traditionally feminine role in any context, he sees it as a sign of the impending destruction of his "male psyche". Ash feels much safer being attracted to the more traditionally feminine Emily.
Rumisiel:Oh, hello. How was your day? Vashiel: I'm confused. What... exactly... does Dr. Upton do? Rumisiel: Maybe you should ask him. Vashiel: I did. He just raised an eyebrow and handed me a tissue. Rumisiel: A tissue? Dr. Upton: You Canadians must have more blood stored up in your noses than any other people on the face of the planet. Rumisiel: He didn't... Dr. Upton:Eight nosebleeds. Rumisiel:THAT'S HILARIOUS! Dr. Upton:I KNOW! I'd fire him if it wasn't so gosh darn amusing! Vashiel: Jeeze, guys. I'm right here, you know...
Oh Crap: The look on Sheldon's face when Rumisiel plays the tape.
Off Model: The art, while having improved over its ten year run, is still rather sloppy and rough. A side-effect of being it being done on a daily basis.
For example, faces get distorted in side views (with the characters getting a prominent "snoutface" kind of nose. Their mouths also appear to move onto their cheek too). The cars also tend to look unfinished and blob-like in many instances.
When the series began, nothing was consistent. And sometimes, the art could get downright ugly.
Open Minded Parent: Both of Ash's parents are amazingly accommodating towards what are, from their perspective, complete strangers, as well as their "daughter's" racing habit. Ash's dad knows that his wife left him because he was too controlling, and has resolved not to lose Ash the same way. Ash's mom, on the other hand, is just cool like that.
Peek-a-Bangs: Ash. Not for any of the usual reasons listed on the trope page, he/"she" just wears it that way. Apparently he had the same style before the Gender Bender.
The Peeping Tom: Ash apparently had a fantasy about peeping into the girls' locker room. However, after a Gender Bender transformation, it loses its appeal and Ash is squicked out when she finds herself on the receiving end of it actually happening.
Please Keep Your Hat On: Subverted. Emily almost always wears a headband in order to hide her widow's peak, which she was teased about when she was younger. Ash, of course, tells her that she looks beautiful without it.
Pointy Ears: The angels have these. Because they use a certain angelic power, these are only visible to those who know they are angels. This explains why Ash and Emily are the only ones who see them.
Type B. At least until Ash's dad used one to point out Ash's mom…
During the waitressing arc, she meets Brent who talks her into racing. Brent meets her mom who is "the model from the girly underwear catalogs."
Casper: Why were you reading girly underwear catalogs? Brent: No reason!
Porn Stash: Ash expects his to have disappeared due to the misfile but is thoroughly disgusted to discover it now contains pornography featuring men. Ash later admits it's hypocritical in her "Ask Ash" column.
Sadistic Choice: "Emily or your manhood" seems to be looming on the horizon.
Not necessarily. When Rumisiel gets back into Heaven he can replace Ash's file but doesn't necessarily have to put Emily's pages back. Of course, complications will probably still result, but it doesn't have to be a plain and simple either/or choice.
If Ash were to have his file properly placed, but not Emily, that would theoretically leave her alone in the situation anyway, as he would no longer remember anything about her or what's happened between them during the misfile. The memory wipe upon fixing the misfile is a concern addressed repeatedly in Ask Ash. This would mean Emily would have to figure out how to reconnect with Ash without showing that she knows far more about him than she probably should.
It is possible, however, that Ash will be forced to choose between a world where he has a good relationship with his mother, Kate isn't being driven insane by her sister's ghost, and he and Emily are friends, or one where he's male.
There is also the distinct possibly that if the misfile is corrected, Emily will be dead. Her (former) best friend Molly was in an accident that left her with a broken hand and foot, but completely destroyed her car's passenger side. Emily thinks that had the misfile not occurred, she would have been in that passenger seat and crushed, giving her even more reason to keep things the way they are.
Satan: He exists (he's Cassiel's uncle) but he hasn't put in a personal appearance… yet.
Status Quo Is God: A frequent complaint among long time followers of the comic is how slow and ponderous the story has become, and how reluctant it is to take any risks. It hints frequently as a larger background plot, despite this though, it has been rooted in mundane issues for several volumes now.
You know, a bit of Fridge Logic strikes on thoughtful viewing of that page. For a guy determined to hold onto his male identity in every possible way, and a bit of a prude for that matter, Ash apparently shaves some rather interesting and unnecessary areas.
Selective Obliviousness: Ash's father displays a staggering amount considering his daughter's personality appears to have changed radically from the smiling bikini and party dress wearing girl depicted in the family photo album. (It goes without saying that There Are No Therapists of course.) However, since it's explicitly stated that the misfile only changed the universe just enough to make everything seem normal it's possible that the seemingly instantaneous change from Tomboy to Butch actually occurred over a period of time from his viewpoint.
At the Halloween party, there's a girl moping over a breakup. Her name? Eponine. (For those of you not familiar with either Broadway musicals or 19th-century French literature, Eponine is the girl on the wrong end of the Love Triangle in Les Misérables.)
Shown Their Work: Although Tempest itself is a fictional town, apparently somewhere out in the Berkshires, the scantily-clad-waitress restaurant where Ash worked for a summer on Cape Cod actually exists and was a Hooters at the time the strip was drawn (It's an Irish pub now).
Not only that, but Tempest is similar to a small town in the Berkshires, Adams. Count: The local high school is a couple miles walk on a mostly open road (As shots of Ash walking home has shown). The schools sports teams are even called the Hurricanes, and have a lightning bolt as a mascot! The town is also only a few miles away from Mt. Greylock, the largest mountain in the Berkshires. In addition, it's a town in between two small cities (allowing some of the city and town locations shown in the comic to happen in the local area), it snows fairly early in the season (It's snowing just after Holloween in the comics), snows often (As Ash said in the Q&A), and the first snowfall almost never sticks around (As stated by Ash).
The Slacker: Rumisiel, started out as a stoner but developed into a slacker. It speaks volumes about Rumisiel's character that this is an improvement.
Small Name, Big Ego: Both Heather and Cassiel love to think of themselves as more awesome than they actually are.
Smug Snake: Realistically, Sheldon's plan to discredit Ash with the sexual bribery accusation only works because he has loyal-but-not-too-bright thugs on his team, and he really only needs to convince them (though it does surprise everyone long enough to put Ash on the defensive). Then Rumisiel comes in with the tape.
Straw Misogynist: Averted, notably, with the Arthur arc (starting here.) Arthur is a significantly more common type of misogynist; he doesn't try to tell Ash to Stay in the Kitchen, but he refuses to see her as anything but dating material, cannot wrap his head around the idea of hanging out with a girl platonically, and is generally an objectifying ass.
Strip Buffer: The forums are rife with speculation about the next day's comic, but that comic was completed a week earlier.
Tarot Motifs: Bronwyn tries to divine her future with her boyfriend… and lays the Misfile. PERFECTLY.
The Hanged Man: Rumisiel. Self-sacrifice for the sake of enlightenment, bindings that make you free, paradoxes, and hanging between heaven and earth: in other words, exile to Earth to learn responsibility, where he has more freedom than he did in Heaven, enhances people's lives by accident, flying around... A Messianic Archetype: he's a friggin' angel.Traps, self-entrapment, passivity, and giving up... yeah.
The Lightning-Struck Tower: The Celestial Filing Depot. Umm... "A straight Tower of Babel allegory about pride preceding a fall. Often associated to overly arrogant, prejudiced, and authoritarian organizations (including The Government) which walk to their own ironicdemise." Subtle. Also, "...more generically used as an omen of doom and disaster, at least by those who know better than to use Death for that or who think that Death alone isn't ominous enough." Cerebus Syndrome, anyone?
The Lovers: Ash and Emily. Romantic relationships. Also signifies standing at crossroad and needing tomake adecision. Additionally, the original card had a male and two females: in the context of the Misfile, Female Ash has to choose between Male Ash and Emily.
Alternatively it describes the situation shes in with her boyfriend now. The Hanged Man for new perspective (she went to college and he didn't..) the Tower for disaster (She had just broken things off with him, also the race, if not for low grade divine intervention. and the Lovers to represent herself and her boyfriend.
Teens Are Short: The adults tower over the main characters, though Ash says he was taller when he was a boy.
Ash & Emily, at 5'6" and 5'5", are both at or slightly above average height for women in the US.
Theme Naming: The vast majority of the angel's names end in "-el," which means either "God is my ___" or "___ of God," depending on exact context.
Tomboy: Ash, though, of course, "she's" actually a guy. In a cruel twist, though, he is subject to an intentional in-story slow change towards girlishness. He is well aware of this and it worries him greatly.
The Unreveal: Emily asks Ash what boy-Ash looked like, which is something readers have been wondering for years. We only get a vague description and just a silhouette of girl-Ash with arrows pointing where the shoulders would be wider, hips slimmer, etc.
Ash: I've got nothing. Act like I just gave you the best advice of your life. Apply pressure. Make him think you're implementing some master move. Eventually the pressure should make him slip up. Wait for that and just go for it. Heather: You asshole...
Where The Hell Is Tempest: Yes, it's in western Massachusetts, however it's not explicitly stated where exactly in Massachusetts.
It could be a stand-in for Pittsfield, given the fact that they have quite a few similarities.
Pittsfield is too big at nearly 45,000 people, Wo G has Tempest is closer to 8000. Still, Pittsfield is in the right area of Massachusetts, so somewhere near there.
For that matter, it could also be (wait for it)... Ashfield. Or Upton. (Probably not Upton - too central.)
The author has admitted that Tempest is basically his hometown of Concord, MA transplanted out into the Berkshires (go find Concord-Carlisle Regional High School and compare it to Tempest HS in the comic. Pretty clearly the same buildings.), but the most likely candidate for a "real" Tempest is probably Adams, MA. It's the right size, the right age (like Tempest, it was a mining town), and is in roughly the right place. It's the right distance from both Albany and the Cape to fit the story, and is right near Mt. Greylock (see Kamikaze Kate, The Demon of...). Greylock Rd./Rockwell Rd. also happen to be just about the only places in the state that are even somewhat close to the Old Road, though Tempest is implied to be a bit further from Mt. Greylock than Adams is.
Women Drivers: Averted. Ash is still Queen, no, King of the Mountain, and Kate is not only respected but feared. Emily's initial inability to drive is treated as basic inexperience and is seldom played for humor.
In fact, the only guys who invoke this trope (Tom) are shown in a very negative light and usually get their comeuppance.
Word of God: The author has weighed in on certain questions by the fans in the forums.
Wrench Wench: Ash and Missi. Emily is a Wrench Wench in training. Kate's obsession with street racing implies that she's a Wrench Wench too, but Harry brags that he did all the work on her latest car himself.