Animals have long been our cohabitants on this planet, but they have no structure in their lives apart from instinct. Homo sapiens sapiens has dominated the landscape thanks to its unsurpassed primacy in communication skills. But what forces fueled this engine?
It is the power of Art which the animals turn to in solving this problem. Ambitiously adopting the title of "man," they are determined to control Art and create a prosperous society for themselves. But Art is not easily understood, its powers dangerous and meaning fleeting. For to understand Art, the animals must peer into the depths of their own nature, and excise the animal itself, becoming human. Just how incredible is this feat?
Alternative explanation in simpler English: in the future of an alternate universe, animals have evolved human-level intelligence, and are trying to develop a society comparable to that of humans. Just like humans, people have different opinions about what the best way to do this might be. Naturally this can result in fighting — both figurative and literal.This is the idea behind Zachary Braun's Nature Of Nature's Art: an experimental webcomic with martial arts, talking animals, plenty of big words, flashy special effects and potentially frightening imagery. It's also a character drama with surprisingly deep, psychological and difficult themes, dealing with such subjects as exploitation and insanity. And the art is spectacular, despite being drawn in oekaki.So far, the comic consists of three self-contained story arcs, all of which have been completed. In order of publication, they are:
10%+: It is the year 2108. Meander, a maned wolf and college student, develops a metanoia (an innovative martial arts style) which allows him to focus his attention on dozens of things at once — but this turns out to be damaging to his mind. Meanwhile, two teachers at the same college have been working on a solution to an economic crisis: turn wild coyotes into mindless slaves. When Meander finds out, he is outraged. Cue the epic battle.
Secretary: SV is an eccentric degu who basically wants to be famous - but in animal society, that requires inventing something which can be used to help it progress. His idea? Years ago, his tooth stopped growing after he was bitten by his older brother; he decides to try harnessing the power which stops it from growing. This leads him to enroll in the college, become markscraft to a jerboa called XZ, fight to keep his mind outside of convention, go into self-imposed exile, and discover a terrifying power. But what is its secret? What is malice, and what causes it?
Solar System: Several hundred years after the events of 10%, humans and animals have united their societies, and animal factures have been used to advance human technology in all areas of society. Except space, which was abandoned long ago. All that may change when a small band of humans and animals inherit an old space shuttle, with the task of renovating it for a launch into the final frontier.
Pika: Braun's contribution to April Fools' Day, which proved so popular that it's now permanently up on the site. A Pokemon trainer takes a very unorthodox approach to training a Pikachu. (Be warned: it's all on one long page.)
In addition to the above, the author has stated that there is a complete but as of yet unreleased story involving ungulates, (presumably deer).In addition, there is a print version of 10%+ which comes in six volumes, along with a seventh called The 10%+ Addendum. Secretary was also made into a print version, in four volumes. There's also a a print version of Lycosa's prologue titled (we promise you) Untitled, which comes with a car-themed calendar. Wild Style is expected to become a print version.The webcomic — which updates as often Braun can manage it, usually weekdays at minimum — can be found here.
Tropes in NOFNA
Action Girl: Quintet and Fiat in 10%+; XZ/Nutsedge in Secretary; lots of spiders in Lycosa... judging from the setting, there'd also be countless others.
All There in the Manual: The website's "about" section has a glossary. There's also the rare print-only The 10%+ Addendum which contains two epilogues (only one of which is canon) and analyses of the different fighting styles. Presumably there'll be one for Secretary as well.
Alternate Calendar: The animals divide each day by four naps instead of one big long sleep. Also, a week is four days long, with the fourth day being the "weekend".
Alternate Timeline: The print version of Secretary has a different, though still bittersweet, ending.
Anachronic Order: According to Word Of God, each arc is numbered according to when it takes place. Going by this, the chronological order seems to be Secretary (#12), then Lycosa (#15), then 10%+ (#50) and finally Solar System (#88).
An Aesop: Or, in the words of Braun, the NofNA stories are "Aesop's fables for our times".
Anthropomorphic Shift: Happens in-universe. As the timeline progresses, halo-brained animals adopt more human traits, as seen in the clothed shrews at the end of Wild Style.
Arc Words: Percentages in 10%+. In particular, 10% comes up quite a bit.
On page 248 of Secretary, XZ "morphs" from a highly stylised Pikachu-like jerboa to being drawn much more realistically. In addition, from page 254 on, the previously monochrome story has COLOUR in it; this in turn leads up to a shift to full-colour after SV dies.
Lycosa's prologue and epilogue are done in the comic's usual full-colour style, but for the story proper it changes to a more "painted" style, possibly to reflect the fact that spiders percieve the world differently than we do. Furthermore, when Lycosa awakens the Power of I and invents a metanoia, the aliased and painterly style of the comic ceases to apply to her and she is drawn with unaliased clarity and definition.
Wild Style is a black-and-white comic except for the final (so far?) page, which is done in full colour.
A game within the comic in Solar System has anime-style art, as well as old-school pixel sprites. The guy playing the game is still done in the comic's usual style, though.
Author Avatar: A man that is assumed to be Zachary Braun appears sporadically (until recently) in Wild Style. His design varieswildly from page to page.
Babies Ever After: in Lycosa the titular character adopts the eggsacs of the late Venom 8.
If someone's calling the facture they're using, the name of the facture and/or style is emphasised. How emphasised? On one end of the spectrum, bigger and bolder letters are used. On the other end, it might as well be called Calligraphy Porn.
This went Up to Eleven in Lycosa, with its animated speech bubbles. Lycosa's facture names must be seen to be believed.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe/Your Mind Makes It Real: The animals' martial arts styles run at least partially on this, to the point that denial is a viable combat tactic. There's also mention of a "telenoetic barrier" which, if pierced, makes denial useless; this is what can potentially make telenoises dangerous.
Decoy Protagonist: With his character development and focus at the start of 10%+, Meander certainly seems to be the arc's hero. Sadly, his personality is destroyed halfway through, passing the torch to Quintet to finish the story.
A Dog Named Dog: In a variant, every named spider character in Lycosa goes by their species' scientific name. It also takes advantage of how one particular species of spider is known by multiple scientific names: "Lycosagulosa" and "Gladicosagulosa".
So what caused the differences between this Earth and ours? The moon formed differently.note Specifically the comic follows the idea that in our universe, a Mars-sized space object crashed into a very young Earth, and this began the process that created our moon. That didn't happen in the NofNA 'verse.
The print version of Secretary had another unlikely divergence point from the web version. A different eye turned red.
Filler: Wild Style. Arguably Pika as well, but the latter seems too ambitious (and only appears once a year anyway) to count.
Furries Are Easier to Draw: Averted. The more recent arcs show that Braun is not only perfectly capable of drawing humans, but just as good at it as he is at drawing animals.
Furry Denial: In-universe and in the supplementary material, "man" and "woman" refer not to humans, but to sentient animals that are male or female. It can be a bit jarring to hear one animal call another animal a man. This practice continues in Solar System, so presumably it's part of the Translation Convention.
Future Imperfect: Compare Solar System's in-story retelling of 10%+ to what actually happened. You'll find a few differences...
Improvised Weapon: Lycosa of, um, Lycosa uses plenty of improvised weaponry. Thanks to spiders being so much smaller than humans, a pill effectively becomes a gigantic club.
Instant Expert: When major characters learn Metanoia/Telenoia, they tend to also learn all of their factures within the systems. Most obvious when SV unlocks the Telenoia of Malice and Lycosa invents the first factures.
Individuality Is Outdated: Venom 8's plan to borrow eggsacs from every spider wasn't some diabolical scheme by they and their supporter's estimation due to this trope. Every one else was so thoroughly on board with it, it hadn't occurred to them that someone would object.
Kiai: "MARK!" (There's no clear in-universe explanation for where that one came from.)
Killer Rabbit: Let's just say that not all of the comic's ass-kickers are animals you'd expect to be able to kick ass. In particular, a number of characters in Secretary fit, since it's mostly about rodents.
Medium Blending: In Lycosa, animated arrows appear in the speech bubbles you have to highlight to translate the spider speech every so often in order to better demonstrate the sense of movement, surprise, or the emotions a spider face is completely incapable of conveying. Later on in the arc, animated speech bubbles are used to elaborate the supernatural quality of Lycosa's factures with ridiculously complex animations
Meaningful Name: If a character has a proper name, then it's near-guaranteed to be one of these. Justified - they picked their names themselves.
Mind Screw: The author has stated that one of the reasons he started creating the webcomic is that he couldn't find any difficult webcomics to read. Even though some apparent mind screws end up making sense in context or hindsight, it's a difficult read.
Mood Whiplash: The manic Wild Style ends with a serious, semi-autobiographical page about a frustrated artist.
Mundane Utility: Possible inversion; very few styles are used exclusively for combat. Many are/were developed for non-combat use and just happened to be useable in combat (for example, Meander's metanoia). In fact, there are actually styles which are not supposed to be used to attack someone!
Mythology Gag: A few jokes in Wild Style. SV's/Malice's over dramatic speech giving is parodied in the second strip, and the halo brain-dead Meander is described as the "perfect man" by a female maned wolf in another.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Had Rule not used Galena on Meander, Meander would likely have been found guilty, and the question of the legality of destroying the halo brain might never have become an issue, seeing how Quintet only cared because it was used on her best friend.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Having a name is one of the highest prestiges in this setting. Most animals are therefore known by scent codes (usually abbreviated to the last two letters), by where they're from, or by nicknames.
Painting the Medium: One page of Secretary is a blank webpage, presumably to convey loss of consciousness. If that wasn't enough, towards the end, the webpages change background colour to go along with the comic doing the same. Lycosa goes even further; aside from an above-mentioned Art Shift, you have to mouse over the speech bubbles in order to read them.
Redemption Equals Death: SV is an arguable case, as in his dying moments he realises that the origin of malice is, "your own damn self"... whatever that means. This did redeem him in the eyes of some anti-SV readers, in any case.
Rule Of Cool: The martial arts styles thrive on this trope (one example being a style that turns your teeth red and apparently rips some of the blood out of your opponent). And even in Lycosa the rule's in full effect. An early fight scene can basically be summed up as, "a fist fight while bungee-jumping".
Schedule Slip: Generally averted, which is quite impressive given the quality of the art and how often the comic updates. Occasionally the author takes breaks or updates later than usual, but on the whole NofNA doesn't suffer from this too badly.
Seldom Seen Species: This comic is in love with this trope - so much so that it averts Small Taxonomy Pools. The first arc alone has a maned wolf, two tamanduas, two kinkajous and a patagonian cavy. The second arc has several degus, two jerboas, and a chinchilla among others. Lycosa might as well be called the Spider Species Variety Showcase Arc.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Oh dear god. Big words are everywhere - in the martial arts techniques, in dialogue, in the freaking manual, everywhere.
She Who Fights Monsters: Lycosa Gulosa certainly has shades of this in her brutality, apathy, and penchant for black humor each time she offs an enemy. Though, ultimately this led to Lycosa's heroic Mega Manning of her enemies — she understood the individual identity, uniqueness and worth of her enemies and internalized them, leading to her invention of her own metanoia.
The various moves of the styles are often (but not always) named like this. Some examples: both versions of SV's malice style and Lycosa's factures.
At least some of Solar System's characters have a space theme going on in their names - Yuri is likely named after Yuri Gargarin, Able after a monkey who went to space, and Strelka after a Russian space dog. (She even points out that there's a reason she wasn't named Laika.)
Floral Theme Naming: A fair few animals take their names (or nicknames) from plantlife, such as Amanita and Talinum from 10%+ and Chrysanthemum, Marigold (SV) and Nutsedge (XZ) from Secretary. Note that Nutsedge is the only female character on this list.
Translation Convention: In 10%+ and Secretary, characters are assumed to be speaking the common language when their text is handwritten (and looks "rougher"). When speaking their species's own tongue (which can still be learned by some other animals) their text is typed in a very clean, simple font. In Lycosa, it is implied that spiders somehow communicate visually, with little speech bubbles filled with images depicting what the spider wishes to convey to others that must be moused over for a proper English translation.
Translator Microbes: The animals in Solar System still speak Common, but they (and humans) are permanently connected to a world-wide network that handles the translation for them. When Discovery is stranded in space, the signal to the 'net is lost, and the astronauts have to fall back on more primitive translators.
Abe: 'Challenger'. Strelka: Ah... the Challenger blew up.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: One could argue that the entire purpose of Lycosa is to challenge this trope, by making the audience sympathise with realistically-drawn, (somewhat) realistically-behaving spiders. So far, it seems to be working.