Webcomic / Not A Villain

Not a Villain is a webcomic by Aneeka Richins. It tells the story of Kleya Smith, who is attempting to reform her hacker ways in a virtual world where hackers are executed on-spot.

Richins has also written a novel, The Wanted Child, whose heroine strongly resembles Kleya.

The webcomic has nothing to do with the Most Definitely Not a Villain trope.

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Paddy thinks Danni's avatar is a tribute to the late ballerina Daniella Morretti; Danni clarifies that she actually is Daniella Morretti and is still alive.
  • Actual Pacifist: Kleya, to the point where others question her sanity, although she borders on Technical Pacifist at times. Her Special is designed to take advantage of a Game-Breaking Bug in the Game's emotion stat by overloading her opponents with happiness if they hit her, but it can backfire on her as well if she hits someone.
  • Adult Fear: Imagine being Danni's parents. Reality has deemed their daughter "useless", and they've been working themselves to death to try and put off that decision. And it all ends up being useless, because their city officials decide that she's not going to be successful in L.i.F.e. or The Game.
  • After the End: Some unspecified catastrophe called "The Ending" has destroyed civilization except for a few surviving Cities. Kleya is implied to have hacked most of the world's military robots and AI controlled cars in an attempt to kill everyone. But what really did a number on the world was whatever messed up the Earth's geomagnetic field. No one is sure how it happened, but one popular theory posited by The Dude is that Kleya somehow found a way to hack it.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Mostly Averted so far. D is explicitly stated in the author's notes to have no will of its own. The L.I.F.E. moderators use him as a hacking defense, and he follows Kleya's commands without fail. That said, he seems to be programmed to provide for Kleya with the best means available, and often attempts to do things to improve her living conditions that Kleya has to stop, as getting too comfortable would give her away.
  • Allegedly Free Game: in-universe: LiFe is free for Outsiders, but many basic features, such as clothes, cost money.
  • Alt Text: This is usually Aneeka's thoughts or opinions on the page.
  • Anti-Hero: Kleya, though she's trying to just be a hero, period.
  • Art Shift: Reality looks much darker and grainier, and has more shading.
    • In fact, the differences in art style even between two characters sharing panel space can be observed here and there. More wealthy LiFe players have more detailed avatars and clothes, where as poorer players are much more basic and flat looking. You can tell that Mae is spoiled by her family, for instance, because her avatar's hair is brighter, skin is less matte, and clothes' actually have color. The differences become even more startling when you compare the largely ignored by the developers LiFe to The Game.
  • Artificial Intelligence: D is one.
  • Bag of Holding: One of the pre-made Erbana specials is a bag of holding. It's necessary for all the plants that Erbana players have to gather and carry. It's also useful enough that, while the Erbana path is unpopular, some players maintain a 15% Erbana alignment in order to be able to access it.
  • Ballet: Danni is a dancer, and uses dance moves as attacks in the Game.
    • Before "The End" Danni was an extremely accomplished, somewhat famous dancer.
  • The Atoner: Kleya's obsession with becoming a hero seems to stem from her desire to atone for her previous actions as the leader of the hacker group "Deconstruct Me".
  • Brain–Computer Interface: Kleya uses one for LiFe, but disguises it.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Many terms in the Game (including its title) are just capitalized words.
  • Cast from Hit Points: the Game allows Specials which move points between attributes, allowing characters to cast from any attribute.
  • Cat Girl: Kleya's Game avatar is a catgirl called Kat.
  • Character Alignment: The Game only partially plays this straight. It has it's own unique alignments, but they are broken into hero and villain roles. With Kesti, Erbana, and Cardista as hero alignments and Morto, Demoli, and Mani as villains. invoked
    • Also interesting is that the allignments don't exactly correlate with good or evil. While Erbana is usually going to be heroid and Demoli and Morto usually villianous the other three are less obvious. Cardista seems more True Neutral then good or evil, Kesti could still do morally questionable quests, and Mani could easily be played in a morally good way, if one doesn't abuse some of it's more questionable abilities.
  • Charlie Brown from Outta Town: Shortly after the avatar Bloody Mary is banned from the Game for killing her teammates, a new avatar named Jane who has a very similar design and uses the same special attack shows up in the qualifiers to join. Waterman tries to get her kicked out for this reason, but fails because she wasn't technically breaking the rules: her punishment was only being forced to make a new character, not being banned entirely.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: This seems to be enforced on the kesti alignment in The Game. Turning down a quest, any quest, causes them to loose alignment, thus they are effectively forced to do anything others ask of them if they want to keep a high alignment
    • Though it should be noted that they are technically forced to do any quest, regardless of it's content, to keep the alignment. Thus they could just as easily be forced to kick puppies or burn down an orphanage if that was the quest offered to them.
  • Chronic Villainy: Something Kleya has been struggling with. For reasons still unknown, she apparently went mad after perfecting a Brain–Computer Interface. She made herself a Self-Made Orphan and tried to wipe out humanity. In the present, she is trying to fix herself and prove herself a hero. But she is very much a Sore Loser. Because the world is completely reliant on computers, and her mind is directly connected to them, whenever she is on the verge of losing or sufficiently enraged, she risks A Tragedy of Impulsiveness.
    • In Game this seems to be enforced on players wanting a high morto alignment, who are required to constantly kill things around them to maintain their alignment, which doesn't seem conducive to non-villain lifestyle. So far all we know about the requirements for the demoli alignment is that it appears to require a focus on massive destruction, and that it is not compatible with a pacifist alignment, but it's unlikely that maintaining that alignment will prove conducive to the less morally impaired.
      • Ironically the third villain path, Mani, is all about talking your way out of situations without violence and thus theoretically wouldn't be too hard to play without villany. In fact it would likely fit right in with a list of heroic alignments in many games, if it wasn't for their higher level abilities being a little too effective at making people agree with you, which may make more heroic individuals uncomfortable using them.
  • The Conspiracy: Sandra and Kleya suspect TenKA of sinister intentions.
  • Cracker: Hackers have caused much mayhem and destruction in the past, so they're the object of paranoia and Witch Hunts.
  • Crapsack World: Although we haven't seen the outside world, there are enough hints to make it clear that something is very wrong out there. Inhabitants call it 'The Ending' and are still dealing with it after two years. But then again, LiFe isn't exactly sunshine and roses, either.
    • A sidestory summary showed a range from many survivors in a "stable" area to "miracle" areas of sole survivors of severe trauma who are nearly suicidal from constantly fending off death.
    • It's implied that something caused a disruption of the geomagnetic field. Cause, effect, and duration (is it still a problem?) are still unknown. Movement in the earth's poles are probably connected.
    • Even the Cities aren't exactly sunshine and roses. They're heaven compared to Outsiders' lives, but getting in and staying in are hellish, and once there, if you're not a Game celebrity, you're required to make a living through hard labor on the farm; citizens who can't work are deported even if that means their deaths.
  • Creepy Doll: Bloody Mary fights using a pair of them.
  • Cyborg: The Dude refers to Kleya as one. When we see her in Reality, she does appear to have metal implants in her spine and the back of her hands.
  • Cyberspace: L.I.F.e is a virtual reality online game that most of the people on Earth are a part of.
  • Dance Battler: Danni. Her fighting style is based on ballet.
  • Digital Avatar: There are two levels of Avatar: LiFe and the Game.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Danni to Kleya, on several occasions when Kleya tries to help her out: after the Death Match tournament, and when preparing for the Game.
  • Dynamic Character: Kleya is trying to be one. She's a Sore Loser who would rather cheat than lose, but she's trying to change this so she won't get caught — and possibly out of guilt over her past actions.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Danni, after receiving notice that she will "be replaced" at the end of Reality's day, decides to spend her last hours dancing.
  • Faceless Masses: Or the blobs, the artist has quite a bit of fun with their ambition to get faces in her vote incentives.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Paddy, when he shows off his mecha avatar. He created it as a gift for his wife, who was an accountant at a mecha company; but the others in the group find it offensive, as many people were killed by mechas during The Ending.
  • Filler:
    • Annie's story, which evolved from the Faceless Masses vote incentives (see above).
    • Dude the Great, a Stick Figure Comic with deliberately simplistic art to allow Aneeka to build up a buffer of regular pages, which also demonstrates No Fourth Wall as he can hear the narrator and even starts conversing with her.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: The only food the Cities supply to Outsiders is a disgusting nutrient paste.
    Kleya: Hate that stuff.
    Mae: It tastes like they stuck salted dirt in rotting yogurt!
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Kleya/Kat exploits an underflow bug in the Game trials. Her Special also exploits a flaw in the emotion stat to One Hit KO any opponent who hits her.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The cardista alignment in The Game appears to revolve around collecting, and somehow using, cards; though specifics have not yet been revealed.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In the Game tutorial, the Dude uses the NPC child he's supposed to be protecting as a weapon.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Kleya's 'Hacker Vision' can appear like this. She is able to rapidly view information that shouldn't be available to her that she claims is 'leaked' by The Game, and even has the ability to take down The Game's servers in a second of anger without premeditation. This appears to be justified by the presence of her AI, D, though. 'Hacking' options appear to be presented to her by D in real time, and it's entirely possible that the 'Hacker Vision' is likewise an overlay provided by D or similar program. It's less that Kleya is hacking on the fly, and more that she is exploiting long-ago-written hacks for real-time updates.
    • Though Kelya does comment a few times about coding of others specials being sloppy, clean, leaking information or pieced together from various sources, all conclusions she appears to come to within a few seconds prior to start of a fight. She speaks as if she is actually looking at the code, not just an overlay from D; but at the same time is able to piece together quite a bit of information about a special behavior within seconds; more then would perhaps be reasonable if she was having to look at the code directly?
  • I Miss Mom: Kleya's mother is dead, and it's Kleya's fault.
  • In and Out of Character: In character, Bloody Mary is an Ax-Crazy murderer who recites nursery rhymes before attacking with dolls. But it's probably just an act.
    Sandra: She messaged me earlier. Said she'd be late. Something about her kids.
    The Dude: Kids? Bloody Mary has kids?
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Bloody Mary recites twisted versions of nursery rhymes before attacking, and slips a few references into her regular conversations as well.
  • Killer Robot: Shanghai was devastated by hacked military mechs during the Ending. The author's notes below the comic revealing this states that 90% of all military mechs in the world were hacked; Shanghai, having a mech-heavy army, was hit particularly hard.
  • Kill 'em All: The morto alignment appears to be gained by killing everything and everyone around you, and in fact leaving a battle without killing something lowers the rating.
  • Last Lousy Point: The alignment's in The Game seem quite prone to this. 100% alignment to a path can unlock some unique and presumably powerful specials, making a 100% alignment theoretically tempting for players. However, to maintain 100% in a given alignment one needs a 0% in any other alignment, which is hard to manage when such basic actions such as killing anything, talking someone into something, doing anything another person asks of you, or picking up a card being enough to gain points in an alignment. Furthermore, a user must maintain some stiff restrictions to not lose alignment points, such as never running from a fight, always doing *anything* someone else asks you to be, or not allowing anything near you to die, even if others are trying to kill it. This all combines to make keeping a 100% alignment nearly impossible.
  • The Metaverse: LiFe is a Second Life-like environment where survivors of the apocalypse can socialize.
  • Monochrome Casting: Justified in L.i.F.e.: the programming only supports one skin color. Danni is taken by surprise when Sandra, using her own server which allows her to have a more customized avatar, appears with dark skin.
  • Morality Chain Beyond the Grave: Kleya's drive to stop being a villain and become a hero seems to be largely driven by memories of her mother and a desire to become what her mother would want her to be. Her insistence on always wearing pink and yellow, and on playing Erbana despite it's low publicity are due to trying to emulate her mother. (Of course a simpler desire to simply stop having society at large view her as a villain is another strong factor in her actions.)
  • More Than Mind Control: High level Mani abilities seem to allow a number of effects to control or force enemies actions.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Danni has been struggling with this. Since her City considers her a "costly liability", they've been changing their rules to impose more and more difficult requirements on her to remain in L.i.F.e. They want her to fail so that they can justify taking her off life-support and importing a replacement citizen capable of working on the Farms.
  • Mr. Exposition: Jake is one of the most experienced members of the team and is far more talkative than Kleya. As a result, his LiFe persona, Bandit, is the one most likely to explain how stuff works.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Danni's main story role. She only recently started learning about L.i.F.e., and most of what she does know was learned from watching Saisuke play. As a result, she frequently has to be taught the rules behind the game, which is a role mostly occupied by Bandit.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: The Game isn't just an MMORPG. All players are required to stream their play professionally, and only popular players can stay in.
  • Nominal Hero: Theoretically could apply to anyone playing Kesti alignment, see Designated Hero entry above. Rather this makes one a Designated Hero or Nominal Hero depends on how one views The Game, which is both 'real' for it's players and a Show Within a Show for watching fans.
  • No Sell: Apparently if a player with a high Mani alignment can guess what your going to do she can cause it to automatically fail.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Common fan speculation is that The Dude is underplaying his knowledge of The Game and general competence, not so much to trick anyone into underestimating him as to allow him to keep up his amusing response to situations around him in order to maintain popularity with fans. However, it's yet to be confirmed how much, if any, of his responses are an act. Situations are looking to force him into his first fight in Game which may reveal more soon...
  • Older Than They Look: Sandra is implied to be older than the appearance her avatar suggests; her husband is in his sixties and says that she retired a year before the Ending.
  • Online Alias: Most characters use aliases in the Game, and some in LiFe as well. Even "Kleya" is an alias.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Specifics have yet to be revealed yet, but it appears the Demoli alignment requires not just killing, but destroying everything around them.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: In Kleya's photograph of her parents, the part showing her father has been ripped off.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The Dude's L.i.F.e. persona is constantly cowering and otherwise acting goofy.
  • Point Build System: The Game uses one. Its basic stats are Strength, Agility, Speed, Stamina, Intellect, and Luck.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Kleya sometimes lapses into this.
    Kleya: I. Will. Be. Nice.
  • Recursive Acronym: LiFe stands for "LiFe is For everyone".
  • Redemption Quest: The whole comic is very much this for Kleya.
  • Reformed Criminal: It's strongly implied that Kleya is the reason everyone is terrified of hackers.
  • RPGs Equal Combat: played with. On the one hand the alignment system doesn't appear to presume combat, with the Mani and Erbana alignments both representing play styles that seem counter to combat, and the Kesti and Cardista alignments not requiring combat. In fact killing things appears to give alignment points to Morto so anyone wishing to stay a hero or maintain high alignment in another path may have to avoid excessive killing. However, despite this all we ever see of The Game seems to be combat, with specials all being combat related, characters discussing combat strength of roles, winning access to The Game done through winning in combat arena, and no one seeming to consider the Actual Pacifist play style viable.
    • A possible explanation may be that the Game was originally designed to support multiple play styles without combat, back when it was simply an MMORPG, but after The End, and the Game being elevated to primary entertainment to watch, the focus shifted to the more interesting to watch combat, causing the alternate playing styles to be neglected due to lower fan interest.
  • The Rival: The Bandit is this to Kleya, and Bandit's true identity, Jake, was Kleya's friend and one of the few people capable of challenging Kleya, even when she cheated.
  • Self-Made Orphan: According to her former friend, Jake, as well as her mother's best friend, Kleya murdered her own mother. This is a considerable source of guilt for her.
  • Serious Business: The power of The Cracker is hyped up to the point of unbelievability.
    • The Cracker is hyped in-story as well, with some claiming the person Kleya's suspected of being (still pending confirmation) hacked the geomagnetic field. Reminders that such a thing is impossible are not sticking.
    • At the same time, however, being a hacker in LiFe is essentially the same as being a Reality Warper.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: It appears that players with a high Mani alignment have the ability to make a player 'turn against' their party. The specifics of how this is handled with player controlled characters, including how difficult it is to do and general level of game breaking it may be, is not yet known.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Jake, Kleya's former best friend, keeps making this protest to Brandon whenever Brandon implies it to be his reason for helping her.
  • Show Within a Show: More like a virtual reality within a virtual reality, The Game is inside LiFe, which is not the real world.
  • Sore Loser: Kleya hates losing, and tends to instinctively hack when she's in danger. It's to the point that her enemies assume she can't possibly be the person they're hunting, since that girl would never forfeit a match.
  • Speak of the Devil: No one is willing to use Kleya's true name. It is rumored that anyone who does so will have their lives ruined by her A.I. computer viruses.
  • Special Attack: "Specials" are an important part of the Game. Kleya invents her own.
  • Stylistic Suck: If you don't have the money to buy an avatar, you have to draw it yourself, and Kleya is a horrible artist. She gets to use one in the Game due to a loophole, and the proportions are so bad she can barely hold her head up.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: This appears to be the specificity of the Mani alignment, which is gained by talking others into doing what you want and at high levels seems to have quite a number of abilities to force others to do what you want just by talking to them.
  • Token Good Teammate: Deconstructed. Kleya wants to enter the game and become a Hero in a desperate attempt to prove to herself and the world that her real self can still be redeemed and do good. After years of struggling to get on the roster, her team immediately gets their group listed as Villainous because each of her partners was unable or unwilling to complete the introduction level without needless carnage, far counterbalancing the good karma Kleya herself got from a perfect Actual Pacifist run. The realization that her one chance at making people see that she isn't a monster has been destroyed before she even had a chance to try due to the incompetence and spitefulness of others drives her to nearly Rage Quit with near cataclysmic consequences.
  • Tournament Arc: the Game trials in chapters 2 and 3 are a double-elimination tournament.
  • Unsound Effect: These occur frequently in the comic.
  • Unusual User Interface: Mae uses difficult-to-remember hand gestures. Justified in that it's implied she has an arm out of commission and needs to forfeit some simplicity for the sake of usability.
    Kleya: Hold the fourth finger down and flick the thumb thrice.
  • The Voiceless: D talks to Kleya, but the reader only hears Kleya's responses.
  • Unconventional Alignment: The alignment system in the Game allows for 6 alignments, 3 hero and 3 villain. The heroes are kesti, who performs quests given to them, Erbana, who heal and prevent harm of *anyone* around them, and cardista, who collect and (somehow) use cards in the game. Villains are morto, who kills everyone around them, Demoli, who destroy everything, not just people, around them, and mani, which manipulate others into doing what they want.
  • White Void Room: Everyone in L.i.F.e. gets dumped into one when the servers fail due to D taking down a hacker during the Game Trials.
  • Witch Hunt: A major reason a lot of software in the setting is poorly designed. A group of hackers called Deconstruct Me brought ruin to the entire world. Mobs went around killing every programmer they could find, assuming all coders can hack. When the attacks finally stopped and everyone calmed down, they suddenly realized that they had few people that could maintain their computers.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Jane's path focuses on endless killing, and as such, her game persona is Ax-Crazy. But in the real world, she has children of her own, and she is unwilling to kill child NPCs in the game.