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El Goonish Shive back to reviews
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Deceiving Quality
While it is no secret I hold a healthy dislike of El Goonish Shive, even having dedicated a whole live blog to it, I decided to try and at least attempt a somewhat fair review of the series.

Reasons to read this series:

  • Fanservice: If you like lesbians, gender benders, furries, or transformation stuff, then without a doubt, you will like this comic.
  • Characters: It can be fairly easy to get wrapped up in the characters. You have a huge cast of females and males, and most of them get at least one point to shine, more or less.
  • Plot: El Goonish Shive is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, and when it's not caught up in highschool drama, Shive can pull off some pretty impressive scenarios. The highlight of El Goonish Shive is easily Shive's willingness to make use of Alternate Universes. Unfortunately, it has yet to be used to its full potential.
  • Readability: It's been going on since 2002, and Archive Panic is a very fear when going into this, but DAMN is this thing easy to binge.
  • It Gets Better: No, really, it does. If you aren't sure if you'll like it, skip to past the Painted Black arc, and see whether you can tolerate the art and plot handling then.

Reasons NOT to read this series:

  • It Gets Better: ...but it's based off of the old badly done plots, resulting in a lot of complicated retcons, and attempts of making deep characters that were made of superficial origins.
  • Fan Service: For those who do NOT like fan service, some might find it laughable the great lengths Shive goes to convince you his series is squeaky clean, and any type of bikini-clad girl is just a 'joke'. No. Really.
  • Shive can't do Cerebus Syndrome: Shive recently prefaced his newest arc with "We're Bringing Silly Back." While a light hearted series is fine, the fact that he is purposely avoiding the realistically darker moments tend to just lead to Angst What Angst.
  • Pacing: Nine years of comics, and the plot moves at a snail's pace.
  • Shallow Characterization: Many characters have one trait to their name, mostly to clumsily show Shive's supposed 'progressiveness' which is really mostly tokenism.
  • Double Standard s: AKA sexism, on BOTH sides.
Damn review count.

To elaborate the last point:

Violence is allowed and encouraged when female against male, almost every crying and emotional scene is done by a female (or someone who is in the form of a female), the straw feminist character is treated in a such a way that would NEVER fly for a straw chauvinist, despite having many action girls, there is rarely, if ever, any physical force used against them by the male characters, the bad guys are all male, with the one 'bad' female pretty much being a good person in love with a bad person.

All in all, it is up to you to decide whether you want to read this series or not, and my advice would be to skip all the arcs up to Painted Black, and go straight to the next arc if the bad art and plot is throwing you off, and judge it from there.

Oh, and it should be noted that the fanservice is mostly found in his sketchbook, which I would edit in the actual reviw, but I'm not touching that thing, since I barely got it under 400 words.
comment #6071 MrAHR 26th Jan 11 (edited by: MrAHR)
...Jesus Christ, that's ridiculous. The double standard(s), that is. I've always kind of shied away from this one, mainly because I haven't really done the whole webcomic thing in a while and it has probably the stupidest title I've ever heard in my life, but at least now I know I'm not really missing much of anything.

Also, just to make sure I understand - there are lesbians in this comic, but they exist solely for the purpose of titillation, rather than being actual, like, characters? I'm liking this less and less.

Oh, and by the way - Mother of God, woman, that liveblog is insane! Kind of a fun insane, though.
comment #6081 EponymousKid 26th Jan 11 (edited by: EponymousKid)
Well...that's where I and a diehard fan would argue differently. Shive desperately DESPERATELY tries to make his characters deep and not about their orientation...he just really sucks at it. He keeps most of the titillation out of the main comic, but it's pretty obvious he's not motivated to write the lesbian love story for the deep intrinsic characters and how they interact with each other and the interesting romance they could have together.
comment #6098 MrAHR 26th Jan 11
But... not all of the violence is just "female beats up male," or "male beats up male," or "female beats up female." Obviously, this is going back quite a ways, but remember the little arc that was Elliot vs. Nanase? Honestly, aside from the joke ending, Elliot had the upper hand, and got the last real, serious hit in. It most likely would have been an even fight, and it's not like he was holding back because Nanase's a girl... he was holding back because he wants to be Superman! =D He almost exactly quoted the World of Cardboard speech, for crying out loud.

Plus, the current villain (unless she goes off the radar like Lord Tedd, which would be annoying...) is a female, isn't just a "good person in love with a bad man," and is only the second villain who's really had some time to develop some sort of character. That seems fairly even to me...

Honestly, I'm sure you CAN pick out sexism in this, that certainly isn't hard to do with anything if you look hard. But Dan tries, and tries harder and harder as the story progresses. Ellen and Nanase's romance had about the same amount of time to develop as Elliot and Sarah (who both had FAR more time to develop one than Grace and Tedd). Dan may screw up with writing girl characters sometimes... but if there's somewhere to direct your hate in that matter, there are far worse offenders, even in just webcomics. Um, off the top of my head, Megatokyo would be one, as every single female character seems to just exist to fulfill an otaku ideal of what a girl "should" be.

I dunno. I mean, sure, you said you're trying to give this a fair shake, but... You're kinda going in saying you hate it, aren't you? Of course, I'm going in as a passing fan, so meh. Doubt either of us will change our opinions based on an internet argument.
comment #6655 Gatekeeper_Aidan 1st Mar 11 (edited by: Gatekeeper_Aidan)
What do you mean Elliot got the final hit in? It wasn't a real hit. It was more of an aura hit. Compare this and this to this. Not only is Elliot's hit the only nonphysical one, but it also means that we NEVER see Nanase actually feel pain, or any bone-hitting-bone SFX.

And yes, El Goonish Shive is not the worst, but that does not make it exempt when it comes to its flaws.
comment #6812 MrAHR 13th Mar 11
@Gatekeeper_Aidan: But isn't Megatokyo using the female character types Ironically, like in The World God Only Knows?
comment #6814 silver2195 13th Mar 11 (edited by: silver2195)
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