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Webcomic / Not a Villain

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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.

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

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Kleya really is so good that she has everyone suspecting who she truly is. This is deconstructed a couple of ways, though. She isn't actually invincible without hacking and there are counters to her strategies and Specials, though only a couple of players are shown to have either the skill or the intelligence to pull that off. And the other problem is that she's good at playing as an ace, and, as noted by herself on Page 513, she lacks the skills that players learn by playing at the bottom levels without being able to access high-level Specials or knowing how to gather an arsenal of combat plants.
  • 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.
  • 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 and caused massive volcanic eruptions. 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. In spite of Jake's insistence, the fact that the Earth's geomagnetic field isn't computer-controlled convinces no one else otherwise.
  • 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.
  • Animal Stereotypes: In-Universe, Jane mentions that Kats are always odd.
  • 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, whereas 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.
  • 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".
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Kleya hacks on impulse, even over fairly petty things, despite trying to reform herself and knowing the consequences full well. The only reason she hasn't been caught or caused more disasters than she has is due to being fortunate enough to get interrupted at the times it would cause the most danger.
  • Badass Pacifist: Kat doesn't hurt people. She's nice. However, she's also an Erbana who can easily tank massive attack Specials with a flower, and there's nothing in her alignment that prevents her from non-harmfully immobilizing attackers.
  • 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.
  • Base-Breaking Character: In-Universe, Jane appears to be a rather polarizing character, due to her teamkilling and her petition war with Waterman.
  • Be Yourself: In Page 359, Dani says that was her mom's advice to be liked, "Just be yourself.". But, Dani thinks that's a lie, because, as said on Page 360 Dani tried that and it didn't work.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Kleya uses one for LiFe, but disguises it.
  • Bread and Circuses: Jane believes that the reason TenKA prioritizes wasting resources on The Game and nothing else is to keep everyone too distracted by entertainment to deal with TenKA's abuse of authority.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Jake is fully aware that Kleya is capable of killing him and even wiping out what's left of humanity if she snaps, but risks it anyway.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • See Jane. See Jane play with dolls and recite creepy nursery rhymes. See Jane utterly annihilate Kat with an excellently-designed Special and a pair of kama.
    • Dude invokes this by way of Obfuscating Stupidity. He plays the lovable idiot to the hilt, but is surprisingly good at finding stuff, apparently through luck. As a veteran TenKA employee, he's almost certainly far more skilled than he lets on, but playing with obvious skill would ruin his Plucky Comic Relief schtick.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Part of Jake's backstory. He denounced his abusive father, threw back the medal his father tried to "honor" him with, and punched him.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: While Kleya's true identity is widely hated as a suspected mass murderer, and the President of TenKA wants her dead, Dr. Grace wants her alive because she is useful and she is the only one who can safely yield control over the virus she infected their systems with.
  • 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. Page 421 shows some skills that move HP.
  • Cat Girl: Kleya's Game avatar is a catgirl called Kat.
  • Catchphrase: In her previous life, Kleya was fond of the phrase, "Everything goes boom!", such as on Page 326.
  • 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.
    • Kleya was one of the creators of the Game and is the most skilled player seen, having played it before the Ending. She's now entering under an assumed name as the Actual Pacifist Cat Girl Druid Kat.
    • Bandit and Dude are veteran TENka staffers using smurf accounts to investigate Kat.
  • Child Prodigy: Kleya was a hacking, and apparently gaming, prodigy as a child, and as said in Page 242, one in electronics, too.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: This seems to be enforced on the kesti alignment in The Game. Turning down a quest, any quest, causes them to lose 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 its 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 villainy. 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. There's indications that they're messing with the Game's popularity statistics.
    • Sandra, Patrick and Jane are running their own conspiracy. Their objective isn't clear yet, but they're no friends of TenKA.
    • Discussed by Jake and Brandon when Brandon starts pulling out conspiracy theories about Kleya's father. Jake replies that Brandon's already in a conspiracy.
  • Cool Code of Source: Kleya's 'hacker vision' plays with this trope. Instead of scrolling code we see a sort of wire-overlay of characters with certain information or options standing out that she is looking for. Thus giving us a more webcomic-friendly (where writing scrolling code would be a drain on the artist) alternative to convey the same sort of idea.
  • Cower Power: The Dude often acts cowardly and hides behind someone, that someone usually being Bandit or Danni.
  • 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 was a ballerina before something went wrong and left her on life support. As a result, in the Game, she uses a unique fighting style that takes advantage of her talents as a gimmick to draw popularity.
  • Daddy's Girl: Kleya seemed to be quite proud to show of her most recent programming or hacking accomplishment to her dad, who praised her skills. Though it is implied that their relationship has since soured.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Well, more precisely, Daddy's Little Hacker. Kleya's relationship with her father as a child had shades of this. Her father wasn't a Card-Carrying Villain as is standard of the trope, and obviously Kleya wants everyone to know she is not a villain. However, Kleya's dad seem to have praised and encourage her hacking skill without any question of ethical use of it or concern about abuse; leading to Kleya's view on hacking to be similar to how Daddy's Little Villain views other forms of villainy.
  • Dance Battler: Danni. Her fighting style is based on ballet.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jake's a master of this, and it carries over into Bandit's Jerkass bad-boy persona.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: It is hoped that if Kleya's true identity is in fact dead, and they have someone emulate her playing style in the game, they can manipulate the virus she infected their systems with into obeying that person.
  • Designated Hero: The "Hero" alignments are declared In-Universe, not exactly reflecting ethics:
    • The Kesti alignment requires accepting and performing quests. People can give quests of any ethical content. Player groups appear to know this, and will keep their alignment by having one player give a quest to the rest to do whatever morally questionable thing they want done.
    • The Cardista alignment is about collecting cards. Very little information about what the cards can do is known.
  • Digital Avatar: There are two levels of Avatar: LiFe and the Game.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kleya's father hasn't been seen since the Ending and is presumed deceased.
  • 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.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent:
    • Jake is a TenKA operative. He's also involved in a conspiracy inside TenKA, but his true loyalties are to his own agenda (which Brandon shares).
    • Brandon mentions to Jake at one point that "I'm quadrupling agenting here!" As far as we know, he's loyal to Jake, but he's also apparently tied to "the underground," and we still don't know what other conspiracies he's involved in.
  • Everything Is Online: Appears to be played at least partially straight. For instance hackers were able to take over robots (both military and civilian) and remote-controlled cars during the Deconstruct Me hacker attacks in the backstory. We don't get to see modern-day post-collapse world outside of L.I.F.E often so it's hard to say how accurate this is now.
    • When people discuss their fear of hacking they seem to believe this trope is in effect, but they also believe a hacker can turn off their minds or hack the world's magnetic field. Suffice to say the public tends to be rather computer-illiterate and may be exaggerating what a hacker can actually access online.
  • Exact Words: As said in Page 431, in The Game, how quests operate, or possibly only player-made ones. This fact about them can make them Unintentionally Unwinnable, or possibly, if someone wants to mess up a Kesti, Unwinnable by Design.
  • Expressive Ears: Kat's ears droop when she's unhappy. Being a Cat Girl, this is expected.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Kleya's 'hacker vision' is this, or perhaps the inverse of it. When she is viewing code or information as a hacker can she sees a sort of wireframe overlay on top of the 3d graphics, making her hacker vision actually less impressive than the graphical representation it overlays. However, it still provides a very graphical way of viewing data, and she is even seen interacting with the overlay to 'hack' something on occasion. Compared to the command line interfaces most hackers use it still seems pretty fancy.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Racism: Citizen vs. Outsider feuding is common enough that Paddy has to tell Jane to cut it out (implying in context that it won't be a particularly interesting angle).
  • 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.
  • Flat "What": When Dude suddenly starts screaming and running (activating a Luck Manipulation Mechanic in the process), his Mani adversary responds with widened eyes and this trope, unable to process just how stupid he's (apparently) being.
  • For Your Own Good: Bandit references the trope when Kleya starts cheating too obviously and he prepares to sabotage her to prevent her from getting caught.
  • 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!
  • Gambit Pileup: It's increasingly looking that way, with TenKA, Sandra's group, and Jake and Brandon all up to their own schemes, and TenKA is by no means united in its objectives. Even the hit team who were after Jane seem to be connected with something.
  • 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.
  • Green Thumb: Erbana specials and abilities seem to revolve around use of plants to create heals, debuffs, and more.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In the Game tutorial, the Dude uses the NPC child he's supposed to be protecting as a weapon.
  • The Grim Reaper: Jane evokes this imagery by fighting with kama.
  • Hacker Cave: When we see Kleya in the real world, her home seems a pretty good post-apocalyptic variant of a hacker cave. It is small but filled with multiple Extreme Graphical Representation monitors.
  • Hated by All: Dani is an extremely unpopular player, for reasons that are not her fault (for example, coming in because Waterman had been bumped by the team). Her Dance Battler fighting style and her surviving Jane's attack are earning her a couple of new fans, however.
  • Have You Tried Rebooting?: Seems to be the standard approach to fixing most problems in real life. Between the hacker hunts removing most skilled programmers (and IT support), and fear of 'the virus', there seems to be a fear of trying anything more complicated, and a lack of knowledge how to do so. Thus they often resort to a reboot and pray attitude for handling problem systems.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: As said on Page 341, Kimi makes it clear that if after murdering millions, including her own mother, Kleya seeks forgiveness, she'll kill Kleya herself.
  • 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, also, Page 291 shows that her mother was in a hospital.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Kleya likes to privately think she's the greatest programmer in the world. But when she experiences a big enough setback, she starts regarding herself as a "useless failure".
  • In and Out of Character:
    • In character, Bloody Mary/Jane is an Ax-Crazy murderer who recites nursery rhymes before attacking with dolls. But it's probably just an act. Her hate for TenKA is real, to the point where she whispers her trademark rhymes to Bandit as a threat. On the other hand, she clearly likes Kat and sticks up for her when Sandra's expressing doubts.
    Sandra: She messaged me earlier. Said she'd be late. Something about her kids.
    The Dude: Kids? Bloody Mary has kids?
    • Jake has to spell it out for Dr. Grace, who thinks that he's learning to be ruthless, or else simply doing his duty, when he attacked Kleya. Allegedly, his motivation for the attack was simply playing his role to the fullest.
    Jake: I was doing Bandit, sir.
  • Inside a Computer System: While there are many different interfaces for interacting with L.I.F.E, it seems the most powerful ones effectively transfer's a user consciousness into it.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Bloody Mary recites twisted versions of nursery rhymes before attacking, and slips a few references into her regular conversations as well.
  • It's A Small Net After All: Fewer then a hundred people in all of L.I.F.E signed up to compete for a coveted role in The Game, despite the fee being quite small (relative to a basic fine for misdemeanor) . Similarly extremely important executives watch this trial to identify master programmers as if this small number of competitors is a fair sampling of internet denizens. Even Kleya running into Bandit before entering The Game seems unusual; to name just a few examples.
    • Then again the Net may actually be small. It's constantly said that L.I.F.E needs to include NPCs because people felt it was quite barren without them. It's possible that the number of people in L.I.F.E really is small enough to make these run ins plausible. Though there is still an inconsistency between this and the number of fans that are shown responding to the Game, unless most fans are NPCs (which seems less likely since a decent number are shown to pay to attend a concert and it's unlikely NPCs are given free money.
  • 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.
  • The Last DJ: Refusing to work for TENka got Kat a very devoted fandom, particularly when Kat was publically muscled out of the Game Trials by TENka representatives.
  • Last Lousy Point: The alignments 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.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Specials, which act something like magic, are generally treated as a big deal in The Game. Multiple characters have referred to the inability to beat specials written by a programmer, and nearly every fight shown in The Game was resolved by a special and/or was decided by two specials competing against each other. The implication seems to be that no matter one's skill with regular fighting without magic like specials they just can't compete; and those with the ability to create new specials outpace those without them.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Kat is a Cat Girl. It's implied that this is a convention, and Kleya isn't the first person to play a Kat.
  • Lovable Coward: The Dude's a popular character despite his apparent uselessness because he's constantly running, hiding and cowering behind the rest of his team. The fact that his cards allow him to use his cowardice as a Luck Manipulation Mechanic is just gravy.
  • The Mad Hatter: Jane is clearly enjoying playing a lunatic, and there are a couple of indications that a few of her screws are actually loose. At one point, she snorts when Sandra questions Kat's sanity. "Sanity is relative."
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
    • Jake's LiFe persona, Bandit, is an arrogant, obnoxious jerk, which is not without its fans. But in his normal identity, he goes out of his way to be the "perfect kid" to get people to like him, and he has gone out of his way to give Kleya a second chance rather than turning her in. Danni notes with annoyance how he is secretly helping her with whispers, but insulting her in public.
    • In the Game, Jane is a psychotic serial killer with a penchant for twisted nursery rhymes and creepy death dolls. In her Reality, she's a devoted mother who makes time for her kids in between game sessions.
  • The Metaverse: LiFe is a Second Life-like environment where survivors of the apocalypse can socialize.
  • Misblamed: In-Universe, Danni is catching bad heat and not getting fans because Waterman's fans are blaming her for his expulsion from the Game. Danni wasn't even part of the vote - Waterman had lost a petition feud with Jane, and Danni happened to be the lucky alternate.
  • 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 popularity 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 enemy 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.
  • Nervous Wreck: A traumatic incident left the Dude prone to nervous breakdowns and flashbacks.
  • New Meat: Danni is the only genuine newbie in a team of veterans using new identities.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Kleya Smith is dedicated to role-playing a hero. In the comic's real life, she was raised to take pride in her hacking regardless of who it hurt, is believed to be a mass murderer and clearly has not entirely reformed.
  • Nice Girl: This is Kat's theme: "be nice." It's used ironically during the Game Trials, due to Kat's Special taking out anyone who hits her, though Bandit manages to roll with it and suggest a contest of "who can be the nicest?" when she manages to get off her special. In the actual Game (where that Special wouldn't work), she plays the theme straighter, being an Actual Pacifist and highly-skilled protector of her team.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: According to Brandon, sending a programmer to his city like they've been requesting will just wreck things, because she won't be able to actually fix anything and that failure will cause them to lose what hope they've been running on.
  • No-Damage Run: As said in Page 495: How Keyla usually plays, "taking no hits".
  • 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: 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. When Danni asks about this, Bandit assures her that he really is an idiot, but he's an idiot with a purpose. Later, Bandit explains that he'd have trouble fighting in a particular area even if he did "switch out of his fool mode."
    • When the dude does switch out of fool mood he takes on an entire team of assassins single handedly, so it's fair to say he has some competence underlying his idiot persona.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Dude manages to take on a whole team of adversaries single-handedly despite having never actually demonstrated any combat skills previously. While plenty of fans are not surprised that he had more capability than demonstrated previously they are less pleased to be teased about that fact without seeing what he did or how he managed it.
  • Older Than They Look: Sandra is implied to be older than the appearance her avatar suggests; her husband is in his sixties and, as said on Page 250, 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.
    • These aliases can be important plot points. Figuring out Kat's alias in LiFe was an early plot point, and her real-world identity is a driving question for many people. Other's identities and aliases have also played small roles, such as Danni revealing who she was to an old fan, Bloody Mary creating of a new alias, and not knowing if an individual works for Tenka or is an NPC due to their alias.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Jake gets ordered to befriend Kleya so that TenKA can give her a job. While teasing Jake about Kleya being his girlfiend, Dude proposes that he start dating Danni to make Kleya jealous.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: It seems that fully 3d believable worlds are creatable, so graphics don't *have* to suck. However, bandwidth limits, or even limits on graphics a poor person can buy in L.i.F.e. can sometimes result in less impressive graphics anyways. D's graphics are also pretty minimal for such a world-bending AI, but considering the artistic skills of his' creator perhaps we should be more impressed he doesn't look worse.
  • Pacifist Run: Kleya completes the Tutorial via the Erbana path, aka Actual Pacifist path.
  • 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.
  • Playful Hacker: Young Kleya, from flashbacks to her childhood, appears to have been one of these for the most part, though her definition of 'playful' seems to have allowed a few more pranks and similar issues; leaving the possibility that her antics may have evolved into something more...
  • 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.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: Subverted. Maintaining, upgrading, and migrating existing technology is apparently a very real and important issue; mainly due to the lack of qualified individuals after the Hacker Hunts.
    • In a minor example, when Kleya needs to modify the interface she was emulating/spoofing to appear to be more advanced she asks her AI to hunt down the files, but explicitly says she will work with them later. Apparently even emulating different interfaces to a hacker prodigy with a super-advanced AI isn't as simple as pluging in a new interface and playing; but requires real programing to wrap the communication protocols.
  • Point Build System: The Game uses one. Its basic stats are Strength, Agility, Speed, Stamina, Intellect, and Luck.
  • The Promise: As seen on Page 335, Kleya's mother made Jake promise that he wouldn't let Kleya's enemies find her. After failing once, he aims to keep that promise whether Kleya likes it or not.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: As seen in Page 238, Kleya sometimes lapses into this.
    Kleya: I. Will. Be. Nice.
  • Random Encounters: As said in Page 429, it happens in The Game, but a high percentage Erbana can turn that off.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the combat arena, and no one seeming to consider the Actual Pacifist play style viable.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: Kleya is the most skilled player in the Game when she's on her game, and she's also got phenomenal hacking skills. But what she lacks are the basic playing techniques learned by playing the Game at a low level, without access to Esones, Specials or hacking. So when Bandit kills Kat and torches her Esone, she's at a loss.
  • Sad Clown: Brandon is a major-league comedian, but he was horribly traumatized by the Robot War in Shanghai and currently lives in the dying Guangdong City. He seems good at coping through humor, but he himself admits that the ordeal's wrecked him.
  • Sadistic Choice: Annoyed that Kleya can't stop cheating, showing off, and avoid taking damage even in a game, Jake fires off two separate shots. One aimed at the enemy and one aimed at their own teammates Dude and Danni. Since Kleya cannot block both shots with her tamed chimera, this effectively forces her to save one or the other. Either way, her score will drop, which he hopes will draw suspicion of her away. Kleya manages to Take a Third Option without cheating, by taking one of the shots herself.
  • Say It with Hearts: Heart Symbol-style for Cardiovascular Love in Page 350, where it accompanies a "So love him!"
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: TENka controls the Game, and they engage in mafia-like tactics to keep their control of it. They use NPC hitmen to cheat Danni out of the trials, stage-manage several Teams, and purposefully obfuscate the rules for custom Specials so that only their operatives can use them properly. They also kidnap Kleya at one point in an attempt to illegally force the code for her Special out of her.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Jake, Kleya's former best friend, knows that "Kleya" is just a false identity for the hacker that brought ruin to the entire world. He goes to great lengths to protect her secret, even as the two of them squabble. But Kleya has no idea that he knows. At one point, she questions this, but assumes he must not because Jake, being the good kid, would surely have told on her. And as much as Jake would like to hold a frank conversation with her, he is fully aware that she will almost certainly freak out if he lets on that he knows who she is.
  • 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.
    • Everyone is desperate to distract themselves from the horrors they've experienced from surviving After the End. As such, The Game is given an overdue amount of importance due to being one of the few large and surviving pieces of entertainment, which in turn wastes resources that could have been used on keeping everyone alive.
  • 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: LiFE and the Game are in-universe MMORPGs.
  • Simulated Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic Reality: The ecosystem has been wrecked, most of human civilization lies in ruins, and the survivors spend most of their time in virtual reality. People who live in the remaining cities have the time they spend in that virtual reality restricted in an attempt to encourage them to work IRL, while "outsiders" in isolated compounds are given unlimited access and sent shipments of nutrient paste because they can only reasonably be productive in virtual.
  • Slasher Smile: Kleya gets a really good one when she disables someone who'd mocked her Erbana style.
  • Slow Loading Internet Reality: On many occasions it's shown to take time and resources to load a new environment or interface in the VR like LiFe or the Game. This has even failed on a few occasions. Though the issue seems to be less technology, and more limited resources allocated to maintaining the systems in a Post Apocalyptic world that can't afford to maintain everything.
  • 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.
  • Spider-Sense: While in The Game Kleya receives updates warning her of attacks, presumably from D. This gives her an ability like Spider-Sense, knowing of incoming attacks before they happen
    • In fact in a few instances she has to think how to justify her enhanced senses, giving an explanation for how she knew something existed or an attack was incoming so no one is suspicious of her abilities.
  • 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. Her specials are even worse.
  • 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.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Kleya's LiFe persona, Kat, uses the Actual Pacifist Erbana alignment, which requires that nothing die within a certain radius of her. Jane's alignment revolves around endless killing and Bandit's alignment revolves around violence, which constantly put them at odds with her and is in fact used as part of the team's selling point to fans. In The Dude's words, "This is the worst team possible!".
  • 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 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.
  • The Trees Have Faces: Attacking a tree on the Guelia Isola gets you turned into a tree with a face.
  • 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.
  • We All Die Someday: From Page 584, from Dr. Grace:
    Everything living dies at some point.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jane, formerly known as the teamkilling Bloody Mary, is trying to bring down the Game so that TenKA will finally get off its ass and start making something useful, and possibly save her and her children from their current predicament in a desperate survival situation.
  • When She Smiles: When Brandon tells him that Kleya never smiles, Jake responds that she can smile, with a big grin on his own face.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Brandon is terrified of mechs. At first, Paddy and Sandra wonder what the big deal is, but when informed that he was in Shanghai during the End, they apologize immediately.
  • 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.
  • With Friends Like These...: As noted by the Dude, Kleya's team was guaranteed to be a train wreck from the their manager decided to run with that as an angle, starting with Jane trying to kill Danni. It went downhill from there.
  • 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.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Multiple times where Bandit takes Jane's silence as a yes:
    • Page 414:
      Bandit: I'll take that as a 'yes'.
    • Page 566:
      Bandit: Can we declare that means yes?
      Danni: I'll go with that.
  • You Monster!: Kleya's true identity has had this said of her by multiple people, including her former best friend, Jake.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Jake isn't exactly thrilled when Dr. Grace commends him on becoming more ruthless.
  • "World's Best" Character: Multiple characters, all relating to Keyla:
    • From page 229: Bandit presumably "the best [programmer] in the world". Which Kat is angry at, because she's secretly truly the best.
    • From page 302, one of the things Keyla's father says to her when they're having fun:
      Keyla's Father: Who's the greatest girl in the world?
      Keyla: Me!
    • From page 305, someone in broadcast of somekind says:
      she's the world's greatest enemy, the greatest monster, we have ever known.
  • World's Smartest Man: From page 302, one of the things Keyla's father says to her when they're having fun:
    Keyla's Father: Who's the smartest person alive?
    Keyla: Me! Me, Daddy, me!