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Webcomic / Unicorn Jelly

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Unicorn Jelly is a webcomic by Jennifer Diane Reitz, or in her own words, "a philosophical science fiction manga strip which tells a metaphoric and purposeful story with a definitive beginning and ending." The comic is known for its retro-style computer art. The comic was drawn entirely in DeluxePaint 2, an old paint program for DOS.

It starts off as a cute little thing about a Lupiko Kazemahou, a young witch; Uni, her pet jelly, and Chou Yaru, Lupiko's crystalline-human hybrid adopted daughter. Then it gets weird. For starters, it's slowly revealed that it isn't set on Earth or an Earthlike fantasy world, but rather on a triangular world-plate with crystal life-forms which is about to be destroyed. The alchemists and witches are fighting, there are murder plots and spaceships, and sometimes alternate universe comics are drawn as well and linked under the main comic.

The comic usually deals with issues related to homosexuality, feminism, transgender identity, existentialism and the acceptance of minorities.

After Unicorn Jelly ended, Reitz began drawing an independent sequel, Pastel Defender Heliotrope (now also completed), and a related Alternate Universe story, To Save Her (now also, also completed). These comics all share a common... multiverse, a Science Fiction setting made up of many worlds, each with completely distinct physical laws and in no way similar to the others. (And then each universe has its own parallel worlds, which are subtly different, and... it gets complicated). Our own universe is occasionally mentioned as the original home of humanity, but is never visited in the comics.

Unicorn Jelly contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The extended author notes, including Reitz's descriptions of alternate realities. Say what you will about her, she can think up some really odd universes.
  • Alternate Continuity: the "alternate universe" comics, the "outtakes", later To Save Her
  • Animesque: And how. Reitz even refers to it as a "mangastrip" rather than a webcomic.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X-4. Tryslmaistan "scrolls" on a 4th dimensional axis, meaning if something falls far enough it appears right above where it fell. Humans in Tryslmaistan destroyed a worldplate, and the debris caused a chain reaction that literally destroyed the universe. Fortunately humanity has the technology to survive this.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Zuzux and Texto trick an innocent bystander into it.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Chou, at the end, centuries after the events of the comic, right as her crystalline cybernetics finally win the battle and start eating her alive.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Chou, who, upon realizing that the human government is going to repeat the same mistakes—again—on the new worldplate, and that they are rapidly running out of time (and spare Worldplates), goes across the sea, infests the majority of the plate's Slime population turning them into her own personal hive mind, and shows up in biological mechs just in time to prevent the main characters from being put to death by the corrupt government.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Arguably for both Unicorn Jelly and To Save Her.
  • Blob Monster: Slimes.
  • Book Ends: The comic begins and ends with the Multiversal Rain bringing a new species (humans and Burangidaeni, respectively) to Tryslmaistan.
  • B-Side Comics: the "Alternate Universe" comics.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: It all started so nicely.
    • Completely intentional in this case, though. The whole thing was definitely planned to go this way. Comic #0000 specifically says UJ is "A philosophical and metaphorical science fiction story with a definitive beginning and ending". The cute beginning mostly serves to introduce the world and characters before the world-shattering events take place.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The title character, at least in-universe. It's implied Chou used him for... parts. Uni returns in To Save Her, though. For a little bit, anyway.
  • Conlang: Very detailed and imaginative Talcrylic Script.
  • Continuity Creep: It all started so simply.
  • Corrupt Church: see also Anvilicious.
  • Doing In the Wizard: All the "magic" seen in the beginning eventually gets un-magicked. Except maybe the unicorn, and even that is deliberately left ambiguous, as the original vision occurs around a hallucinogenic flower.
  • Flying Broomstick: Another magic that's turned into alien physics.
  • Foreshadowing: Lots, especially in the author notes. One particularly poignant example was when the author pointed out that shattrel (a form of crystalline weather) was as static and regular as everything else in the world, literally letting people time their clocks by it... unless something is horribly, horribly wrong.
  • Future Imperfect: The Tryslmaistan humans have only fragmenary knowledge about their origins, and some of that is wrong.
  • Genre Shift: It goes from a low fantasy comic about a witch and her pet slime and ends up in a multiverse spanning scifi epic that covers time travel, alternate universes, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and the singularity. This was apparently all planned, to boot—note the comic's first page called it a "Science Fiction Epic with a definitive beginning and end".
  • Green Rocks: Vlax, necessary for human all "red" life but mutagenic in high doses.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Posted after the mangastrip had ended.
  • Honor Before Reason: Texto refuses to break a promise, even one made under duress, regardless of the personal consequences. This is normally a hero's trope, but Texto still takes it up to eleven.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The "Alien Invaders" arc. Also this, featuring Chou's "educated guess" at what humanity's original universe must have been like.
  • Identity Amnesia: Chou, at one point
  • Karma Houdini: Too many to count, but Texto/Virtue, Chou, Pho, and Kaye stand out.
  • Logic Bomb: The Jellies, having evolved in and for a static universe, do not handle change well. A major part of Chou's plot involves dissecting KayWai, who is a mutant and hybird red/green organism, and learning how to infect the various slimes with the ability to adapt.
  • Lost Technology: from Myrmil.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Chou. She intentionally fakes emotions to keep Lupiko from stopping her, goes out and creates an army by mindraping the entire Jelly population of her new worldplate, and, when confronted by Redcloak about how much power she's aquired, simply retires—since she's going to live for a very, very long time, she can simply wait for them to die of old age. Also Kaye Haychold.
  • Meaningful Name: Chou's name means "Butterfly." Redcloak and Fodderman were supposed to be jokes on Red Shirt, which was then subverted in the comic.
  • Mister Seahorse: In exchange for Wai-Wai (a transgender man) being able to legally live as a man, he has to carry a child to term.
  • Retraux: Entirely drawn using a paint program from the '80s.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Uni
  • Secret Test of Character: Thilia originally refuses to take Chou's companions along with her on the Arkship. When Chou refuses and insists that others are brought aboard too, Thilia reveals that she was testing her, and would have tossed everyone out if Chou had agreed to leave the others behind.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The alternate universe version of KayWai in To Save Her. Subverted in that her plan isn't to save Chou like it appears at first but rather to save the alternate reality KayWais. Since KayWai dying to create the hybird slimes that can survive in a dynamic universe was so vital to saving humanity, she explicitly is trying to kill off humanity.
  • Shout-Out: Many subtle and not-so-subtle references to classic and contemporary movies, comics, and video games. In one comic, a military commander is shown ordering his squad to "Take off every (fighter)! For Great Justice!. In another, a bit of alien speech is rendered as "Klaatu Barada Nikto".
  • Shown Their Work: The physics of the various universes have been worked out in great detail.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Sort of, seen in Millian's flashback to when he went to the Overseas Colony Project.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Farg"
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: You pretty much have to have a brain like Chou's to follow the massive plot complexity and transdimensional physics of what started as a simple story of a witch and her blob.
    • At one point early in the comic's life, the author revealed that everything that had been shown so far would be enough to guess at what the overall plot was going to be, and she invited readers to e-mail her their guess. A few fans got it exactly right.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end of Unicorn Jelly, which points out which people were the first poet, teacher, etc of the new world.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Lupiko is dreadfully afraid of heights and falling. So of course she has to dive off a worldplate to save Chou and Uni.
  • Wrap Around: The universe of Tryslmaistan wraps around in all directions.