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04/28/2014 12:52:14 •••

Looks at first glance like randomness, but it's more like a very personal imagination

When I was a kid, I used to make up characters with strange names that I found catchy, strange abilities and relationships to each other, and a world that had rules that were different than the real world, for them to live in. I'm sure a lot of people did; after all, how else did we get stories such as The Smurfs?

Ratboy Genius shows some of that childlike whimsy and imagination, and it comes from the mind of an adult 30-something - classically trained pianist Ryan Dorin. That Ratboy Genius is created entirely by one person is very clear, as is the fact that it's created by a musician; Ryan does all visuals, animation, storytelling, and music. It's the music that's the true standout here, as all of it is entirely original and both fitting with, and setting, the mood for each scene.

That this is personal is clear from the whole production. Characters have odd yet catchy names like Ratboy Genius, Summer Solstice Baby, Happyman and Little King John. These sound like names a little kid would think up simply because they're fun to say. They're also non-descriptive; Ratboy Genius doesn't do much to indicate high intelligence. Though he lends his name to his surrounding areas: Ratboy's Kingdom and Lake Genius.

I realize it's cliche to say this when anything strange is encountered on the internet, but I'll say it anyway because I believe it's true: I think Ryan Dorin is autistic. In one video where Summer Solstice Baby calls her captor, Little King John, a "crazy dumb jerk" in rhyme with the dialog, he forewarns us that the video should be rated "PG-7" for language that "polite children" shouldn't hear. He also sells "music for kids" on Bandcamp, which is a mixture of cutesy tunes and relaxing piano pieces. Plus, he puts idiosyncratic detail into some aspects more than others. When characters play the piano, their fingers hit the exact appropriate keys - as numerous real-life pianists have noted. Being an actual musician, Ryan probably believed this detail to be important. The story also appears to veer into whatever Ryan's interests are at the time: one series involves Minecraft, and recently as of this review, he's done a story based on an Indian fairytale.

It's weird, it's idiosyncratic, but it's not random; this is clearly one man's personal imagination brought to life.

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