So, I had this bright idea to give it a shot to do today’s on my phone. Got all the screencaps set-up, starting pounding out the draft and realized very quickly that it’s not as easy to manipulate HTML in my posts on the mobile app. Fuh.
Thus, another late night post. It’s okay, I’ll bet all of you are late-night blog hoppers like me anyway. Maybe. Hopefully. #nightowlsunite
For our twenty-sixth Manga Monday, I’m going to be zeroing in on a webcomic that’s from the Discover section of Webtoon. This means this comic, minus any Patreon contributions, is unfunded and done totally at the behest of the author. I anticipate that this puppy will see it’s shining day in the Featured section, but even if it never does HOT DANG it’s worth the read.
Fictional Skin surprised me fairly quickly. The storyline, if you were to take it down to its bare synopsis, feels pretty basic at first. Finn, a closet fanboy, draws comics of his cousin Vivi’s interactions with a boy at her summer school named Jinsei, who looks suspiciously like a video game character of the same name.
When the story began, it felt more like a rom-com waiting to happen, or even just a heartwarming ah-young-friendship sort of tale, but man–it went a far more dramatic route, and I love it. Suddenly, what seemed like an ordinary slice-of-life piece became a mystery. Then the mystery gets darker, and before you know you’re hooked. And we’re not even that far into the story yet, there’s still a lot as of yet left unanswered.
The leads are all equally compelling counterparts to the storyline. While Vivi, the female protagonist, is quite young-minded, she’s not your typical 14-year-old airhead. Promptly she catches on to Jinsei’s strange multi-facade, which is quite reminiscent of the male lead from Cheese in the Trap. Jinsei is a people pleaser, but he’s real in front of Vivi, which drives his interest in her. Finn internally struggles with what he loves, drawing, and how that doesn’t fit in with his popular school image. All three protagonists are uniquely interesting and drive the plot in ways that surprisingly branch together.
Let me not neglect to mention how real the dialogue feels. Its construction is so on spot with my middle school diaries (which will never see the light of day) that it’s almost uncanny. While there’s, of course, those moments of over-the-top interaction (dudes, it’s a comic), for the most part the dialogue and the various ways the characters interact… ugh, it’s perfect.
Not to mention the fact that conceivable, articulate, and well-related interactions between the lead three characters is established in Fictional Skin regardless of the fact that they all attend separate middle schools. Heck, Finn is in a different state! I mean, author Kristina is balancing conversations taken over the phone, in person, as well as over e-mail, and they all achieve a pleasing balance. To be able to stabilize so many different communication outlets and to keep up the personas of each character within each one? Talent, right there.
The most surprising aspect of Fictional Skin is the mystery. Again, I really wasn’t expecting anything more than a lifestyle story featuring Finn accepting his talents through Vivi and Jinsei’s love story or something. But when Jinsei suddenly disappears five chapters in I was like, “WUT.”
Fictional Skin often borders on supernatural, but is perhaps more of a spy-thriller-esque idea when it comes to the mysteries presented by Jinsei. Really, Fictional Skin is just distinct from the other comics available on Webtoon that the excitement while reading seemed to continually compound until I left feeling pretty freaking satisfied. It’s such a variety of genres that, while it’s listed under “drama” on Webtoon, I couldn’t really tell you what it was. And, trust me, I mean that as a compliment.
The first few chapters definitely have a “discover” feel, but the author figures out very quickly her pacing and desired storytelling features and goes full throttle with it. I’m incredibly interested to see how the leads and their individual stories are going to tie together in the end. Rather than being a sort of anthology of tales from three middle schoolers, or even being “Finn’s story” and “Vivi and Jinsei’s story”, all of it seems to be traveling towards the same destination.
Let’s not forget to praise the artwork. From the sketchier funny scenes, to the more detailed dramatic ones, Kristina has a fantastic art style that is familiarly manga-ish and yet all its own. I can always appreciate anatomical understanding when it comes to comic art, and Kristina definitely has a solid grounding in that. Or, she picks really appropriate references, which is totally the same thing!
Also, the pacing is excellent. Although the scene above may smell slightly of a manga trope, the developing relationships within the story are actually contrarily slow burn. Even as things heat up, the resistance that it put upon it by one character or another puts off a far more realistic feeling than the, “Oh, yes, we’re so love!” feel so many stories throw out. I mean, to me, it’s far more accurate to see a middle schooler feeling to overwhelmed to enter a relationship rather than jumping in with no qualms about it.
Oh man, and the facial expressions, they’re so indicative of the emotions I may cry. SO BEAUTIFUL. This is perhaps my favorite distinction between the American comics I first leafed through and the Japanese manga I fell in love with. While this is an American webcomic, manga influence has definitely touched on it, as full panels are dedicated to visual emotional development. Rather than thought bubbles to spell out a character’s mindset, the use of the face’s expression allows the author to tell just enough but at the same time have you frantically guessing.
Fictional Skin is not just a romance. It’s not just comedy. It’s far more than just a drama. It’s mystery, friendship, family–like I said, it’s a lot of things. It’s that many faced characteristic which lends so much to why I find it so enjoyable. Fictional Skin doesn’t rely on one genre’s set of tropes, it doesn’t have the ability to because it’s got its hands in the right amount of baskets to be the best kind of different it can be.
Read Fictional Skin for free in Webtoon’s Discover section, updated every Friday!