Seven Seas changed its webcomics around lately, and one of the new ones is a truly idiosyncratic Japanese comic called Neconoclasm, by Yizuno Asaki.
Neconoclasm gathers so many Japanese manga tropes into a single strip that it’s practically a primer on manga all by itself. The characters are cat-girls. (The title is a pun on neko, the Japanese word for cat.) They are cute (moe) cat-girls. And the format is 4-koma, vertical four-panel strips with humor that takes a little getting used to.
(Actually, this comic will make no sense at all unless you remember to read it right-to-left, because it’s imported from Japan and Seven Seas chose to keep the original, unflipped format. It’s a bit tougher with 4-koma than with regular manga, because with a smaller strip you don’t have as many visual cues.)
There are only a handful of characters, all female except for the bit players: Miu, her “oneechan” (older sister) Maria, and her friend Kuro. Much of the humor plays off Miu’s naivete and Kuro’s weirdness, with Maria balancing everyone out.
The first strip in this series is classic 4-komaâ€”it looks like it’s going somewhere until the last panel, when it sort of … fizzles. The second strip, Nyau, is a pretty funny bait and switch. But the real weirdness gets going in strip four, with the fish carrot. For some reason, the 4-koma that get translated into English all have this sort of hallucinatory feeling to them. The most recent strips have veered off into another odd tangent, with Kuro’s tail breaking off in a train door.
The art is simple, with highly stylized characters (big eyes, cat ears, frilly dresses) mostly just chatting in empty space. In a few panels, such as the Christmas chapter opener, the art gets detailed and quite imaginative. Overall, it’s bold enough to stand up well even in the small format Seven Seas has chosen.