Slow down, friend. The following content is incredibly perverted.
You can expect to find burly men and buxom women,
feminine boys and the bodies of youths,
Bothered by any of that sort of thing? Turn away.
You’ll be missing an amazing comic, but saving yourself from offense.
Steel your heart or stay back.
A trap is fine too.
And…yep! Following up Unsounded with ANOTHER comic read left to right, and again it’s not a manga — this is a webtoon! Once upon a time self-published, now under ownership of the publisher Lezhin. What’s a webtoon? It’s a vertical-oriented Korean comic usually meant for mobile devices.
Let me be upfront: I loathe webtoons. [Here] is a good article from a man who has a lot of my respect that explains a great deal as to why. It’s an article about webtoons and paneling, and it might just make you appreciate comics more.
tl;dr: This fellow, Hox, believes paneling is very important. I agree (see my own thoughts on examples of great paneling in my Dr. Hitomi’s Infirmary write-up); it’s an under-addressed but enormously necessary art that subtly or unsubtly makes everything work and can be in and of itself a method to convey meaning. Because of the simplicity of the format and the usual device it’s read on, webtoons mostly toss paneling into the garbage.
They throw away paneling, the art usually does nothing for me (I’m being kind; I think most of them look bad), the stories are often not of any particular note if not being outright poor, and the distribution models for them have thrown me into fury (though I was actually too hard on them…you’ll have to wait for my breakdown of payment stuff later, but the price isn’t bad at all). “So, nerd,” you say “why are you reviewing a webtoon?” Well, duh, because I like this one.
The most well-known and popular webtoon is probably Tower of God, and you know what? I liked it, actually. Oh it still had problems (mostly art-wise), but it had a very interesting story, a unique kind of world, and a cast of characters I thoroughly liked. The end of season 1 was amazing, also. Season 2, however? Yeesh… Okay, I can’t really hate on it that much, because I dropped it so I can’t speak for it entirely, but it added too many characters and ignored the characters I really liked (such as Anak Zahard and the alligator). The pacing at the time was also a slog, there were almost harem-ish elements I really didn’t care about (Androssi is better, period — I’ll give you Hwa Ryun if you insist), and I kinda…just…didn’t…CARE about ANYTHING that was going on. Even so, after typing that out I realize I want to get back into the series because I really did like those season 1 characters, enough that I’d probably be strung along by the brief appearances of my favorites if I did so. Is this a Tower of God review?
My point is, even something regularly regarded as the best in this medium has problems and managed to lose my favor enough that I ended up dropping it, even if I’m reconsidering that. I’ve tried many of these webtoons and disliked or hated near all of them. Then, a pal of mine started posting pages from one of them… I saw it was a webtoon, but it looked different. He insisted I give it a shot, he who doesn’t even bother with webtoons. I reluctantly picked it up and…wow.
4 Cut Hero is phenomenal.
4 Cut Hero (4컷용사, 4コマ勇者, 4-Keos Yongsa, 4-koma Yuusha, 4-Panel Hero or Cartoon Hero) is a full color webtoon by Gojira-kun (고지라군) that completed last year (2016, at least the first season (the English translation is complete, too)) and huh, it sure has a weird title. Does anyone know what’s up with that title? I don’t. It’s not a yonkoma; NEET Hero might’ve been more appropriate. Anyway, it’s a fantasy/parody adventure/comedy comic that is available online, but is also being printed physically! Did you know that? Holy shit it took me a while to figure out how to buy them. This comic kicks so much ass in so many ways. From the start it’s weird: it’s a series that takes place after the end of any other adventure, and basically we follow the whimsical and rather ballsy travels of the titular Hero. It’s slick, sexy, hilarious, and unique — despite being full of references.
But with references like this? To the fucking Doom Comic? I have to love it.
4 Cut Hero shames other webtoons. Artistic skill, direction, comedic timing, characters, story, and paneling — paneling; it’s all not just good, but excellent. It’s better than a ton of fantasy manga I’ve read too, of course. I honestly believe that people can take notes from this series. It has its own flair for action that is just…really fucking cool, and despite being confined to the stifling format of the webtoon, Gojira-kun absolutely has a handle on the flow of panels, and even uses the vertical orientation to his advantage frequently. I’m not going to say no other webtoon does this, I haven’t read them all, but this one does and this one…god damn this one. This series actually reflects many of the good qualities of Tsugumomo, in my opinion. The crazy action reminds me of it for sure, though as for the “lewd factor” it’s not nearly as perverted. I’m not sure if that’s because of Korean pornography/obscenity laws, or because the comic isn’t categorized as a seriously perverted “adult” webtoon. Either way I guess going too far would be bad. That said, while it’s not as perverted, the authors’ indiscriminate lust over anatomy is the same. So many skintight outfits and nicely drawn butts…
Anyway, you gotta read this. If you want, you can start doing so [here].
Zeed Toven saved the world. He marched into the Demon Empire, killed the Demon King, and eagerly took up his rewards.
Of course, as you see from the page that starts this article, his desired Princess turned out to be a Prince, and although notifications tell him “he’s way too cute to be a girl”, he impolitely declines the Prince’s, uh, “advances” and makes for a hasty retreat.
Unable to find proper work after saving the world because companies don’t want “heroes” (they want businessmen), Zeed turns to the less than savory path of otaku/nerd fandom. He sells the loot he got from his adventure and tries to live comfortably surrounded by anime figures, dakimakura (body pillows), and delusions.
So yes, like Yuusha ga Shinda! here we have another scumbag protagonist. Or, well…not quite. I’d definitely call Zeed a pervert and often a bastard, but he’s a good dude. And yes, this world is a weird mix of fantasy and modern society. More on that later.
Anyway, the prologue and first episode (what webtoons call “chapters”…honestly I think that’s pretty silly) do a really good job of setting things up for this comic. It’s a comedy, there will be some kind of action (we won’t see “regular” action for a little while, though), and we even have a trace of PLOT on the horizon.
Comedy ranges from good ol’ situational and gag-based humor to lots of references (often to the Internet, but also to completely unexpected things) to fourth wall/parody style jokes (in particular, lots of “messages popping up that the characters can read”). It’s pretty much all good, and comedy technically comes first for the series, having a habit to blindside you with a laugh when things are going dark. And boy, things can get dark in this series! Aspects of it are EASILY tragedy, but we’ll touch on that later.
With this introduction, 4 Cut Hero immediately sets itself apart from conventions and forces you to stop “expecting” things. I won’t say it’s necessarily unpredictable, but from the start it’s clear we are not going to get an ordinary adventure (we can’t, the Hero apparently just finished one), the “heroine” seems to be a trap and also possibly evil? And Zeed quickly starts hanging out with villains who fell on hard times after he took down the Demon King. Wait, what.
To be fair, Zeed doesn’t actually recognize this one. Oh, he saw her when he went to the Demon Castle, but it’s all a blur… He does eventually come in contact with a more detestable sort and begins rooming with him, but I’ll save that bloke for a bit later. I don’t want to just summarize the introduction.
For now, this is Zena. She’s pretty cool: tough as nails, easily embarrassed, into BL (Boys’ Love (gay stuff)) in a big way, and you can’t deny her assets, but at the start she’s pretty serious about wanting to kill Zeed. In a turn for the more serious, we discover that the Demon King was her adoptive father, and that she never felt he was doing any wrong. Now whether or not he actually did no wrong…that’s another matter up for a surprising amount of debate. This isn’t a twist where “oh wait, the demons were completely good all along”. It’s complicated.
Anyway, around when we learn Zena’s more personal connection to the King, Zeed has a neat speech that recontextualizes the somewhat silly fight from the prologue. When Zena comes for his head he refuses to fight her seriously, then he explains that whining about the fair fight he and the King had, and the King’s fair loss, disrespects the man’s choices and death. For what it’s worth, Zeed didn’t trick the King to kill him, and actually seems to hold some respect for the man. The way he talks, and his willingness to sympathize with a person who should be his enemy, gives you a large amount of insight into his character. Combine it with how he actually let another “enemy” room with him, how he decided to stop adventuring in pursuit of earthly pleasures, and how he only even went into adventuring for the same, and it becomes clear that although Zeed is a “Hero”, you can’t exactly call him a “good guy”. As the comic continues it becomes increasingly obvious that Zeed has no sides in anything, and simply does whatever his heart tells him.
To be honest, he reminds me a great deal of Joseph Joestar from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 2: Battle Tendency. Joseph was ultimately on the side of good in that series, but it really feels like he had no choice but to become a hero (and indeed partway through the series he is pretty much forced to deal with the plot). In that series, it feels like what matters the most is what he wants to do, though he’ll definitely help people in trouble. Zeed is the same, and also shares Joseph’s love of playing tricks. In many engagements, Zeed does some bullshit or talks things up in a bid for time or opportunity. If he can he’ll usually try to avoid fighting altogether, in fact, and that’s apparently how he invaded the Demon Castle.
There are many reasons Zeed is fucking great (one standout note being that he’s actually an adult (25 years old)), but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
The government catches wind that Zeed is harboring two of the fallen Demon King’s four generals and assumes that he has become a traitor of state. This sets the plot proper into motion as his home is attacked by royal soldiers. He and Zena assume they’re after the more despicable fellow in their company and try to sell him out, but the situation quickly turns. Here, we learn that even though Zeed uses swords…he’s a wizard.
We’ll come back to that later.
It’s hard to describe simply, but from hereon 4 Cut Hero becomes…actually it’s hard to say, too. I feel that saying it would spoil it, and that when you realize for yourself what the story ultimately is/was you’ll be like “Ha, that’s cute/clever” (that was my reaction). I guess I can say that the story follows Zeed solving legendary mysteries and fucking up everyone’s plans quite deliberately. On the way we meet a whooole lot of characters, a few of which are assuredly major, and we’re told sad stories about the history of this world. Fighting, laughs, and romance abound, leading to a cool as heck conclusion that I really adored. By the way, “season 1” feels like a completed story, so don’t worry too much about the upcoming season 2.
Here I present a sliver of the cast. 4 cut Hero takes place in a big world with a lot of people in it, characters frequently being introduced suddenly, though which characters are “important” is another matter. It doesn’t feel like there are too many characters; the main characters stay in focus and a few side characters get extremely fleshed out. It feels instead that, since it’s a big world, of course there are a lot of people in it doing their own things. There’s also a fair bit of foreshadowing suggesting currently minor characters will get more significance in the future. Take, for instance, the character pictured in the bottom left. This character, Gyel, is an older woman and possibly the strongest human character in the series. Oddly, there are several hints that she is the “end” love interest for Zeed — to put it in other words, the “main heroine”. This would be…strange for a number of reasons, but definitely interesting (for even more reasons). That said, while she takes primary focus from the story for quite a long time, she and Zeed only actually meet once in season 1, it’s an incredibly brief interaction, and Zeed was in disguise at the time. Anything with these two is probably only going to happen in season 2 (I called this so fucking hard, holy shit).
If we’re talking “major” characters though, for one I really can’t ignore Fogue. Fogue is the series’ resident pervert…I guess. To be honest, I find it harder to think of characters in this series who aren’t perverts, women included. Fogue is special, though. He’s basically a character that everyone hates, because while he does harass people sexually he’s…weird about it.He likes playing dress up and being abused himself (he’s a masochist), but he doesn’t do things like molesting or asking for people to strip or anything seriously untoward. He doesn’t discriminate either; if it’s cute, it’ll turn him on, and the series has an abundance of cute, fem boys. Ultimately, he’s harmless. He’s also almost always useless, so you have to ask, why the Hell does anyone keep him around? Simply put, he’s actually strong as hell. That said, he almost never actually fights in this series because he’s lazy and more interested in clothes. He’s also…a nice guy? God, Fogue is weird. I love the dude. I can’t help it.
And we also have Regi Rugas, who makes it clear that dragons are hugely important in this story. She is a red dragon, and she’s also the person who taught Zeed how to use magic. She’s madly in love with him.
I think Regi is fantastic for so many reasons, but I really think it’s better to see for yourself why — I already feel like I said too much by revealing who she is, what she is, and her relation to Zeed buuut… she’s on the cover, on the series’ page title card, she’s featured prominently in promotional material, and mentioning that she’s a dragon is pretty necessary. Seriously, dragons are a big deal in 4 Cut Hero, so if you’re into dragons…rejoice! As a character Regi is fucking hilarious. She might be the most perverted and depraved person in the series, and the idea that our protagonist apprenticed for magic under a dragon is just…super awesome to me. That’s about all I’ll say about her…great scenes, badass, good stuff. Actually, how about I steal words from the person who recommended I read this in the first place:
“Dragons have, traditionally, been creatures associated with limitless potential and potency. In the classic tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, dragons are explicitly shown to be capable (if disinclined in some cases) to cross-breed with every other known sentient race. It is a part of the dragons’ innate power – their wisdom and ancient age having made them utterly compatible and one with the world.”
“This dragon, though she appears as she does (that is to say, a shapeshifting humanoid) retains those classic qualities, further solidifying the idea that the author is extremely familiar with – and fond of – western fantasy classics.”
He’s right, you know. The westaboo is strong with this author, and his storycrafting skills are nothing to scoff at. That brings me to…
This guy. The last major character isn’t on Zeed’s side; quite the opposite, in fact. Roak Balchad is a fallen hero,which at first feels kind of like a throwaway title (many characters in this series have titles, few are thoroughly explained) until we spend a little over a fifth of the series on how he got that reputation.
Roak’s flashback is one of two big flashbacks in season 1 that take a lot of time and explain swathes of necessary information in great ways (there are other flashbacks, two are just particularly large). Apparently the author was criticized for running away with the flashbacks, but I read this all at once instead of as it was released so I absolutely loved the flashbacks. They really are long, but that’s because there’s a lot to them. They give a lot of context and grant a lot of understanding and make certain characters much more familiar to you, such that you care about their plights. Roak’s is super interesting! We really do see the rise and fall of a hero, and it doesn’t even feel generic. It’s not as if he just suddenly becomes wholly disillusioned with his cause, just, y’know…his life goes and after many winds and bends he is in the Demon King’s employ for reasons. His flashback is superb. It actually does a few things that surprised me and it ultimately made him a character I really got into. At the start of the series, he seems like he won’t be or do much of anything (he’s on death row and isn’t trying to stop it), but he gets, eh, more important.
The other flashback basically explains the main story and the goals of the characters, I’m not going to talk about it. It’s really sad, though; the source of the tragedy tag, and it’s a rather fuuuuucked up tragedy. I’ll say that I like how believable it is, despite how horrible it is.
Now getting away from that, I said I’d talk more about Zeed being a wizard/mage later, right? Having a wizard protagonist, a true wizard protagonist who is physically weak, ideally stays at range, casts support spells, summons beings and utilizes magic contracts is rare. It does happen, but even when it does, I can’t really think of any examples off the top of my head where the “Hero” was a wizard. Actually Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance book series comes to mind, but he’s a special case. Zeed, being tricky, likes to hide that he’s a mage. He doesn’t actually fight very often in the series, and prior to the secret getting out he pretended to be a swordsman or unarmed fighter. His fighting style amuses me. It’s a stylish but careful onslaught, in which he’ll stack buff spells onto himself, employ heavy use of rule-bending (especially later when he…nope, nope, won’t spoil it), and basically just try to overwhelm his opponents with no rest. If that doesn’t work, it seems his favorite spell is “blink” — a spell which allows him to teleport away. He has a load of other secrets from his travels that we learn about over time, and there’s this one point where he basically lists everything he’s capable of doing and it kinda blew my mind. Is Zeed overpowered? No, he’s more like rather skilled, and very much willing to cheat/rely on others. I think he’s handled very well as a protagonist, and when he inevitably gets some kind of harem (Zena included in it), I think “yeah, I can understand that” (in case you weren’t aware, my most hated aspect of harem series is that they break my suspension of disbelief; if they don’t, that’s very good).
And on the subject of magic and such, the rules in 4 Cut Hero that explain how the setting works are…mostly implied. The world of 4 Cut Hero is not unique. There are many unique things about 4 Cut Hero, but not its setting, and I think that works in its favor. Since the comic is a parody series, a lot of it relies on poking fun at common game or fantasy ideas. It also just uses those ideas. For serious matters, there’s also a very old or classic feeling to story developments and gravitas that certainly imparts the sense that Gojira-kun has great reverence for fiction in general. The world feels like an eclectic smattering of “whatever works, whatever’s cool”, with the majority of its concepts coming from elsewhere. Even if you don’t have a high enough powerlevel to recognize every element, I don’t believe anything that happens in the series is too baffling, and when we do get explanations they’re important and helpful.
And now, I finally near run out of things I can say about the comic. I mentioned that Gojira-kun had the layout of webtoons figured out. He does, and he employs a simple but very effective stylistic choice to convey action and make use of the long, vertical space to his advantage. There are examples of it in the pages I’ve posted so far, but basically, he’ll use ribbons/streaks of light and impacts to show where and how things are moving. Along these ribbons and lights there’ll probably be striking points or brief pauses to see the characters in movement. It commands your eye and makes you see the flow of the scene, and in my opinion it just looks really damn cool. I’m saying “cool” a lot in this review, that last one makes five times.
On top of this style choice, I believe that the flow of action in Gojira-kun’s art is just really damn good. Yes, this has basic webtoon scenes of panel followed by panel, usually while people are talking, but there’s actually obvious thought put into panel layout most of the time and when it comes to action, well, it’s Gojira-kun’s time to shine. He even does some screwy stuff with the borders of the comic/fourth wall, kinda like Unsounded! “Ahh, that’s cool! That’s so cool!” I said this to myself many times while reading this comic.
Anyway, Gojira-kun had a lot of bad things to say about his comic in the epilogue to this series, but the guy’s way too hard on himself. He talks about how he basically was going with his gut and had a vague estimation that the series would finish around 100 “episodes”/chapters. It finished at exactly 100 and, working from impulse or no, this webtoon reads extremely well. The series actually was originally a short webcomic, but it was wildly expanded in this “remake”. From the way the author was talking, it sounds like he knew what he wanted to do, but lacked the time to carefully prepare most of the episodes (given how he visually represented the upcoming sequel series, season 2, as a sphere perhaps nine times bigger than season 1’s sphere; he’s full of ideas). After all, this was his first professional and serialized work; there was little space to meticulously plan between completing the episodes and later the extra materials for merchandise and paperback volumes (which are reformatted somewhat; the copies I ordered aren’t in yet but I’ll tell you how you can preview it yourself near the end of this article). So, he just kinda went with it, had a goal in mind, and wrote jokes and such as they came to him and…man, that’s not something to get down on yourself for. Writing, at least, is a process that can be outlined, but so much of it is in the moment, off the cuff, subject to flow. If you can craft a comic in a similar way, keep it exciting, cohesive, funny, and even heartfelt at crucial moments, that means you’ve got some mad talent I think. Guys, I really like this thing.
So, y’know, I bought it.
I just now mentioned copies I ordered of the physical volumes, but that’s not what I mean. Early this year (2017), the official English translation for 4 Cut Hero completed. And me, I’d kinda been chompin’ at the bit for more 4 Cut Hero, but I didn’t like the site on which it was distributed. To be honest, I still think it’s a little weird, but I was definitely not being reasonable when I turned up my nose at this one. I’ve bought the full series, and I don’t regret that at all because honestly it wasn’t a bad deal, I just stubbornly believed it must’ve been. I highly recommend you buy it yourself.
If you want to be a good boy or girl and buy 4 Cut Hero, follow the outline in this image:
Okay, so you’re going to http://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/4cuthero, where you can buy 4 Cut Hero or wait a whole lot of time for the entire series to be released in English for free (I honestly think that it’s cool of them to release the series for free, even if it’s slow (about half of it is out now), but at the time of this writing that would be just over a year’s wait at one freed episode per week). You cannot directly buy things from this site, though, and when this first started being translated officially the official translaton kinda completely fucking murdered the hype that had been building for this series. The official translation started up behind the fan translation, and said “now you have to pay for a webcomic”. Most people, myself included, said “no, I’m not going to pay for a webcomic”, and especially not with a pure coin system (but I will pay for physical volumes (and it turns out those exist for this series)). A coin system means you buy set amounts of virtual money that you can spend on the platform, so inevitably you spend some amount of money more than you should actually have to. Right. Now. (01/25/2017) that is not the case with 4 Cut Hero. If you follow the instructions in that picture, you should basically be able to buy the entire series for $37 (USD) with nothing leftover. The “specials” at the end are the original webcomic, by the way. This should last until at least 01/29/2017, according to the sales page, but it should also get cheaper over time as more of the comic is released for free.
Now by my rough calculation, given a physical volume of the series contains ~15 episodes and ~340 pages, and at this time you’re buying about 60 episodes, that is $37 for the equivalent of 4 massive volumes of a comic (in standard black and white manga equivalents, that would be roughly 8 volumes). The physical editions, by the way, are $26 each, but right now there’s a kick you in the balls serious deal going down that puts it down to $15.15 (42% off). Either price for a full color printed book that’s also ENORMOUS (and has extras) is more than fine and again by my calculations, without any fanciful deals, buying the online edition of this comic in full (start to finish) would be about $102 less than buying all of the physical volumes (the series should probably have at least 7 physical volumes to complete season 1 ($182); buying 300 coins (190, 75, and then 35) assuming every episode costs 3 coins each would cost $80).
This is assuming you value this comic, and I honestly believe that you should.
If you’re put off by the idea of buying a webcomic, I don’t blame you, but this is undoubtedly one worth spending money on. There’s effort, there’s quality — it’s just worth it, man. Highly recommended, I’m over the moon about it, and I come equipped with a strong bias against its very format.
Phew. Another loooong one (again beating out World Trigger at ~4900 words this time). My next review is going to be very short, but it is a web series again. This time it’s Japanese, though, and it’s another work with a publisher.
Man, thank you for indulging me again and reading this article. It was an immense effort, because I’m really outside of my element here. Anyway, I hope this series finds you well.
^I highly suggest you follow this, the author’s twitter account. It was my most reliable source for information while researching this series, and it has quite a few pics I couldn’t find anywhere else (like the computer image version of that wall scroll up there).
4 Cut Hero
Buy and/or read the comic (digital, English)
Currently should cost you $37. 45/100 episodes currently free.
Webtoon official site (Korean)
Buy the comic (physical, [how to display USD] // [how to buy]):
Aladin – Volume 1 | Volume 2
Currently on sale for ~$15.
You can preview how the comic looks by clicking the thumbnails beneath the cover image. By the way, yes, the site is well-equipped to deal with you ordering at least from Korea to the US.
Onnada: You can see what full sized covers look like here (you cannot know how much I went through to find this site). The genie lamp takes you to Aladin, the online store that sells the paperback volumes.
Daum: A site listing all the places you can buy the physical volumes that I didn’t research very much.