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Relative density?

By Reyben, member

Feb 11, 2009: Apparently, "It’s All Relative" is a series modeled on Japanese Anime. I say apparently, because this really wasn’t apparent to me until after I had finished reading the main story and started poking around the illustrated section of the website. Said section was filled with a number of rather cutesy cartoon pictures of the cast, complete with gigantic eyes and even more gigantic heads.

Now, this did not fit with my conception of the characters at all. "It’s All Relative" may have moments of cute, but it really isn’t cutesy.

The story revolves around a Magical college, and of course these days the moment you mention a Magical [Insert Educational Body of Choice Here], an alarming number of people are bound to begin visualizing Harry Potter. You know who you are. However, I found the land Atheria’s Magical University to be rather refreshingly, well, un-magical. Sure, most of the students can turn into animals and some of them have rabbit-ears. That aside, however, the University seems thus far free of supernatural architecture, mystical geography, inexplicable secret chambers and cursed soft furnishings. Instead, it comes across as a very normal college with some somewhat unusual subjects. This impression is aided by the rather sharp spikes of teen angst in occasional evidence. It all conspires to makes the students seem distinctly . . . normal. Even if the ones that feed on blood.

Themes of notoriety and fame are prevalent throughout the story, with the main character coming from a position of wealth and reputation- we are told that this is by no means unusual on campus. Characters like this can be tricky to handle, all too easily coming off as vapid egomaniacs, so it’s to the author’s credit that brash young Takun is only moderately irritating at first. And that might just be me. He certainly becomes more likable as the narrative progresses and we are introduced to some of his dirtier laundry.

A large supporting cast surrounds Takun, and for the first few chapters this can be more than a little bit confusing- especially given the Animari’s apparent fondness for names beginning with the letter "S". Many of the early scenes gave me the impression of floating through a crowded party, trying desperately to retain the new names and faces swirling around. It’s a bit of a whirlpool, and hard to keep a grip on. After a while, however, things calm down and become a bit easier to follow. This is helped by the introduction of a couple of more flamboyant characters, who seem to help anchor the story simply by appearing- and by a rock concert.

The rock concert is another example of the students behaving as all students do (at least in theory)- it’s a protest, integrated into the main plot in ways I will not spoil. The event gives the author the opportunity to add some rather interesting touches in the form of ambient music. This notably adds to the feel of certain scenes, although unfortunately most of the chosen tracks tend to last for only a few seconds- copyright reasons, I fear. Still, it’s always good to hear the Beatles getting work.

On the front of site-design, things are kept clean and easy to navigate. As well as the aforementioned pretty pictures, there are numerous bonus articles. There’s a compendium of the world, which comes in considerable handy, because the story’s rate of exposition is somewhat erratic. While it’s always nice to be immersed into a world without being beaten over the head by infodumps, the lack of explanation in early parts of the story somewhat contributed to the feeling of drowning in the deep end.

All in all, "It’s All Relative" is a bit of an overwhelming start that feels like it’s still in the process of settling down. However as it does so, it’s putting some really interesting elements into play. There’s also something wonderfully appealing about the mesh of Swinging-Sixties-esque student protest with curses, shape-shifters and magical mysteries.

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