‘SYNCANDI follows the adventures of a newly created biologically synthetic human named Ikkyu, who awakens in an off limits experimental forest to find she has been stolen in order to care for a dying female assassin named Sync. Ikkyu has not been fully processed, which makes her psychologically vulnerable. She soon discovers that she has the unique ability to communicate through music with the surrounding forest. Stimulated by the constant exposure to the sentient forest and Sync’s affections, not to mention her encounters with a mysterious shaman, Ikkyu begins to develop willpower and desire. Struggling to come to terms with her identity and emotions, Ikkyu makes a radical decision with profound and far reaching consequences . . .’
Written by: Roberto Iolini
Art by: Joanne Krótka
Publisher: Studio Syncandi
Released: 27 September 2017
For a plot description that sounds pretty sci-fi, it’s a very artful and delicate piece of cover art, and that usually means one thing – cerebral sci-fi. This is probably going to be about an examination of synthetic mind and soul, baby. Well, it doesn’t always mean that, but in this case the description backs me up. It’s some lovely evocative cover art regardless (surely I detect a Japanese influence in it), so I’m pretty interested.
If you can imagine a ‘discovering yourself in the wilderness’ story mixed with ‘android gaining sentience’, you’ll still only have a vague idea of what this is about. A dying cyborg assassin takes a new android medic into an abandoned synthetic evolution wilderness, and that’s just the set-up. The focus is on the ‘evolution’ in turn of the android medic as she tries to save her companions life while discovering her relationship with the not-quite-normal world they’re hiding in along with her feelings for the assassin and her own developing artificial intelligence. Heads up for nudity and sexual scenes, but Krótka’s artwork ensures it’s handled naturally. What seems to be noticeably ignored though are the implications of the physical/romantic relationship where one of the people involved is literally taken fresh from their creation and has never encountered another person before, and is described as ‘not fully calibrated’ and ‘impressionable’; while our android isn’t exactly child-like in mental development she is specifically inexperienced in the world, so I think establishing a sexual aspect to it early in the story created a lot more of a dodgy factor than Iolini intended – from the feel of the rest of it I’d say it was unintentional, as while physical touch is am important factor through the odd musical story, sometimes sensually, mixing dreams and reality, as I mentioned before it’s not especially sexualised at all.
I mentioned a Japanese influence is present throughout; complementing what appears to be a Japanese style forest setting, is some singing and sound effects in phonetic Japanese (using English letters), and a hint of a multi-tailed fox in a dream; the use of someone picking and shoring off flowers to denote innocence is definitely something used often in manga. But the character styling and definitely sets it apart from manga, and the rest from many other comics as well considering that intentional not-quite-real feel that has been imbued into it with Krótka’s skill; a touch of surrealism is common in her work from what I’ve seen. The comic occasionally abandons traditional bordering, and while this creates a flowing quality for an unusual story, it can also be a little confusing where a couple of actions are followed on the one page, though that sense of actions flowing into one another is probably deliberate. The same issue happens once or twice with the speech bubbles; when dialogue is spaced over a page colours are generally used to help indicate who is talking, helpful to follow the flow, but when roughly the same colour is used for different people it can take a second to orient who’s talking. These are relatively minor issues however, and they thankfully don’t detract from the overall story. The not-quite-real aesthetic that those non-existent borders contribute to is largely built with the unusual colour work – scenes are often brought to life with just a couple of shades on the page, colourful yet extremely simple at the same time. I would have expected more psychedelic colouring style when trying for a dreamlike quality, but the simple colouring, bringing out the basic action while eschewing detail present in the lineart, works well. I can’t forget to mention the very visual scenes of the android communicating with the synthetic nature, using music; there’s a lot of drawn in text sound effects, and written music cutting through the scene interrupts the visuals in an effective way. The natural scenes and settings are beautifully done, as are the birds, leaves, and other elements drawn in close. Jellyfish, too! I need to practise more to be able to draw nature scenes that well, though I expect with less naked androids involved.
If this comic had been written in prose, I would have hands down recommended it as a beautiful melding of literature with visual storytelling, and I mention that because I think the visuals would have suited prose or poetry so well. As a graphic novel on its own it’s an interesting though not ground-breaking story, trying to tell something very intimate and illusory in a visual way; it would probably have worked better as a novel but then we wouldn’t see Krótka’s poetic art showing us through a glass darkly, what’s happening. Kind of sci-fi, kind of romance, kind of mythic, more than a little trippy, I’m not sure who I would recommend it to outside of people who like having something to think about, but definitely have a look.
Thanks to Comixology.com for making this issue of ‘Syncandi‘ available for review.