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Apr 28 2013

The mysterious Tatsuya Ishida

oppressed

He’s an invisible webcomic artist — here’s one of the rare interviews with the guy, and a review of his work. I’ve been following him for many years, and one of the interesting things you can see as he matured is that he’s gone from drawing pimp ninjas and geisha sluts to developing a very feminist sensibility.

Look at his latest, for instance — no words at all, but he still gets across regret at what patriarchal culture has done.

There’s been a striking transformation going on. I’d really like to hear in his own words what’s going on through his head…but his art seems to be doing a fine job of communicating.

37 comments

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  1. 1
    Eristae

    This is my absolutely my favorite comic strip of all time, that that isn’t just my favorite of Ishida’s. It makes me weepy, which is a statement about the sad state of affairs of women’s rights in our society.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    He makes that point himself (the larger character is a cartoonist and, I believe, the artist himself.)

  3. 3
    The Apostate

    I’ve loved seeing his transformation as I must admit I felt particularly uncomfortable at a lot of his early work.

  4. 4
    The Apostate

    I should add, since I’m kind of new to not being a lurker around here, that it was because I was pretty young when I started reading his comic and didn’t fully grasp a lot of the satire.

  5. 5
    Argle Bargle

    Sinfest has changed noticeably over the years. Originally it was basically Slick’s sexual pursuit of Monique. Religion, good & evil, philosophy, American culture, and other topics were considered. Recently Ishida has been writing more and more about feminism and the patriarchy.

    Sinfest is one of the few webcomics I have book marked.

  6. 6
    ThorGoLucky

    I had stopped following Sinfest years ago. I have some catching up to do.

  7. 7
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    I’ve been reading Sinfest for years and years now, and while I do like the recent feminist bits for the most part, I’m still pretty uncomfortable with the lack of nuance (Which Ishida is usually pretty good at expressing if you pay attention to the details) that gets displayed in a lot of the anti-porn/anti-sex work segments. It’s pretty directly portrayed as ALWAYS BAD FOREVER, which, well, isn’t true in the real world. A few pages have even directly insinuated that sex-positive feminism is some sort of patriarchal dudebro plot.

  8. 8
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    Note that, despite that criticism, Sinfest is still one of the few webcomics that I check semi-regularly. Most of the hundred or so I read just get an archive binge twice a year.

  9. 9
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Oh, today’s strip was beautiful. One thing I liked was that it read to me that the enforcer was showing Slick a choice: to be accepted as masculine and be free of the pit, he had to conform and support the system. If he didn’t, he’d be seen as feminized and tortured with the rest. It’s a small bit of progress for Slick, but it’s notable that he’s even aware of the problem and doesn’t bow the same way as the others.

  10. 10
    Reginald Selkirk

    an invisible webcomic artist

    Is that supposed to sound impressive? I could claim to draw invisible webcomics too.
    “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

  11. 11
    Ingdigo Jump

    Eh, I’ve never seen the appeal.

  12. 12
    David Marjanović

    the larger character is a cartoonist and, I believe, the artist himself

    Yes.

    Is that supposed to sound impressive? I could claim to draw invisible webcomics too.

    There’s a difference between an invisible webcomic artist and an invisible-webcomic artist. Can you spot it?

  13. 13
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Thanks for this, PZ; I’d long since given up on Sinfest back in the old days, when I got tired of his constant comforting of the comfortable and affliction of the afflicted. Nice to see he’s swapped sides on that.

  14. 14
    left0ver1under

    When Ishida changed the tone and direction of the cartoon (mid-2011, IIRC), it took some getting used to. That’s not to say I entirely approved of the old tone, but it took quite a while for the new direction of the strip to show itself and become normal. I definitely prefer it the way it is now, not having to block out the sexist stuff to find it funny. Static characters get tiresome (e.g. “Peanuts”), any “Sinfest” strip from 2000 to 2010 could sit next to each other. Character development (e.g. “For Better Of Worse”) is more involving and interesting.

    The only thing I never liked about the strip was his reuse of references to “The Matrix”. It was funny once, not so the second time – espeially when all three movies were out of theatres years before.

  15. 15
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    I’ve followed Sinfest for years, and his transformation from boobie-worshipping dude-bro to feminist very closely mirrors my own. I’ve seen a lot of die-hard fans who used to follow him (dare I say it) religiously, who hate the more recent comics (for obvious reasons). While there are a few points I strongly disagree with him on (his no-exceptions anti-porn stance for one, as mentioned elsewhere), for the most part I really like where he’s gotten to.

    I take it a mark strongly in his favor that he does not take down the archives of all the old stuff that he is clearly ashamed of. Remembering how wrong you were in the past about very important things serves a two-fold purpose – it prevents you from taking your current stance for granted, and it reminds you that there may well be other subjects you are still just as wrong about.

  16. 16
    Sili

    When The Sisterhood first appeared, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop – it was about the time that Pharyngula had opened my eyes to feminism.

    I’m happy that it never did. Ishida was not out to mock feminist activism.

  17. 17
    vaiyt

    I laugh at the people who say the strip jumped the shark because it started one-trick-ponying about feminism. If it were one-trick-ponying about religion, or boobies, nobody would give a shit.

    I laugh even more at the people who say Tricycle Lady is a Mary-Sue. If she was a man, nobody would give a shit. Besides, if you want to see Tricycle Lady losing, just read the fucking news.

  18. 18
    laurentweppe

    While there are a few points I strongly disagree with him on (his no-exceptions anti-porn stance for one, as mentioned elsewhere)

    Nothing’s more intolerant than an ex-smoker

  19. 19
    Amphiox

    This strip featuring the author’s own in-comic avatar:

    http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4338

    suggests the possibility of a rather “sudden” change of heart, for whatever reason, on the author’s part.

  20. 20
    unclefrogy

    I really like the way he is really sympathetic to all his characters while he may show them acting in a one dimensional way he will get into some depth at some point.
    The other remarkable thing about the strip is its progression. As he actually confronts the situations and premises he started with. He lets the logic and his empathy find a truth he can embrace in fact. He and the strip grow.
    I often find myself clicking on reload before the latest strip is posted!

    uncle frogy

  21. 21
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    A few pages have even directly insinuated that sex-positive feminism is some sort of patriarchal dudebro plot.

    Haven’t a few commenters here also made that claim?

  22. 22
    Rutee Katreya

    A few pages have even directly insinuated that sex-positive feminism is some sort of patriarchal dudebro plot.

    I wouldn’t say a plot by any means, but it’s no accident that a lot of sex-positive stuff becomes about satisfying liberal patriarchy, rather than focusing on women’s needs and wants, including about their own sexuality.

  23. 23
    danielbjorkman

    Mmm-hmm. I’d rather put it like this: when he started out, his shtick could be summed up as, “look at me, I’m being politically incorrect! Are you offended, women and minorities? Are you? Huh? Huh? Huh?” Over the years, he gradually moved away from that, and he has now fully transitioned into “look at me, I’m being politically correct! Are you offended, straight white men? Are you? Huh? Huh? Huh?”

    That is, verily and forsooth, moral progress. But he’s still an ass. And also, I miss the time in the middle, when his characters had some humanity to them instead of being avatars and punching bags for one side or the other.

    I’m also a bit amused by his anti-porn stance. Oh, I completely agree with him, I despise porn (never mind whether it is inherently anti-woman, it’s inherently anti-human-dignity!), but has he ever visited a feminist community? In my experience, feminists (with a few furiously shouted-down exceptions) tend to fall over themselves in their eagerness to express how pro-porn they are. And considering that his position is that the only reason one can possibly disagree with any feminist position is that you’re a worthless evil dude-bro, his, well… disagreement with a feminist position comes off as somewhat odd.

  24. 24
    Amphiox

    In my experience, feminists (with a few furiously shouted-down exceptions) tend to fall over themselves in their eagerness to express how pro-porn they are.

    Your experience it would appear is rather limited.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    chigau (違う)

    I’ve been following Sinfest for about a month.
    That is: I just read all 4600 over the last month-ish.
    The evolution is remarkable when observed at a rate of 30 – 40 per day.

  27. 27
    Ashley

    http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4554

    This is one of my favorites.

  28. 28
    David Marjanović

    http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4577

    :-D :-D :-D

    (Also, cookie.)

    This is one of my favorites.

    I don’t quite get that one.

  29. 29
    WharGarbl

    I love his comics.
    One question regarding the one PZ posted.
    I know the female symbol (circle with plus beneath) and the LGBT symbol (rainbow).
    But what does the circle with the triangle symbol inside represent?

  30. 30
    Owlmirror

    But what does the circle with the triangle symbol inside represent?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_symbols

  31. 31
    WharGarbl

    @Owlmirrow
    #30
    Thanks, didn’t know that symbol before.

  32. 32
    NelC

    David Marjanović, you’ve never encountered the kind of troll who claims they’ve left the argument but lingers on and on…?

  33. 33
    Squiddhartha

    I used to follow Sinfest regularly years ago, and appreciated the humor and art, but fell away simply because it became repetitive. I didn’t feel any benefit from clicking the link — I’d have seen the joke before. If Ishida’s evolved that significantly, I’ll give him another look.

  34. 34
    Marcus Ranum

    I really like his pen style and how he renders his characters. The content’s great, too, but I just adore his very distinctive graphical look (it vaguely reminds me of Stan Sakai’s equally wonderful Usagi Yojimbo)

  35. 35
    David Marjanović

    David Marjanović, you’ve never encountered the kind of troll who claims they’ve left the argument but lingers on and on…?

    Ah, that’s what it means. That wasn’t clear from the comic without context.

  36. 36
    freemage

    It’s worth noting that they’ve got threads on the strip’s forum that are explicitly designed to mock the angry dudebros who, feeling betrayed by Ishida, come in to complain about Sinfest. I’m sure P.Z. can relate to that particular phenomenon.

  37. 37
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    While I’m really, really uncomfortable with his blanket anti-sex work/porn stance (because that petty much always tend toward misogyny) I do like seeing stuff that is well-drawn and anti-sexism and critical of rape culture, and porn tropes.

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