So we've been looking for someone who can fulfill a prophecy. Bring peace and order to the world. That sort of thing. --TOE
I'm no good at that stuff. --Rice Boy

Rice Boy is a graphic novel by Evan Dahm. It was started in April 2006 and completed in May 2008, and is now available in dead tree format as well as on its website, rice-boy.com. It's a 439-page fantasy story with a style that is by turns epic, quirky, touching, and surreal.

Rice Boy follows the journeys of its eponymous protagonist, a simple, small creature in a colorful and complex world. This is a description of both the characterization and the art style--Rice Boy is a plain white blob shaped a bit like a pawn in a chess set, with no discernable body parts other than his rather expressive eyes. His history is similarly lacking in grandeur or detail--his life is about having tea and gathering food, and seemingly always has been. The world of Overside, in contrast, is full of vivid characters with complex histories and motivations, of alliances and betrayals between people and empires. The art is a loaded with bright, contrasting colors and lush attention to detail. Forests where a protector/scholar/mystic rides around in a four-legged tree-carriage. Faceless beings who reproduce by cutting off their own heads. Members of a robotic civilization who dress in 19th-century-style uniforms. A glowing pink lake surrounding a talking pillar that may or may not be God. Three beings given immortality in exchange for eternal service, fruitlessly searching for a lost prophecy's Fulfiller.

Rice Boy is told he's the Fulfiller of this prophecy, and he sets off on a journey to try to learn about it and perhaps Fulfill it, though he doesn't really know what he's doing. The story roughly fits in the Epic Quest With Reluctant Protagonist framework, but feels more like a Hayao Miyazaki film than The Lord of the Rings. The numerous meandering side-trips through strange forests and cities, the ambiguous nature of the God-like figures, and Rice Boy's constant doubt about his ability to fulfill the prophecy (or whether the prophecy is even valid) all pull the story into the shape of something more introspective and odd. And by the end of the tale, some kind of internal consistency is reached, and some of the elements that seemed like oddness for oddness's sake are revealed to have a reason and meaning after all. (Unlike many online comics that just seem to drag on and on and on and on, Rice Boy has a definite end. So there's no excuse not to read it!)

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