Steven J. Mepham

Program: (Mechani) is one of those webtoons that at first glance seems a simple read, but peer beneath the surface and you find much, much more. Set in a technological future not too far beyond our own, Program: (mechani) opens with Deli an archaeological assistant to Professor Orbit. Both are working within their lab when a strange call prompts them to investigate a power source at the SEFA ruins. The caller’s penchant for cliche villain talk is offputting at first. As is Deli’s seeming desperation to get Professor Orbit to accept, but its setup to be repaid later which while does not wash away the slightly awkward opening does give the space to appreciate where the story takes us. The journey to the SEFA ruins serves two purposes, a space to set up the rules of the world and a canvas with which we can get to grips with the characters. In true protagonist style, Deli’s impatience gets the better of her and she strays in the night to explore only to end up being chased by a leopard back to the camp embroiling the professor in a humourous dash to safety. In their case, this turns out to be the SEFA ruins itself and a dead end. It is in this moment of imminent death that Deli manages to inadvertently step on a switch in the floor and wakes up Mechani who swiftly deals with the leopard pack before passing out.

As far as first episodes go, Booted! achieves a lot. It does a fairly good job at setting up the world and its values, introduces us to characters and chronicles the meeting between Deli and Mechani. There is enough to really grasp the attention, however, at points, it feels like the dialogue is used to convey information about the world or characters rather than convey a realistic relationship. Some of the information that is given about Deli or Professor Orbit, while interesting is not required and feels much like a distraction. Equally the set up of events leading to the discovery of Mechani is odd and feels more about trying to give a canvas for the character information than actually proceeding with the plot of the story. By far the oddest choice is the introduction of Mechani, the titular character, who we only see at the very end of the episode.

That said it very much feels that the world has enough depth to create a compelling story and while this is very much in the setup, I am excited to see where Progam: (Mechani) goes.

Characters

♠ Deli ♠

Deli is the first character we fully see in Program (Mechani) and is interesting but flawed. She is clearly a talented individual within the world, intelligent but flawed by her impulsiveness. I really look forward to learning more about her and have a few burning questions: Why is she so determined to be a celebrated archaeologist? Is this something many youths in this world aspire to be or is there something more meaningful driving her?

It is certainly something I look forward to learning.

Dei’s design is striking in its palette balance between red and black. I particularly like the tom-boyish vibe of her outfit which really suits her brash impulsive personality. As the loud Natsu/ Naruto type of character, her uniqueness comes from her also being very smart while holding personality traits often found in those who favour action over thought. It is an interesting blend and certainly makes her stand out. Essentially she is a smart well rounded character that is not afraid to state what she wants nor of taking the action required to seize it. Deli is a refreshing change from the female character Cliche’s that are often found.

ψ Mechani ψ

Mechani’s introduction is the payoff of a lot of build-up in chapter one. Appearing at the finale of Booted! He is first seen springing to action to save Deli and professor Orbit from the ravenous clutches of enraged Leopards. Beyond defeating them all with relative ease via some well-aimed kicks he does little in Booted! beyond passing out once the danger is over. As a titular character, he feels a bit underwhelming at first, but given his introduction is at the end of Episode 1, this is to be expected.

In Testing! Episode 2, for the most part, he is silent, aside from the occasional comment on his name or the questioning of what sour! means. Later in the episode, he jumps back to action to retrieve a stolen purse from some thieves and give another smackdown – this time to a local gang of thieves and in School! he is relegated to background character again.

The problem with Mechanis introduction is that we know little of him, not just his origins, but also who he really is. Deli takes a lot of the spotlight across all three episodes (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but it does mean that Mechani comes across as an object, a little flat in terms of character yet highly capable offensively. We don’t get any sense of who Mechani is other than he will leap into action to prevent something inferred by a moral compass we have no view on. Another oddity is that the other characters do not at any time ask him about his origins. They often refer to him as a “discovery” but do little to really engage with him and instead seem to view him as an object.

My hope is that in episodes 4, 5 and 6 we will see more of his character, but more importantly his personality, some small information on his past is needed but the most important thing to establish is his motive for staying with Deli and Professor Orbit. We don’t need all of these right away, but some traction towards uncovering these is sorely needed to make Mechani feel like a character.

Art Style and Design 

The Art of Program:(Mechani) is detailed, exorbitant and lively. It breaths life into the ideas and lifts the characters from the page. I especially like the level of detail within each panel. Often the background hides world building hints that could easily be missed but do convey meaning to those that notice them. This is really apparent in the first panel of the comic, where we see what appears to be floating facilities in the background, highlighting the technological prowess of the worlds denizens. Lighting and shade is often used to subtly highlight aspects of the panels and is often focused around a character. I particularly like the way this is done is done to highlight movement and emphasize action sequences.

By far my favourite sequence is the emergence of Mechani at the end of booted! It really showcases not only the movement but the speed of Mechani’s motion.

Conclusion

Program:(Mechani) is one of those Webtoons which I can see has a lot of potential. It has some really good ideas and some great characters but is held back by some glaring flaws. The first three episodes serve as set up and deliver a lot of information about the world and how it works. Deli comes out of this really well as a well-explored character, but a lot of the information we were given could have been spread over a lot more episodes and the invested time given to other less developed characters instead. That isn’t to say that these won’t be developed more in future episodes, nor that it needs to be to the same level, just currently the lack of development makes a stark contrast. On the subject of Deli: while it is indeed true that the protagonist normally takes the lion-share of the focus, that is best done with a balanced approach.It could be argued that majority of episode one, which focuses mostly on introducing deli and how she found Mechani could have been broken down and delivered in flashbacks. Currently it spends a lot of time establishing worldbuilding when what we really needed was character development. That said the character, world and story potential within the first three episodes is huge and I eagerly await seeing more. While Program: (Mechani) may not proffer all of its cards right away, that just means it has so much more to show us. Essentially despite some of its rougher edges It does have depth and potential. I really think it is a worthwhile investment of time and an enjoyable read.

 

 

Program: (Mechani) can be read for free on Webtoon.

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