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FFX :: Scratching the Surface
Guest-Reviewed by VoidStar

SCORING:
PLOT: 1/5
CHARACTERIZATION: 1/5
WRITING: 1/5
INEXPLICABLE VILLIFYING OF A MINOR CHARACTER: 10/5

VoidStar here--semi-longtime reader, first-time Ficbitcher. But as a great lover of bad fanfiction, it was probably inevitable that I'd give it a shot. I hope you all enjoy this effort!


Submitted for your approval: a piece of Final Fantasy X yuri, featuring the pairing of Lulu and Rikku. Neither of these things really give an indication of how amazingly, offensively bad this story is.

Gleaning yuri innuendo from FFX is, in this reviewer's humble opinion, not the most difficult thing in the world to do. And the Lulu/Rikku pairing, while perhaps less likely than some, is not completely implausible. You could work with Rikku's yearning to be like Lulu, for instance--her attraction to Lulu's calmness and maturity.

But this is not about what could have been, but rather what is, and what this story is is horrid. (It is also, I should note, an ongoing work. This review is based on the first of the three chapters that have been posted so far.) Rather than
working with what the game already provides, the author has decided to strike out in a bizarre direction all her own. The first chapter opens with Rikku being somewhat in character, but don't be fooled!

“Ahhh!” Rikku screamed into the dead of night as a flash of lightning and the dull roar of thunder sounded in the distance. Gripping at her bed sheets the blonde Al-Bhed whimpered into the total darkness of her room as the noises crept into her bittersweet dreams.

For those of you who have yet to play FFX and are reading along anyway, Rikku has a long-standing fear of thunder and lightning, thanks to her brother hitting her with a lightning spell by mistake when she was younger. This incident is fairly cut-and-dried: Rikku was being attacked by a monster, her brother tried to help and screwed up, Rikku came out of the scrape somewhat traumatized. Her fear of lightning is brought up all of once in the entire game, and is more comic relief than anything else. Unfortunately for us, the author has decided to latch on to this particular facet of Rikku's past and transform it into Something More.

Speaking of transforming things into Something More, this author has the annoying stylistic habit of pumping her prose full of needlessly big words and analogies, possibly in an attempt to make the story seem "poetic", or perhaps to conceal her inability to grasp the finer points of punctuation, grammar, and syntax. If you've never heard the term "purple prose" before, this story is more or less an instruction manual in how to write the stuff. From the first chapter alone, we have this gem:

Sniffling lightly the blonde Al-Bhed reclaimed Lulu’s waist and tightly drew the older woman close to her small body for both comfort and warmth both of which she was lacking at the moment, and instinctively interlocked her long legs with at Lulu’s.

And that's only four paragraphs in. This example also brings us back to the rather rapid progression of the plot. Lulu has come to Rikku's room to try and help Rikku sleep better. Although I suppose I could see her checking in on Rikku or something, I can't really see her getting as immediately touchy-feely as she does--Lulu's really only that affectionate with Yuna, the heroine of FFX. But the author has her stroking Rikku's hair. She also has Rikku react by leaping into Lulu's lap, and when even this is not enough to quiet Rikku down, Lulu actually crawls into bed with her, which in turn leads to the sentence quoted above.

So now, two characters with pretty much zero in the way of physical contact over the course of the game are lying in bed together, legs "interlocked" as though it were nothing at all unusual. They lie this way for a while, and in the ensuing conversation it's established that Lulu slipping into Rikku's room at night and snuggling her when she has nightmares is
apparently something that happens fairly often.

And yet, this jarring warp into the Cuddly Zone is really only the beginning, for the true thrust of Scratching the Surface lies in its author's vision of what really happened when Rikku got clocked by that lightning spell. After a brief conversation that, like the opening paragraph, flirts with the idea of being in-character--Rikku notes that she wants to start learning magic, in order to emulate Lulu, and perhaps to eliminate some of her phobia--Lulu decides to start digging into Rikku's past. This is another bit where the author's style really shines. And by "shines" I mean "confuses and angers any halfway sane reader."

“Rikku I have to ask you a question, and it maybe a little prying but I must know for certain, just to ease my own mind if nothing else.” Declared Lulu in a serious tone that could have chilled even Shiva to the core, Rikku nodded and she shivered from both the storm and the older woman’s sudden change in demeanor.

Since we've already established that this author has stylistic problems in the worst possible way, I'll focus my ire towards this example on Lulu's mood swing. I mean, seriously, what the Hell? Why the shift from tender and comforting to coldhearted? Is
this really the best way to go about asking a potentially sensitive question about a person's past? Sure, Lulu can be a little aloof, but she's not incapable of tenderness or delicacy. Besides, isn't the story trying to lead us to believe that she and Rikku are all lovey-dovey close now, thus making the sudden frigid tone all the more incomprehensible?

But at any rate, it seems as though Lulu has perceived something deeper than a mere fear of the elements in Rikku's storm phobia. It's obvious to her that Rikku is "in pain" somehow. Aaaah, but how? What could she be hiding? Well...

“I…I don’t really remember much after it happened. Its all fuzzy, like a bad dream.” The blonde stated with a far away look in her eyes, Lulu could feel the younger girl trembling against her body as if she were frozen to the morrow of her bones.

Uh-oh, it seems we're repressing things. C'mon, Rikku, spill the beans!

"...I started to have a good time, until the fiend showed up. Brother saw it coming before I had a chance to swim away, and he…he raised his hand and lightning struck the water fiend but the electricity current traveled and zapped me too. It gets hazy after that, I just remember brother pulling me on the shore and….”

Okay, so far so good, this is pretty much in line with what's already been established...

“Lulu, brother wouldn’t have done what I remember him doing. He just wouldn’t, I know my brother and I know he isn’t like that.”

...What?

“I remember him pulling my shirt off my body leaving me in my bra, then…I remember him looking around nervously and telling me to relax because he was just checking my injuries. But, that wasn’t what he was doing."

DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

I will spare you the rest of the gory details (mainly because the remaining portion of the paragraph is too damned long), but I think you can all figure it out on your own: Rikku's brother took advantage of her incapacitated state and raped her.

Now, far be it from me to say that people shouldn't write stories about delicate, traumatic subjects like rape. Far be it from me to suggest that a story in which rape is actually portrayed as an act of violation as opposed to an aggressive romantic overture (a far more common problem in slash than you might think) is a bad thing. But this shit just don't fly, you dig? Rikku's brother doesn't get much characterization in FFX, but none of what he does get even remotely suggests that he'd be capable of brutally (and I mean brutally, the author has him beat her pretty badly) raping his younger sister and then intimidating her into keeping it a secret for years. I mean, if you're going to make a character into a rapist, choose one who might actually conceivably commit rape. The only member of the FFX cast I could see doing that would be Seymour, but it would be all but impossible to contrive a situation in which he and Rikku would be alone for long enough for him to do the vile deed, I suppose. I think it's more likely that the author simply didn't like Brother and decided that was all the justification she needed.

That ties in with the second major objection I have, which is the fact that the only purpose the rape serves in the storyline is to push Rikku and Lulu closer together. This is not about exploring the damaged mental landscape of a rape victim, this is not an inspiring tale of recovery from a truly horrific crime--this is all about pushing Lulu into comforting Rikku, and using that as a launchpad for a rocket bound straight for the Bad Yuri Planet.

Anyway, Lulu ends up spending the night in Rikku's room. The author scores a few fractions of a point for not making Rikku and Lulu indulge in Comfort Sex right then and there--rare restraint indeed, but unfortunately not enough to deflect the fiery train
wreck bearing down upon an orphanage that is this fanfic.

We cut to the next day, where we are treated to a brief interlude in which Wakka catches the two sleeping in each other's arms and bitches out Rikku and Lulu both, making the reasonable assumption that they'd been screwing around. Hell, that's what I
assumed they were going to be doing, what with all the hot hot leg-interlocking in the first scene. The author saddles Wakka with a prejudice against homosexuals to go with his prejudice against the Al-Bhed, which makes me roll my eyes a bit, but Wakka is a rather socially conservative sort. So I can let it go.

Once Wakka leaves, Rikku asks Lulu what he meant by a certain term--"screwing." Lulu explains, and Rikku is horrified; apparently, she equates all sex with rape. (GEE, I WONDER IF THIS IS SETTING UP A SCENE IN WHICH LULU TEACHES HER OTHERWISE) Mercifully, Lulu tells Rikku that she's wrong, but that she shouldn't rush herself to learn the difference. Pretty sensible advice. Of course, "sensibility" in this story can never last longer than half a paragraph. Rikku gives Lulu a kiss out of nowhere, announcing that she wanted Lulu to be the first person she kissed. Lulu replies that she wants Rikku all to herself. Um, gee, coming on a bit strong with someone who's never had a real relationship before and almost certainly has a great big raft of trust issues thanks to being assaulted by a family member, aren't we? Rikku vows to never leave Lulu's side (Lulu's greatest nightmare is being left alone, apparently), and the best damned set of sentences in the whole chapter gets thrown at us:

“Because you never know when someone will fall in love with that smile.” Rikku declared softly as she placed soft kisses under Lulu’s ear, and across her neck until she lightly brushed her lips over the older woman’s chin and finally pressed against the mage’s mouth with a sealing kiss of her promise. A light blush rose up in both guardians faces as they deepened the embrace making silent vows of never ending love, suddenly a gasp spun both Lulu and Rikku out of their blissful moment of complete union.

That's right, sharing traumas makes you soul mates. Honestly, is there any romantic cliche more loathsome and insipid than "love comes out of fucking nowhere?" (Not to be confused with "love at first sight.")

Thankfully, the first chapter is drawing to a close, and now that Lulu and Rikku have bonded over how evil Rikku's brother is, the author is safe to spend the rest of the fic plotting his demise and writing "cute" sex scenes. The rest of the chapter focuses on the latter. Yuna catches the two kissing, gets embarrassed, and runs off. For some reason, this leads to some intense Lulu-on-Rikku tickling, which leads quickly to sex. The chapter ends before any details are shared, but...yeah, let's recap: Rikku relates her tale of violation and suffering at her brother's hands to Lulu; the next day, we learn that Rikku does not understand the difference between rape and consensual sex; later that same day, Lulu is teaching her the ways of a worldly woman.

I read all three chapters and was going to try and review them all, but they're loooong chapters, and pointing out the idiocy of the first was taxing enough. Suffice to say, Scratching the Surface combines the great cliches of bad slash with a
hilariously bad writing style, painfully bad characterization, and an (un)healthy dose of trivializing the effects of rape to produce quite a potent package of bad fanfiction. If you're brave, all three chapters can be found at the link above. I leave you, then, with a selection from the author's notes at the end.

So what did you think, I am planning on writing a follow up to this story and oh yes, Rikku will know how to make love by that time.

Is that a threat or a promise? Either way, it only gets worse from here, folks. Enjoy!


Lulu could feel the younger girl trembling against her body as if she were frozen to the morrow of her bones.

Erm... Isn't the word she's looking for marrow??

Silly, silly author

o/~ oh, the sun will come out to-the-morrow, bet your bottom dollar that to-the-morrow...o/~

You get the idea.

~LD

VOIDSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!

Excellent work.

DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUB!

Thanks. :D

Wow...

When I started reading this review, the story didn't seem that bad other than the mild OOC-ness and the possibility of Sex Without Plot.

Then I got up to the part about Riku's brother suddenly becoming an evil rapist. I was pissed, then relieved it didn't end with the discussion of trauma leading to her and Lulu boinking. Wakka being a homophobe could've been dragged into a huge plot device for massive angst, but it wasn't, so I was glad.

Then came the sudden Confession of True Love, then the awkward sex...and all this happened because Lulu prodded Riku into spilling about a soul-scarring trauma. ARGH! I HATE seeing that in fics, hell, I hate seeing it anywhere!

I'll second your sentiments. I haven't even played FFX, nor do I really know anything about the plot, but the characterization and plotting reasons (especially those related to the rape bit) that both you and VoidStar brought up were plenty for me to dislike this fic.

Good work, VoidStar! :D

-- PF

(Deleted comment)

Yeah, mine!

(Anonymous)
I swear to goth that both my Radu muse and my Rinoa muse were VERY sickened by this story. They're angry at me.

Thank goth I didn't read the full thing!

Sin-chan

... ouch. My teeth hurt from grinding them.

Do you ever review original fiction? If you do, I have a doozy to submit.

Oh god... Lulu... Suddenly Ms. Here-let's-cuddle-to-make-you-feel-better? ARRRRGH. ::does the Cloud Strife Freakout:: That is totally against her character. She's not completely antisocial and callous, but she would not go further than perhaps letting Rikku rest her head in her lap(not crawling into it mind you) and stroking her hair until she falls asleep. That I can see Lulu doing, but not... crawling into bed with her. That's just kicking her character down a few flight of stairs, then spitting on her prone, broken body.

And yeeeah, the rape thing. I think that's a really weak and lame excuse to get Lulu all empathetic and snuggly with Rikku, and hop right past the oh-so-bothersome character development. Sheesh. Writers these days... Half of them aren't even remotely trying anymore. ¬_¬

::does the Cloud Strife Freakout::

You know, that'd make a great dance at a rave...

aw man, I remember that fic. x.O; so... terribly painful... n.n

When I got to the meat of this review, my jaw dropped.

Trivializing rape always gets to me. It's not supposed to be used as a plot point directly leading to H0T L3SB14N S3><0R. And rape that makes no sense in the original plotline is... gah. And if it HAD to be done, couldn't the characters at least have stayed in character?

Gah. Just... gah.

Good job there, Void-buddy! (salutes) :D

(sigh)

Yuri nut as I am, even I can't condone this. The whole premise just screams "cheap ploy" to me. And, well... like the others have said, the rape serves no other purpose than to drive Rikku into a suprisingly demure Lulu's arms. (Well, there goes *another* fantasy shot down the drain. :\) The psychological consequences of rape (especially as brutal and traumatic as the author makes this one out to be), natch, aren't even addressed, except in tiny little bits that are easily handled by Lulu.

Argh. I can't even use my powers of disbelief suspension to enjoy this one. I keep feeling both sorry for Rikku and wondering why common sense isn't being exercised in various places. Dammit.

Angling on the topic: anyone else notice that Rikku's fear of lightning seems to be some kind of ALL-PURPOSE DIMENSIONAL PORTAL TO TRUE LOVE between Rikku and (insert author's favorite character here)?

Poor Rikku, doomed to find happiness only during fierce thunderstorms. ^_^;;

Oh well. (reads Zelphie Fic That Turned Bad to feel better)

The only member of the FFX cast I could see doing that would be Seymour

Speaking of people's Muses getting upset, my Seymour muse just got really pissed. Then I reminded him that he's a dead little son of a bitch anyways.

And I just squicked myself out in regards to rape and necrophilia... *scrubs her brain out with bleach*

Speaking of people's Muses getting upset, my Seymour muse just got really pissed. Then I reminded him that he's a dead little son of a bitch anyways.

Partly dead. Mostly a son of a bitch. ^.^

Urgh. All I can really say about this is that, based on this review, we at least don't have either the "rape turns a woman into a lesbian" cliche or its usual partner, "rape turns a woman into a rabid man-hater." (If either of these are actually in the fic -- well, screw it, I'm not going to go check.) Still, poorly-executed hurt/comfort makes Baby Jesus cry.

I don't know where that whole "rape turns a woman into a rabid man-hater" cliche came from. And I really don't think my incident made me attracted to women either. Where do fic writers get this stuff?

(Deleted comment)
Harem anime? (Anonymous) Expand

Fanfiction in National News

I don't know if you guys read all your comments but I thought I'd let you know that in the Sunay June 22 edition of the Raliegh News and Obeserver there was a very long article about Harry Potter fanfiction and legal rights of fanfiction in general. It was reprinted from the Washington Post and the article was by Ariana Eunjung Cha. I thought you guys might be interested in reading it, I'd post the article itself but I don't have a scanner and I search both the N&O and Washington Post archives and haven't been able to find an online version of it. Hope this was helpful to you guys!

Re: Fanfiction in National News

(Anonymous)
I read that in the Post. It was actually a pretty good article. Basically what the article talked about was the legal boundaries between plagarism and free speech. It was inconclusive, but hey, fanfiction is ever growing, and maybe with its increased popularity, the government will issue more definite rules on what is plagarism and what is fanfiction.

In other fanfiction news, the Washington Post kid's section recently had readers send in possible plotlines for the next book. The young children actually had decent ideas such as Harry battling giant monkey octupi (that kid was six). The one that made me lose all hope of decent fanfiction getting off of the endangered species list was the suggestion sent in by a fifteen-year-old reader. Her plotline was, and I quote, "Harry makes new friends this year, including a nymph girl who turnes out to be Harry's little sister, who was born only a week before Voldemort killed Lily and James" Emphasis is, of course, mine. There's a Mary Sue born every minute. Please pardon me while I weep for the institution that is known as free public education. So much for English class.

~The Atomic Pixie

Ick

(Anonymous)
Sounds almost like a longer, lesbian version of this one http://www.geocities.com/teka_yaoi/atone.html

Wait, 'longer, lesbian?' That doesn't sound right

~Rose Bride from Hell~

This person
1) has never had sex.
2) is not a lesbian.
therefore) has not had sex with a lesbian.

Lemme personally vouch, it ain't like that. Stupid author. This fic made me hurt XD

I know

(Anonymous)
I know. this fic made me hurt, too,a nd I'm a pretty dykey bisexual.

Why do fics always seem to make me feel like I'm either too dykey or not butch enough to qualify as a lesbian?


Re: I know (Anonymous) Expand
Re: I know (Anonymous) Expand
Just read "Atoning." Ouch. I've never even played the game, and that hurt. I can't think of a single game or series where almost everyone is a rapist (okay, except for Oni Tensai)so I assume wild OOC. Thank God.




~Jackal

(Deleted comment)
seen worse (Anonymous) Expand