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Banana for scale

Over the course of the last years, I’ve received a few letters from Sandra and Woo fans. But I’ve certainly never received anything like the package from an anonymous sender from the U.S. two weeks ago. It contained a seriously old-looking magnetic tape drive. As a Steins;Gate fanatic, it immediately dawned on me that it must be one of those that are used by the famed retro PC IBM 5100!

IBM 5100 (banana for scale)
IBM 5100 (banana for scale)

This incident did not only inspire me to write the current story arc, I also didn’t waste any time and made a quick trip to the computer museum of the University of Stuttgart. Its head, super friendly retro PC maniac Klemens Krause, did not only give me a personal tour and introduction to retro computing, but also let me use the museum’s precious IBM 5100.

If you’re not familiar with the game, here is a short, mostly spoiler-free, summary:

Steins;Gate is a visual novel about the self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe who is a student in Tokyo. Together with his friends, he invents a time machine in form of a microwave which can send messages back in time. An anime series based on the game was released in 2011. It’s a faithful adaption and also highly recommended by me. The characters are extremely likable, all in their own way, and the story is innovative and thrilling.

The IBM 5100 is desperately needed by Okabe and the members of his labority for its special functionality. However, it has become extremely rare in their world. Steins;Gate builds upon the John Titor myth. That was the nickname of someone who posted in internet forums at the beginning of the 2000s and said that he is a time traveller from the future. He made wild predictions about the future and was also looking for an IBM 5100.

The objects you can see in the photographs all play important roles in the visual novel. This is probably the first time that so many of them have been photographed together with an actual IBM 5100.

NSA database on IBM 5100
NSA database on IBM 5100

As you can see above, the tape drive contained very sensitive and interesting data! After I had struggled for a while with the weird user interface of the old computer, I was finally able to read the content of the tape drive, which happened to be an excerpt of a top-secret NSA database! Unfortunately, the three most interesting text messages were all encoded. However, I’m quite sure that they’re not as hard to decode as the Book of Woo 😉 For example, the word lengths seem to be very much in-line with those of a regular English text. So maybe some of you want to give it a try to decode the secret text messages by the mysterious sender SB. I, meanwhile, am hiding from the NSA’s nefarious henchmen at an undisclosed location.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this story is at least as far removed from reality as one of the stories told by Faris NyanNyan.

RAM content of the IBM 5100
RAM Main memory content of the IBM 5100 (first 512 bytes)

Going all-in

Going all-in

Character occurrence frequency 2008 to 2016

Here are two diagrams that show how often the main and supporting characters of Sandra and Woo appeared in each year. Note that there were only 20 strips in 2008. The last year was really dominated by Larisa since she was the main hero of the very long story arc The Divine Comedy. Her percentage is further skewed by her appearence in almost all of the 17 simpler MS Paint Adventure inspired strips of that story arc. Nonetheless, all our regular supporting characters have once again appeared at least in two strips each last year.

You can click on the images for larger versions.

Main characters occurrence frequency 2008 to 2016

Supporting characters occurrence frequency 2008 to 2016

Number of new strips per year:

  • 2008: 20
  • 2009: 105
  • 2010: 107
  • 2011: 106
  • 2012: 104
  • 2013: 100
  • 2014: 104
  • 2015: 104
  • 2016: 115 (incl. 17 MSPA inspired strips)

They were laughing when Donald Trump promised…

… to make anime real.

So, who’s laughing now?! Checkmate, liberals!

I don’t understand why they made the ad so depressing. I think that it’s a neat concept which should not only appeal to workaholics/otaku/hikikomori without a social life if done right. It should be more like a virtual friend instead of a wife replacement. And there need to be mods to load the appearance and the personality of your favorite characters.

I’d get a virtual Kurisu Makise with whom I could talk about quantum physics in a heartbeat. Of course I’d have to make sure that she doesn’t see my computer monitor or she’d call me a “pervert” all the time. *g*

Results of the artwork contest 2016 – Top 12

It’s time! Time for the top 12 of the Sandra and Woo and Gaia artwork contest 2016! If you haven’t done so already, also check out the submissions placed between position #13 and #25 and the other submissions we received.

The submissions are ordered from place 12 to 1. As you can see, we’ve received some amazing and innovative pieces of art this year again, partially thanks to the extension of the submission period. Please show your support by visiting the artists’ websites and/or by writing a comment in the comment section of this blog post!

[17 MB large animated gif]

Place 12 goes to Jennifer Zhu (website)

While I’m fond of the warm coloration of the tree and sky in the background, the surprising animation effect of this animated GIF is the main cause for the high placement of Jennifer’s submission. Last year, Jennifer reached position #16 with a drawing of the Gaia characters as members of a pop band.

[Artist’s comment: I was thinking about the lore of Gaia and what it means for Lili’s extreme magical power to be conceived from this Great Tree whose roots go deep underground to reach a source of the flow. But if Gaia imprisoned Bhaal deep in the earth, maybe Lili got a bit of a… darker kind of magic as well. I wanted to create an image with this dualism of Gaia and Bhaal, as well as having a twisted root frame to reflect what kind of magic the Great Tree could be carrying.]

Place 11 goes to
Sharon Green

The lighting is the strongest point of Sharon’s very pretty drawing of Lilith. It would work well as cover page for a new Gaia chapter since its style is quite similar to that typically used for our chapter covers.

Place 10 goes to
Lasse Wulf

Lasse managed to make it into the top 10 with a JavaScript program. The output of the program is an amazing animated kaleidoscope showing artwork and scenes from Sandra and Woo. I confirmed that Lasse’s JavaScript program is original and not just copied from somewhere else. It outclasses all other JavaScript programs that produce a kaleidoscope that I have found on the web. When I have some more time, I will check out what can be achieved by adding additional drawings since I think the effect becomes repetitive a bit fast due to the small number of used drawings. You can also download the program to play around with it. Send your results to novil@gmx.de.

Place 9 goes to Michał Litowiński (website)

Michał submitted this super detailed black-and-white drawing of Ruth trying to escape with two snacks under her arms. The drawing shines with its attention to detail, such as the correct shading of the kits’ dark fur areas, the cut in Lily’s ear, and the dot on Arcturus’ forehead. But it would certainly look even better and less busy in color. Michał also submitted two aborted coloration attempts based on the original pencil draft: 1st version, 2nd version.

Place 8 goes to
Audrey Croce (website)

For this year’s artwork contest, Audrey created a Japanese crocheted doll (“amigurumi”) of Woo. I really like how well Woo’s face turned out. There is a step-by-step manual for anyone interested in creating the same Woo doll. Here are additional photos of Woo in doll form:

  • Finished doll: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10]
  • Work-in-progress pics: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

Place 7 goes to
Siloy Fredy

Siloy’s very well drawn picture of Yuna only makes it to position #7 this year after his drawing of Woo and his family managed to reach position #3 in last year’s artwork contest. The superb coloration and the way the toys and the background are drawn are the main strengths of this drawing. On the other hand, Yuna’s face doesn’t look optimal and the drawing is lacking the originality seen in most other submissions in the top 12.

[Artist’s comment: This is about how creepy Yuna can be when she is playing with the toys, especially when she is alone with all the toys in her bedroom.]

Place 6 goes to
Robert Lodge (website)

Robert’s funny drawing of Zoey coming out of the closet with a chainsaw already reached position #12 in 2014. This year, he even reaches position #6 with the funniest submission of this year’s contest. The coloration may be simple, but the details like Larisa’s horny headphones make the difference. With a succubus like this, Landon is already a lost cause. 😉

[Artist’s comment: Succubus Larisa, spinning wubs in hell on the rims of sacrificial blood bowls!!]

Place 5 goes to
Kelsey Adams

Kelsey’s story about the beginning of the friendship between Lilith and Alissa on the Academy of Cania shows that stories can also make it into the top 10. Kelsey obviously knows how to write a good story with believable character decisions, natural dialog and a professional writing style. But what really lifted the story to its high position are the clever ideas and humorous elements like the food fight.

[Artist’s comment: I’ve attached my fanfiction entry “Alissa and Lilith.” I’ve always loved Alissa and Lilith’s friendship and how supportive they are of each other, so I wanted to explore how I imagine that friendship might have started out.]

Place 4 goes to
Ray Zhang (website)

After place 5 in 2014 with a Bioshock inspired drawing, and an unplaced Ghostbusters inspired drawing in 2015, Ray even reaches place 4 this year with this innovative Sandra and Woo clock.

[Artist’s comment: For this year’s artwork contest, I created a wallpaper clock based on Sandra and Woo. Each hour of the clock face is inspired by some element of Sandra and Woo, with the last hour representing the unfinished nature of the strip.]

Place 3 goes to
Yenrou Humuni (website)

To be blunt, Yenrou’s drawing of Oakdale’s priest Malva is not terribly original. But its sheer prettiness makes more than up for that. Everything comes together nicely, the character’s faces in the style of the comic, the warm coloration and the very detailed background. In 2014, Yenrou’s innovative drawing of the Gaia cast already reached position #6.

[Artist’s comment: Malva went out to pick flowers that are displaced to tidy them up on a better place. She saw a butterfly soaking in cold water and hurriedly saved it.]

Place 2 goes to
Oliver Barber (website)

Oliver already had the 3rd best entry in last year’s contest with a very interesting drawing of Yuna as mad scientist. While this year’s drawing is a bit less detailed, it shines with an awesome depiction of Woo in expert mode. I also liked the book in Sandra’s hand very much with its clever cover text and the deep cuts caused by Woo’s claws. (Yes, the cover is on the wrong side of the book, but I didn’t find that particularly problematic.) I guess that League of Legends fans will especially love this entry.

[Artist’s comment: This is Sandra and Woo cosplaying as Annie and Tibbers from League of Legends. As you can see, Sandra got a chance to read the instruction manual before activating Woo’s expert mode this time, but I doubt that will be without consequences!]

Place 1 goes to
Jenn Kim

Suprisingly, all our artwork contests from 2011 to 2015 had pretty clear winning entries and this year’s contest is no exception from that rule. Jenn’s drawing of Larisa, the Devil and Kevin-Asmodias is an exceptional piece of art that captures the spirit of the comic, the characters and the current story arc. The fire effect is excellent and the shading dramatic. Congratulations to Jenn for being the winner of this year’s contest!

[Artist’s comment: Larisa, the pyro succubus. I think she’s finally met her partner in crime.]