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

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.]

Results of the artwork contest 2016 – Places 13 to 25

It’s finally time to present the submissions placed between the positions 13 and 25 of the Sandra and Woo and Gaia artwork contest. There are some great works of art to be seen here, partially thanks to the extension of the submission period. I would like to thank all artists who have submitted a drawing or other piece of art. Don’t forget to check out the first batch of submissions which I posted on Monday.

Please show your support by visiting the artists’ websites and writing a comment in the comment section of this blog post!

Michael Masukawa (website)

This submission by Michael is not actually in the top 25. I put it in the wrong folder on my PC and missed to post it on Monday together with the other submissions that missed the top 25. I’m sorry, Michael, but it’s always a lot of work to organize everything correctly, so mistakes like that can always happen.

[Artist’s comment: I felt bad for poor Shadow and Sid, so I made a comic book cover for the greatest story never told!]

Place 25 goes to Marcus

Sandra, Woo and Larisa as fearless space adventurers who are somehow able to breath in space. Maybe thanks to a spell cast by Larisa.

Place 24 goes to Gatekid3

The swamp monster and its minions won’t stand a chance against Cloud and his team of heroic fighters! The similarity of the poses in this and the previous submission is striking. Sandra and Larisa are even standing on the same positions.

Place 23 goes to Erin Roosa

A nice pencil drawing of Ilias and Viviana with particularly good looking clothes. But the story that comes with it (see below) is much better than the work of art.

[Artist’s comment: Your contest may have saved a life. For my entry I ran out of a marker I needed. So my mom and I went to the mall for markers and other shopping. On the way in we noticed an elderly lady sitting in a car with the window open. We didn’t think anything of it at first, but as we left the store after an hour, she was still there, this time with the door open. It was blazing hot today and she was shaking. We were very worried and tried to help by getting her cold water and a cold washcloth for her head. She was unable to walk on her own. We had security look for her daughter in the mall, but she didn’t show up until an hour later.

She seemed okay finally, after we gave her water, but she may have been in the summer heat for over three hours (we know she’d been there for at least two.)

If not for your contest we wouldn’t have been there to help her in the first place. So thank you.]

Place 22 goes to Helen Ruby

A really cute small figurine of Sandra in a chibi style. I particularly like the hair and the book. I’d have liked to see some proper feet on Sandra, though.

[Artist’s comment: Made out polymer clay and painted with acrylic paint.]

Place 21 goes to Zsolt Somogyi (website)

More swamp monster shenanigans. The last panel is funny, but also very random. Zsolt reached #14 last year with another funny comic strip featuring Woo and his family.

“Finding Woo”

Place 20 goes to Brad Johnson

A six pages long story in which Woo is captured by a mad scientist. The story flows well from start to finish, but also comes with a couple of literary issues.

Place 19 goes to Lilli Kempf (website)

This is one of the funniest submissions this year. The fur and Woo’s face are drawn very well in particular. With a forest background of the same quality, it would have had a chance to make it into the top 10.

Place 18 goes to Kaylee Walsh

I always love to get comics as submissions for these artwork contests. Unfortunately, most comic submissions also seem to come with at least one problem. This one is no exception with its incomprehensible fifth panel and Larisa’s suboptimal dialog in the seventh panel. That’s too bad since the idea is one of the best ever in the history of our contests.

[Artist’s comment: Panel 5 is supposed to be a flaming tequila shot: “Oh Larisa, your first shot!”]

Place 17 goes to Chelsea Goodman

If you think Larisa’s lips look large, you should have seen them in the initial version Chelsea sent me in which they were truly ginormous. I think the succubus looks really good. The blue sphere with Sandra in it also looks interesting.

Place 16 goes to Alyshia Z. Kauffman

Alyshia was very creative and drew this interpretation of the genesis of Gaia. I think the planet and the sphere that contains Bhaal are done very well. Gaia looks a bit too much like a New Age version of Mother Earth for my taste, though. Note that there are no other stars or planets in the world of Gaia as depicted here. That would be contradictory to Gaia’s origin story.

[Artist’s comment: This is an artistic take on what we might see if we were able to look inside of the planet of Gaia.]

Place 15 goes to Zach Mitchell

I wonder if Zach works as a graphics designer since this funny advertising page really looks like it was created by one. I like the most that hell is apparently a “people company”. It’s a bit lacking in originality for the top 10, though.

[Artist’s comment: The Devil takes his branding in a new direction.]

Place 14 goes to Aile D’Ciel

After making it into the top 10 last year with this drawing of Sandra, Woo and Richard on #8, Aile misses them this year with a submission of almost similar quality. I particularly like the stuffed animals and the red light effects. I’m not as fond of Woo’s face which is a bit far away from his usual appearance. This is now the third submission prominently featuring spherical objects in a row, weird…

[Artist’s comment: The queen Sandra has obtained a powerful Twiforce orb and become corrupted with its power. Will the brave hero Woo be able to keep the second Twiforce orb away from the queen until he finds a way to revert orb’s horrible effects?]

Place 13 goes to KucingKecil (website)

KucingKecil drew this super stylish portrait of Ilias and Viviana. I particularly love the branches and Ilias’ hair and face. Viviana’s facial features didn’t turn out so well, though, which made the submission miss the top 10. There is also the original version which suffered from a pretty strong yellow-green tint.

[UPDATE: 27 Aug 2016] For several hours, this list also contained the submissions by Michał Litowiński and Jennifer Zhu on the positions 11 and 12. However, almost immediately after posting this blog post, I came to the conclusion that at least Michał’s submission deserves a spot in the top 10. Therefore, I decided to think about the order again and later post a top 12 list instead of a top 10 list which will then include the two submissions removed here. All submissions in the top 12 will receive prize money.