Friday, 24 June 2011

Monthly Webcomic Review: Sandra and Woo

Today, I decided I would write a blog post. This is purely because I haven't written anything in the past week and a half, and my creative side was crying and begging me to let her do something, and it's been almost a month since I last blogged, so here we are.

The reasons I haven't been posting (in case anyone cares, and even if you don't I'm telling you anyway) are multiple and varied. You can basically boil it down to my life has been going every which way and I haven't been keeping up with it very well. That said, I think I've more or less got it under control now, so maybe I'll write a post about that next time in order to give myself some sort of closure. You may want to skip reading that next post *laugh*

Anyway, on with the webcomic stuff!

A webcomic about friendship, life and the art of (not) eating squirrels.
This is one I found a few weeks ago and fell in love with almost instantly. This may or may not be because it's a series starring a girl and her talking raccoon, and is so stuffed full of Final Fantasy and other geeky references that I fangirl squee about something on just about every other strip. It also deals with some deeper issues in a way that, while mostly light-hearted, still has enough impact to hit home.

The Setting

The title characters.
The comic takes place in a typical urban setting. The main human characters are high school students, and the animal characters are either pets, or live in nearby woodland. As a result, the story swings between the two settings, with Sandra (our main human protagonist) dealing with high school life, friend and boyfriend troubles and various other things, while Woo (her talking raccoon) often has his own story arcs outside of the town, with his two friends Shadow (a fox) and Sid (a squirrel they're both trying really hard not to eat).

While the setting is simplistic, it serves to highlight the more complex relationships between characters, and allows for flexibility in the storytelling.

The Characters

Sandra and Woo has a very varied cast. While you have the two main characters, you also have each of their circles of friends, and their parents (in the case of the human characters). Thankfully, these are balanced extremely well, with all of the characters being entertaining in their own way.

These are our three main human protagonists, Sandra and her two best friends Larisa and Cloud (yes, named after the Final Fantasy VII protagonist; his little sister is also named Yuna).

Sandra is presented as your basic everygirl character. She's clever, not entirely socially awkward, but suffers from insecurities about her appearance, especially when she and Larisa are in competition for Cloud's affections. However, she is also possessed of  sharp wit and dry sense of humour, but not so much that she doesn't suffer from the odd unreasonable outburst of temper, just like the rest of us. Also, her chosen method of dealing with her troubles is the same as mine, which, of course, made me like her even more (and this probably tells you more about me than you needed to know).

Larisa is Sandra's pyromaniac and quite possibly psychopathic Russian friend. Mostly, she is used as a foil and rival character to Sandra, although some strips do show that she cares a lot for her friend. While she hasn't had a great deal of focus put on her yet, Larisa shows signs of being one of the deeper characters from the comic, with some hints as to why she acts out as much as she does.

Cloud is the best friend/love interest character. Child of very geeky parents (although his mother has a very dark past that she apparently remedies with video game and fanfiction), Cloud is also skilled in martial arts and swordplay, is the heartthrob of the school, and... has no idea what he's actually doing when it comes to girls. Therefore, any scene focusing on him and Sandra is adorable, and their relationship is actually portrayed in a likeable and realistic way.

Woo, at first, seems to be an almost Garfield-esque figure; all thought bubbles and no speech. Until we find out he can actually talk (and Sandra was just as surprised about it as everyone else). After running away from his old owner (who is heavily implied to have been abusive), Woo and Sandra mutually adopt each other, and Woo swings between being the Hobbes of their relationship, or running off having his own adventures with his two friends from the local woodland, which mostly involve Sid talking them out of eating him, or trying to save the environment.

The other two have not been entirely developed. All we really do know is that Shadow has a wife and children who he loves dearly, and that Sid is a little ball of paranoia, who really wants to trust his best friends, but some days...

The Story

The other two people in this picture are Sandra's dad and Cloud's mum.
The comic basically runs on separate story arcs, with continuity shout-outs turning up throughout. Many of these arcs constitute aesops, while others simply deal with growing up and dealing with other people. Overall, the stories are generally light hearted, with any serious messages being alleviated with a more lighthearted moment afterwards. That's not to say that these devalue the more serious aspects, but they do stop the comic from being mired in serious life lessons.

For those interested, Sandra and Woo updates every Monday and Thursday.