The use of talking animals in stories goes back a long ways. Often these animals are used to impart words of wisdom upon the protagonist of the tale, acting in some ways like the voice of God. If you believe the religious claims that humanity is inherently a sinful creature (as per Christian lore), then animals, who never partook of the forbidden fruit, are closer to God than man… and if gifted with speech thus can speak for God. However, often these animals just act as a source of common sense if the protagonist is particularly ditzy or apt to do foolish things… and a source of comic relief when the protagonist has a less comedic role.
While I’ve never particularly liked the talking cat Teri from Sailor Sun (and indeed in an earlier review stated a desire to launch the cat out of a trebuchet), just recently I had a revelation as to what Teri actually represents. Teri is a mentally-challenged talking animal, making it a first for webcomics as far as I know. The cat exhibits signs of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (he’s easily distracted, has difficulty focusing, poor short-term memory, and is incredibly impulsive), and a mental level that… well, if he were a lightbulb people would be taking him out of the socket and replacing him.
Of course, you do have to wonder as to how much of this is due to his upbringing. While Bay tries to discipline him, we’ve seen Honey on at least one occasion helping this frantic feline with his pancake fix (though not successfully – for all her book smarts, Honey seems to lack a few skills in terms of cooking, or at least following instructions on package mixes). Indeed, I can envision Honey begging her mom (Bay) to buy Teri at a second-hand pet store (one of those shady places where the ferrets are more than half snake, and fish with three eyes or with lasers attached to their heads swim alone in massive fish tanks) and insisting “I’ll take good care of him, I promise!”
Naturally it’s Bay who ends up having to feed this foolhardy feline, whose crimes include flooding the apartment out of a desire to get some fish, calling pizza parlors in an attempt to get pancakes delivered to him, and just generally tearing up the apartment. No doubt every time Bay and Honey head out, there’s a little voice in the back of Bay’s head going “Oh dear God, I wonder what that little brat is going to do this time. I’d lock him in his carrying crate but Honey insists it’s cruel to lock him up. But these repair bills are killing me!”
It’s funny. I, who normally love cats and feline inclusions in comics, hate this cat. Perhaps it’s because Teri is the avatar of Wacky Hijinks, a trope given flesh and fur. Or maybe it’s because for all the times we’ve seen this furry menace, he’s used as comic relief in a comedy. There’s been no real chance to see any actual character development for Teri… something this latest story is changing with Teri ending up loose (and lost) in town.
This latest comic caused something to click in my mind, making me realize that this feline isn’t just a source of stupidity and idiocy, but is something more. He’s an evolution of sorts for a traditional trope, a shift from the talking animal to a more human animal. Whether Teri actually has ADHD and other mental issues, or is just a victim of wacky hijinks remains to be seen… but for once, Teri’s actually making the comic interesting to read.