June 24, 2010

Spontaneous Otakulture 4 - MikuMikuDance & Fireball

Computer Graphic [CG] animations have a history of being heavily underestimated in mainstream otaku culture. Once a glossy computerized race car or giant mech is spotted, trying to deceptively blend in with hand drawn anime, most people usually stop watching the show. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Initial D or Studio Gonzo, but this is the wrong post to discuss that debate.

Anyway, there are also areas of the internet hiding amazing CG of undeniable win. Thus bringing us to another educational, informational, entertational~

Spontaneous Otakulture 4 - MikuMikuDance & Fireball

Created by the Vocaloid Production Video Project [VPVP], MikuMikuDance [MMD] is quite possibly the easiest 3D animation rendering freeware available. This nifty program allows the somewhat above average schmo [like you!] to bring Hatsune Miku, the Vocaloid cast, and just about any variation of any 3D character to life! This program has recently been translated into english and can be downloaded from the VPVP site here.

Before this program, Vocaloid MVs were only made of fan-drawn images sewn together to form a story. This made for some very creative portrayals, but with MMD stories have both a newer, fuller dimension and more space for creative expression. Like Vocaloid composing software, the best part about MMD is how it's entirely reliant on the user community. They use MMD to make everything from choreographed dances, entertaining Vocaloid "dramas" that play out like anime episodes, and even their own personal Vocaloid designs! The potential of MMD is in the vast library of backgrounds, props and characters.

I don't know much about the actual interface and usage of MMD, but actually creating cool-looking videos from MMD seems to be of moderate-high difficulty. Let's just say there's "skeleton manipulation" involved. Lots of it. But if you have patience, a love of Vocaloids, and a load of time then you have what it takes to make awesome videos! Check these ones out then give it a go yourself!

[If Vocaloid were a 3DCG anime, this opening sequence would ROCK]

[Miku and Yowane Haku put on a "stereotypical" comedy act. It's somehow cuter than Jinnai Tomonori, wonder why]

What do America-based studio Disney and Japan-based studio Toei Animation have in common? Nothing before the release of "Fireball," a series of 3DCG "anime" shorts on Japan's Disney Channel. It may just be the otaku in me talking, but an anime studio on mainstream Disney? I think Japan has the right idea.

"Fireball" is about Drossel von Flugel, a prissy gynoid [female android] and her dedicaterd servant [also a robot] Gedachtnis as they survive in the 49th millennium of existence living in a huge manor. Each episode is roughly 2 minutes and depicts a random day in their life, with activities ranging from fixing a power outage to discussing the state of humanity in their "current" time.

[Can you believe these guys have the upper hand over us...?]

"Fireball" is so many things but it is primarily hilarious. Tongue-in-cheek, rapid fire, sometimes complex humor is abound in every nook and cranny. Because the protagonists are robots, their speech patterns are strange and they answer each other's questions almost before they're asked. Drossel's personality is... unique to say the least, while Gedachtnis plays the somewhat "straight-and-narrow" role and tries to cope with the manor's mistress, usually to little effect.

"That's cool and all but it sounds like another stupid Pixar thing."

Safe assumption, wrong conclusion. While the show does have a vague [let me repeat, VAGUE] Disney feel to it, in the end it really does feel more like an anime. The show is rife with Japanese humor and wordplay, but not too much. While each episode's plot is fluffy and humorous, there are occasional philosophical references and holistically the story is really very dour. Drossel's father seems to be deceased [which leaves her in charge of the manor], humans seem to have a status below dolphins in intelligence, and tidings of war seems to loom over Drossel's manor daily.

In the end "Fireball," while short and nonsensical at times, is a nice little endearing show that is always fun to look back on. If you've never seen it, watch it! Highly recommended!

[While Youtube does have plenty of the episodes, a torrent for the whole series can be found HERE (Fansubbed by DATS). Remember to support the official release! (If it ever comes...)]

[edit: We uploaded the missing episodes to our channel so check it out here (episode 12) and here (episode 13) - Deretsun]

Here ends the fourth edition of Spontaneous Otakulture. Hopefully you've learned something new, or were able to relate with a smile. Keep walking the path of the Otaku, and the rewards will be plentiful. Probably.


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The Otaku Reviewers

This blog, "The Otaku Reviewers", was started in February of 2010 on this very same platform, Blogger. At first, it was a venture into the informational and informal world of comics, anime, video games, and Japanese culture. In other words, just a random blog.

Over time, the founder of the blog credited with the pseudonym "RPGhero" was joined by two fellow bloggers and friends with the names "Chansu" and "Deretsun". Together the three bloggers looked up interesting Japanese culture facts, recommended new anime, talked about their own "otaku" interests, and traveled across the United States to various anime conventions.

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