Dancing Queen Featuring Yuki Terai (Japan 2000)

Rating: **
Review Date: 4/23/06

This is an interesting title featuring Japanese virtual idol Yuki Terai as the host of a virtual dance club. The video starts off on a bad foot with Yuki and two backup dancers dancing in front of a video screen for almost ten minutes. The monotony of it all is hard to stomach. And then at the end of the video, you get to see her dance to all of the songs AGAIN as she teaches you the moves that she's doing. While the motion capture and rendering are quite good, Yuki is completely free of emotion and expression, apart from occasional eye blinks. She has about as much personality as a storefront mannequin. The stage that she dances on is minimal and very boring. You pretty much see all that the video has to offer within the first twenty seconds, and then it becomes tedious.

However, things start to get interesting after this mind-numbing intro sequence when the show turns into a dance contest featuring eight other virtual dancers. Hitomi is by far the best looking one of the bunch, and her hair physics and facial features are superb. Most of the time she has a frozen expression and fake smile, but occasionally her face comes alive with a surprisingly effective burst of emotion. Very impressive work. While the other models aren't as interesting, they all feature notable effects in regards to hair, fabric, and movement. One of them even incorporates some gratuitous and overly enthusiastic breast jiggling physics. While the animation and rendering is quite good (and far better than I could ever hope to do), there are noticeable problems with motion blur, collision and clipping, and surface interaction. The songs are all cheezy Japanese techno pop tunes that are instantly forgettable.

After the virtual dancers leave the stage, we're treated to an interesting animation tutorial that highlights 3D Studio Max, Lightwave 3D, Adobe After Effects, and Sasquatch. The English subtitles are laughably bad, which such delightful goofs as "poop dance" and "gross lips" (lip gloss). Curiously, even though Yuki says "animation", it's translated as "comic movement."

I find this video very interesting on a cultural and psychological level. I'm watching virtual computer animated constructs trying to mimic young girls at dance clubs - how bizarre is that? And stranger still, why does this animation exist? Is it simply to show off technology, or is there some deeper attraction and sexual frustration associated with it? Has technology evolved to the point where we don't even fantasize about real people, and we ironically struggle to achieve a perfect and ideal simulation of reality? If you're an animation student or just like animation, "Dancing Queen" is definitely worth checking out. Likewise, if you like watching women dance, but real girls make you nervous and uncomfortable, then this video provides a safe outlet for that as well (albeit with its own brand of creepiness).