Yuki Terai: Secret Live (Japan 2000)

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

Another collection of animated shorts featuring Japanese virtual idol Yuki Terai, but unfortunately it's not nearly as interesting as "Secret Films" (2000). It also features the same lame bonus clip as "Secret Films", so there are really only three original pieces in the collection. The first chapter, "Fly Away Home", is easily the best, which features Yuki as a lounge singer for a smooth jazz band. Yuki is very cute and her flowing dress is amazing to watch, but the most remarkable feature is that the lip-synching is spot-on and totally convincing. Very impressive. Unfortunately, like most virtual characters, her biggest problem is that she doesn't interact with the floor very well, and appears to be hovering and sliding slightly above it. She also doesn't cast a shadow, but that's not particularly distracting. The second chapter is a well rendered story about Yuki and her totally annoying virtual pet, DOS/Chin. I guess it only makes sense for a virtual idol to have a virtual pet... Anyway, DOS/Chin is a robotic dog who is constantly getting into trouble. After Yuki scolds him for destroying a drawing she was working on, he runs away from home and gets hit by a car. Charming. The final chapter is a moody and contemplative piece called "A Life", where Yuki dresses up in a fancy evening gown and then proceeds to commit suicide. Lovely. While I really like the theme of the story, the execution is rather lacking and the rendering is not particularly attractive. The motion capture is jittery, Yuki suffers from major seam line issues, and her interactions with physical objects are jarring and unconvincing.

Overall, the animation is quite good and the various takes on the character are fascinating to watch. Not only are they technical showcases, but they also provide emotional depth and personality to the adorable collection of polygons known as Yuki Terai.