The Future Is 2.5D

Remembering Anime Boston, I thought about 2.5D. I think the context the term was used in was for Momoi’s Afilia Saga East–she’s a producer for them–a group of Akiba idols associated with the similarly named maid cafe chain. The term came up during a question at Momoi’s fan panel related to the subgenrification [btw, google result of this made-up word makes a good list of wank blogs] of otaku in Japan–I think they would have it way worse than oversea otaku, and they probably are. There are idol otaku and there are anime otaku, very different groups of people who like very different things even when from afar, they are not really that different. Among others.

Thinking about some of the fans I personally know, to put stress on the term fan (I think it best describes most of these people), it really is the case where people are fans of a lot of the same things, but for different reasons. I’m not sure if that is because of the media mix case or what, but this sludge of … things that are attractive do bridge both 2D and 3D fans, otaku, scholars, shopkeepers, other sub-genres, what have you.

I think what is more interesting about 2.5D is that there is a distinct expression for it. Seiyuu. Hatsune Miku. ClariS. AKB0048. All of these things are examples of 2.5D.

To take a big step back, the term 2.5D really comes about when we look at the otaku who likes their 2D–slang for anime/manga/game characters. Those moe figures and hugpillows, that’s a stable expression of 2D. You can shout “ore no yome” for both 2D and 3D characters, but the latter will get you more weird looks than the former, I think. As for 3D, it generally refers to real life persons, or specifically idols for idol otaku–people who like AKB48 or one of the many. They have their own code and things to do, depending on which agency they (idols and fan alike) are slaved to. Of course 3D fandom has been in development for a much longer period than 2D, so it’s a convoluted thing to sort through so I won’t really try to here. It’s when 2D collides with 3D that you get this strange 2.5D effect.

In other words, when 2D wants to do 3D, it’s 2.5D. When 3D tries to be 2D, it’s 2.5D.

Like every other otaku term that’s been around, it’s not exactly easy to define or even pin down. I think 2.5D is most akin to a feeling where there’s some kind of gap that is being broached. It’s probably vaguely related to concepts like “uncanny valley” and “AI” and “meme” and things like that, because undead Tupac is a very apt expression of 2.5D. On the other hand when you have physical manifestation of 2D (hug pillows, figures, etc) or when the 2D slots into a perfectly 3D role (eg., a virtual idol), that’s 2.5D. Actually anime is inherently 2.5D.

The bigger generalization I want to state is that 2D is limited to ideas, where as 3D is manifestation thereof. Most Japanese idols are pretty much just girls who are produced to project some kind of persona, an image. As mentioned before it is no less artificial than Hatsune Miku in a lot of ways, certainly in the ways fans interact with idols. On the other hand when your average Precure kigurumi stage show happens at an amusement park, well, that’s a real-life manifestation of cartoons.

Somehow we are infatuated when this crossover behavior happens. I don’t really know why, but I can make a few guesses. And by we I mean people like myself.

There are many other advantages too. 2.5D naturally lends itself to better marketing. It’s easy to photocopy some ads or post on facebook an idea, and image, a persona; to win fans with your 3D personality require the person being all over the place, or expensive TV broadcasting. Neither replaces the other but you need to leverage both the 2D or 3D along with the 2.5. It’s great to have a manga with a good story and great art and an eye for what makes for great manga material, but it probably will always be more popular if the anime adaptation turned out to be a blockbuster. The examples of 2.5D’s benefits are countless.

The best example, to go back to Tupac, is that ideas live forever, theoretically. Much longer than life + 70 years. Even if the 3D component is six feet under, 2D and 2.5D will live on as long as there’s enough interests in it. That alone almost guarantees that the future is 2.5D. Wait until hologram technology breaks the gates of Hades wide open–big enough for Biggie to join the chorus!

5 Responses to “The Future Is 2.5D”

  • Shance

    I think your post did more justice to one I wrote in the past, which tackled only one possible way to achieve the 2.5D effect: The Internet.

    And I totally agree with this post. Our cravings, combined with the technology that we have today, can spawn an instance of things that we want, from holograms to character-themed onaholes (pardon for the kinky example, I meant to give an example of extremes of such instances). These things then give us a feeling of satisfaction (from creating it) and admiration (for those who have seen it for the first time and were amazed by it).

    I preferred using the word “cravings” more than the word “ideas” for this post mainly because our impulses drive us to concoct ideas that can spawn such things. I hope I wasn’t too intrusive to the post as much I already did.

  • omo

    That set of posts (yours and 2DTs and Rainbowsphere’s) examine more about the detail mechanism. The internet is kind of a vague thing in that you could say it’s more about immersion and interactivity. Ultimately 2/3/2.5 is all something more of a psychology than something real, and coming from the context of producing an idol group, it’s about how to engage people in a way that trigger those reactions.

    Thanks for bringing them up though, because I forgot about them.

  • Vendredi

    “On the other hand when you have physical manifestation of 2D (hug pillows, figures, etc) or when the 2D slots into a perfectly 3D role (eg., a virtual idol), that’s 2.5D.”

    It strikes me that the real differentiating factor here is “conscious artifice”, in the sense that, when we watch a “3D” movie, we consider it that way because everything is played straight – we know somewhere in the back of our heads that what we see on screen is not real, but the directors try very hard to give everything the appearance of reality.

    On the flip side, the whole point to the sort of 2.5d media examples you articulate seems to be that the director/writer/producer is almost winking at the audience and saying “look at how cunningly crafted this artifice is”, in a way.

    And I think this plays into anime in general. To borrow some currently airing examples – take Sakamichi no Apollon, which tries to present itself very straight, and very real. On the other hand, you have something like Tsuritama which shows a very conscious level of artificiality.

  • omo

    That’s one possible expression of it, I think the artifice is expressed in a way where it is the thing you enjoy. I brought up the uncanny valley in the post as an example where this artifice is repulsive. It’s basically that idea but actually capitalized in some way where it is attractive.

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