The Best VR Anime/Animations You Must Watch
Virtual reality (VR) is still a relatively new technology; because of that developers are still trying to figure out what to best spend their time creating. From childhood through the teenage years and even into adulthood, people from around the world love the endearing qualities of anime and animation, this fact paired with the almost limitless potential to grow a world within the VR space make VR animation, especially 360 VR videos the best choice for many creators. Some of the amazing creators for Veer have published 360 VR animated video, such as Dream Collector, Invasion, Bounty Maid, Jack of All Trades- The Butcher, and Asteroids.
For many people, the allure of virtual reality is the departure from the physical world and the entrance into another more fantastic place. VR games, VR chats, VR photos, and VR videos all give people the opportunity to explore the imagination and ingenuity of creator’s minds. This is especially true for VR anime and VR animation; creators must make another universe out of nothing if they want their creation to be compelling. Breathtaking landscapes, beautiful VR girls, hilarious storylines can all be conjured straight from the mind. In light of this fact, this article will look at the best VR anime that is available and the best VR animations that are available on our very own website!
To start off, it is important to define what makes ‘the best’ VR animation. When considering what would make this list, the categories of: animation quality, storyline, humor, emotion evoked, and language were all used as metrics. The last one, language, might sound a little strange, but in reality, makes total sense. Veer is an international company with contributors and users from around the world, because of this, not everyone speaks the same language and not at the same level. So, in this context language means “can the viewer understand the sentiment and meaning of the video regardless of the language”. Also, don’t forget that these ‘rankings’ are personal opinion and may differ from person to person!
‘Asteroids’, looks like something straight out of a Disney. That isn’t just hyperbole either, Eric Darnell, the founder of Baobab Studios directed all 4 of the Madagascar movies! The short film takes place in outer-space but within the spaceship of two aliens. As they navigate an ‘attack’ from other alien lifeforms and the dangers of asteroids they are constantly side-by-side laughing, dancing, crying and surviving together with their robot helper. The short finds its endearing qualities in the humor that is derived from the situations within the storyline, how the three partners communicate, and the very real human emotions of sorrow, happiness, and panic, that they feel throughout the duration of the video. The viewer takes a passive role and must look around to explore. As the events unfold, the frame and therefore the position of the viewer changes giving a fresh perspective and much-needed change of scenery. Although it is impossible for English speakers to understand what the aliens are saying, it is incredibly easy to understand what they mean because of a combination of tonality, body language, sense of urgency, and situational context. The overall quality of Asteroids is so high that it is no wonder it was an official 2017 Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival selection!
When the viewer puts on their headset, they are teleported in front of the counter in a butcher shop where the butcher is trying to prepare a still living rabbit for sale. While the animation of the butcher and rabbit are top quality, if the viewer looks around they will see a group of people standing behind the position of their VR headset. The first thing they will notice is that the others in the butcher store are 2D and made by coloring people onto virtual cardboard. While this sounds odd, it is a device used to help keep the VR user-oriented towards the butcher and the rabbit, while also giving a sense of fullness to the butcher store. For a little over two minutes, the rabbit does its best to resist being chopped up and sold by the butcher, and eventually starts fighting back in a comedic Tom and Jerry-esc way. When all is said and done the cartoonish style of the VR animation paired with the graphic nature of chopping up a bunny make this video appealing for audiences both young and old!
A little bit more thrilling than the previous two VR animations, ‘Bounty Maid’, takes the audience on a nail-biting adventure through a jungle. The film opens by following a creature that seems to be massive, pushing plants out-of-the-way for it to walk while the camera follows behind it. When the perspective of the viewer zooms out it is revealed that the creature is tiny, and only comes up to the ankle of the main character of the film, a beautiful anime girl. There is a deep roar heard in the jungle and suddenly a massive, multi-eyed beast chases the main character through the jungle, grabbing at her the whole time it is in pursuit. The storyline and the portrayal of size within the film are magnificent, the audience’s emotions and the amount of concern felt for the main character are manipulated by how zoomed in or zoomed out the audience’s perspective is. One of the main reasons why Bounty Maid isn’t ranked high is because of the quality of animation. While the bounty maid is a pretty anime girl, the film follows her through a jungle and her jumping, running, ducking, dodging, high-flying acrobatics to ensure her safety. The part that really wins points for this film is the realness of movements at such high-speed and while doing such complicated maneuvers, out of all of the VR anime and VR animations in this article, it took the most risks trying to showcase human movement- and the risks paid off!
The next VR animation video was also developed by Baobab Studios. Titled ‘Invasion!’, it follows the story of the two aliens from ‘Asteroids’ as they try to invade a planet that looks like earth. The style of ‘Invasion’ is much like ‘Asteroids’, filled with humor, amazing animation, audience perspective changing with the scene, but has the added characteristic of dramatic irony. When the film first starts, the alien invaders are flying down to earth. The perspective of the audience then lowers itself from outer space down onto a frozen lake where a rabbit appears. The cute bunny hero runs out to the middle of the lake, dodges an eagle looking for its prey, and watches as a large spaceship comes down to hover above the frozen surface of the water. Two aliens come out of the ship and are outsmarted by the rabbit in comically genius ways before they call it quits and decide to head back to the safety of space. The creators of ‘Invasion’ said they drew inspiration from ‘War of the Worlds’, a movie in which aliens come down to conquer earth but are thwarted by bacteria- the primitive, cute rabbit thwarted off technologically advanced aliens and saved the world.
The last selection for the best VR animation list is a film called ‘The Dream Collector’ by Pinta Studios. The story follows an old man and his dog who live in a junkyard. When people give up and abandon their dreams, the two go and find them, repair the dreams, then return the dreams to the people who abandoned them in the first place. The storytelling style, animation quality, easily understood language, storyline, and emotions evoked rank ‘The Dream Collector’ among the best VR animations available to-date. When the film first starts only a portion of a road is visible and it is completely surrounded by darkness. Seemingly out of nowhere a car appears and a young man throws his guitar into the dark abyss before driving off. In the next scene, the old man and his dog find the abandoned dream, fix it into a ukulele, and day in and day out continue finding more dreams to mend. The development team at Pinta Studios did a fantastic job at creating an intimate feeling in confined spaces and also by creating a larger world without the audience getting distracted or lost. In a larger setting, if there was something important to the story the background would be blacked out and only the main focus of the scene would remain, leaving no mistake as to the direction of the storyline. Next, the dog would help the man find abandoned dreams and also give him encouragement, they both communicated strictly by sound- no words. Besides the overall production quality, the most striking part of the film is the ending, when the old man turns into Santa and the dog into a reindeer. He then lifts the ukulele to a little girl, and when her father walks in it is the young man who abandoned his dream all those years ago; he can now pass down his love of music to his daughter while at the same time rediscovering it.
Currently in the anime sphere, there is no shortage of anime girls. However, for the anime that was selected to be turned into VR video developers chose to go with titles with a broader fan base and more appeal. Some of the heavy hitters developers invested their time in include: Tales of Wedding Rings, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle.
The first anime and the only anime to be made into a full VR experience is Tales of Wedding Rings. A few months back, Square Enix released Tales of Wedding Rings VR, for Oculus Rift. While the story between Satou and Hime have remained the same, the medium in which the story is told has changed in an exciting new way, while remaining familiar. Scott Hayden described Square Enix’s style best when he said:
“Cast in the iconic monochrome tone familiar to manga fans, you’ll follow Satou as he traverses fully realized 3D environments and makes the difficult decision to give into his unrequited [love] for Hime—all shot through what Square Enix calls a ‘LiveWindow’ which takes the standard static manga frame shots and pushes it to its logical extreme with its sweeping camera shots, closeups, and 360 environments that envelope the user so you experience the story in the first person.”
While the design team solved their first problem, how to turn a manga into a VR anime, they still wanted to remain as true to the original source material as possible as to not alienate fans of the original. They did this by including text bubbles in either Japanese or English and also by recording original sounds and sound effects. While it is one of the first of its kind to transform 2D traditional manga into anime, Tales of Wedding Rings has set the standard high for others wanting to venture into VR anime!
Tales of Wedding Rings
For those anime fans out there that enjoy the classics, it is now possible to explore scenes of their favorite anime in VR using either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headsets! Designer Nick Pittom and the development studio Red Paw released a VR demo package that allows VR anime fans and VR users to famous titles: Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle, all of which were released by Studio Ghibli. Only in My Neighbor Totoro is it possible for the user to interact and play an active role in the scene, giving an umbrella to Totoro and receiving a package of seeds in return, just like the main character Satsuki does in the film version. In the scene from Spirited Away users are able to observe the Kamaji’s boiler room, while in Howl’s Moving Castle they can watch the castle walk along a grassy hill. While many users have spoken out about how much they loved these scenes, there are no plans currently to develop any of the anime further. Nick Pittom even went so far as to say these scenes were just to see the capabilities of VR anime and that there are no plans to develop anything except original content in the future.
Amazing VR Video
There is so much amazing VR video content on veer it is difficult to make a ‘best list’ without excluding a lot of really solid videos. Most of the videos on this list have won awards and have participated in major international VR or film festivals. We here at Veer encourage you to explore more animated VR videos and the rest of the website as a whole. Here are some more animated VR video suggestions to get you pointed in the right direction!
Free Whale: Free Whale VR animation
Rags: Rags VR animation
Om Nom: Om Nom VR animation
Caminades VR Demo: Caminades VR Demo animation
Other Worldly Theme Ride: Other Worldly Theme Ride VR animation
An American Veer contributer from Philadelphia, I moved to Beijing to continue learning Mandarin and to start my career. Before working for Veer, I first tried VR through video games and then VR chat. Now, I’m interested in VR 360 video and VR’s educational applications. Beyond the world of virtual reality, I love hiking, playing soccer, and sharing beers with friends!