Back to School

“There is an old saying about school, “Better an hour of class than being completely derived of sleep.”

Miku is quite excited to start a new year of education. To be fair we all once were, until we realized that now we have to get up this early in the morning each day.

About the figure:

This is one of those seasonal-themed Miku prize figures from Taito. In the year 2018 it was a really nice model, especially for its price point. As a photographer a prize figure like this one is a really good investment, I think. Not only are those cheaper versions more durable and rugged and therefore great for sessions on the go, but they also got this smaller scale. Big 1/7 scale figures are great, until you realize that the props you must build are also having to be massive in size.

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Today and even back then Taito is known as a top-tier manufacturer of, especially prize figures. But I would lie if I say that the craftsmanship of little Miku here is flawless. There are hefty seamlines on all of her limbs that look especially unfavorable where there is this bracelet on her left arm. Of course, in a photo you can always erase those flaws. Her outfit is very cute but not over the top, so that it can still fit in a casual setting like this and also the translucent tips of her pigtails are a nice touch.

About the character:

I really did not plan to shoot/finish this project around Miku’s birthday aka her 15th Anniversary, but here we are. And wouldn’t you know it, the earliest pictures of mine I could date back successfully were from around 2007. Meaning that Miku’s career as a digital diva and mine as a figure photographer started off at the same time in history. And even though the first Miku figures were released shortly after, it took me another ten years to finally have a project that features her. It was also one of the first blog entries on this site and therefore one of the first projects under the Moe University banner.

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MyFigureCollection is currently listing well above 1400 individual Miku figures. A number that is unrivaled even by super popular characters like Rem or Rei/Asuka and even after almost two decades there is no sign of a slowdown. Interestingly, a few weeks ago I had a discussion with an old friend of mine about all those newly released VTuber figures.

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My argument was that the people that are now getting crazy FOMO about things like the Gura Nendo or the Houshou Pop Up should relax a bit, since with characters that popular there will be much more ornate and interesting releases over time. But he, who is following the scene quite a bit replied that, since Vtubers are basically just normal idols with a graphic filter, they might have a much shorter “live span”, than a character that is purely fictional and the head canon of a company/fanbase. And to be honest, that’s a valid point. So maybe, despite the current popularity of Hololive or VShojo, maybe Miku is destined to outlive them all.

Thoughts about the picture:

While I had to wait for good shooting conditions outside to finish off my previous project, I already started working on the props for this one. For some reason I had the strong urge to include a miniature vending machine into this composition, therefore a bus-stop setting seemed logical. Luckily, I found this website that lists a bunch of measurements and blueprints for everyday real-life objects. The body of the vending machine is just strong cardboard coated with some sort of frosted tinfoil. This technique yielded surprisingly good-looking results, that I decided to craft the whole bus station with the same materials. Of course, wrapping all the corners and edges of this more complex build was somewhat time-consuming but the I guess the alternative would have been to paint it all flat sliver.

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The inside of the vending machine as well as the billboard lights up. Since nearly all of my builds get demolished at some point, I just used a string of tiny lights and a thin piece of Styrofoam in order to achieve this indirect lighting.

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And as per usual the most nerve-wracking part of the whole build in terms of stability, the “glass” ceiling of the station is not even visible in the final picture. Nevertheless, I was able to mount some small selfie lights onto it, to cast some more artificial light into the scene. Originally, I wanted to add some regular streetlamps, but I was short on time and materials for something that would only be banished to the border of the frame. Instead, this honor goes to the barely visible bus-stop sign.

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The base is basically a smaller and cleaner version of the crosswalk I build for the Panzer Dragoon picture. Painting those thin Styrofoam plates used by architects gives up a really nice concrete or asphalt look and it’s super easy to work with. To my honest surprise I also found an unused grid of decorative tiles in my storage. So, I was able to structure the floor of the station a bit more varied.

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After shooting my last picture outside went so well, I briefly thought about doing the same here but ultimately, I decided against it. I wanted to have some sort of city or sub-urban background motive. but I’m always hesitant to use pictures from the internet in my work, even the ones with a creative commons license. Instead, I put some plants in the background and simulated a sunrise with a round desk lamp (you know the famous one from IKEA).

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Sony Alpha 7R II, 55mm Sony lens / ISO 100 /exposure time 0.8 sec. /aperture: f/8.0

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Time and effort: This was a nice mid-sized build that would also make a nice permanent decoration. The most time-consuming part was without a doubt coating and gluing the station together. The tinfoil finish in combination with acrylic glass looks great but is a pain in the ass when you try apply glue to it. 

Costs

Costs of the props: Another cheap one! (Did you see the costs of living lately?) Although I used a few pieces of acrylic glass for the station and the snack machine those were originally bought for another reason. I also had to restock a few basic materials but the whole setup did not cost me more than 20-30 bucks.  

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