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Anonymous D.'s Anime Character Maker 2.2: To Squee or Not to Squee?
A fan of Japanese animation, are you? If so, then you should be no stranger to avatar makers that can anime-fy your likeness. Anonymous D.'s Anime Character Maker 2.2 can do just that, albeit a few design dilemmas that may cause a few sweat drops or popped veins.
As stated in the FAQ, Anime Character Maker is designed to be a light weight, character generator. As such, it does forego the usual fancy splash screens and background music commonly found in avatar programs. With this tool, you will be able to customize 3/4s of a character portrait, at an angle. That means that you will have to pass up on shoe choices, but will at least enjoy a bit more detail thanks to the zoomed view.
Making Your Own Image
Regardless if you are aiming to make a male or a female character, this avatar creator is packed with a number of customization sets. Below each category is a color bar which allows you to pick the hue of that particular element. To the left of a set's label is a reset button so you can start over for each category. Beside that is a random button, which is handy if you feel like experimenting or are not after any style in particular. In case you are not happy with the available color options, the random button also generates hues which are not selectable outright. This means that you will have to reroll until you find that particular shade of green or red.
Plenty of Elements
While most of the elements are self explanatory, there are some that are easily missed. For example, without taking the time to scan the layout, it would be easy to miss the miniscule gender selector at the bottom of the page. Upon first glance, first time users may mistake Anime Character Maker for a female only design tool.
Aside from the obvious differences, there are two additional categories added when you switch to the male character creator. The first is the Brows selector which gives you the freedom to choose from 10 variants. Want to play it safe? Go for Thin Brows. Or, go for broke with the Unibrow option (you know, those characters that seem to have that one really long brow -as opposed to having two separate brows). Either way, we found it a bit strange that this option was restricted to male characters only. As a result, female avatars rely heavily on mouth and eye options to alter their expressions.
Another male only category is the Facial Hair selector. Sorry fem-stache advocates, you will have to settle for women who have no facial hair (while that is normally a good thing, in cases like this, having options is always better). At any rate, the choices are decent, but safe. The variety lacks extremes such as super short morning stubbles or outrageously long kung-fu beards.
For the most part, choices for the Ears, Nose and Mouth are the same for both genders. Ear options range from the standard Exposed or Covered looks to anime favorites such as the Webbed, Robot and Highelf variants. In terms of your character's mouth, there are a few cute choices such as the cheeky Raspberry, Fangs which give you a prominent canine ala Ranma 1/2 's Ryoga Hibiki and the literal "~~~" expression. Aside from the No Nose option remniscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, there is really nothing much that stands out in terms of Nose choices. Well, unless you count the dirty looking freckles which look to have been drawn using Paint's Airbrush feature. Also, there is no option to adjust nose positions so it could be a bit tricky when aiming to copy someone's likeness.
Altering your character's skin is just a matter of choosing a hue from the color bar and clicking left or right to determine how dark or light you want it to be. What we noticed right off the bat was the fact that changing colors for elements also alters the hues of related text labels. This means that going for a darker skin color produces some unreadable labels. While the issue is minor, it is still somewhat bothersome considering the fact that it could have been easily remedied.
It All Starts With the Face
The Eye set varies depending on the gender of your character. Puzzled Eyes and Bright Eyes are restricted to female characters while the XD and No Irises are restricted to males. Surprisingly, the Cyclops eye is readily available for both in case you are after a villainous looking creature. The choices are quite limited in this department, especially considering the fact that female creations do not get very many ways to alter their expressions.
Hair choices on the other hand are plentiful and are divided into two categories. Hair basically refers to your character's main style and Hair Ext refers to additional ponytails, Hair Antennae and extra puffy hair to add to your base. For guys, there are 38 base variants including the True Bowl Cut, Hero Spike Hair and Looong Hair among others. Female characters get more options at 44 variants. This includes a demure Dignified Hair, wild Koosh Ball Hair and wavy Retro Hair. We appreciate the fact that hair extensions such as the Longer Hair and Long Pigtails go to the extremes, in true anime fashion of course.
You are What You Wear: Learn to Accessorize!
In terms of outfits, the pickings are also on the slim side. Of course, you may simply mix and match from the Shirt, Coat/Back, Body and Shoulder categories, but a lot of the choices result in, well, fashion disasters. Like for example, pairing the default coat with a Chain Mail will result in a floating mesh suit. Want to give your mecha girl some knight armor? Sadly, picking the Mech Hands and Buckler at the same time will make your creation's hand look severed. The problem is that there is no way to arrange which item goes underneath a certain graphic or to even make slight adjustments in terms of an accessory's position. At the very least this hides some nice shirt details, at worse it means that combinations look odd and, well, painful.
That aside, there are a few nice options to choose from such as the Old Cowl and Cybernetic Wrist. Also, stereotypical Flaming Hands and Bandaged Hands are included in the mix. If you prefer medieval character types, the Body category is full of armor to match with Shoulder guards. Actually, the only non-defense accessory in the latter is the Armband so you have 9 shoulder armor pieces in total.
If you prefer modern frills, you can check out the Neckwear, Earrings, Outer Accessories, Facewear, Headwear and Waist categories. Aside from your basic Necktie, there are signature extras such as the Nekomimi ears, Monocle and Smiley Pin. Our favorite is the Insomniac eye bags available for both guys and gals. Your creation won't resemble Death Note's L by a long shot but it certainly gives attitude.
Again, the placement issue rears its head with regards to these accessory sets. Some Headwear options look pasted on top of hair --the Wind Hair, Baseball Cap combo is guilty of this. The Satchel and Side Bag look odd when matched with the default Coat/Back. It would have been great if there was a way to raise the headwear a bit or to choose from a few default positions for the accessories.
Most weapons seem to be better off in terms of position. Male characters hold the large Warglaive without a problem and the Sword rests nicely on the hip of female creations. The only concern here is that for those using a guy avatar, the thumb is cut off, which is good news for those who want weapons with handles such as the Beam Saber but bad for those going for a Whip or something thin like a Staff.
The Other category gives you the chance to add that extra special something to your creation. We consider this the most interesting add-on set out of the bunch because it gives you the chance to use quirky accents such as the Robo Pet, Power-up! aura and Alien Claws in addition to your average Bat Wings and Angel Wings. Being the last customization set to scan, this should top off your creation nicely.
The graphics for Anime Character Maker do not stand out in any way but are not unbearably terrible either. Vaguely resembling something straight out of a How to Draw Manga book, it is possible to make a decent character using the tool. We appreciated the fact that the colors vary in tones, so things do not look overly drab. What we found to be an issue was the fact that a few proportions look off, such as the DSLR Camera accessory which looks too miniscule or the face shrinking Helmet.
The interface of the tool is straightforward but a bit cramped due to the fact that everything is arranged in a single page. As mentioned before, there are elements which are easily missed because of the icon size, placement or labeling. For instance, the R2 button is pushed outside the tool's border. Since there is no indication that it randomizes a character, people may press it unwittingly, resulting in a loss of their creation. Also, it looks out of place in relation to the other randomize and reset buttons. The font choices are also a zany mix, which do not improve the tool's overall design. Surely, a few considerate tweaks could have gone a long way.
If you appreciate anime aesthetics and are not too nitpicky, then Anonymous D.'s Anime Character Maker 2.2 may be a useful design tool for you. If you are an artist who already has a preferred drawing style and are not too keen about odd-looking proportions or oddly positioned accessories, you may want to give this a pass. Kids, budding anime artists and sketch wary table top RPG dungeon masters are the ones who will most likely benefit from this type of tool.
According to the FAQ, creations are free to use as long as there are no profits to be made. This makes it handy for those who are after avatars for social sites or forums as well. If you are after just that, just be aware that you will have to manually screen cap and crop your characters in another program because there is no saving feature implemented in this version of the tool.
If you can get past its quirks, there are plenty of combinations you can come up with. The character creator works best for those who are just looking for a little inspirational jumpstart but are willing to polish up the rest on their own. Anonymous D's Anime Character Maker is great way to play around using your own creativity and love for the genre. With the game's easy to use interface and plenty of choices, getting the end result you want is all a matter of enjoying the title for a few good minutes. We give this game a green haired, fang-toting anime avatar's 82/100.