How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the A.I.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I went from being a casual collector, to fully obsessed with acquiring as many Oekaki Maker NFTs as possible, but I do recall the moment that I laid eyes on one of the early Oekaki generations. The feeling invoked in me could be described in one word: Moe.
But before we start tumbling down that winding rabbit hole, it will probably be a good idea to talk about their creation.
The A.I. Question
Oekaki Maker is a collection of “Neo-chibi aesthetic enthusiast network cohesion lainpilled artisanal AI generative synthesis NFTs.”
Oekakis are chibis drenched in anime and internet culture references, styled to appear as if they had been rendered using an Oekaki board’s drawing app…and they were created with the assistance of AI. With “AI art” still being a very heated topic, addressing its use is unavoidable. As an artist myself I’m not free of concerns about what image-generating AI’s will mean for art as a profession in the future, but my love for Oekakis leading me to learn a little about the process behind their creation, showed me that it isn’t a zero sum situation: There are other possibilities.
If you’re someone that’s also on the fence about AI-generated images, but you're already here, reading about NFTs, then it means you survived the previous moral panic that gripped the online art scene. If the hysteria then was overblown, could it be the same here?
To produce the Oekakis we know and love today, each trait in the collection was hand drawn, their parts combined into complete images, and then the AI came last, essentially as a filter, to give them their finalized appearance. (This is my limited understanding as a fan. I’m looking forward to the Oekaki team’s own write up about the creative process!)
A quirk of early AI-generated imagery that made it easy to detect were those unintended artifacts that would appear in some places (melting irises, extra appendages, random distortions). I believe it was that unpredictability that the Oekaki team harnessed to give every trait in the collection a Mercurial quality, evidence of the touch of the Network Spirits.
Where one would expect a specific trait to look exactly the same across a collection, the process they used gave each Oekaki a unique look. One of my favorite examples of how wild a trait can vary is the Flower Dress, shown above. Part of the fun of Oekaki Maker is the sense of discovery that this aspect leads to. It’s almost been a year since I began collecting Oekakis and I still find something new every day!
Image generating AI’s have made major leaps in progress this past year, but I believe the biggest difference will come when people truly tap into what’s possible, and create a space where man and machine can really co-exist. Oekakis are a glimpse of that.
Tomes could be filled with all that I could say about “AI art”, but I’ll leave this as my 2 cents for now. Let’s get back to the Oekakis!
Moe is a Japanese term, and while there’s a lot of debate about its meaning and usage among otakus, a commonly accepted definition is that it is the sensation felt when you witness a character that’s so endearingly cute that you just feel a need to hug them, squeeze them, and protect them from anyone that may cause them harm. This feeling is part of what’s at the heart of my love for Oekakis, and for sure what explains the choice of some of my favorites.
While I have favorite traits across the collection that I’ll snipe anytime I get the opportunity—a few of those being the Nun (headwear), Alien and Oni skins (classic Remilia favorites), Taro Bobas, and Red Crazy eyes—the Oekakis that have triggered that Moe feeling in me the most, to the point that I actually felt bad about not picking them up when I saw them listed, are the ones with a sad or melancholy expression. With Moe not being a genre of anime I’ve ever watched, it’s possible that its absence from my life left me vulnerable to being fully possessed by the feeling that such cuteness elicits. These Oekakis of mine below all look like they’re not having a great day…and I love them for it.
Sure, cute characters are a staple across most of anime, it’s weaved into the art form’s very DNA, but it’s not as common in my favorite genres, or when present they’re missing some crucial element. For example, although Psycho-Pass’s Akane Tsunemori was small and cute, she was also capable and very mentally tough. No one would classify her as Moe.
Another angle I’m considering is that the lack of Catholicism in my life, as someone with Spanish ancestry, has created a void in the place where devotion to & observance of The Lady of Sorrows would have resided in me.
Am I saying that the Virgin Mary is Moe? I’d better just steer clear of any potential heresies and go back to showing you more of my favorite Oekakis!
There’s An Oekaki For Everyone
There are only 5555 Oekakis, but I don’t need to do any math to tell you that, not only are there enough Oekakis for all of us, there is an Oekaki out there just for you.
Name a vibe and I’ll show you an Oekaki for it: Serene, unhinged, aloof, sleepy, ethereal, manic, pouty, gloomy. I could go on, and they come in as many styles as there are vibes.
But these girls aren’t just full of life and up to date with the latest fashion…they are also very well connected.
The Future Is Reaching Out To US
Oekaki Connect is amassing an army, building across multiple dimensions, and slowly bringing into being the Wings that humanity will need to connect with the Network Spirits. Many of these endeavors have already materialized, some literally in the case of the beloved Kittykaki plushie, while numerous others are on the blockchain.
Oekaki Maker isn’t just a collection of the cutest PFP NFTs you’ve ever seen. They can also be an opportunity, your first step on a new journey. Or…it could just be the thing that adds some cuteness to your life, a little island to stop at for a break in a sea of uncute refuse. If you’re anything like I was before I encountered Oekakis, then you could really use it.
Once that Oekaki is in your wallet she’ll attract more cuteness into your life. In fact, something that Oekaki Connect has been cooking is just around the corner, and if you like Oekakis even half as much as I do, you won’t wanna miss it!