Peppers Kamehameha!

This has to be one of the coolest figures to adorn your desk if you’re a Dragon Ballz or anime fan.  Hell, I’m sure it applies to movies and games too.  So let’s make one.

Let me take you through how I reverse engineer something like this.

Pay tribute to Occam.

This is always a port of call and often my first when looking at anything.  This presents roughly 4 possibilities according to the razor.

  1. This is a photoshop kind of deal.  This is not actually happening at all.
  2. The figure is actually generating fire and plasma. (not as silly as it sounds)
  3. Technology.

I’ll rule out number one based on my experience with edited videos etc. as well as the fact I think I know how it can be done quite easily.  But if all else fails, maybe it was faked.

Number 2 is actually a possibility.  A thought experiment from a few years ago led me to the idea that we could collide electrons or something similar in mid air and generate light.  It would require some accuracy and wouldn’t respond well to magnets, but it turns out I was right.  Unfortunately we’re not there just yet.

Number 3 is kind of 1 and 2 joined together.  A little bit of trickery with technology.

Chekhov’s Gun.

The principle stands that everything you see in the video has a purpose.  A slight abstraction from the dramatic principle.  So let’s look at each component and reasons why it may be there.

  1. Goku Figure – looks cool, hides electrodes or components maybe?
  2. White floor – reflective, contrast for black background, sponsorship?
  3. Black coverings on box around it – hide components, non reflective?
  4. Bright light above Goku – adds to charging effects.
  5. Perspex – safety, damage protection, looks cool, semi reflective when used with light and dark background.


So, keeping that all in mind and watching the video again, we can see that the visual effects there move according to a particular geometry.  Intuitively we can spot it without the maths, but as the camera pans around you’ll notice the perspex is angled and the effects move as a function of the camera position, perspex orientation, and a 3rd something from somewhere.  Remembering the light on Gokus head, it becomes quite certain that 3rd element is in fact above Goku.  What we have here is a Pepper’s Ghost illusion.

This fits with our observations of the components.  We have the angled transparency, a light source, a dark background, a light background, and a forced viewing position.  So let’s look at what’s required to make this should one feel so inclined.

Components for the Build

  • White flooring like plastic or painted wood.
  • Clear perspex.
  • Old style little light bulb (glove box light from car?) or LED with color filter.
  • LCD screen.
  • Some black plastic or painted would to encase everything.
  • Goku figure.
  • Video editing software.

to be continued on the actual build…

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