Today, we're gonna take a deep dive into niji 5—the special version of Midjourney (created in collaboration with MJ’s partner in crime when it comes to anime, Spellbrush)—and its Expressive, Cute, and Scenic styles.
Go to /settings and switch to either niji 4 or niji 5. Otherwise, add --niji 4 or --niji 5 right after your prompt.
In this study, we will be throwing all sorts of prompts at niji, seeing how its varieties respond, examining their strengths and limitations, and (hopefully) learning a lot while we're at it!
Niji 5 is all about aesthetics. Disclosing their approach, the developers say:
Though many in this project don't share a common verbal language, we are connected by a shared visual language: anime. This shared understanding of the concept of "anime" forms the basis of an opportunity to imagine something very impressive together.
In another article, they discuss the challenge of creating a tool oriented to anime and manga:
One of the hallmarks of "anime" is that it is a very abstract but rigid aesthetic. This means that anime objects don't look like their real-world counterparts, but they look very consistent across other anime pictures.
Therefore, the biggest focus of this version was to present an aesthetic that reflected the visual language of anime and, at the same time, it was consistent. Those are the most important words about this new version of niji.
Niji seeks a specific style that is not realistic (or “Western”) and tries to be consistent. It is almost like the contrary of Midjourney, which values diversity and faithfulness to reality.
In short, both models "speak the AI language." It naturally doesn't sound human, and in many cases doesn't seem Niji 5 is a significant improvement over its predecessor. With greater attention to detail and increased contrast, niji 5 generates a more modern digital aesthetic that's sure to please fans of contemporary anime.
On the other hand, while the new engine can recognize more characters than ever before, it has a tendency to generate them in its own unique style rather than adhering strictly to the original anime aesthetic. The level of mastery that niji 5 demonstrates in creating its own distinct style is truly impressive!
In other words, you can include styles and artists in your prompts, and they will affect the final result. But the basic style of niji 5 will still be there!
There are, of course, traditional ways of affecting the outcome. For instance, --stylize.
Interestingly enough, when using this parameter, you can change your image dramatically in the range from 0 to 250–300, and then the rest of the scale (up to 1000) will rather fine-tune the result. However, it is the lower values that keep the output closer to the initial prompt’s style modifiers (flat, 2d, pixel art), while the higher you go, the more liberties Mijdourney will take in interpreting the base part of the prompt (cyberpunk engineer).
But the true key to getting less consistency and a different flavor from your prompts—and the most significant improvement of niji 5, in my opinion — is the ability to utilize one of the three styles: Expressive, Cute, and Scenic.
Super simple: add --style followed by your preferred option (Expressive, Cute, or Scenic) after your prompt.
Since its launch, niji 5 has been one of my favorite playgrounds on Midjourney, and the main reason is its possibilities and versatility. Each of n5's styles has distinct properties that generate a wide range of outcomes, even with the same prompt. The default niji 5 is your option if you want a safe and familiar place to create your characters or build a new world.
Expressive focuses more on exploration, with a touch of Western style and semi-realistic/2.5D renderings. This style seems to be the most affected by artists' names and techniques.
Cute is all about simplicity, pastel tones, and kawaii vibes. With this style you will often find small creatures and adorable details in your creations.
Finally, Scenic tries to mix everything and can produce larger-than-life scenes, even with the most simple of prompts. Or, it least, it will attempt to add some kind of context—some environment and perspective—to the outcome.
Portraits are a good way to examine niji: first, n5 knows relatively recent characters, like Makima. niji 4 showed a redhead in one of the variants, but it looks more like a coincidence (or incomplete training).
Cute was able to make Makima... well, cute, even if she is still a very scary woman. Expressive produced a beautiful poster, while Scenic sacrificed Makima's features to produce a more complex scene.
With All-Might, default n5 brought back a classic superhero pose (much more consistent, fine and detailed than n4).
Expressive—as it often does—returned a scene full of movement. The Cute style is, expectedly, kawaii and cartoonish, and Scenic produced a truly cinematic shot even within the square format.
And now, let's see how niji 5 and its three extra styles deal with Image Prompts.
Naturally, each style functions in their own way with Image Prompts, too. They effectively transform and bring details to the image according to their features. For the first test, let's use Librarian's portrait.
How about some classical paintings? Somehow, here n5 takes much more liberties than with a portrait photograph.
How about a more iconic (and black-and-white!) photograph of a legendary character?
When it comes to artists and styles that aren't typically associated with anime, it's quite remarkable how diverse the results can be. But what's interesting is that in the middle of this diversity, there's a common thread that runs through it all: the powerful niji aesthetics. Now, how much of that "foreign style" actually permeates the final outcome really depends on the niji model, and it changes from style to style.
For example, in the first three instances of Akira on his bike, Crivelli's signature floral patterns (and overall medieval look) is very visible. However, Scenic lost the authors style almost completely.
Whereas Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez's style—with his easily recognized colorful striped abstracts—gets into every n5 style in one way or another.
Another example is Nick Veasey, famous for his x-ray photography. While his presence is evident in the cold colors, dark backgrounds, and clear silhouettes, not all of niji 5 styles reproduce the x-ray part perfectly.
Again, we can see how the niji developers embarked on this quest to remain faithful to the essence of anime while also embracing creativity and diversity. They've managed to strike a good balance where they can incorporate elements from unexpected sources—for instance, the bizarre works of a renowned fashion designer Aitor Throup.
All these examples show: whatever style you add to your prompt, niji 5 still manages to maintain the distinct anime look-and-feel that we all know and love. And that makes n5 truly fascinating!
But—magically!—they work! And provide incredible opportunities to any AI artist (and any visual artist, for that matter). So be sure to try those amazing tools out. <3
Of course, n5 and each of its styles has their weaknesses (which the others might not have at all).
The default niji 5, and even Expressive, would sometimes feel uninspired, depending on the prompt. They would occasionally generate a head on a white background, lacking the "magic" we are used to with Midjourney. Sometimes, n5's results can get confusing because of the number of elements. Quite frequently the anatomy of your characters can get messed up. And Scenic would often focus on the context so much, that it might completely ignore the subject at the center of your prompt.
However, all these issues can be eventually corrected with a few re-rolls and changing the --stylize value.
Niji 5 is a significant upgrade from its predecessor, no doubt about it. The developers really paid attention to the little things and cranked up the visuals, giving us a more modern digital look that's perfect for all fans of contemporary anime.
As we have seen, niji 5 likes to put its own spin on things instead of sticking strictly to original styles (anime or not).
But the principal improvement is n5's styles that enable you to take your creative journey in several (very different) directions. So, if you're looking for a fresh and innovative approach to anime-inspired art, niji 5 and its styles are the real deal!
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All samples are produced by Midlibrary team using Midjourney AI. Naturally, they are not representative of real artists' works/real-world prototypes.
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