UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The M02 Bento, Bakes on Mesh Male Head from Akeruka

In my All-in-One Guide to Freebies in Second Life, I wrote:

Akeruka has been giving away freebie or dollarbie Bento mesh heads (both male and female models) twice a year for the past couple of years. If you had joined the [AK] Heads News & Support group for L$150 two years ago, you would have picked up no less than nine fully-featured, fully-adjustable Bento mesh heads by now—which works out to less than L$20 per head! A truly outstanding bargain! So join the Akeruka group and watch the notices for the next announcement.

Actually, 150 divided by 9 works out to about 17 Linden dollars per head. Well, today Akeruka announced yet another group gift, a Bento, Bakes on Mesh-compatible head for male avatars called M02, so that makes it ten heads in total, or L$15 per head!

The M02 vendor panel in the Akeruka store

The old saying goes that you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. So I really have no business complaining about an inexpensive mesh head. But I also happen to write a blog giving out advice on the best high-quality freebies in Second Life, so with that in mind, I am going to give a review of the Akeruka M02 head.

I hate it. Why?

Well, to test it out, I paired it with the dollarbie Meshbody Classic male mesh body, which also supports Bakes on Mesh when that it enabled in the included HUD.

From a distance, the head looks fine (I used an BoM skin I already had in my inventory, as no skins are included with this head, like the previous Akeruka group gift of the W08 female mesh head):

But it’s when you scroll in for a closeup that problems in the craftsmanship of this head start to appear. To start, the included eyelashes in the HUD are rather problematic; all four options are too feminine-looking for a male avatar for my personal taste (eyelashes have tended to be a problem area on most of the Akeruka head group gifts).

But that’s not the worst part about this head. Take a good look at the area of the brows where the red arrows are pointing in the following picture:

Here’s another angle to give you a better view of what’s going on:

No, you eyes do not deceive you—the brow area actually covers part of the upper eyelashes! Even worse, I was unable to make any adjustments to the head sliders on this Bento mesh head to correct the problem. You are stuck with the prominent, Neanderthal brow on this male avatar head, which will doubtless interfere with any eyelashes you choose, whether you like it or not! Yes, it’s extremely picky of me, but I am very picky about my freebies!

So I regret that I cannot recommend this particular group gift (although I have certainly enjoyed and appreciated all previous nine heads, and used them successfully on various alts). And, in light of the excellent, free Alain male mesh head group gift from LeLutka that is being offered this Christmas, I certainly can’t recommend you join the Akeruka group for L$150 just for this group gift, and pay a Linden dollar for the M02 head. It’s just not worth the L$151, even though that is significantly cheaper than a regularly-priced Catwa head or its equivalent.

The M02 head is available at the Akeruka store until December 31st, 2020.

P.S. I’ve also received a few complaints about the recent W08 female mesh head group gift. One commenter weighted in with this opinion:

Tried it on, to me not the best looking head! looks better only with the face light on and I don’t do face lights. To me [it] looks very manly. Would love to know how you got it looking like you did because I tried and got no way close to that look. Not my cup of tea, sorry!

Actually, while I was playing around with the sliders, I also thought it was a rather odd-shaped female head, very tall and rather thin-faced by default, and I found I had to squash the W08 head a fair bit, then adjust the chin, to get the images I used for that blogpost.

I had to squash the W08 head quite a bit to get this look, and it’s still a somewhat tall, thin face…this is not a head for you if you want a rounder face!

When Akeruka started giving away dollarbie group gifts of male and female Bento heads, about three years ago, they were pretty much the only vendor that was doing it, so at that time, it was well worth spending the L$150 to join the Akeruka group, as I have said up top.

But in 2020, now that brands such as Catwa, Genus Project, LOGO, and now LeLutka have given away beautiful, fully-featured, high-quality free male and female Bento mesh heads, the game has changed somewhat. Akeruka seems to be just a little bit off on the design of their most recent line of heads, both male and female, and I just thought you should know about the problems I encountered, up front, before you spend any money—even if it is only L$151!

UPDATE Dec. 19th, 2020: This morning, a thought got me out of bed to try something: that perhaps I should just turn the eyelashes on the M02 head off completely. I think the HUD was a multi-purpose, unisex one, so perhaps that would do the trick?

Nope. There is no such thing as “default eyelashes'”. So your only possible option, for a head with such a pronounced, protruding brow, is to find some extremely short male eyelashes…and even then, live with the fact that the brow will cover part of them, anyway. And my eyelashless avatar looks like he survived a kitchen fire 😉

And yes, in the harsh light of morning, I do full well realize that this is yet another one of my infamously cranky blogposts. Sorry, Akeruka!

SECOND UPDATE December 19th, 2020, 8:36 p.m.: Well, after a couple of commenters suggested that I make some adjustments to the eyebrow shape, I pulled the eyebrow thickness slider all the way to the narrowest possible eyebrows, and I finally got a somewhat more aesthetically pleasing look (not 100% perfect, but a damn sight better than before).

But frankly, I am still not that crazy about this head. I feel that the completely free LeLutka Alain head is, by far, the far better head of the two male mesh heads that are available as group gifts this holiday season. Sorry, Akeruka!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Akeruka Releases a New Group Gift—A Female Bento, Bakes on Mesh Head, But Only from December 10th to 27th, 2020!

Akeruka was known for its semi-regular group gifts of both male and female Bento mesh heads. All you had to do was join the [AK] Heads News & Support group for L$150, and keep your eyes peeled for announcements. In fact, if you had joined the [AK] Heads News & Support group for L$150 three years ago, you would have picked up no less than nine fully-featured, fully-adjustable Bento mesh heads by now before today’s announcement—which works out to less than L$20 per head! Now that’s what I call a deal!

Well, Akeruka has just announced that there is a new, tenth group gift, a Bento, Bakes on Mesh compatible female head now available for only L$1: the Akeruka Advanced Head W08 (Version 3.0). (I wish they would give them names rather than designations like “W08”; it makes it sound like a brand of motor oil 😉 …)

Here’s the SLURL to take you to the vendor panels in the women’s section of the Akeruka store. Just right-click and pay one of the three panels underneath the large poster which say Server 1, Server 2, or Server 3, pay one Linden dollar, and receive your group gift! Even if you have to join the [AK] Heads News & Support group for the first time to pick up this gift, paying L$151 in total is still a bargain!

Here’s what you get in the package:

The package includes a starter shape and eyebrows shaper, the head itself, with separate teeth, eyes, and neck fixes, plus a main HUD, an animations HUD, a separate HUD to control the teeth, and an Omega HUD. There’s even a face light included!

Please note that, unlike previous Akeruka group gifts, this is intended to be a Bakes on Mesh head, so there are no skins or skin appliers included in this package.

I went and located the Bakes on Mesh skins that came with the Akeruka group gift just previous to this one, the [AK Advanced] Bento Head V2.6 Limited Edition head, and tried those on this new head. This is skin tone 5 of the Limited Edition head skins, on the new W08 head, with zero adjustments to the default body shape and eyebrow shaper included in the package:

The eyebrows do need a bit of adjusting, but overall this is a very pleasing look! You can control the colour of the included mesh eyes using the main HUD (there are also separate left and right unrigged eyes included in the package).

Here’s the complete final look. I paired the W08 head with the Altamura Juliet body (which requires an Omega system kit and a separate Bakes on Mesh applier to be BoM compatible). I used the eyeliner and lipstick settings in the included HUD.

All in all, I am very pleased with this head! If you are already a member of the Akeruka group, spending that extra Linden dollar and picking up this latest group gift is a no-brainer!

Obviously, the Bento head wars in Second Life have changed the situation from when Akeruka first began giving out group gifts three years ago. Since then, we have quite a few releases of free mesh heads, from the likes of Catwa, Genus Project, and now LeLutka! So you could be forgiven for thinking “why spend L$151 on this head, when I have free ones from other big-name brands already?”.

However, I still think this is a beautiful head, and you may want to plunk down your hard-earned Lindens and pick this one up anyways! It’s still a great deal, in my opinion.

UPDATED! Taking a Second Look at the Viva Full-Mesh Avatar: Why the Mesh Head and Body Wars Are Just Getting Started in Second Life

A month ago, I first wrote about the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3), available for free on the SL Marketplace. After playing around with the Kalhene Ariadna full-body mesh avatar, and documenting its strengths and weaknesses (notably, a lack of alpha sections on the HUD and support for clothing alphas), I came back to the Viva mesh body with a renewed appreciation for all the work the creator had put into it. The HUD truly is amazing, allowing you to combine both alpha sections and clothing alphas to make just about any outfit fit!

For example, here is one of my alts, who wears an Akeruka Lulu Bento mesh head (one of their early group gifts), which I have grown attached to and wanted to keep. I originally wore it with a classic, SL system body; Akeruka had provided system skins to match the entire range of the Lulu head’s available skin tones. And for a long time I was happy with that.

But today, I decided to upgrade this avatar to a full mesh body, and while I was thinking about how best to do that for an inexpensively as possible, I remembered the free Viva Bento, Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh body and decided to try that again. (I wasn’t too crazy about the head that came included with the Viva mesh body, but that is a separate attachment, and you can use literally any head with it.)

Here is what she looks like now:

The only problem I encountered was that the system skins that came with the Akeruka Lulu head were older, and as a result there were white spots at the nail bases of the mesh fingers. To fix this, I used the free set of Bakes on Mesh feet and finger fixes available at League (exact SLURL):

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Lulu by Akeruka (L$1 group gift, no longer available; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join).

Mesh Body: the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3) from the SL Marketplace.

Skin: I used one of the system skins that came with the Lulu head in a matching skin tone, adding the League Bakes on Mesh finger fix in the pale colour, which was the closest match.

Hair: Chella by Analog Dog (I picked this hairstyle with scarf as a free gift at previous gacha event)

Necklace: Metamorpheses Temple Necklace (a gift from the 2019 BURN2 celebration of Burning Man in Second Life)

Top: Cream embroidered peasant blouse by Petite Mort (this is one of my favourite freebies, available from the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil).

Jeans: Skinny jeans from Mara’s Mysteries (a free hunt gift, no longer available).

Flats: Amy flats by Hilly Haalan (free group gift from their freebie store; the group is free to join; I found that the Viva mesh body’s flat feet are compatible with both Maitreya and Belleza flat shoes, but the Belleza ones fit a bit better so I used those)

Bag: Boho Bliss fringe bag (with hold pose) from a previous Witchwood hunt (Witchwood is the sim where the Petite Mort and Oubliette stores are located, and they regularly hold small hunts; I believe I paid only L$10 for this delightful bag!)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$161! (L$150 to join the Akeruka group, L$1 for the Lulu Bento mesh head, and L$10 for the bag)


I am very pleased with the result of this makeover! After my experiences working with both the Viva and the Ariadna mesh bodies, I can say this: with the advent of competition from free or inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible, Bento bodies, we are getting closer and closer to the time when stores charging (and users paying) thousands of Linden dollars for a mesh head and/or body is going to become harder and harder to justify. Yes, I know it’s a bold statement; hear me out.

The Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies are just the first shots fired in a war for marketshare between the established, big-name brands (Catwa, LeLutka, Maitreya, Belleza, Signature, Slink, etc.) and the smaller, nimbler upstarts. For now, the big-name brands have better designer support and offer more options, but, as we see with the fully-featured HUD that the Viva mesh body offers, that gap is starting to narrow!

I’d strongly encourage you to take a look at the Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies on the SL Marketplace, and give them both a test run. Although they are not perfect, they do give an indication of the direction the market is moving. The days of paying L$10,000 or more for a full-body mesh avatar may be numbered!

UPDATE June 11th, 2020: The Kalhene Ariadna mesh body has just updated to version 2.0, with alpha layer support (SL Marketplace link). It now has a HUD with alpha cuts and skin shininess levels, addressing some of my most serious concerns about the product.

In these final two pictures, I have combined the beautiful head from the Kalhene Ariadna mesh body with the Viva mesh body, using one of the Bakes on Mesh skins that came with the recent Limited Advanced head group gift from Akeruka:

Looking fabulous for zero Lindens! The Viva mesh body offers many more features on their included superHUD (such as a better selection of alpha sections to choose from, five different fingernail lengths, and three foot height options), which the Kalhene Ariadna body does not have. Here I just picked the shortest nails, in a natural nail colour, to go with this makeup-free look.

One particularly nice feature is the option to alpha out the wrists but not the hands, as I did for this long-sleeved minidress (a gift from Little Fox at the recent Cosmopolitan shopping event anniversary round). Surprisingly few HUDs that come with mesh bodies allow this—even the expensive brand names!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Pale Beauty

I am in a resolutely foul and cranky mood this evening, for two reasons.

First, I realize that I have spent EIGHTY CANADIAN DOLLARS to change the name of one of my Second Life avatars, which, even for someone who loves SL as much as I do, is an filthy, obscene amount of money; and…

Second, I am still struggling with bouts of anxiety, depression and anger at having to self-isolate in my apartment because of the coronavirus pandemic. I started working from home March 16th, 2020, and I feel as if I am slowly starting to fall apart at the seams, and it hasn’t even been ONE FULL MONTH YET. And today Helen Branswell reports for STAT:

A modeling study on the new coronavirus  warns that intermittent periods of social distancing may need to persist into 2022 in the United States to keep the surge of people severely sickened by Covid-19 from overwhelming the health care system.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Science, looked at a range of scenarios for how the SARS-CoV-2 virus will spread over the next five years. Those scenarios included variables like whether people who are infected develop short-term immunity — less than a year — or longer-term protection. But, overall, the research concludes it is unlikely that life will return any time soon to the way it was before the virus’ emergence.

2022? 2022?!??

And, just to add insult to injury, I have developed an ugly, painful reddish-brown rash on the backs of my thighs from spending 16-to-18 hour days perched in front of my personal computer, sitting on one of my wooden kitchen chairs, and it has has just made me even more cranky, upset and ill-tempered. (I plan to drive out to my office in the science library tomorrow, to pick up my lushly upholstered and much-missed executive office chair, praying to God that I can fit it into the back of my subcompact car, so I can bring it home.)

As a virtual hermit who largely lives his life on the internet, all of a sudden I can no longer sit for long periods in front of my computer! (So much for my admittedly unhealthy coping mechanism.) In between sessions on my PC, I lie on the sofa, with my legs propped up, rubbing a corticosteroid cream originally prescribed for my eczema on my thighs, seething.

So, no, I am NOT a happy camper today. I am not a happy camper at all.

However, I still take some small amount of pleasure from my weird little hobby of designing a complete Second Life avatar look from head to toe. So tonight, I have plunked down an avatar at the side of the (New) Frank’s Jazz Club, listening to the music stream as I lie on the sofa:

Here’s a few more shots of my avatar from the front:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: The Limited Edition Bento head from Akeruka (L$1 group gift; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join, and I would strongly urge you to pick up this Bakes on Mesh head before it’s gone, which comes in eight different skin tones and with matching skin appliers for Maitreya, Belleza, Slink, and Omega-compatible mesh bodies included). The beautiful mesh eyes are also included in the package.

Mesh Body: Juliet by Altamura (a limited-time group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019, which I turn to again and again on this blog; at the time I joined the Altamura group it was only L$50, but it now costs L$100 to join their group; this Juliet body is now for sale at the full price). In order to use the Serenity II skin below, I needed to buy and install the Omega system kit for Altamura (available for L$99 at this exact SLURL), as well as use the free Bakes on Mesh relay available at the Altamura store.

Skin: This beautiful pale Serenity II skin with blonde eyebrows is a Bakes on Mesh skin by Alaskametro (available for free from The Free Dove freebie store). This was my inspiration to get creative tonight!

Hair: This elegant updo is called NO.KEY and is by NO.MATCH (it was a freebie during a short period of time last year when the store was giving away a free gift each day).

Dress: This truly lovely retro Celebrate Spring! dress in opal is by steampunk/historical roleplay outfitter Cog & Fleur, and it was a free hunt prize in their recently-concluded Good Eggs hunt.

Shoes: Jai pumps by Rowne (free group gift; unfortunately, the Rowne store seems to have disappeared from the grid).

Necklace: This is an oldie but a goodie: the Glazed Heart necklace from Eolande’s (remember them? they have long since closed up shop).

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: L$300 (L$151 total for the Akeruka head, L$50 to join the Altamura group to get the Juliet body, and L$99 for the Altamura Omega system kit)