aespa have unveiled the second episode of their ongoing SM Culture Universe (SMCU) series on YouTube.
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In the new episode, titled Next Level, a strange ‘SYNK OUT’ phenomenon has occurred, causing ‘æ’s, or virtual counterparts to humans, to disappear from the Real World, forced to return to the FLAT — the virtual plane from which they originate.
From the FLAT, aespa’s æ-counterparts are able to contact the members with the help of nævis, the AI system that allows virtual beings to appear in the Real World. Projecting their consciousness into their æ’s, the members enter the virtual plane, where nævis tasks them with venturing into KWANGYA, a “ruleless, formless” space that exists beyond the FLAT to find out what is causing the disconnect between the FLAT and Real World.
In the rest of the episode, the girl group venture deeper into KWANGYA where they encounter the series’ villain, Black Mamba, for the first time, causing them to experience vivid hallucinations.
The series first launched with the release of its first episode, Black Mamba, last year, with the aim to establish and expand the background of SM Entertainment’s company-wide lore, centred in and around KWANGYA. Last year, at the agency’s online SM Congress 2021, SM founder Lee Soo-man shared his plans for the future of SMCU, and hinted at the possibility of a Hollywood film based on the universe.
“We’ll depict this world through a new genre called CAWMAN that I came up with,” Lee said, noting that ‘CAWMAN’ stands for cartoon, animation, webtoon, motion graphics, avatar and novel. “If you watch the video, you’ll see animations and motion graphics.”
In the meantime, aespa are currently gearing up to release their sophomore mini-album ‘Girls’ on July 8. The new record is set to feature the title track ‘Girls’, along with new songs ‘Lingo’, ’ICU’, pre-release track ‘Illusion’ and the English-language track ‘Life’s Too Short’, which the group originally debuted during their appearance at this year’s Coachella.