The 12 Days of Anime Christmas – Day 11: Traditional Anime Animators Telling 3D CG to Stuff It

  “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”
– Seneca

The episode of Shirobako that dealt with using either traditional hand drawn animation or 3D CG for a scene in the fictional anime series being created crystallized an observation that I’ve subconsciously been making about this year. I think Japanese animators as a collective group are slowly getting nudged away from the widely held (and correct) idea that CG and anime don’t mix because CG is too limited and can’t replace hand drawn animation. This freaks many people out, especially a good number of traditional animators.

The response by these animators, I think, has been to push themselves to improve themselves and the animation they draw to remind us of the strengths of hand drawn animation.

There were the big projects (Space Dandy) and types of series (shounen, action, mecha) one expects to see the good hand drawn animation in but I’ve watched a constant smattering of well-animated scenes from the smaller studios and in genres that don’t normally need or feature great action intensive drawn animation like slice-of-life shows (Barakamon) and Rom-coms (Mikakunin de Shinkoukei). Then there’s the switch-ups in animation style or character deformations that must be easier to do when being drawn by hand over CG; and, these also seem to be more prevalent then they used to be. (Though the recent success of Shaft might have pushed other animation studios to include more of this as well.) One of the most recent examples I can think of this was in Trigger’s Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de. There was a scene in, I think, episode 10 or 11 where one of the characters starting moving back and forth on the screen like she was Paper Mario or Inferno Cop. It was just a single scene and I don’t think they did it for time/budget reasons; I think it was there to remind us we weren’t watching 3D CG.

I’ll post some screenshots below but before that I did want to mention that I don’t dislike CG just to hate it. What I don’t want to see happen is the variety of styles seen in anime curtailed because everything goes over to CG before it is replicate everything that can be done by hand.

What I also don’t want is CG anime to mimic real life to the point that I might as well be watching a live-action show with heavy amounts of CG thrown in. Animation has the ability to strip away and/or exaggerate real life to make something that is realer then real and can examine something in better/greater detail then any live action series. Animation shouldn’t throw this away in search of “realism” alone.

For the record, I think 20 years from now there will still be demand for hand drawn animation because CG still won’t perfect or it’s no cheaper/quicker to do certain things in CG that can be done by hand.

[FTW]_Chuunibyou_demo_Koi_ga_Shitai!_Ren_-_01_[720p][9172389F].mkv_snapshot_10.34_[2014.02.25_03.54.41]

[Commie] Kill la Kill - 24 [65DB9950].mkv_snapshot_18.10_[2014.04.01_01.47.41]

noragami16141

silverspoon32052

space_dandy25787

[Commie] Mekakucity Actors - 01 [24C67B4F].mkv_snapshot_07.51_[2014.05.19_02.59.34]

[Commie] Ping Pong - 01 [C72FE0AD].mkv_snapshot_17.47_[2014.05.18_03.07.43]

[HorribleSubs] selector infected WIXOSS - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.59_[2014.05.16_02.47.29]

[Underwater] Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara - 02 (720p) [632BFB63].mkv_snapshot_11.01_[2014.05.18_02.56.16]

[Vivid] Mushishi Zoku Shou - 01 [8902B060].mkv_snapshot_08.10_[2014.05.07_03.52.43]

[Anime-Koi] Sabagebu! - 01v2 [h264-720p][86C2BC49].mkv_snapshot_09.13_[2014.07.31_00.51.04]

[Anime-Koi] Sabagebu! - 04 [h264-720p][A829CB07].mkv_snapshot_12.01_[2014.08.09_02.25.53]

[Commie] Ao Haru Ride - 06 [CFEBC206].mkv_snapshot_14.40_[2014.08.15_02.02.45]

[HorribleSubs] Hunter X Hunter - 140 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.58_[2014.07.30_01.49.10]

[Underwater] Barakamon - 01v2 (720p) [685C1315].mkv_snapshot_01.11_[2014.08.29_03.18.15]

[Anime-Koi] Gugure! Kokkuri-san - 01 [h264-720p][84196991].mkv_snapshot_03.22_[2014.12.17_22.41.22]

[Commie] Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso - 01 [D80C437D].mkv_snapshot_18.06_[2014.12.17_23.41.06]

[HorribleSubs] Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de - 10 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.38_[2014.12.11_02.11.29]

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8 thoughts on “The 12 Days of Anime Christmas – Day 11: Traditional Anime Animators Telling 3D CG to Stuff It”

  1. Well, Princess Mononoke was the first Miyazaki film to use CG and digital coloring, and Spirited Away was done completely digitally. So it might be good to define what is meant by CG. Nowadays, you can draw on the screen itself, and it feels very similar to paper, even allowing you to use a wide variety of textures. So, technically, it is digital, computer graphics, but still hand-drawn.

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  2. @Kitsune: That’s a fair point. In my head I know exactly what I’m talking about.

    There was a story about a year ago where the last anime series in Japan – one of the those long running family anime series that never get any attention over here – were finally switching from being animated from actual hand-done cells to purely being done on a computer. So I realize no animation is actually a purely physical product from start to finish anymore.

    A more correct way to define the two camps would probably be any type of hand-drawn animation vs. non hand-drawn animation using a computer where everything is just data points and almost always done in a 3D style and increasingly using motion capture to move the characters.

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  3. Yes, this is exactly when we move into a dangerous territory. The walk that a point takes is no longer a reflection of an artist’s spirit. Would you prefer a perfect factory-made cup or an imperfect hand-made chawan? Each has advantages, and different people would choose according to their own taste, but I ‘d certainly choose a chawan.

    I highlighted this in one of my recent posts on traditional animation in Banner Saga. They specifically made a conscious decision to use traditional animation techniques. Rotoscoping was still used for reference, but the actual frames were made from scratch by hand.

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  4. @Kitsune: Speaking of tea, did you watch/finish Hyouge Mono? It’s a great anime that’s probably right up your alley.

    And even if one wants a perfect factory-made cup why would they necessarily want that same cup over and over again. As much as I love Pixar movies, it’s not for there animation style, which stays very similar time after time.

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  5. I think you should be talking 2d vs 3d as pretty much everything is coloured on a PC these days and the quality has improved becasue of it. CGI backgrounds (in the Fate series for instance) have also greatly helped reduce the workload on the animators while allowing for some awesome scenes – usually with hand drawn characters blended seamlessly in. CGI can save some time for animators on some things (such as moving backgrounds) without losing the overall style, and this can free up resources for some truly awesome character animation. As CGI becomes cheaper and less labour intensive the can allow smaller studios to deliver more innovative shows. So I have no problem with CGI I must say.

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  6. @Vanihm: Thanks for the comment.

    I’d argue that the new Fate series have/had such nice action scenes because 90% of the show is people talking but I get your point. I have less of a problem with CG backgrounds since they’ve been better able to integrate them into anime (Satelight did a good job with AKB0048 and Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, for instance) but again these style of animation will look out of place in many – if not a majority – of the animation styles. Take last year’s Ping Pong, there was no way that was going to have CG buildings in the background and it look good.

    And those 3d CG crowd scenes I sometimes see used probably do save money but they are so cringe-worthy because I’ve yet to see one where the people look natural as the crowd of people move through space. If they don’t have the time/money to do it right then a static shot is still a better choice.

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