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