CGI Is Destroying Anime

Originally Posted by Onegai:

Below: A snap from Appleseed. Top: A snap from Appleseed 2.

Below: A snap from Appleseed. Top: A snap from Appleseed 2.

It seems to be a growing trend to use CGI in anime these days. Many fans will agree when I say that it totally destroys a perfectly good anime and can actually put one off to the point that they stop watching. Apart from any other considerations; it’s killing the art of drawing, not just in anime but even in western animation.

CGI began long ago, back in the1970s. At this stage it was crude to say the least. Now and then minor CGI was used in visual media but to a very lesser extent as it was fairly costly in those days and technical capabilities were exceedingly limited. Then, nearly two decades later, a company called Pixar created Toy Story, the first full-length, fully CGI animated production. The subsequent effects it had on the film industry would change everything, western and eastern alike.

After seeing the success of Toy Story, Disney slowly started phasing out hand-drawn animation in favour of CGI. Meanwhile, the art of special effects was dying a slow and painful death as the world of CGI encroached on it. Stop-animation was no safer because CGI artists proved they could produce very similar results in far less time at far less cost. It was only the diehards like Tim Burton who clung to the art of stop animation, but even they have or will soon bow to the inevitable.

The CGI trend has since begun spreading in the anime world in two ways. The first is by using a methodology known as “Cel-shading”. This form of CGI (supposedly) looks hand-drawn. A good example of this would be and anime film called “Appleseed”. It’s an attempt to replace traditional art with CGI. Scarily enough, Cel-shading has gained quite a bit of popularity. The second way in which CGI is corrupting anime is the use of regular looking computer graphics in conjunction with hand-drawn frames to handle the more complicated animation sequences that would be time consuming and difficult to draw. For example, a hand-drawn animation of people walking may have CGI windmills turning in the background. Though it also apparently works out cheaper than hand-drawing these sequences, in the end it can be a put-off to a lot of potential viewers out there.

To further exacerbate things, CGI in anime is very often of a low standard due to the budget constraints. Now CGI usually clashes visually with hand-drawn animation as it is, but when the computer graphics are of poor quality; they totally destroy the anime. It is a fact that, apart from large companies like Square Enix, Japan generally produces inferior CGI to the west when it comes to movies. This is because, as a good friend of mine once said, “America has military-sized budgets to throw at productions” where as Japan is a little more conservative, perhaps even a little more sensible.

Even if the CGI was on the level of Final Fantasy: Advent Children, it would still lack that special feeling and look that hand-drawn animation has. No matter how they have tried, no one has (And I doubt will any time soon) be able to produce the same look that hand-drawn animation has. This is the part that saddens me that most. To hell with everything else I’ve mentioned because the feel and look of anime is probably one of the biggest things that attract me to it and seeing great artwork and impressively animated scenes is simply priceless. There’s an anime called Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta – Original Japanese name). It’s a 1992 vintage and it’s completely hand-drawn. There are some amazingly well-animated scenes in it where just about everything is moving on the screen including the POV. I was mesmerised as I watched it. On the other hand, a friend and I recently began watching an anime called Blassreiter. I did not even finish watching episode one because there was so much CGI in the thing that the clashing between the computer graphics and the hand-drawn animation made it impossible to maintain focus. “Off-putting” would have been an understatement.

I don’t have a problem with using computer assistance for colour-fills or for background scrolling. In fact if it saves money, I say go for it. As long as all the components are hand-drawn, I don’t make a fuss over putting it together using digital means. In fact I’ll even go as far as saying that I don’t mind stuff drawn on a digital pad. As long as there always remains the “human” element of hand-drawn art, I’d say it’s perfectly fine.

While I’m not a purist who hates CGI and wants it eradicated from all non-interactive visual material, I do feel that it has its place and that place is not substituting traditional artwork. I thoroughly enjoyed the film Animatrix and both Final Fantasy CGI movies. I’m not saying get rid of CGI, I’m merely saying that we mustn’t abandon true artwork in favour of a lazier and more cost-effective medium.

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