Ah, CG in anime. This is not a controversial subject like dubs vs. subs. It’s kind of a nearly universal thing that anime fans hate. Obviously not everyone hates it, but you would be hard pressed to find someone willing to defend it. Over time I’ve started noticing some things about CG, and with a certain new CG anime already reaching a large number of anime fans, now seems like a good time to post some of the more prominent thoughts I’ve had swimming around in my head.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room that everyone is not ignoring, but actually petting and feeding and adoring: Land of the Lustrous.
This is a currently-airing anime that chose to use CG. This choice makes a lot of sense even if you only briefly glance at what it’s about. In the first episode we see so many things that would be very difficult to do in traditional 2D graphics, especially since the requirements will continue to exist in each episode. The liquid effects, the gem visuals, the transparency of their hair, not to mention the gem vomit. All of these seem like they would be problematic if it hadn’t decided to go with CG.
There is also another benefit in this choice: CG anime tends to look cold and hard just like stones would, whereas 2D has a very soft and usually warmer feel — this feel is even more obvious in older anime in case you have no idea what I mean. Now, because the characters are gems of some sort, they really probably should look as cold and hard as CG makes them. All in all it seems like they made the best choice, even from just viewing the first episode and having no knowledge of the source material.
CG has become very common and generally accepted, though often grudgingly, in the mecha genre. One anime which I find to be notable in its CG use is Majestic Prince. You may have heard of this, and if you did it was probably people exploding over how amazing the fight scenes can get. This video should give you an idea of what they’re talking about (do watch the whole thing, as the fight doesn’t get serious immediately).
Yep, that was amazing. The most notable aspect of this excellence is the speed at which the mecha are moving. If you ask me, it is a huge mistake to make mecha move as slowly as they do in the vast majority of CG-using series. Unfortunately, the only series I can think of which use speedy CG at all are Majestic Prince and Sousei no Aquarion.
Oh. Aquarion. That show everyone says is garbage.
Whatever you may think of it, it definitely did some neat things with its CG, despite being on the unattractive side. As I said, it did utilize speedy movements at times. Mostly for the enemy mechs, but that brings up the other interesting thing it did. It made the enemies move in such bizarre and fluid ways while Aquarion itself often seemed to move sluggishly in comparison, though in a very ordinary way.
This contrast between the strange and the familiar makes the enemies seem almost creepy, actually, because the strangeness of it all and the difficulty the protagonists face as a result conjures up the fear of the unknown as well as the fear of absolutely weird shit staring you down. I’m pretty sure that’s a legitimate fear. All kinds of dead psychologists say so but if you don’t have the latest weekly revision of the textbook you wouldn’t know about that.
Bubuki Buranki is a CG anime that is known for its excellent art direction, as well as sound except this post is about visuals only and I still have yet to meet anyone who cares about sound like I do so pretend I didn’t say anything about it. One point of interest here is how they never failed to include effects that you would see in traditional anime, such as motion lines. It’s pretty cool to see. I think the fact that they put such effort into mimicking the style of standard anime is also a hint to a conclusion I’ve come to regarding anime CG.
So, most people complain about anime CG and think it looks ugly most of the time and choppy all of the time. Personally, I think it’s only ugly as a result of looking choppy. But why is it choppy? Precure has had incredibly smooth CG dances in its ending sequences since Fresh Precure in 2009. Majestic Prince’s CG can only be described as majestic. Video games have been doing anime style designs in 3D for ages and have always looked great. I can’t imagine that these examples simply have more or better resources than absolutely everyone else.
What I think (it may not be true, FYI) is that what is being perceived as choppy is an intentional effect to mimic traditional 2D anime. You may have heard that Japanese animation is frequently animated in 3s, which means that a unique image only appears every three frames. This is why anime never looks as smooth as Mufasa does in the Lion King. Or anything in that movie, really. This is what I believe is being mimicked and causing that “choppy” look. Of course, this idea doesn’t really change the fact that it’s unappealing, but it does make me look upon it a bit differently when I see it.
So, I’m out of things to say on this subject for now. Time to find a way to end this post so I can end my blag once again. While I continue to lack any real attachment to CG animation, I do have to admit that I’m very interested in seeing where it will go from here, particularly Japan’s take as they seem more interested in trying things for style rather than America’s stale obsession with making CG lions look as real as possible. Don’t dismiss CG anime altogether; there are already many that have skillful, stylish, and smart aspects to their visuals and are well worth watching.