It is safe to assume that CG/CGI doesn’t have the best reputation in anime. Some would say it is “down right awful” or that it “doesn’t belong in anime,” but I would have to beg to differ. See, the thing is CG/CGI can be a wonderful tool when done in the right context. It doesn’t have to be all bad or meh or whatever you want to call it. In fact it can be absolutely amazing and wonderful and vital to an anime series. With how rapidly advanced our technology is becoming, CG/CGI is finally evolving into something that much more.
For those of you who don’t know CGI (or Computer-generated Imagery) is the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images in art, printed media, video games, films, television programs, shorts, commercials, videos, and simulators. In simple terms it is basically 3D animation that attempts to emulate 2D animation. When animation studios want to cut cost and save time they will use CGI in their work. You can see examples of this when there a multiple people moving at the same time or to make up a large crowd in a specific scene.
99% of the time CG/CGI is badly animated and poorly implemented in anime series. Some examples of poor CG/CGI are that dreadful bear in Golden Kamuy or some of the flying/fight scenes from Inuyashiki. Yeah…you guys all know what I am talking about. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you XD
So why is it that some animation studios get it right while others don’t? Is it because their production budget is non-existent? Are they trying to cut production time and cost? or is it because the art of 2D hand-drawn animation is dying out? While many production companies in Hollywood have CG/CGI down to a science, other production companies still struggle to push out any CG/CGI worthy of being deemed “watchable” or “bearable.” (Ayyyeee…you see what I did there 😉 ) I think it is a culmination of all the questions I asked above. I’m sure most of us know that the anime industry is a slow dying breed. While it has a special niche in Western culture (and I don’t think it is going anywhere anytime soon), it still isn’t flourishing the way it should be. This is mainly due to production staff not being paid the wages they should be making and the fact that some of these companies just don’t have the budget to support what they want to do. It’s all about supply and demand.
But alas my friends! There is still hope. Insert production studios like Orange Animation, Ufotable, and Polygon Pictures. Orange Animation brought us the ever successful Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous), Ufotable brought God Eater to life, and Polygon Pictures received a lot of praise for Blame! the Movie. Other notable anime that blend CG/CGI quite well are Attack on Titan, Summer Wars, and Fate/Zero. There are a few others but I don’t really want to spend all of my time listing all of the anime series that use this technique.
The whole reason I wanted to write this blog today was because of Orange Animation. I can’t help but think about Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) quite often. Not only did I fall in love with the manga series, but I also fell in love with the how the story was portrayed in the anime. Orange Animation really showed up to party when they released Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) last year. Hell, I was thrilled to see that Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) won best CGI Animation in the 2017 Crunchyroll Anime Awards (probably the only thing I was actually happy about if I am being completely honest).
This studio is really pushing the boundaries of CG/CGI in anime. Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) is EXACTLY how other companies should be doing it. The smooth fluidity of character fights, the slow motion scenes of the gems being broken into a million different pieces, the Lunarians showing up unannounced to steal the gems…all of these are perfect examples of CG/CGI done right. God Eater’s animation is also done quite beautifully if you take a solid look at it. I can’t find any hard evidence on how it was produced, but I am pretty sure Ufotable layered traditional 2D animation with CG/CGI to get the final effect in the anime. At first it’s a little hard to get used to but eventually your eyes adjust to the movements and battle scenes.
Here is a brief history of Orange Animation (per Wikipedia…because I’m a lazy POS and y’all should know this by now):
“Orange was founded by famed CG animator Eiji Inomoto. After working on Zoids: Chaotic Century and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex as one of the main Tachikoma 3D Unit members, Eiji gained fame within the animation industry for his usage of CG animation. In 2004, he founded Orange, and using his small team, Eiji worked on the CG animation for various other companies works. For example Xebec’s Heroic Age in 2007 and the anime adaptation of Rail Wars! in 2014. Although Orange was well-known throughout the industry for providing many series with CG animation, especially with works that involved mechas, they would not produce an anime as a lead animation studio until 2013, 9 years after its founding. For the next 4 years, Orange continued to do the CG animation for other companies, but they started to co-produce series like Black Bullet and Dimension W. In 2017, the studio produced its first anime that was not under a co-production. This anime was an adaptation of Land of the Lustrous, which was met with positive critical reception, with praise being given for its usage of CG animation. Orange has been a common collaborator of Kinema Citrus.”
Fun fact! Orange Animation also helped produce the 2014 movie Mune: Guardian of the Moon. No wonder I loved that movie. Totes adorbs and if you haven’t seen it yet you should. I think it might still be on Netflix but don’t quote me on it!
All in all I am hoping that other anime production companies take a few notes and implications from Orange. Orange really set the standard of what it means to use CG/CGI in anime. Whilst I know every production company isn’t going to have the same production budget, staff, or means to make their CG/CGI perfect, I am wishing we will see more shows like Houseki no Kuni (Land of the Lustrous) in the future. A girl can dream you know! CG/CGI is starting to become increasingly more “normal” in video games, movies, television series, and yes, even anime. This train is going to keep chugging along at a high speed rate. One last final thought before you leave for the day: If you want to see how far CG/CGI or technology in general has come in the last decade go check out Netflix’s new docuseries called Follow This. The last episode in this seven part series dives into how increasingly sophisticated technological wizardry can blur reality from fiction–and how it can fuel the misinformation crisis. You can also check out that trailer here:
Thank you for joining me today my pandas! I will see you guys in the month of September. Muah! XOXO
Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them. If I find any links I will always post them (this usually entails fan art or any other work affiliated with an artist).