I just spent the past week and a half or so writing about how the anime industry responded to various changes in technology over the years. While I was writing those articles, I noticed that the changes occurred roughly every five years or so, and, going by that observation, we were “due” for another change soon. While the notion of things being “due” in general is a fairly foolish one, it did serve as the spark for a brainstorm about where that change might eventually come from. Eventually, I came across two possibilities that I felt were worth talking about: Web Anime and 3DCG anime.
Web anime has actually been around for a while and hasn’t really caught on. On some level, net-only TV feels inevitable after House of Cards, but Ebiten was a full-season standard-format Net anime that happened a year ago now, and I don’t see anyone else trying to call shotgun on that bandwagon. There’s little to be gained from studios putting anime on the web when they can put it on TV, make more money, and get free exposure consistently garnering better ratings than replacements on late-night timeslots would.
That said, it does offer some intriguing possibilities. For one thing, broadcasting over the internet would free studios from time constraints that TV anime bring. We’ve seen 50-minute episode TV anime (Katanagatari, and also Figure 17 seven years prior) that bucked conventions and were pretty good. But getting that sort of timeslot requires a little bit of scheduling magic and particular kind of show. It’s entirely possible that those shows were able to get those timeslots because they were of a special quality, as opposed to the episode lengths implying those shows would be good. And also you could get most of the same benefits just by doing an OVA series with monthly releases right now, too. That change appears, conservatively, to be 5-10 years in the future.
Conversely, I think you could make a case for 3DCG being on the rise, with OVAs like Koi Sento and Norageki doing well enough. Arpeggio of Blue Steel, an upcoming all-3D anime by Studio Sanzigen with high production values, could get industry people talking if it does even alright in the marketplace.*
The simple reason why is that animating one model and then using it for 20 scenes is a heck of a lot cheaper than animating all 20 of those by hand. 3DCG done really well on a consistent basis is something I’m for, but as a cost-saving measure (particularly to animate crowds in the background to save a few bucks) it comes across pretty weak. I recall moments in Un-Go and Hataraku Maou-sama (both shows I generally liked) where 3DCG was used to cut corners and came off as just extremely jarring in an unimpressive way. The Black Rock Shooter TV series is probably the best example I can think of to date of effective usage of 3DCG (used to show one world in a parallel world-based anime, linked to some decent action), with the caveat that BRS was a trainwreck otherwise. Arpeggio’s potential long-term effects if it succeeds are easily my favorite storyline going into Fall (for this reason and the fact that it’s another Kishi Seiji anime, I fully expect to blog it and try to break some of that down as I do).
*I’d say averaging 5000 copies per volume would qualify