Where Might Future Changes in Anime Lie?

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

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9 thoughts on “Where Might Future Changes in Anime Lie?

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  2. I know i’m not contributing to discussion much here, but have you seen the 3DCG dragon used in the Fate/Stay Night anime? It was laughably bad and completely at odds with the rest of the series.
    3DCG may have a place, but using it in a way that fits is really quite tough. The one place i’ve seen it used well was for Berserker in Fate/Zero, which worked because he was meant to look outlandish and strange.

    • Hadn’t seen FSN, but I got a look at the dragon scene. It’s not the worst 3DCG I’ve ever seen in anime, but it was definitely a mighty whiff graphically (especially if that’s the only time such an effect was used). But that was about 8 years ago, and was a cheap choice even then. That’s not what I’m saying will catch on. I’m talking about stuff like the combat in BRS, which is entirely cel-shaded 3D but doesn’t look too shabby.

      Ex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIoQ4ip9ko0

      I’m still not sure if I want the age of 3D anime that could happen if Arpeggio to succeed. I just think it’s something very attractive from an industry standpoint, and something not prohibited by the artstyle it brings with it. Not gonna lie, 3DCG has its pitfalls. I’ve seen many, many uses for it as a budget saver that panned out badly. But there are two reasons that those uses aren’t necessarily representative of what it’s capable of, both in the context of Arpeggio and in general. One, it’s been used for mecha designs in a number of shows (Tiger and Bunny, Aquarion EVOL, Majestic Prince, etc.) and those look solid. Arpeggio is going to focus heavily on battles between mechanically-detailed subs. Two, it’s mostly at this point been used to garnish shows where it wasn’t the main focus, often being plugged in by subpar directors to save money. Norageki was directed by a veteran 3D graphics guy and uses the cel-shaded variety of 3D graphics pretty well. Arpeggio is being handled by a veteran director (who’s had all of one commercial failure out of the nine shows he’s directed since 2007) and a studio that specializes in 3D animation, and its trailers show high production values.

  3. I really hope CG anime doesn’t replace the traditional style, much like how in the States CG movies have killed off the 2D ones. I especially dislike when they mix the two together as it clashes. In the recent Berserk movie for example characters would switch from fluid 2D to clunky CG representations which really took me out.

    • I very much doubt 3D, whether cel-shaded or Pixar-style, will replace the traditional hand-drawn style entirely, Even in the US, where 3D has been bigger for longer, we still get plenty of great hand-drawn cartoons like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls because there’s a market for all kinds of styles.

      I totally agree that the CG in the Berserk movie was all kinds of suck, one of the major issues with the film. I just don’t think that represents the peak of what cel-shaded anime can be. I think there are 3 kinds of approaches to 3D in anime that work: use 3D with Mechs only, use no 3D at all, and use all 3D. The last one is something I think could become more prominent, and like most technologies should get better as people use it more frequently. I’m just as against the whole “let’s draw crowds on the cheap and hope nobody notices” style of animation as anyone.

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