A short article with Sanzigen bigwigs talking about how they got to where they are, and hyping themselves up in the runup to their 10th anniversary work Bubuki Buranki.
Started this on an impulse and ran through the whole thing in about 90 minutes, so apologies for any errors that didn’t pass my second edit.
Japan’s Anime Quality, the Pride of the World; Bishoujo Full 3DCG Technique
Animation production using full 3DCG is currently in the process of becoming mainstream worldwide. Among that, the anime production company Sanzigen is pursuing a new means of expression known as the “cel look”, and their overwhelming level of quality is receiving heavy praise from outside Japan’s borders. That Sanzigen is producing their first original work, Bubuki Buranki, to commemorate their 10th anniversary. That anime begins airing from January of 2016.
Title: Full 3DCG expressing the “cel image anime style”
The “cel look” is a method of making characters modeled in 3DCG look and move like they’ve been drawn in 2D. While inheriting the know-how on timing the movements from the hand-drawn anime of the past, it has drawn attention in recent years for also making freer camera angles and spatial depictions possible. At Sanzigen, they’ve been challenging this method of production since their establishment.
“While doing subcontracted work on the necessary 3DCG parts of robots and such, we were taking opportunities to ask whether we could make the characters as well. With the mahjong-themed anime Saki, we were able to take an offer to just do the CG for the tiles, and took charge of the hands handling those tiles also. As a result, we were able to make almost all of the cuts containing hands and tiles using CG.”
(Sanzigen/President Matsuura Hiroaki)
While repeating the process of trial and error, they gradually became more respected in the industry, and this method become commonly known through the 2012 movie 009 RE:CYBORG. Continuing on, in the TV and theater editions of Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio, the potential of those means of expression blossomed in a big way. Especially with the TV version of Arpeggio, the increasingly abundant expressive ability of the animation became a topic of discussion for fans throughout the broadcast.
“With 2D animation, all cuts must be drawn from scratch, but with 3DCG, for example, we create a few tens of patterns at the start to express the character. From there we take the individual cuts and subtly fine-tune them, while preserving that original characterization. We end up with a method of visual expression that gets increasingly better. Of course, there’s a need to put in the time to take special care in designing that first CG model. With Arpeggio, we were able to express things things previously unseen in 3DCG. Call it a tremor that reached the hand-drawn stuff, the fact that we could do all those things with 3DCG, that was a bit of a discovery.”
(Same Company/Suzuki Daisuke-shi)
It seems one such passionate fan of the TV version of Arpeggio is the director of the 10th anniversary commemorative work Bubuki Buranki, Komatsuda Daizen-shi.
“He’s a person who’s famous in the world of hand-drawn anime sakuga. It seems like he actually had the impression that CG was still in a field in progress, but he became a fan thanks to Arpeggio. This time, when he was recommended by Kadokawa, our partner in production, I thought we could trust this person, and leave it to him. With what we think of as 2D sakuga, there’s something like a wall where you can only get up to a certain level of quality, but with cel look 3DCG we might just be able to break through that wall. I want to believe in this possibility.”
With their lastest Bubuki Buranki, they depict the universal theme of parents and children. That being said, it’s also packed with entertaining elements such as superpowered battle action. It seems expectations are even high for its performance overseas.
“As we continue to add works to our pile, the quality of the visuals rises. Perhaps it’s because we’re functioning well, but our production flow improves and know-how continues to accumulate within the company. Stories are, firstly, human dramas. I think that’s a principle we’ve been able to understand from the diversity of cultures overseas. With the cel look 3DCG technology that’s unique to Japan, we hope to refine the sensibilities of the foreign fans who have become familiar with Japanese anime. From there we hope to expand the foreign market for Japanese anime.”
“This is a bit extreme, but one could have CG that automatically created itself at the press of a button. However, whether that’s good art or not is an entirely separate issue,” laughs Suzuki-shi. They’re words steeped in the intense pride they take in their work. It seems that the newer visuals of Sanzigen will have the power to push Japanese animation as a whole to evolve.
Appeared in the December 28th issue of Confidence