In Anime Ichiban, we take a look at our writer’s totally personal, totally subjective, possibly biased, and possibly stupid opinions regarding anime associated affairs.
So you’ve read three Anime Ichiban articles now, have ya? Got past the golden “three episode rule” and now you’re in it for the long run. You got comfortable with Anime Ichiban’s laidback attitude? Well too bad, because it’s plot twist time! Now introducing Anime Ichiban’s evil twin brother: Dark Anime Ichiban/Anime Ichiban Alter/Anti-Anime Ichiban/(insert your favorite “dark” anime reference here)! I’m not here to praise shows, I’m here to rip into ‘em. So let’s get right into it, shall we?
Much to the dismay of many anime fans out there, CG is here to stay. With the community demanding more and more anime at higher and higher quality, CG is just too convenient a tool to ignore. Many studios have gotten better at smoothing out CG, or hiding it so that it’s not too noticeable, but there are still some instances out there that rise above the rest. These are the black sheep among black sheep, the heretics of heretics, the Black Clovers of shounen. These are the examples of CG that will go down in anime infamy.
Berserk (2016, 2017)
Ok, let’s get this one out of the way. The premiere of the Berserk reboot anime back in 2016 will be carved into the aisles of history as the day the salt content of the world’s oceans increased a whole percentage point due to the tears shed by the decimated fanbase.
Berserk needs little explanation. Watching a few minutes of any scene is enough to demonstrate just how plagued this show is by every, single facet that makes CG so difficult to watch in anime. Horrible lip-syncing? Check. Bland character models? Check. Janky movements that look like Disneyland animatronics? Double check. Not much else needs to be said about Berserk since it’s already so widely known. It’s here, it’s bad, it’s not getting any better, and fans of the manga will just have settle with the 1998 show as their go-to adaptation of choice.
Alice and Zoroku
CG’s primary use in anime today seems to be in the animation of mechanical objects, particularly cars. It’s an aspect of CG that the anime community has more or less come to accept over the years, as it’s never been too overly intrusive in shows on the whole.
Then came along Alice and Zoroku that premiered its 45-minute long pilot episode Spring of last year. It was actually a nice little surprise of a show, with a crotchety old man as the protagonist that somehow created a heartwarming environment around him. That didn’t save him from the car chase scene he starred in, though, because hoo boy was this a disaster.
The scene was something out of a bad crash test safety commercial, complete with a crash test dummy in the form of Zoroku. Usually, when a studio elects to use CG to animate their cars, they would add glare to the windows so the viewer can’t see inside, thus saving the studio any effort in animating the characters from the outside of the car. Not the case for this scene, as J.C. Staff decided they were too good for that and instead elected to use MS Paint to plop in an amorphous blog that supposedly represents our elderly protagonist.
Not only that, but the show can’t even keep its CG consistent as the very next scene shows a ghost car with nothing in it! If you’re going to shoot for mediocrity, then at least commit to it… actually maybe not. Maybe just avoid mediocrity in general.
Kino’s Journey (2017)
Speaking of vehicular movement… Let me preface with this. Unlike Berserk, I enjoyed the Kino’s Journey reboot of last year. It may not have hit the same highs as the original 2003 work did, but it still proposed many intriguing questions about human nature and society, whilst doing a good job of remaining neutral enough to let the viewer draw their own conclusions on the matter.
That said, as the title suggests, Kino’s Journey is about our protagonist “Kino” going on a “journey” to various countries in a fictional world. That’s the premise. So why is it that she and her primary mode of transportation, a talking motorcycle named Hermes, are animated so often using lifeless CG? It would be one thing if it was at least consistent, but the show switches between 2D hand-drawn animation and CG animation on the fly, creating these very jarring transitions.
My complaints with Kino’s Journey’s CG is much more nit-picky than that of the other ones on this list, but I couldn’t help but be dragged out of the moment whenever Kino pulled up on Hermes like a puck gliding over a shuffleboard. It lacks the oomph and impact that would convey her riding this powerful vehicle, and when one of the show’s focal points is said vehicle, that happens more than I would like.
I feel a little bad for Hand Shakers. It was clear that studio GoHands had quite the ambition when creating this show. It sports an animation style that’s somewhere between traditional 2D, rotoscoping, and CG. It was a bizarre mix that has 2D drawn characters, hyper-realistic CG environments (by anime standards), and other CG elements thrown in between that was quite unlike any anime before it. In fact, looking at some still shots of the show may even give the impression it was semi-decent. Unfortunately, the moment those still shots stop being “still” is when everything falls apart.
Just as no animation style prior can describe Hand Shaker’s, no form of motion sickness can properly convey the gut-twisting feeling that results from watching this Picasso painting turned anime. The mix of animation style is bad enough, but coupled with a camera that seems to be attached to a spin drill that’s riding a merry-go-round creates some of the most physically taxing scenes to have ever descended upon anime, or visual entertainment media in general.
Hand Shakers at least gets credit for trying something new with CG, whereas Berserk is just bad period. It’s a shame it didn’t turn out as well as the anime and Studio GoHands would have liked.
Mekakucity Actors (Episode 9)
Mekakucity Actors was already an anomaly in the anime medium being an adaptation of a popular Vocaloid music album (it’s a really good Vocaloid album, by the way), rather than a traditional light novel or manga adaptation. As such its plot was rather nonsensical and was just plain difficult to follow at the best of times. What Mekakucity Actors did have going for it, however, was the eye-catching animation style of SHAFT, which made for some pretty eye-candy throughout the show… with the exception of a single episode.
Episode 9 featured a rather important flashback for what little tangible plot there was in the series. Yet for some as of yet undisclosed reason, SHAFT decided to animate this scene using CG and boy was it not eye-candy anymore!
The CG’s bastardization of the characters we had grown accustomed to up till that point was disturbing, to say the least. Faces were mangled, eyes were dropped, and motions were made as if the animators only had three joints to work with. It was truly a horrifying spectacle, and no one should have to suffer such an atrocity.
It’s a shame that this disaster occurred while a remix for one of the album’s best tracks, “Ayano’s Theory to Happiness”, was playing in the background, utterly desecrating what would’ve been a heartfelt song (no I’m not salty at all).
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Fear not, for it’s not all bad in CG land. Despite all the extreme examples listed here, CG is finally starting to find its place in anime. You wouldn’t have to look any further than last season’s Land of the Lustrous to see that which features some of the best CG, if not the best, in anime to date. There was also 2015’s Garo, whose CG turned the characters’ armor pieces into the very incarnation of beasts.
The presence of CG in an anime no longer means it will be inherently bad. There are good ways to use it, but man, there are so many bad ways to use it as well. We can only hope no new anime releases in the future are (un)worthy enough to be added to this list.