February 22, 2016

MANGA MONDAYS | CGI: The Computers Are Taking Over

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First order of business: if you haven’t checked out Ajin yet (airing this season), then go watch the first episode to see what you think, especially if you

Photo Courtesy of Polygon Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Polygon Pictures

were a fan of Tokyo Ghoul or Parasyte (seriously, this main character is Kaneki and Shinichi all over again). At the very least, check out some GIFs, because my topic for this week is Ajin’s animation style. I was recently talking about Ajin with friends, who told me that they liked the story but dropped the show because they found the entirely computer-generated animation unbearable. So, I thought I’d take some time to discuss the role of CGI in anime.




Photo Courtesy of Polygon Pictures

After all, Ajin isn’t the first out of recently released animes to rely almost entirely on computer generated graphics. For instance, consider Knights of Sidonia. It is unique for a number of reasons, most notably for being licensed by Netflix in the states. Of course (as I just realized while doing research for this post), Knights of Sidonia is animated by Polygon Pictures – the same studio that’s animating Ajin. Perhaps these CGI anime shows don’t show a particular trend in anime as a whole, but it’s certainly refreshing to see people try new animation styles, whether the results are successful or not.


On the subject of unsuccessful CGI, I want to mention what I believe is the most annoying (and common) use of CGI: animating parts of action scenes via computer while hand-drawing the rest. The studio Gonzo is particularly notorious for this – for example, the OVA series Blue Submarine No. 6 has some of the most atrocious CGI sequences I’ve ever seen. Note that I’m not trying to attack Gonzo here. I love Gonzo’s work, but there’s definitely a right and a wrong way to work computer generated animation into the rest of your show. For instance, large parts of One Punch Man’s animation were computer assisted, but everything flows beautifully.


Of course, I recognize that this is largely cost-based. It’s cheaper to animate with a computer than to hand draw every frame. On the flipside of all this talk about computer animation, we have anime like Redline (actually I’m pretty sure Redline is one-of-a-kind). Every frame of Redline is hand-drawn, and the results are gorgeous. Unfortunately, it also took seven years to produce the whole movie.


Photo Courtesy of Madhouse

Photo Courtesy of Madhouse

I suppose the point of this whole discussion is to point out that there are a wide variety of approaches to using computer animation in anime. Moreover, it’s important that we, as fans, explore these different styles so that we can find (and support!) those that we believe tell the most powerful and expressive stories.

Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at [email protected] Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.


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