CG in Anime – A Brief History & Discussion

Love it or Hate it, We’re Stuck With 3D & CG Work in Anime

Since I took a look at Ajin‘s first season earlier this week I thought it might be interesting to explore my thoughts on the use of computer generated content and various 3D elements that are becoming ever present in the anime industry. Before all that though, let’s explore the history of CG in anime.

CGI was first introduced to anime in 1983 for the Golgo 13 film (source). It was pretty ugly by today’s standard but was the start of something new for anime. Through much of the’80’s CG was primarily in its infancy and would not become more commonly used until the 1990’s.

A novelty for most of the early ’90’s, CG first found some roots for success in the 1995 release of Ghost in the Shell. With the success of Ghost in the Shell, CG and 3D animation was shown to be a viable tool for the industry (source).

From there, CG found itself mostly used for backgrounds and various effects. That is, until studio Gonzo rolled around. Known for anime such as Last Exile, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, and Welcome to the N.H.K. but what some people may not realize, were fascinated by the use of computer generated content in many of their productions (source).

An Example of Gankutsuou’s 3D Animation

At one point the studio was the industry leader in effects and other CG content, but has since fallen from that position. Taking a look at their earlier works, it is easy to see just how technologically advance they were for their time but today much of what Gonzo was doing at a premium and has not aged well, can be done more cheaply and easily today.

The use of CG could be considered to have hit the “mainstream” audience with Ghibli’s 1997 classic film, Princess Mononoke. Moving into the 2000’s CG began to explode in its use and became a lot more prevalent. 3D models were fairly common during this time for series featuring Mecha such as Code Geass  to the Love Live franchise’s characters.

Knights of Sidona

Fully computer-animated anime were pretty rare, and still are today even. Many of these works such as 2009’s Oblivion Island were met with poor reception and didn’t really take off (source). In 2014 a fully CG anime titled Knights of Sidonia was released on Netflix. The series did well enough that studio Polygon Pictures was able to produce another fully 3D work Ajin in the Winter season of 2016. Both shows were met with initial hesitation but have been well received by those keeping an open mind about the use of CG.

CG in anime has become a useful tool for the creation of anime. Sometimes interesting things can come out of new technology like the Ajin series. However, CG and other 3D elements are silly and detract from the overall quality of a show, or in Berserk’s (2016) case, a franchise.

Personally, so long as these tools and techniques are used to enhance an anime’s quality, I don’t mind it. Every now and then, I see something that looks down right bad like one of the opening scenes I mentioned in the latest Wixoss installment but I can also recognize that CG is a time and cost saver that has only been getting better as time goes on.

Just compare CG from the ’80’s to the what’s being done now. Like any technology, it will get better with time. It’s not quite there yet, since shows like Ajin still take getting used to and aren’t even always animated well, but I think it can get there. I’m open to seeing more fully 3D shows in the future and what they can offer that more traditional anime may not be able to. Of course, I could be completely wrong here but I’d like to think positively about changes like this in an industry I love, rather than focus on just the negatives.

What do you think, is CG in anime a good thing or a bad thing? Should more fully 3D shows be made, or are they just a passing novelty? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below as I’m interested in what other’s have to say about this topic.

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3 thoughts on “CG in Anime – A Brief History & Discussion

  1. I think the full CG anime are still a bit hard to watch initially but you kind of get used to it. I think it is going anywhere and it really is just how it is used and the degree to which it is used that will change over time. Besides, eventually people will just stop noticing it as it becomes more mainstream. That doesn’t stop some of the current uses of CG just making characters look creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the sources I provided mentioned some of the earlier 2000’s anime that tried the full CG thing came out feeling overly uncanny valley. I totally get that. I agree with you when you say that people probably won’t notice it as much once it’s more mainstream. Right now though it just isn’t quite there but I think it is definitely getting close (like a few years out). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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