In the early 2000’s, I had the pleasure of watching Berserk. Yes, the original 1997 Berserk anime has its issues, but it was one of my first series and it made a huge impression. Flash forward 15+ years and after three very ‘meh’ movies that told the same arc that had already been animated, Berserk is going further into its source material with its new anime, oddly enough also named Berserk, for some reason.
And it is dismal.
Yet, for weary Berserk fans, many believe something is better than nothing. It’s like we are the victims of abuse and have been brainwashed into believing that we don’t deserve anything better than what we get. (No, abuse isn’t funny, but is a surprisingly apt comparison to Berserk fans.)
Although the anime is only in its first few episodes, the story seems fine enough, getting the major gist of the manga from that period, but what ruins it is the animation. I sit there. I try to love it, but everything that runs before my eyes ignites an angry fire in me as a Berserk fan. The movies were bad with the same style of animation. This is worse. This somehow feels even clunkier.
Berserk is a bad example of 3D animation, and it has reminded many why they hate it so much in the first place. The question is, though, is there anime out there that actually makes good use of 3D animation? It is “the future of the industry,” but so few companies seem to get it right.
Not always, but usually 3D animation works best in the mecha genre. What grates people the most about 3D animation, whether they realize it or not, is that it looks out of place when compared to the 2D animation found throughout the rest of a show. In the mecha genre, there is always that crucial suspension of disbelief where viewers are not only willing to believe a giant mech can do whatever it does, but that it would also look the way it does.
That being said, Fafner Exodus does an excellent job blending 3D and 2D animation to a point where they actually work well together. It is one of those shows were you can spot the 3D, but it actually makes sense in the areas they are using it.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
3D animation isn’t just popular in the mecha genre; it is popular in space-themed anime series in general. I guess it is more “future-y,” you know? Regardless, like with mecha, space ships also do pretty well with this particular type of animation. Unless you watched Gundam SEED, then the ships were horribly out of place.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a good example of how 3D animation can be used to enhance the visuals. It is really, really blatant, but it is actually kind of fun to watch spaceships get chopped up by solid-looking lasers.
Not all anime series that use 3D animation needs to be set in space. They don’t even need to be serious. Nothing makes that case better than Etotama. This moe anime primarily uses 2D animation right up until the cute animal people start fighting. From there it shifts to 3D animation, and some pretty good quality animation at that. At times, the shift from 2D to 3D is glaringly obvious, but for the most part, the battles are colorful and fast-paced without quick splashes of 2D animation added on that remind us that it is indeed using two different styles.
The talk is 2D, the fights are 3D. It is a separation that works.
Oh, Ufotable (who does the Fate/Stay animation), if there ever, for some reason, became a law that only one studio could do 3D animation, I hope it would be you. However, when you have one of the biggest in-house CG departments in the industry, I guess you kind of have to do good work or get in line at the unemployment office.
Regardless, Ufotable has really made the reputation of 3D animation come leaps and bounds, not just through the Fate/Stay series, but also the animation for the “Tales of” games. They key to their 3D animation, though, is flash. They have a lot of it. They distract you with ridiculously stunning backgrounds as well as a lot of literal flash in the form of the attacks. Vast backgrounds and a lot of glow-y auras, fire, and beams will make anything look really nice.
Yet, if it works, you can’t really knock it.
BBK/BRNK seems like an experimental show in every aspect. From its story and sound all the way down to its ample 3D animation, but that’s not a bad thing. We anime fans, like gamers, don’t know what we want until we have it. So without experimentation, no one will ever find that next thing.
While BBK/BRNK is not that “next thing,” it’s not the worst show you will ever see. Again we have another mecha anime that uses 3D animation and flourishes through it, but the battles are a real pleasure to watch. Like Fate/Stay, part of the pleasure is most likely in the flash of it all. A lot of the backgrounds and effects are vibrant in color which draws the eye away from any glitches.
Ajin was a hilarious fiasco. People were super hyped about the story, comparing it to the super-hot Tokyo Ghoul, and then it turned out it was going to be CGI. The hype-rection instantly deflated. It wasn’t even a hybrid either; it was full 3D animation throughout.
Yet, that has its advantages. Without 2D shots, you aren’t reminded that there was 3D animation in the first place.
Ajin actually did a passable job with its 3D animation, mostly because it kept the frame rate up. In hybrid shows, sometimes you get high frame rate CGI then it switches to low frame rate 2D animation, which is just unpleasant in all respects. Ajin is fast, with gorgeous backgrounds and a not completely horrible story.
Attack on Titan
Yeah, you didn’t even notice, did you? And exactly that is the herald of good 3D animation. Well, you can see it in some parts, like the towns. However, in shows like Attack on Titan where things often move very quickly (animation-wise, not plot-wise), you need a little help to keep costs down and not have your animator’s fingers fall off.
Agree with this list? Disagree? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.