If you have seen the latest season of Attack on Titan then you must’ve noticed the amount of CGI used in Titan battles. Even the CGI used was not that bad but it wasn’t holding well compared to 2d titans we are used to seeing in previous seasons. This was not a solitary case, the amount of bad CGI being used in modern anime staggering. If we take the example of the latest Demon Slayer Movie (minor spoiler) we find our main character Tanjiro fighting a CGI demon blob. And you possibly cannot ignore all the clunky 3d crowd that we see in a lot of anime these days.
What is bad CGI exactly?
Traditionally anime is hand-drawn, so someone is sitting there and animating each and every frame. Hand-drawn animation has a certain look to it, but when we put a 3d object in a 2d scene it can look different from the other elements of animation, which creates the problem. When consuming any content our brain gets used to the style of that content but when we add something of a different style our brain gets triggered and breaks the immersion.
For example, when we see a CG character fighting a hand-drawn character, who has different styles from one another, it breaks the immersion, which results in a worse experience.
Technically what makes a bad CGI
The first problem is how much you can express with a CG character, while a hand-drawn character can have a wide range of facial expressions and also a wide range of body motion, CGI characters are way limited in those regards, if not done properly its normal for a CG character to look stiff or lacking emotion. The way the body of the character stretches with the motion is also quite different. And unlike big Hollywood studios like Disney or Pixar, which spends years working on a single movie, anime tends to have a tight schedule which makes things even worse.
The second big problem with CGI is the use of 3d shading in 2d animation, Shading is what describes the appearance of the object, its reflections, color, shadows, and other properties. When you add an object which has more real-world shading or 3d shading in a 2d environment it again breaks the immersion.
Is all CGI bad?
And a clear answer is NO. There are clearly anime studios that regularly use it to amaze people. If we take an example, Ufotable which was the studio behind the Fate series and Demon Slayer has built its whole art style around CGI, They have a style where they use a fully 3d environment with a lot of dynamic camera movements and a lot of CG objects. Not only Ufotable, a lot of great anime these days have some sort of hidden CGI elements that enhance the experience.
Strengths of good CGI
One of the biggest strengths of good CGI is that it enables the artist to do complex stuff which otherwise will be too tedious to make, like complex mechanical objects. 2d animation is a lot about cutting corners and it’s gonna take a lot of time if you wanna create something complex with a change in perspective. If we take a recent example, Train in the recent Demon Slayer movie was completely 3d and it wasn’t even noticeable. Even the old Ghibli movies like Princess Mononoke used it to create complex cursed monsters, which would’ve been a big mess if hand-animated.
If shading and animation, done properly 3d can blend with 2d very well and can create amazing visuals. In fact, if done correctly you won’t even notice the good CGI.
The biggest problem we see with modern anime fandom is people hate the use of CGI and always complain about how amazing classic anime used to look. But one of the main points to consider is CGI is just a tool. Like every tool, it has its ups and downs. It all depends on the creator and how well it plays with the strengths and weaknesses of its tools. With its strengths, the use of CGI is inevitable in modern anime. In the end, if used well it can produce magnificent results.