By Liam Moore
February 19, 2021
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about CGI (computer-generated imagery) in anime. This topic has arisen once again because of the anime Attack on Titan which, after getting a new animation studio, now uses CGI instead of hand-drawn “stop motion”.
Now what exactly is CGI? CGI or CG is where computers are used to render 3D models onto the screen. In contrast, normal animation is a series of hand drawn images that are strung together, like stop motion, to create the illusion of motion. For some reason, when anime watchers hear that a show has or uses CGI, they seem to shy away from watching it or make the assumption that it’s bad.
But why do anime watchers, including myself, tend to stay away from CGI shows? Well, the answer is simple, animation studios that use CGI rarely get it right. As popular anime YouTuber Gigguk said, “Bad CG is bad CG because you notice bad CG”. For the majority of watchers, bad CG takes the watcher out of the experience because things just don’t look right. Also, most anime are either all CG or no CG. There are few anime that take advantage of both, purely for budget reasons. There would be a need to pay artists for both hand-drawn animation and animators for CG animation.
When an anime is purely reliant on CG for its animation, it has to nail the CG to get good reviews, despite if it’s a perfect story.. For example, Berserk was one of the most popular manga in Japan and got an animation in 1997 and was well received. In 2016, the show was redone with CG and fans were not happy. I have not watched the show, but from what I’ve seen, the CG animation was very bad and I couldn’t tell whether I was watching a western cartoon or a Japanese animation. From weird facial expressions to awkward body movements, CG did not help the show gain popularity, but more so ruined the reputation of CG anime
Berserk set the bar very low for anime fans, low enough for people to avoid CG shows altogether. The next best thing would be to combine CG and normal animation, which many anime studios are beginning to do. However, the problem people still have is that the two animations tend to clash with each other if not used properly. For example, in Golden Kamuy, the characters are all animated normally but there is a CGI bear that they interact with and fight. The difference in animation makes the bear seem clunky and out of place, ruining the immersion for the watcher.
However, Wit Studio, the animators of Attack on Titan seasons one through three, have cleverly used CG to enhance the show. Wit Studio took advantage of the fast-paced action scenes to create a CGI background in which normally animated characters move through. Because the background is moving at such a fast pace, the watcher doesn’t have time to recognize that there is even CG. I never even realized there was so much CG until I went back and watched certain scenes and focused on the background. This is an example of good CG in anime because you would never notice it.
Moving on to the controversy. After Attack on Titan season three ended, the director announced that they would be hiring a new studio: MAPPA Studio (Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association). For almost all fans, this was a good sign because the studio had already animated two hit anime in 2020: Jujutsu Kaisen and The God of High School. However, after the first episode of season four aired, fans noticed that the titans were animated with CG, instead of normal methods. For many fans, this meant the end of the world because they believe that all CG is bad. Most of the other comments I’ve seen have been indifferent to the new animation.
In my opinion, the use of CG in Attack on Titan does not ruin the show, like many fans would like you to believe. I prefer this new animation by MAPPA over Wit Studio. I feel as if the CG movements of the characters match with the creepy and evil sort of feel that season four has adopted.
To all the people who think CG ruins all anime, I used to feel the same way until I watched season four of Attack on Titan, which was the first time I favored CG animation. To all the Attack on Titan fans who dislike MAPPA Studio for using CG and cling on to Wit Studio for its traditional animation, Wit Studio actually used lots of CG but because it was used masterfully, fans never noticed. My stance on the controversy is this; Wit Studio had good CG because no one noticed the good CG and MAPPA Studio uses good CG. After all, it does not ruin the immersion for the watcher. As long as watchers are not complaining every second about the use of CG, people would soon realize the masterpiece that is the animation of Attack on Titan.