Do You Need Great Animation in Your Anime?

A response to Karandi’s post from a while ago.

I have no idea where Karandi’s gone as of the completion of this post (which, I will admit, was the day before it was published), but after digging in my drafts folder for something to use, plus K’s conducting on the good content train…it seems she still holds sway over a part of the blogging world after all.

Eizouken taught us a bit about how animators take shortcuts, but depending on exactly where said shortcuts are taken, an anime can look like it was animated with all necessary frames intact or it can just end up sloppy. I mean, one of the biggest distinguishing factors of anime is the pillow shot – a momentary shot of scenery, just to establish the setting. Pillow shots are frames that can be pulled from an animation bank and then left to sit in one spot to occupy time, so they’re lazy in a way that doesn’t seem too apparent until you see the exact footage multiple times in a row, possibly during a huge binge session. On the other hand, we’ve also all become acquainted with off model characters…something like this Odasaku (from Bungou Stray Dogs).

On the topic of Bungou Stray Dogs, the general animation shortcut for that series is to not put in a character’s face when you don’t focus on it, so it results in something that looks like face-stealing aliens arrived and did their thing, so I call the momentary absence of a face in anime a “face-stealing aliens moment”.

Sidebar: There are probably other anime which address animation shortcuts…Shirobako for one…but Eizouken is just the most recent example which I know fits the criteria. (I haven’t watched Shirobako as of this post, so of course I wouldn’t know what’s addressed in it.)

As for the post I linked to above the cut, Evangelion is infamous for being a trainwreck at the end – nobody really knows why, although the reigning idea on that front seems to be lack of budget or the director’s mental breakdown – so you really have to think about non-animation aspects of it. Fortunately, Evangelion trades in enough themes about family and what it means to live for one purpose that you can forgive it when it becomes all still frames at the end of the original series.

Of course, this all leads up to one question: where do I stand on this topic? I don’t need great animation – I can still appreciate a mediocre-looking anime if it’s got other good qualities (sometimes the bad animation is what I watch for *looks at gd men*) – but if I get it, great animation is a bonus. One Punch Man was a masterclass in how people react to this topic, so the fact I finished season 2 and thought it average should be enough of a barometer in that respect. On the flip side, I’ve already professed I think Shinkai movies are average at best and dull at worst, despite their god-tier visuals.

For a series outside the examples I’ve already listed, it really depends on where the priorities lie, although predictability (such as being able to see where the plotline goes before it’s revealed or reading a comedy anime’s reviews before watching it) tends to be the thing that kills a series’s chances for me, more often than visual aspects such as CGI background characters, which has been a personal gripe of mine since at least Tsukigakirei, and what I call “1st person camera”, which is when the “camera” takes on the perspective of a character in the anime. That was one of the reasons why I dropped Room Mate, Makura no Danshi and King of Prism – Shiny Seven Stars (although with the former two, there’s the idea you are meant to interact with the characters)…the fact you’ve probably never heard of those anime says dropping them was a wise decision.

This post got randomly explanatory, so I’ll just put in a disclaimer that I only have a passing knowledge of shot composition and stuff at best. Someone who’s done a course in animation or multimedia could probably do better than me when it comes to explaining animation shortcuts and the like, hence the angle I’ve taken.

Over to you now: do you need great animation in your anime?

9 thoughts on “Do You Need Great Animation in Your Anime?

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  1. Considering that I un-ironically liked Handsome Gakuen, despite the arguably low quality animation, for me it’s not a requirement. It’s a solid bonus, but not a requirement for a decent anime.

    That does make it difficult to watch with my friend who has a degree in animation. They have pretty reasonable, but at times nit-picky standards for the anime we watch together lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, animation > story. Not that a good story isn’t important (it really is), just that I’d rather watch a badly written, yet beautiful anime because there’s a chance that the visuals themselves will be compelling on their own.

    That said, for me, good animation isn’t just the number of frames. Storyboarding (scene composition etc) is more important. Which is why a series w/ little animation can still feel really well-told.

    In the end though, it’s just my personal tastes, so I understand why people don’t really fixate on it – though I wish people would take time to appreciate how much animation contributes to anime.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Took an animation class way before the pandemic and it is a thing amongst animators to have shortcuts in their works. The one part I don’t like during the process is some people prioritize the visuals over the story it’s supposed to tell.

    Normally per second in animation is 24 frames. If it’s less than that, it won’t be seen as a complete work even though some animators rely on lesser frames to reach the deadline. If it is possible, one could make a second of animation of only 8 – 12 frames. Anime tends to shortcut a lot and I don’t really mind it. I never watched Demon Slayer because the story is quite as basic as it is rooted in Shounen despite the rave of Episode 19’s production values.

    So in short: Story > Animation.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve been wondering a lot about Karandi too, hope she’s okay…

    I agree with you that great animation is a bonus rather than a requirement. I don’t really have an eye for animation, so half the time when people nerd out about specific scenes in action anime (e.g. when we were collabing for Kimetsu no Yaiba), I don’t resonate because I never paid great attention to them.

    Seeing obvious animation fails in the middle of a long series usually just makes me feel bad for the poor stressed animators, more than anything…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s a lot of strikethrough Aria. Might be the biggest strikethrough paragraph I’ve read yet, unless I’ve missed another good one.

    I’d agree visuals aren’t entirely necessary in that the story and actual content of said story is more important. But then visuals can have a really large impact on how the story is delivered, and how we perceive it that I think can’t be discounted.

    Shaft’s abstract style really helped the Monogatari Series to prosper because it just accents the story so well. But then you’ve got something like Violet Evergarden where the stunning visuals just make the story have that much more beauty and impact.

    There are definitely limits to how bad animation can get for me. Like I dropped devilman crybaby because it ended up becoming too raunchy for me but the only reason I was even teetering on the edge of dropping the anime was because I disliked the animation so much and was basically looking for a reason to drop it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I didn’t really notice how much strikethrough I was using while I was writing. It’s kind of like sidebars in that too many might ruin the writing, but putting a snarky struckthough message every so often helps to understand the writer better.

      Fair enough. Devilman comes from an era and mangaka that has this one particular Look you just don’t encounter these days.

      Liked by 1 person

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