Do Artwork and Animation Really Matter?

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Regardless of the amount of time you’ve spent watching anime, you’ve no doubt noticed that people will often put a very big emphasis on the art style of a show, or the overall quality of it’s animation.  At the same time, there are others who loathe people who think like this and insist that shows should be judged for their substance (i.e. story, characters, comedy, themes, etc) rather than their style.  In some ways modern shows further this gap, as certain shows have much bigger budgets than others, and 1080p rips of episodes are now an almost standard way of watching everything that comes out.

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Often times, shows today are characterized and judged by their visual appeal, and to an extent are completely defined by it.  Cencoroll, for example, is an OVA that receives a large amount of it’s praise due to it’s fluid animation and interesting art style, and movies like Paprika and Redline are some of the most imaginative works of animation attempted in a long time.  In the same way, animation studios such as Shaft, Kyoto Animation, and Production I.G. have almost built their reputation around producing very good-looking and recognizable shows.  But because of this, in the same way that people sometimes assume anything a director they like will be good, people will likely pay more attention to shows by studios that they like, something I’m sometimes guilty of in regards to Shaft and Gainax.  While there’s nothing wrong with creating a reputation based upon creating shows that look good, in a way it sometimes does cause viewers to ignore flaws or shortcomings a show may have, simply because they think it’s looks pretty.  Also, people will sometimes get the idea that just because not much effort may be put into the animation, then no effort was put into any other aspect of the show.  The idea that “my favorite studio did this, so it’s good” is also getting pretty out of control as well.

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Even though judging a show based on purely aesthetics may seem ridiculous, it’s very important to remember one thing; anime is a visual form of entertainment, and as such the creators should actually try to make the shows look good.  If a show has good animation or an interesting or unique art style, then that just gives viewers all the more incentive to watch the show.  I’m sure there have been times when we’ve all had trouble getting through a show, and the only saving grace being “at least it looks good sometimes” (Goddam Guilty Crown).  The fact is, we’re pretty superficial most of the time, and I don’t think anyone would object to a good series having great art and animation instead of shitty art and animation.  What I mean by all this is that your story, characters, and whatnot are, the visual aspect of a show is not a minute thing, in fact it’s a very important part.  Saying that visuals aren’t very important in an anime is like saying cinematography isn’t important in a movie, and that filming something on an iPhone is just as good as filming with a Panavision camera.

Personally, I value aesthetics a lot in anime, probably more than I actually should.  But I think that’s because there are plenty of television shows and movies that show the real world and real people, so what I want from anime is for it to be able to set itself apart from that, sometimes regardless of whether it has an amazing story.  For example; I absolutely love Fantasia, which is nothing but music and creative visuals, with any “story” being told through the scenes.  While I understand people who say that they value the “interior” of a show rather than it’s “exterior”, I still think it’s actually a very important part of any show overall.  After all, artwork and animation are what make anime anime, and without that you’d be just as well off reading a good book.

Posted on February 1, 2013, in Editorials. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Animation is certainly an important factor when it comes to anime–if it’s not very good it will detract from the story it’s trying to tell. And the way the series goes about its animation in general will definitely have an effect on the atmosphere of the show. Oftentimes the animation style works to reinforce the tone of a story, while in other cases it is meant to provide contrast. Just as in live action shows, lighting, angles, and pacing all come into play for animation as well, and each affects the way viewers will process each individual scene.
    So while I think it’s important to analyze a series for its animation and art to some degree, there’s still obviously the story to consider, which is why you can’t guarantee an anime will be good just based on the animation studio that’s working on it.
    Case in point, I don’t have a favorite studio, as my favorite shows come from a wide variety of different sources. If I were to pick some top favorite series based solely on animation, I’d end up with ComixWave (5 cm/Sec), Studio Rikka (Time of Eve), Bones (Sword of the Stranger), KyoAni (Nichijou), Ufotable (Fate/Zero), and a host of others. And for many shows, the style used often becomes an integral element that would change the feel of it considerably had it been approached differently–a few examples off the top of my head are Kino no Tabi, Tsuritama, Shiki, Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, and Humanity Has Declined. They just wouldn’t be the same without that unique style they each went with.

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