Lessons Learned from Berserk 2016

I haven’t seen much of any Berserk series (maybe an episode or a movie or something a long time ago), but apparently, the new 2016 series is a bit of a hot topic for its use of CG. I watched a few fan videos produced in the fallout. The commentators analyze why they feel the series failed as well as why most anime fail to use CG in an effective way. Some of the points in a couple of videos I felt weren’t just applicable to anime but to all CGI movies and series, so I thought I’d expand on them a little.

In “The Mismanagement of CG in Anime,” BriHard discusses how anime that fail to use CG in an effective way are typically trying to imitate 2D animation as opposed to being inspired by it. Shadow Skill: Secret of the Kurudan Style, which I wrote about in a previous post, is a perfect example of a CGI anime series that attempts to imitate 2D animation and fails to draw on the strengths of 3D animation. Viewers who watch a lot of anime will naturally compare it to the 2D animation that they know. From there, picking out its flaws and differences and discarding it as a rip-off is easy to do. Films with styles that are inspired by animation such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, however, are much less prone to this comparison and critique and show off the full power of what 3D animation can do. The characters in Advent Children have an anime-like “feel” to them in how they are designed, the shape of their eyes, and the way they act, but while the film draws inspiration from anime, it doesn’t attempt to mimic 2D animation with cell shading or stilted animation.

In the west, full CGI movies, when they aren’t targeted at children, seem to more often imitate reality rather than 2D animation. This may be because it is so often used as a tool in live-action films where it must fit in with the real objects and characters in the scene. Like many CG anime series, full CGI films like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol can be off-putting or unsatisfying because they don’t quite live up to the reality that they imitate. The graphics in video games, however, usually don’t receive this criticism even though many of them portray humans in a realistic environment. People may say that the graphics in a game are ugly, that the characters are ugly, or that the graphics are pixelated, but I’ve never heard anyone complain that the characters don’t look like real people. Of course they don’t look like real people. They’re composed of visible blocky polygons, sheets for hair and clothes, and pixelated textures. Even though modern games look better than ever, these artifacts are still visible. The characters and environments are clearly inspired by reality in how they are designed, feel, and behave, but they don’t imitate it so closely that they are scrutinized for how different they are from it. CGI films like Advent Children also avoid this scrutiny by stylizing the character and environment designs but still represent reality in a satisfying way.

Super Eyepatch Wolf in “Berserk 2016: What The HELL happened” relays a quote said by the lead animator of Double Negative: “When animators start to use 3D, the first thing they forget is everything they learned from 2D.” In relation to this quote, he discussed how even fundamental film-making techniques like the 180 degree rule are sacrificed for the sake of having cool-looking shots in Berserk 2016. This is a problem that I’ve observed in the CGI films that I’ve studied as well, but I feel that goes down to the level of the script. So often, the goal of CGI films that mimic reality or target adults seems to be to only create something that looks cool. The stories are often mediocre (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within); based on existing properties, no matter how ancient (Beowulf); or completely ridiculous (Appleseed: Alpha). While the end product looks beautiful, it often lacks a satisfying story that gives anything it in purpose. This may be another side effect of how CGI is used in live action films targeted at adults. Often CGI enhances or portrays action-packed events or amazing environments while mimicing reality. When all that’s in the movie is CGI though, that doesn’t mean it can be all action, amazing wonders, and ridiculous camera angles all the time.

While these videos examine slightly different content that I do, they concur that CGI seems to be so new that filmmakers are still enamored with it and learning how to use it effectively even in 2016.

Anime Abominations (Part 5) – Shadow Skill: Secret of the Kurudan Style

Having never seen anything from the Shadow Skill anime series or read any of the manga, I admit that I didn’t understand much of Shadow Skill: Secret of the Kurudan Style (2004). This 60-minute movie features Elle and Gau, who must stop a bad guy from obtaining knowledge of an ancient fighting style and taking over the world with it.

I recently watched a video on the use of CG in anime series. In the creator’s opinion, CG doesn’t typically work because, in 2D-3D hybrid shows, 3D elements clash with the 2D assets, and, in shows made entirely or mostly with CG, the 3D elements mimic 2D animation with cell shading, lowered frame rates, and severely limited and stiff movement, which presents CG as a bad rip-off of 2D animation as opposed to its own type of animation. I don’t watch a lot of CGI anime series, so I’d never noticed this myself. Most of the series in these Anime Abominations blogs have their own styles that, while they look horrible and are inspired by traditional Japanese animation, don’t limit the animation or art in this way.

Shadow Skill was the first time I witnessed this extent of 2D-animation mimicry. It kind of reminded me of Tokusatsu movies and television shows, which often feature live-action actors mimicking the exaggerated drama and flamboyance of anime in a charming and delightfully cheesy way. Shadow Skill, however, doesn’t mimic anything that makes anime fun to watch. In fact, it mimics the worst that anime has to offer. Most of the movie contains long, monotonous dialog in which the characters hardly move; badly choreographed fights with characters that swipe at the camera and then fall over; and abstract flashbacks… No, not even flashbacks, one flashback that is repeated over and over again. Not even talking about the CG anymore, the pacing is just awful. This 20-minute episode lasts three times longer than it should.

Anyway, if this description isn’t all of Shadow Skill that you want to experience… enjoy?

Anime Abominations (Part 4) – Catblue Dynamite

Catblue Dynamite (2006) is a single episode, 40-minute anime written and directed by Romanov Higa, the creator of other such CGI anime as Urda: The Third Reich. While attempting to shake her associate Bill for money he owes her, Blue, a part cat, part human hybrid, instead finds herself defending him from a group of mysterious masked thugs, who want something ridiculous, a Frank Sinatra tape that Bill recently came to possess.

Among its many ridiculous features, Blue wields pistols, swords, and pipes with her cat tail; fights upside down while hanging from her cat tail; fights to the accompaniment of disco music… and talks to ghosts. Because psychic cats?

My Search for the Final Fantasy of South Korea Extra Life Article

Last post, you read a 27-page paper about the oddities found in the English and South Korean versions of Elysium. Would you believe that even more craziness surrounds this movie? You can read all about it in my lastest post on the Extra Life website here.

For those of you who don’t know, Extra Life is like a marathon for charity, but instead of running or walking, you play video games to raise money for a children’s hospital of your choice. The next official Extra Life event is on November 5, but you can raise money whenever you want year round. Check out the Extra Life website to learn more and sign up!