In the west, 3D animation has become commonplace. Going to see an animated movie? Unless you’re going to a limited screening of a classic film, it’s going to be a 3D movie. Ever since Pixar came onto the scene with Toy Story, 2D animation has been on a downward decline. Getting a 2D animated show or movie out of America is a rarity nowadays.
That’s one of the main reasons that the anime industry has grown so exponentially in popularity over the last few years! Japan is one of the only countries in the world where you can get 2D animation of decent to high quality. Plus, it seems to be the only sector of the animation industry that understands that animation isn’t just for children.
Not to say the anime industry has avoided 3D animation. Just like the west, Japan has taken to animating their series in 3D as well. The overwhelming majority of the industry is still focused on 2D, yes. But 3D anime has certainly come a long way.
Well… maybe not a long way.
3D has always been a dirty word in the anime industry. People often shrink away the moment that they see a show is animated purely in 3D. Traditional 2D shows are often criticized for using 3D to cut corners. All of these things come from the same stigma: 2D good, 3D bad.
To be fair, there are a lot of examples helping this case. The worst case of this is the 2016/17 reboot of Berserk. It perfectly combined terrible 3D models, awful camera work, and stiff animation to create one of the most unbearable viewing experiences anyone has ever experienced. It took one of the most beautiful manga of all time and took a butcher’s knife to it!
The first few seasons of Rooster Teeth’s hit series RWBY (which is anime, fight me) didn’t help either. Outside of the action sequences, these seasons were stiff and awkward. It did have the distinct anime aesthetic, sure. But it was far from pretty to look at.
But here’s the thing about RWBY: it turned it around. As much as I love to lambaste and criticize this series, I have to give it that. It’s visuals have certainly improved. Outside of a few select scenes, the show looks incredibly smooth and interesting.
RWBY isn’t the only one. Purely 3D shows are finally starting to take a turn for the better! Just look at this season’s darling show, Beastars! The 3D animation is great, featuring high quality character models, smooth and distinct animation, and fantastic camerawork! It’s a great show with a great visual aesthetic!
3D’s application in 2D shows has also been improving! Just look at Demon Slayer! Thanks to its use of CGI, it managed to pull of some absolutely incredible looking shots! Tanjiro tumbling around as the mansion shifts around him, the entire fight with Rui in episode nineteen, and so many more moments are made memorable thanks to the use of 3D!
3D animation hasn’t conquered the anime world. At the time of me writing this, the overwhelming majority of 3D anime is still pretty ugly. But there are a few studios that are finding new and creative ways to make it work! It is getting better, slowly but surely! Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll watch a 3D anime film on the same level of quality as a Pixar movie!
It might happen sooner than you think. Just make ArcSys do it!