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  1. #1
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    Is Japanese anime real art?

    Controversy ahoy! Or not, if nobody replies to the thread. Then I just look like some guy duct taping puffins to his head in an attempt to get flighty results.

    It just occured to me that the rant I just crapped out in the IT's FINALLY FINISHED thread isn't really the right place, so I've put it up here. So the question is - what do you think of anime as art?

    As you can probably tell, I'm an anime fan. HOWEVER! I utterly despise modern anime. I think anything animated and Japanese from 1999 onwards looks like it's been scrawled by a small child in his or her own rancid faeces. My inspiration for drawing is and always will be the quality of classic "golden era" (aka, the 80s)anime, where everything was incredibly detailed and colourful, unlike the digitally mass produced, grey, non-shaded washed-out crap that's called anime these days.

    In short, I know that the majority of people on conceptart don't like the 'anime style,' and many don't even consider it real art. Judging by the way modern anime looks, I can't blame them. But don't dismiss it until you've seen Gunbuster or Macross Plus.

    That's my twenty pence on the matter, anyway.
    Here's an explanatory diagram/propoganda I knocked up to illustrate my bile-spewing point. A point so filled with rage that I didn't even check how to spell 'propaganda!'


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  4. #2
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    It's pretty useless to compare quality specimens of "old" anime to your idea of bad specimens of "modern" anime. I could just as easily fish out a screencap of the original Gundam series and argue how much higher the standard for quality is now.

    As far as newer shows that don't use as many "cells" for shading somehow automatically making them not art, well, that's a pretty absurd claim. I'm not a huge anime fan, but I've seen a few fight scenes in Naruto with absolute top-notch animation quality easily rivaling a full-blown film production. Samurai Champloo for me was more appealing because of it's distinct and attractive art and animation style than the actual story or any other factor.

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    This isn't even a question to be honest. Of course it's art. And I don't know which anime you've been watching lately, but there are plenty out there that are extremely beautiful and stylized. Absolutely breathtaking. It seems you may just have a preference for highly detailed work. Simple in many cases, works wonderfully IMO. Peace Maker Kurogane, Planetes, Zegapain, Wolf's Rain, wonderful production quality.

    To be honest, I personally am a bit sick of the "nothing but realism" mentality that seems to have invaded a large percentage of digital artists. Knowing realism is good, adhering strictly to it is boring. If I wanted photorealism all the time, I'd take a gosh darn photograph .

    Oh also, the top girl with the yellow eyes and white hair, she's a pinup from Langrisser the manga. The artist is still doing art now, so not valid I say!!!
    Last edited by JenZee; November 28th, 2006 at 05:28 AM.

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    Of course anime is real art, its just a certian style that some people like. Now if you really like anime art and want to make somthing of it then i say go for it...BUT...

    Dont just do anime style everything. Start with real people, figure out how to draw real stuff real good, and as soon as you have masterd proportions, and anatomy, and composition and everything along the realistic style nature then let that naturalistic learned style flow over to your anime art that we all love to draw.

    Now talking about the old anime vrs the new anime..well im sure companies just want to produce the hottest fastest money cartoon they can, and have it as fast as they can so kids can view it and give them money in someway well thats however might work for them, but im sure that if you do anime like the old style and apply your naturalistic art to your anime style, then people will flock to see your drawings and anime then look at some anime that looks like it was half assed.

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    Jtho -

    Ah, but the original Gundam was in the late 70s. I was talking about the golden era of the 80 to mid 90s. If time frame was no issue, anyone who wanted to counter my claims could just put up a black and white screencap from Astro Boy in the 50s and point out how crude it looked. The point is, anime art quality is odd in that it started out looking like rubbish (in the 50s and 60s), developed to a state of nigh-on perfection, considering what could be done with the medium (the 80s and early 90s), then degenerated into hastily-produced, digital rubbish from 1999 onwards.

    Saying that comparing the old and new styles is useless is a flawed argument, and I can prove why. I never claimed that modern anime wasn't art. It is: just bad art, in my opinion. People claim that perception of art is based on the individual, and that art cannot be judged, but I firmly believe that you can measure the quality of anime artwork quite easily using actual, tangible criteria. For instance:

    Line quailty and detail of linework, number of tones used in shading, placement of those tones on the artwork itself, the colour choices used in the shading, and detail of character/mechanical/background design.

    These are the main factors of anime art, and they're quantifiable things, the quality of which can be measured just by watching in freeze frame or slow motion. And in each one of those criteria, modern anime falls down dead compared to 80s and 90s anime titles. Even the uber-expensive modern video releases, like the terrible new Hellsing ova, or the makedly better Death Note, are inferior in every one of those respects to such titles as Macross Plus, Dangaioh, Ninja Scroll, etc.

    As for the judging criteria -
    Modern anime line art is uniformly thin, with no weight variation, due to it being lazily drawn digitally. The majority of 'classic' anime, like Bubblegum Crisis, take advantage of their hand-drawn nature and look far more detailed for it. Any screen captures you may wish to take will validate this claim. Variety in line thickness, cross hatching, and overall number of pen strokes used to make up the character or face are all factors which classic anime surpass and excel in. Even a pretty good looking modern show, like Mushishi, looks bland and undetailed in comparison to this. Watch Mushishi, and follow it straight up with Yu Yu Hakusho, and you'll see what I mean straight away.

    I don't need to go into how little shading modern anime has. Again, titles high in production values, Samurai 7 for example (the DVD box claims it's high-definition nature means it costs twice as much to produce as other titles) - have one tone of shading, or two at most. This shading is placed incredibly sparingly just under the chin and nose, in general, regardless of lighting conditions. Look at even cheap TV animetion from the 80s (Ranma, Hokuto no Ken), and the depth of shading immediately stands out.

    Colour, too, has been cpmpletely washed out by the digital process of modern anime. From the very first digital titles, like the Tv series of Mahou Tsukai Tai or Blue Sub Number 6, the grey, colourless nature of the shows is strikingly apparent. This makes no sense to me, as, if anything, I've found that Photoshop makes it easier to manage colour. Why anime should immediately turn grey the second it goes digital is beyond me... but it has, and nobody with eyes can deny that fact.

    Probably the main factor in modern anime's unappealing look is the way the characters are drawn, though. Just compare any modern show to an 80s one, and they hardly look like the same country has produced them both. In general, anime character art has devolved to the point where characters have lost most of the distintive detail of the eyes and mouth... hairstyles, too. All of the things which people thought of as 'anime' characteristics... big eyes, small mouths, multicoloured hair... it's all become an incredibly simplified, minimalistic art style. Anime girls didn't use to have lips... nowadays, an anime girl can't be considered 'sexy' without having massive, pocking Angelina Jolie lips plastered to her face. No shading, of course. See Paradise Kiss or the sex symbol Okoi from Basilisk, for instance. The sheer characteristic detail of anime eyes seen in titles like Dragon Half, Battle Angel Alita, Lodoss War and the OVA Shadow Skill have been completely lost - replaced by a couple of lines and a circle. This, again, can be measured physically. Simply take a screenshot from a modern anime like Paradise Kiss or Paranoia Agent, and one from an old show, such as Dragon Half or Gundam 0083. The difference should be immediately apparent, but to take the test a step further, try and reproduce the still yourself on a piece of paper. If you time yourself, nine times out if ten every artist will find that it takes longer and requires more concentration to replicate the face from the old show. The reason for this is simple - there are less lines in modern anime. Less detail, less linework, and minimalistic flair.

    Mecha and robots are the final area of comparison, and here modern anime holds up a little better. Modern shows like Rahzephon and Gundam Seed do actually feature some nice looking, well shaded mecha -even as the character art in those shows is exceptionally simple and lacking in quality. Obviously, these mecha don't have as much shading as classic titles - anyone who disagrees is blinkered by loyalty, and will change their tune after watching a couple of minutes of the classic Gundam 0083, Macross 2, Dangaioh or even Macross 7 (which many fans dislike because they think it looks cheap).

    So, it's apparent from those comparitive criteria that modern anime is inferior, artwork-wise, to classic shows from the 80s to mid 90s. Even Cowboy bebop, one of the greatest anime ever in most critics' opinion (and mine too) was starting to look a little rough around the edges in terms of shading and character detail. It was made in 1998, and Escaflowne, a couople of years earlier, looked stunning in every crieria listed above.


    I wasn't actually talking about the way anime moved, but it's a good point well raised, and fluidity of movement in anime is another conrete factor which can be compared and weighed.

    As you say, some of the fight scenes in Naruto move extremely well. Likewise with Samurai Champloo. The first episode of Samurai 7 looks very nice in terms of movement, and all of these are modern shows. However, that's not especially hard considering all of these examples are motion captured (even I have pulled off some stunning-looking fluid animation for Studio Trophis, merely by drawing over video footage of myself). 'Classic' anime was animated by hand, from the artist's brain. Nowadays, it's easy to take a shot of someone kicking someone else and simply trace. And trace is exactly what Naruto and others do... surely you've noticed how their proportions change drastically in the nice-looking action sequences? They suddely change from being anime proportiones, to having stumpy, real-life sized legs and arms. Either that, or they don't bother to draw at all, and just use cheap CG for the action sequences, as with much of Samurai 7 and indeed all of Macross Zero.

    If you then go and look at classic action anime, like Ninja Scroll, Macross Plus, the Fist of the North Star movie from 1986, etc, you can see levels of animation easily on par with those seen in Naruto and others you mentioned. The difference is, they were all drawn without resorting to tracing a real life video sequence. And as for CG - the makers of the 100% CG fest Macross Zero have gone on record as saying they simply could not top the frame rate of 1994's Macross Plus, so they didn't even try and just used CG instead. If the makers of the show have stated that the animated action scenes of their own early show is unsurpassable in terms of frames, that kind of negates any argument in favour of modern anime's animation being better. The eye can only see so many frames per second, and you can't get better than that. The aerial dogfights in Macross Plus are utterly flawless.
    The final nail in the coffin is to watch the early 90's series The Guyver, and then watch last year's new version. You'll do well not to be sick all over your keyboard.
    Last edited by Paul "Otaking"; November 28th, 2006 at 07:06 AM.

  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JenZee
    This isn't even a question to be honest. Of course it's art. And I don't know which anime you've been watching lately, but there are plenty out there that are extremely beautiful and stylized.
    Good point, but like I said in my massive rant just now, anime is an art style which can be measured and judged using real criteria, and in all of those criteria the shows you mention fall down, roll over and die screaming in comparison to old shows. Wolf's Rain, for instance, only looks decent for the first few episodes, then suddenly runs out of money or effort and becomes so ugly that I couldn't watch any more. Stylized is good, but that doesn't make a show exempt from being compared to classic shows using the judging criteria outlined above. And they just don't stand up to the judging, in the main. Even when Wolf's Rain had money behind it, it looks far inferior to, say, Escaflowne. It's all down to anime going digital, it seems.

    Also, bear in mind that I'm only talking about the art, not the story or how fun the show is to watch. I love Ouran Host Club, but if I have to look at it critically, it's ugly as sin and practically devoid of detail. That doesn't make it no fun to watch, but it makes me think... how f***ing incredibly would this show be if it had amazing artwork to compliment it?

    Quote Originally Posted by JenZee
    To be honest, I personally am a bit sick of the "nothing but realism" mentality that seems to have invaded a large percentage of digital artists. Knowing realism is good, adhering strictly to it is boring. If I wanted photorealism all the time, I'd take a gosh darn photograph .
    I agree 100% with you. One of my top three favourite series of all time is Fist of the North Star (especially from episode about 40 onwards, when it suddenly develops movie-standard artwork and animation... and my eyes begin to bleed). And everyone in that has necks twice as wide as their heads, and legs so long that one kick would snap them! ^^;
    It's odd you should say that, though, as the 'style' of modern anime is incredibly realistic compared to the huge array of over the top, huge-eyed character designs styles of the 80s. Another point I loved about anime, gone forever, it seems.

    Quote Originally Posted by JenZee
    Oh also, the top girl with the yellow eyes and white hair, she's a pinup from Langrisser the manga. The artist is still doing art now, so not valid I say!!!
    Haha! Nicely spotted. But that picture is actually Lemnear from Legend of Lemnear, an old show. I have the art book here. Satoshi Urushihara is indeed still working in games and anime, but if you look at Plastic Little (which looks amazing and moves so smoothly it feels like a baby's ass) and compare it to the new Langrisser anime (which looks horrible and has none of his signature shading), you can see that modern anime atrists have even taken the great Satoshi's art style and raped it half to death, leaving it with flat, emotionless lineart and grey, washed out colours. And that makes me cry.
    Last edited by Paul "Otaking"; November 28th, 2006 at 06:49 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PlayFFVII
    Dont just do anime style everything. Start with real people, figure out how to draw real stuff real good, and as soon as you have masterd proportions, and anatomy, and composition and everything along the realistic style nature then let that naturalistic learned style flow over to your anime art that we all love to draw.
    Yeah, that goes without saying... though the amount of anime 'artists' who disregard this is staggering. I like to think (and I'm probably talking crap here) that the proportions of my characters are pretty nice, as I use photo reference for all of the poses. This involves me standing in some embarassing positions, but what the hell...lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by PlayFFVII
    Now talking about the old anime vrs the new anime..well im sure companies just want to produce the hottest fastest money cartoon they can, and have it as fast as they can so kids can view it and give them money in someway well thats however might work for them, but im sure that if you do anime like the old style and apply your naturalistic art to your anime style, then people will flock to see your drawings and anime then look at some anime that looks like it was half assed.
    Again, very true. It does seem to be all about rehashing the quickest, cheapest looking piece of shit as humanly possible, and getting it out there for kids who are seemingly blind to watch. It's stunning how even Japanese viewers don't notice the drop in quality... the recent Zeta Gundam movies use old footage from the 80s series, and redraw new scenes. Seeing a beautifully shaded, colourful 80s character walk out of a door, only to emegre the other side as a flat, grey mockery of digital crap is pretty heartbreaking. Old and new art, side by side in the same films! And nobody noticed the difference! It's totally insane... like modern Japanese artists physically do not have the ability to draw characters that detailed anymore. One minute they look amazing, and in the next scene they've been drawn by a chimp in boxing gloves. It's a fucking disgrace to Zeta Gundam, I tell you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul "Otaking"
    Haha! Nicely spotted. But that picture is actually Lemnear from Legend of Lemnear, an old show. I have the art book here. Satoshi Urushihara is indeed still working in games and anime, but if you look at Plastic Little (which looks amazing and moves so smoothly it feels like a baby's ass) and compare it to the new Langrisser anime (which looks horrible and has none of his signature shading), you can see that modern anime atrists have even taken the great Satoshi's art style and raped it half to death, leaving it with flat, emotionless lineart and grey, washed out colours. And that makes me cry.
    Shoot, I meant Lemnear haha. I bought the comic years ago, sitting in my shelf right now . Lots of boobies. Should've included the lower half of that picture! jk!

    I never really caught the drop in quality for Wolf's Rain at all. I thought it was quite good the whole way through. Didn't like the story that well, but the art and stylization was quite beautiful. Also, I'm not sure if you're saying Fist of the North Star has good art or bad? Eyes bleeding is usually a bad thing... but I thought the art in FotNS was terrible! Just an opinion of course.

    I dunno, I have trouble agreeing that the simpler designs of today are "much worse" by "real criteria" of art standards. I don't think there's exists a relatively infallible standard set of heuristics which you can judge art by... It all comes down simply to whether or not something "looks good." Art is afterall, forever subjective. I think all will have to agree to disagree on this particular topic

    I just have issue with people dismissing anime as an artform altogether. Perhaps it's not an art form some individauls *enjoy*, but it still, very muchly so qualifies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JenZee
    Shoot, I meant Lemnear haha. I bought the comic years ago, sitting in my shelf right now . Lots of boobies. Should've included the lower half of that picture! jk!

    I never really caught the drop in quality for Wolf's Rain at all. I thought it was quite good the whole way through. Didn't like the story that well, but the art and stylization was quite beautiful. Also, I'm not sure if you're saying Fist of the North Star has good art or bad? Eyes bleeding is usually a bad thing... but I thought the art in FotNS was terrible! Just an opinion of course.
    Heh heh... yeah, it must be said that Satoshi Urushihara is one of the all time great breast-drawing men, along with that old perv Masamune Shirow. Now little more than a hardcore porn artist! Lol.
    Anyway, shame on you for buying manga filled with girls' bits. You're a girl, so it's wrong. Or alternatively...very very right. Hmm.

    Um, Fist of the North Star...yeah, the first 20 episodes or so really don't look very good. They've dated badly, and didn't look astounding in the first place. However, if you keep watching, something insane happens. The artwork and animation become almost movie-quality as the series gets more popular and more and more cash gets pumped into it. At several points I couldn't believe that it was just a TV series, it looked so good. When Ken finally has the big fight with Raoh (only 7 epiosdes or so) they do a completely new opening sequence just for that fight... and it's such a well animated opening that they're clearly just showing off by that point.
    Easily the best fighting anime ever made. And so much shading! My shit, it looks nice if you stick with it! Nicer than a pool full of pirahnas made entirely out of jewels.

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    duck taping puffins to your head sounds like fun.....but not for the puffins
    chaos
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    i find your "new bad" anime much more visually pleasing than the old stuff. there are more anime nowadays so its hard to find the good stuff, but its just as good or better as the stuff in the 80's. stuff like evangelion, champloo, miyazaki, the new ghost in the shell, all great. just as much as akira, ninja scroll, old gits.

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    ah dear lord, if death note isn't a work of art, I don't know what is.

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    Paul, I did a little experiment. I thought to myself, "self, I bet his date for the Decline of Anime corresponds exactly with his early twenties." Then I checked your profile. Bingo!
    I hate to break it to you, but you grew up. Now you're that guy who complains about kids these days, with their food pills and flying cars... Music/movies/comics/fashion/WHATEVER will never be as good as they were when you were between the ages of, say, ten and twenty-two. Just ask Ilaekae.

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    ...ummmm...I really don't remember much of 19 through 22 (I was...SLEEPING A LOT! Okay? ...shit...), but that sounds just about right to me...

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    Im not sure remeber then either....it was the 70's.... and who wants to remember them? but goddess knows the fashions were WAYYYYYY>>>worse!
    (see my halloween pic)

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