Anime: Precursors and Technology
• An anime screening event “How Far We’ve Come-How Technology is Changing Anime” took place on February 20 at the Japan Information Center, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. Professor Elizabeth Lillehoj at DePaul University spoke about the evolution and development of Japanese anime, and then three anime films were screened. They were NEGADON: The Monster from Mars, Kakurenbo, and SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next.
• According to Professor Lillehoj, about 700 small companies in Japan have worked in anime-related production. Today, more than half of films and TV programs produced in Japan is anime ranging from popular TV cartoons for children to critically-acclaimed art films for adults.
Precursors of Anime
• How far can we trace back the history of anime and
• Handscrolls were perfect mutual development of texts
and images in Japanese tradition. Some examples are “Twelve Creatures”
in 15th century, “A Tale of Rats” in 16th century, and “Tsukumogami” in
15th century. Tsukumogami is the spirits of things like tools and utensils.
It was a common belief in the Middle Ages that spirits dwelled in the
things when they were used over the years. The handscroll “Tsukumogami”
depicts the spirits in the form of strange creatures who get angry when
they are discarded by the owners and haunt the human community at night.
• Another precursor to manga and anime tradition is prints
• In 1963, a TV anime series “Tetsuwan Atom” was released
by Osamu Tezuka for the first time. A few years later, it was exported
to the U.S. as “Astro Boy.” It opened the modern anime era.
• 1984, Hayao Miyazaki released “Nausicca.” It was matte-paintings
and cell-drawings which are called “old-fashioned” today.
CGI (computer generated images)
• CGI has revolutionized animation, movies, advertising,
video games, and graphic design generally. Pictures and movies are created
with image data using graphical hardware and software.
• CGI was employed in “Princess Mononoke” by Miyazaki in 1997, but for only five minutes in the film. The anime film was made by mostly hand-drawn, and CGI was designed to blend in with traditional cel animation.
• With Tezuka nostalgia, Daisuke Suzuki, anima director at Sanzigen Inc. has expressed his thoughts as “The tenderness and warmth of hand-drawn art cannot be conveyed with mechanical movements generated by computer.”
• NEGADON: The Monster from Mars, which was screened
at the event, was the first completely computer generated kaiju movie
in the world. There is no creature or monster costume. It was produced
and directed by Jun Awazu with support of Comix Wave Inc.
• In Cel-shaded CGI, an anime is modeled, designed and photographed in 3D. Then filters are added to the characters to make them appear to be 2D line art, hand-drawn quality. After filtering, lighting effect, filters, grain, and other techniques are applied to make the fake-2D rendered anime. It is indistinguishable from genuine, hand-drawn anime.
• “Kakurenbo”, which was screened in the event, was created
by cel-shaded CGI. It was written and directed by Shuhei Morita and released
Simulated cel-animation (fully 3D CGI)
• Simulated cel-animation is fully 3D CGI. “SOS! Tokyo
Metro Explorers: The Next”, which was screened at the event, was produced
by this technique. The film was based on a manga “Akira” by Katsuhiro
Otomo and directed by Shinji Takagi. It was released in 2007.
Professor Elizabeth Lillehoj at DePaul University