Whenever I start watching a new anime, I prepare to check off certain boxes. Will it be an instantly categorizable series, like idol, sports, slice-of-life or romantic comedy, or will it challenge me to categorize it, like the bizarrely awesome horror-action series Gleipnir? Will it have full-length episodes or a shorter format? And all too often: will it feature proper 2D animation or the crappy “cel-look CGI animation” that tries to capture the 2D moe aesthetic using 100% computer animation. Sadly the new Sakura Wars anime is the latter, which means I likely won’t be continuing with it.
The Sakura Wars Franchise
Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen) is a great game-and-anime franchise set in an alternate world in which, instead of World War I, humanity has to fight a war against interdimensional demons via the Imperial Combat Revue, a Takarazuka-like troop of female performers who secretly do battle in steam-powered mecha. It’s a gorgeous series with a lot of popularity around the world, despite none of the games ever getting proper English releases. The series has one of the best anime opening songs ever, too.
The new Shin Sakura Taisen the Animation series is based on the recent game that came out for Sony PS4, with a new generation of performers who will protect the world from demons a decade after the events of the previous games. While the characters are pretty enough, the creepy way they move trips my “uncanny valley” switch. Here’s an example:
Why Do Some Fans Hate CGI Anime?
As a fan, I always want to support the creators and studios I love, and I’m especially happy to have J-List as a platform that allows me to promote shows I believe are especially awesome. I know making anime is tremendously expensive and difficult to monetize in a “frictionless” world where anime can go all over the world at the speed of internet packets. And I know that anime generally follows the “80/20 rule” in which 20% of the anime will rake in 80% of the profits, as we can see by comparing Blu-ray sales of smash hits like Love Live Sunshine (60,000+ sales per disc at $90 each) compared with just 500 for Scum’s Wish, one of my favorite series.
So I certainly get that there are a lot of challenges for anime studios, even before the age of COVID-19 causing scheduling delays with currently airing shows. Despite the famously low salaries for creators, anime is extremely expensive to make, so when a new technology like the “cel-look” CGI animation developed by Graphinica — which was used to make series like the well-regarded Knights of Sidonia — the temptation for studios must be significant.
CGI Anime and “Truth in Advertising”
As was illustrated in an interesting scene in the Shirobako anime, the battle between traditional hand-drawn 2D and 100% CGI anime isn’t an easy one to settle. Fans have accepted the in any anime, certain parts are far better done in CGI animation, such as cars or mecha, and that’s fine. As I wrote in my post on Disney’s CGI Lion King, animation is a medium that has always changed to reflect current technology, which is perfectly fine as long as there’s “truth in advertising” from the studios.
When we go to watch a Pixar film or a Vocaloid video, we know the animation will be computer-generated because that’s what has always come before. Shows like the outstanding BEASTARS or High Score Girl or Land of the Lustrous, which use CGI animation to tell a totally new kind of story with unique character designs, are perfectly fine. The problem is when we’re presented with traditional anime characters and are expected to form emotional attachments to them, to feel “love” for them and make memes about our waifus on social media. Compared with the best 2D animated works, which remain special to fans for years or even decades, moe-style “faux” anime is just not up to snuff.
What’s your take on the rise of CGI anime that tries to copy traditional 2D animation and cute moe girls? Will you be watching the new Sakura Wars anime? Tell us in the comments!
Want to brighten your room? We’ve got some outstanding new products for fans of Sei Shoujo, creator of Starless and Bible Black, and you can preorder them now. There’s nothing like “quarantine and chill” with one of these gorgeous ladies.