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In recent times more and more series are animated with CGI, mostly a combination of 3D objects with 2D illustrations. For example, Berserker in Fate/Zero.

More recent examples include Ajin and Kingdom, etc. God Eater also used CGI techniques for animation. However, except for a few scenes, I always feel the movement of objects is slow, unsteady and frankly quite unrealistic. Take an example of sword fights in Kingdom and let's say something like Bleach (not the overall animation, just some action sequences). Though both require suspension of disbelief the ones in Kingdom are way below.

Comparing this to many western animations we can see they do a great job with 3D animation. Why is this a problem in anime? Is it related to costs or the decision to use lower fps or something else?

  • Related: anime.stackexchange.com/questions/5872/… – Arcane Sep 14 '16 at 10:39
  • @Hakase, I am not sure how to get it across, the use of 3d objects on 2d ilustrations as in the linked question is quite common. My question is why these techniques seem unrealistic and shoddy in Anime as compared to western animations. – Arcane Sep 14 '16 at 10:50
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    Several reasons. It's expensive to do good 3d, quality doesn't really matter over a certain threshold because of how japanese viewers see it (they most definitely have polls and I suppose the results say it's fine for them to have quality at the level western viewers might think of as still pretty low coz we're not their target audience), and it's difficult to combine low-framerate 2d animation with high-framerate 3d in a tasteful way. – Hakase Sep 14 '16 at 10:51
  • Target demographic is something I hadn't considered. Cost certainly is a big factor. Not sure if Japanese happy with Low Quality is an answer. Any actual poll/answer from director/producer regarding this may actually clarify it a lot. – Arcane Sep 14 '16 at 10:54
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If by western animation, you mean movies made by studios like Pixar, the major factors in play is the budget and technical expertise. Budget-wise, Pixar has a $200 million budget for "Finding Dory":

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Budget numbers are usually pretty hard to come by for anime but there's been some research on the matter by the Media Development Research Institute. At this link, it breaks down the budget for a 30 minute timeslot anime episode, which really boils down to about 21-22 minutes minus the commercials and OP/ED.

  • Original work - 50,000 yen ($660)
  • Script - 200,000 yen ($2,640)
  • Episode Direction - 500,000 yen ($6,600)
  • Production - 2 million yen ($26,402)
  • Key Animation Supervision - 250,000 yen ($3,300)
  • Key Animation - 1.5 million yen ($19,801)
  • In-betweening - 1.1 million yen ($14,521)
  • Finishing - 1.2 million yen ($15,841)
  • Art (backgrounds) - 1.2 million yen ($15,841)
  • Photography - 700,000 yen ($9,240)
  • Sound - 1.2 million yen ($15,841)
  • Materials - 400,000 yen ($5,280)
  • Editing - 200,000 yen ($2,640)
  • Printing - 500,000 yen ($6,600)

Even if we lop all of the production plus animation and photography, that's still maybe around $100k of budget for 22 minutes. Compare that to Pixar's average budget for "Finding Dory" of maybe $500k per minute.

The other thing is the expertise of these studios. Pixar has been, for quite some time now, the top studio for 3d CGI. Their movies are almost entirely CGI and they've got over 600 employees. Most Japanese studios don't have anywhere close to this level of technical expertise and skill, or the size of an organization that can pump out this kind of work consistently and regularly. Probably an apt comparison would be Japanese animation studios vs animation studios in China.

Some other factors to consider:

  • Since there's a lot of mix between traditional 2d vs 3d modelled CGI, the CG can stand out a lot more. Even if it is done in a very high quality, it's still noticeable. Compare it to shows/movies that are entirely 3d modelled, where even if the modelling/textures isn't all that great, the consistency makes it appear to look better eventhough the CGI isn't that good.
  • Time constraints, though not so much for movies and OVA, a weekly release schedule for anime episodes doesn't leave a lot of time for a modest CGI team (or an outsourced firm) to create the work, send it in for review, any integration work, anything that gets sent back to get redone, repeat, etc.
  • To some degree, there's a notion of "good enough", especially when we're comparing 24 minute long anime episodes to a Pixar movie. If the episode isn't over budget, it's finished on time, it looks decent, then it's probably "good enough" and the average viewer, though the CGI is noticeable and acknowledging its quality, won't find it that unexpected. Keep in mind that CGI in anime has improved quite a bit since it was first more widely used.

As for why they use CGI at all? The biggest reason (though I can't seem to find any sources to cite) is probably that it costs less, though that sounds like irony. The idea is that doing "ok looking" CGI and making the subject matter (or action) look a bit more realistic is cheaper than spending a lot of artists trying to make the same subject matter look better (or in most cases, just as good) completely by hand. If you're going to have a mecha show where there are hundreds of mechs that all look exactly the same, it's probably cheaper to just model it as opposed to having someone draw them all. If there's going to be a lot of panning, rotating camera shots, it's easier to model the subject and just move the camera as opposed to hand drawing the subject to imitate such movement.

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    For a split second I though this answer was written by Jon Skeet. – 絢瀬絵里 Sep 16 '16 at 11:47

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