I've been noticing that CG in anime has becoming more popular. Recently, I've watched several shows that have almost fully 3D animation.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel and Knights of Sidonia:

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I've also noticed it appearing to smaller effect in parts of other shows, such as Girls Und Panzer, when the focus is not directly on the characters:

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It seems that primarily mechanical objects are done with 3D technologies as the measurements are exact. This doesn't surprise me, but human characters are notoriously hard to do with computer graphics - see the Uncanny Valley . For this reason I would have thought making 3d anime characters (who don't even have normal human proportions) would be expensive to do right.

Is the reason anime companies are starting to use this technique more for characters, that it has become cheaper to implement? Or is there another reason for this slowly increasing popularity?

  • 2
    It boils down to less labor and material costs. Artistic talent is not always readily available, so using CG allow a production to better allocate their resources.
    – кяαzєя
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 1:24

3 Answers 3


3D modelling and rendering is often faster than drawing each frame, since all the 3D models can be reused and the 2D animation frames must be redrawn from various angles. Unless you're a cheapskate show that reuses the same poses and facial expressions over and over. This isn't a problem with 3D animation, since most of what it takes to do a different look is to change camera angle and rotate model's limbs.

It's supposed to be faster than 2D, but it may actually be more expensive, in theory. Can't say for sure, as I haven't seen the actual cost comparison.

  • 3
    I guess the more you use it, the more value you get out of it Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 22:07
  • I think that most of the success of 3D comes from the ability to change shots without having to completely redo the scene
    – кяαzєя
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 15:38

I don't know if 3DCG is cheaper, but we can compare differences in 2D and 3D process to identify possible savings.

First, lots of the anime creation process is same. Directing, writing, character design, screenplay, dubbing, marketing are all same. So there are no savings there.

Second, 3DCG has bigger up-front cost, because you have to create the 3D models. This is especially problematic for characters, if it is main focus of the show. It is less a problem for mechanical stuff and backgrounds, because they are easier to model and many shows already use 3D for those.

Third, the animation. Animating mechanical things is easy because you have low number of moving parts and their order of freedom is low. Humanoids on the other hand are hard to animate and even harder if you want the movement to seem natural. And the complexity goes up as character interact between each other and environment.

So if the show is primarily animating mechanical things moving around then there is big chance of saving some money. If the show is about characters and their interaction, then I guess there is no much saving and the primary purpose of using 3DCG is to maintain consistency.

  • 1
    I don't know what makes you think that mechanical things have a "low number of moving parts". Now, granted, it's far easier to set up driven keys in any system that supports rigging (2D or 3D) than animating by hand, but you still have all the parts - tank treads, for instance, have a lot of individual treads, but those are usually constrained to follow a path (and drive off the same control as the bogeys and drive sprockets). Depending on the actual model, though, a mechanical item may have far more individual moving parts than a human. Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 1:00
  • 2
    @Clockwork-Muse It is more about degree of freedom of individual joints than count of moving parts. Usually, mechanical parts have low degree of freedom in their joints (eg 2-3). Humans on the other hand have high degree of freedom in many of heir joints (shoulder has 6 DoF). Some nice examples are in udel.edu/PT/current/PHYT622/2007/jointmovements.ppt Also, in humanoids, you need to be careful with skin, because algorithms can produces some weird artifacts if you are not. This does not apply to mechanical things.
    – Euphoric
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 6:04

3D Rendered Models can be more expensive as you have to render the models, this can take time depending on which Shading and Lighting Algorithms you use, by adding more computers you can get more work done however the upkeep starts to increase aswell.

The advantage to using 3d in an entire series is that you can reuse models to remain consistency, and also you can make the animation look more impressive using particle effects, shadows and lighting in a way you can do with 2d.

However with 3D is that the more real it looks, the more out of place thing can be when you try and add the common Anime Tropes like facial expressions of even the proportions used. alot of the time i tend to notice variations of Cell-Shading used in anime because Cell-Shading tends to create a more "cartoon-y" look which separates the animation from realism.

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