It is a common discussion today between old school, anime fans and the modern-day otaku. Has the quality of anime production decreased over the years? Or is it better than ever? Anime has always, evolved over the decades. From the physical appearance to the melodies in the background. One notable change all anime enthusiasts can agree on is, the style that defines that era. When you think of a series from the eighties or nineties, you can clearly imagine very sharp, prominent features on the characters. Compared to mid-00s anime which the style is more softened and features are not so exaggerated. Over the last few years there has been another shift in anime style. Not all anime, but a good amount of anime these days, are switching from a hand drawn or animated style to CGI, 3D modeling. You have seen this 3D style in many popular anime series and movies. To name just a few where this style was used: Gantz: O, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, and the remake of Berserk. This 3D appearance is loved by some, but absolutely despised by others. Though us, anime fanatics, can share our opinions on the matter. I wanted to hear the thoughts of people directly related to subject, the people who were previously or currently in the anime industry. This opportunity was at Anime Central 2018.
While attending Anime Central 2018, I was invited to attend an exclusive press conference with Project [B.B.]. Project Bean Bandit, was the name of the once secret project, now a successfully, fulfilled kickstarter of Kenichi Sonoda. Sonoda teased about Project [B.B.], it was later disclosed that Project Bean Bandit is an adaptation of the manga series Riding Bandit. The Kickstarter was more than successful, the anime will be made in the near future! The Project [B.B.] group panel was composed of Kenichi Sonoda; manga artist/director, Shujirou Hamakawa; artist, Marco D’Ambrosio; composer. Sonoda is a well-known manga artist who has worked on the popular piece Gunsmith Cats! As well as Bubblegum Crisis. D’Ambrosio has made compositions for some of the anime classics such as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (1993) and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000). Shujirou Hamakawa has worked on the ever so popular anime, SoltyrRei!
With having this opportunity, to listen to these professionals in the industry, I truly wanted to see their view on anime today and I had some burning questions to ask Project [B.B.]
One question I had is in the era of Bubblegum Crisis, do you feel that anime is different than it is now, and if so is it a positive or negative change?
Sonoda: During the era of Bubblegum Crisis, it isn’t so much the industry per se but how it was in Japan. Japanese economy had a bubble economy so the economy was great, and because of that, when I was doing Vol 1-8 of Bubblegum Crisis, the economy was good which meant that we had a good budget and we were able to produce a good quality product. After that bubble burst, then, not so much the industry but Japan as a whole turned into a bad economy, that created low revenue, that in turn ended up lowering the quality of the works as well. So again it’s not so much the anime industry perse but it just has to do with how it was in Japan as a whole.
Hamakawa: So let me speak from the animation industry perspective, or at least the ones behind creating animation. Back when we were kids, if we aired on TV, that basically generated the revenue and turned into budget. During the bubble economy period, that’s when selling different mediums, be it laser-discs or DVDs, that was basically the source of revenue. And nowadays, we’re now turning into the era of streaming or distributing through the internet. This advancement actually brought some negatives in that the speed of which pirated works are created are so much faster now. So then we need to then consider, what would be the best way to deliver our products to customers; how can we make everyone happy became the next question. We figured that the best way is to try to directly deliver these works as much as possible to the people who are wanting it the most. And that’s why we figured Kickstarter would be the best way to go about this.
Over time with anime, it always evolves, almost every decade is something different. Compared to the 80s and 90s era of anime, is there anything that you don’t like about the modern style, physically or whether it be from the story or the plot? What are your likes and dislikes of modern anime, compared to back then?
Sonoda: I feel like the anime works now feel like, some of the orchestration or presentation feel very much like a bunch of symbols put together kinda thing. Back in the days, what these directors or creators would do is that, if there’s a particular way they want to orchestrate a scene, then they’d even act it out themselves. They’d try to get the actual hands on feel of things. At the production side, they might have called it Live-Action even, just so they could actually could physically get the feel of it. But now that so much has been done over that nowadays it feels like creators are just sort of taking those samples from the past and just putting it together. That’s maybe the reason that I’m maybe calling it too much sampling or too much symbols, if we may.
Hamakawa: I think, compared to before, there’s just a huge abundance of anime that’s getting produced, so it’s nearly impossible for one person to watch everything that’s out on the market, which means that they have to pick and choose what they really would like to watch. I think that’s one thing that’s creating this phenomenon. And another thing is that works in the past, some of the concepts were really hard to grasp, and they had to think to understand what’s going on. But nowadays, rather than spending so much time on the thinking part, they’d rather just get into the story, just quickly absorb and understand what’s going on. So I feel a little lonely even that there aren’t as many works that go into depth; it feels like the stories are too easy to understand, if we may.
Sonoda: I, of course, have many complaints over anime nowadays, but one of the things that I can’t seem to wrap my head around is when there is a serious scene.
I don’t know what the style is necessarily called, but I’ve noticed in a lot of recent anime that they’re not necessarily hand-drawing things, but it’s more of a 3D model of anime? How do you feel about this new style, this new look?
Sonoda: I feel that computer graphics or CG are merely a tool more than anything else. If I feel it’s appropriate to be using them for particular areas or its more efficient to be using those tools then by all means go for it. If there are scenes, on the other hand, that are better expressed when it’s hand drawn then I would prefer to pursue that method. It’s just the matter of securing resources has become much more difficult nowadays, so that seems to be the issue that we need to continue tackling.
The information gathered from this press conference was quite intriguing and slightly shocking. Some key points to take away from this information is that economic issues play a huge factor in this situation, along with the consideration of the new decade and the constant evolution of anime as a whole. The Project [B.B.] team has some very interesting points, such as having a positive perspective on modern anime. For example, viewing the 3D aspect more as a tool than an obstacle. Also bringing up negative points of modern anime, such as rushed plot or situations not going in detail. But even that can be related to the change of eras, to have a connection with the new generation of anime. This will forever be a discussion within the anime community, but also one that will evolve just like the anime itself.
A special thank you to Kenichi Sonoda, Shujirou Hamakawa, and Marco D’Ambrosio to take the time to listen and respond to my questions asked.