A couple of years ago, the British magazine 3D World asked me to list my pet hates in Japanese computer animation. This is what I sent them:
1. Over-long beauty passes. “We’ve rendered that spaceship, let’s watch it trundle past for just a few more seconds…and a few more.” The modern equivalent of the agonisingly long freeze frame.
2. Faceless robot minions. “Design one, design them all.” A common temptation in all cartoons ever since Disney perfected “Xerox animation” for 101 Dalmations. But it just makes everything feel like a video game.
3, Any excuse for hovering off the ground. “That way, we don’t have to touch it.” Many Japanese cartoons make a virtue out of floaty contact, plumping for hovercars, weightlessness and psychic powers to keep from worrying about how feet interact with surfaces, and hands with objects.
4. Flat lifeless humans amid vibrant, dynamic machines. Humans are the tough part, so why not ignore them? It doesn’t help that the Uncanny Valley encourages modern animators to make their human characters less realistic, choosing instead to use “Toon-Shading” styling to make them look like big-eyed, spikey-haired manga moppets.
5. A cavalier disregard for physics. “We’ve got planes that fly backwards!” After all that effort in modelling reality, some bright spark just ignores it anyway for impossible leaps, and incredible feats of strength. As in overblown live action SFX, it just reminds the viewer that none of this is really happening.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade.