Cheap anime can be impressive

Anime has always been cheap, and these days it’s super cheap. The big budgets of the bubble era are long gone, and while some studios see this as a drag, others see a challenge. People, at least people in the US, remember 80s era anime for its complex and intense design work, which often employed a lot more lines and shadows than we see today. These days designs are more economical with their lines, and shading is often less involved. Some see this as the anime industry cheaping out, but I see this as artists challenging themselves under harsh circumstances.

Designs probably didn’t get simpler just due to budget constraints, but I’d say such things played a big part in establishing the current anime aesthetic as we know it today. You’re always going to have lazy artists in any generation, but I think the good designers of today are more impressive than the ones of 25 years ago. It’s one thing to make a killer design with unlimited resources, but it’s another to make one with your resources limited. If you can make an expressive, attractive and unique design in keeping with the normal TV anime constraints of today, I think that’s pretty impressive.

It goes way beyond designs, though. Some low budget anime can be pretty impressive, too. I mean just look at Voices of a Distant Star with its budget of something like zero dollars. Or any Shaft/Shinbo work. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is an absolute joy to look at, but the show has barely any animation at all!

Really, I don’t get it when older-school fans knock on the designs of today. Either they just can’t let go of their Western sensibility of ALL ART MUST BE SUPER REAL or they just don’t understand art at all. A lot of old Japanese art was minimalist anyway, so the fact that anime is heading in that direction isn’t really all that surprising.