This article is a continuation from part 4
Budget is indeed important in the production of an anime, because there’s no way something can be produced without using money. But budget is not the decisive factor in determining the visual quality of an anime. There are other crucial factors that can affect quality significantly that viewers often don’t pay attention to compared to budget.
The first factor is planning and time management. Time is a crucial aspect that often become a major source of trouble in producing anime. There are at least over 30 anime series produced in Japan every season, and as such, most anime production are constrained by very limited time. In such condition, how the staff plan and manage the schedule is key in maintaining the visual quality of an anime. Problems such as off-model objects, seemingly static animation, poor use of CG, and others are more often than not caused ny a lack of time rather than a lack of budget. This has also been acknowledged by veteran staff in the anime industry.
Animators need not only to draw good, but thay also have to draw fast. Thus, time limitations drive animators to find the balance between quality and quantity.
The current trend seems to be to not worry that much about the volume and only focus on quality. … Of course, if you’ve got the talent of a Mitsuo Iso, there’s ample value in the work even if the quantity is very small, but that’s a very rare thing. -Toshiyuki Inoue-
Animators, especially the less experienced ones, often face difficulty in finding the right balance. When they strive for quality, the amount they produce drops. But when kuantitas, the quality drops. This is what often cause the animation to look off-model.
Other than that, the lack of time also often drive studios to outsource animation to other countries such as South Korea or the Philippines. Unfortunately, the quality of outsourced works tend to be below average because of the lack of experiences of the animators in those countries. The environment are not as supportive as in Japan where young animators can learn from veteran animators.
Without proper management of time, even with a strong source of budget, the visual quality can still get messy. We can take Gundam SEED and SEED Destiny as example cases. As part of Sunrise and Bandai’s flagship franchise Gundam, SEED was an ambitious series, with solid backing of Bandai and manned by capable staff. Unfortunately, both SEED projects are notorious for their terrible scheduling. It is said that while the project was ongoing, many staff protested the management and planning of Mitsuo Fukuda, the director. What happened when a major project with strong backing and capable staff was handled with poor schedule management?
Everything became a mess; the quality were all over the place, with characters and mecha that often appeared off-model. As time went by, instead of improving, the production situation got even worse as the project’s top animators threw in the towel one by one as they were unable to withstand the nightmarish schedule. One of them was veteran mecha animator Yousuke Kabashima, who later criticised the SEED project’s messed up schedule. With words on the project’s terrible schedule spread, other animators then refused to work on the project. This is also what made the SEED series often took shortcuts such as reusing the same footage repeatedly to save time and manpower.
Another example of poor planning comes from Toei Animation in the past few years. Toei is a giant player which had dominated the industry in the 60s, and the number of staff working in the studio reaches over 500 persons. Unfortunately, of those 500 staff, only a few actually possess great skills. Toei’s major mistake is in taking too many projects to work on. As of 2015, Toei’s number of projects have actually exceeded their own capacity, with Dragon Ball Super, Marvel Disk Wars, World Trigger, Go Princess Precure and its movie, Tanken Drilland, and many others. With that mountain of projects, it’s a challenge to manage the schedule, and Toei also had to outsource some work and split the small number of top talents among its projects. With the projects piling up, stuffed schedule, poor quality of outsourced materials, and lack of top animators in each projects caused the quality of Toei’s anime in the past few years get all over the place.
These issues took its toll, for example, on the 5th episode of Dragon Ball Super. Dragon Ball is a massively popular franchise, and it’s difficult to imagine that Dragon Ball Super would be treated as a small project with small budget. And the 5th episode was manned not by any random staff. The animation director is one of Toei’s best animator, Naoki Tate, and capable animators such as Ken Otsuka also worked on the episode. However, even such staff were unable to stand against a terribly messed up schedule, and this is what came out of it:
On the contrary, an impressive visual quality can be achieved with ordinary budget when the management and planning are handled properly. Take the works of Kyoto Animation, for example. Many thought that Kyoto Animation is able to maintain consistent quality thanks to the wealth they raked through hit works such as Haruhi and K-On!. But as it has been mentioned before, those projects are adaptations of other companies’ properties, which means most of the profit from those shows went to the major media companies in the production committee of those shows rather than to KyoAni themselves. Instead, the consistent quality is made possible because of several factors.
First, as it has ben explained before, KyoAni use entirely their own in-house staff in their projects, from the director to the inbetweeners. Second, KyoAni is not only an animation studio, but they also operate an animation school which produces well-taught and well-trained young animators. Amagi Briliant Park showcases the output of the school, as the project was mainly filled with KyoAni’s young animators. And lastly, KyoAni is renowned for being disciplined on the most crucial point: time management. They don’t work on multiple projects at the same time and give breaks betweeen projects. This is how Kyoto Animation maintain their high quality visuals consistently.
To be concluded in part 6
The Indonesian Anime Times | Original text by Yoza Widi | Translation by Halimun Muhammad