Kemono Friends shows that CG versus drawn animation is ultimately unimportant

December 15, 2017

Kemono Friends is made almost entirely in CG, and they're famously pretty janky and limited, with a stilted and awkward look (even when it tried). The show was made with so few resources that it took them until episode 7 to make the bus's wheels spin in the opening. Kemono Friends is also really good. Not 'good for its limited budget'; genuinely good, to the extent that it's likely to make any number of people's end of year lists (mine included). Kemono Friends has a depth to it that anime rarely manages, and the show does it without ever losing its lighthearted charm.

Would Kemono Friends have been better if it was made with adequate resources using traditional 2D drawn animation instead of scrappy shoestring CG? Probably; I'm willing to believe that all of the charm could have been maintained with better art and animation. How about a version of the show made in great 2D drawn animation but without the excellent writing and direction that Kemono Friends had? There are some people who would say that such a show would be better than the Kemono Friends we got because it would look much better, but I'm not among them. The greatness in Kemono Friends doesn't come from how it looks, it comes from what's in the show, and if you take that away it doesn't really matter how pretty what's left looks. A pedestrian but beautiful show is still a pedestrian show. As we've seen more than once, not even KyoAni's many talents can save a show from its own writing.

What Kemono Friends illustrates, once again, is that whether a work is made in CG or with drawn animation is far less important than what's in the work. While we've had illustrations of this before, Kemono Friends is extremely handy because it has such a gulf between its visual appearance and its quality of writing and execution. You almost never get amazing things that were made on a shoestring and show it.

This is what I mean by calling CG versus 2D animation ultimately unimportant. The difference between the two is not nothing, but moving from one to the other moves the overall quality and impact of a show far less than other things do.

(Well, for most people. There are people who care a lot about sakuga; for at least some of these people, CG is pretty much a deal killer in the same way that a mandatory English dub mostly removes my interest.)

As a corollary, that a particular show will be made in CG instead of hand-drawn animation is well down the list of things to worry about. You should be worrying much more about things like who is making it, under what conditions, what they feel about it, and what their goals are, because all of those are far more likely to change whether the end result is good or bad.

(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime for 2017.)

Written on 15 December 2017.
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Last modified: Fri Dec 15 13:57:27 2017
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