Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime That Use CGI

Tuesday's Top 5

It probably isn’t news that a lot of people don’t like CGI in their anime. And given some of the efforts at using it,  that’s actually pretty understandable. At some point I’m going to have to look at those anime that end up just being an eye-sore, but that isn’t today’s list. Today I have 5 anime where the CGI actually worked reasonably well (though not always perfectly). As always, I would love to know what some of your favourites are so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Ajin.

Number 5: Blame

Blame

I wasn’t the biggest fan of this Netflix movie feeling it was more like an introduction to a much larger story, but I did enjoy the visuals for the most part. There were some great effects with the weapons and the movement of the characters in action sequences was very fluid and fun to watch. Admittedly, like a lot of anime that uses CGI, the characters when they were just talking looked a bit odd, but otherwise I really kind of enjoyed this.

Number 4: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

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So, there are definitely some odd moments in the animation in this movie, but I never did get over how beautiful the main character’s hair was. I’d never seen an animation that detailed before or that fluid in its movement. While the story might not have blown me away, the visuals in this film actually did and while comparatively there are much better examples today, I have a soft spot for this film.

Number 3: Kado: The Right Answer

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Another case where the story fell over, quite badly toward the end, and the characters themselves are kind of creepy to watch move at times. This one earns a spot for its backgrounds and for the design of the cube itself. While at times it may have looked like someone shoved the characters inside a kaleidoscope, I couldn’t help but love the backgrounds of so many scenes in this. Visually it was striking and while again, the character movement wasn’t great, there wasn’t a lot of it anyway.

Number 2: Attack on Titan

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This one is the opposite of Kado. The backgrounds here seem for the most part to be more traditional and the CG seems to be used for the character movement, particularly during fights. The end result is actually kind of exhilarating to watch and kind of beautiful (until the characters get eaten and we end up with blood splatter). Still, Attack on Titan kind of shows us a good compromise between traditional animation and CGI techniques.

Number 1: Land of the Lustrous

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Definitely the anime that inspired this list and got me thinking about anime using CGI. I loved the look of this anime and the characters. Certainly, it isn’t a look I want everything to adopt, but the way the animation style and character designs suited the story here was kind of perfect. And that’s really what needs to be considered. Is the CGI really enhancing the story or distracting from it. In cases like Land of the Lustrous, I can’t imagine those characters or some of those fight sequences ever really working without it. Truly beautiful and well worth trying the anime if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet.

So what anime CGI have you enjoyed?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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KADO: The Right Answer Series Review: The Higher They Rise, The Further To Fall

Overview:

One day a giant cube appears off the coast of Japan, swallowing a passenger plane. Turns out a visitor from the anisotropic (or outside of the known universe) has come to Earth to give us some gifts. One of the passengers on the plane is a negotiator and he begins the process of communicating with and negotiating with zaShunina as the world is inevitably changed.

I reviewed KADO week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.

Heavy spoiler warning on the following review.

Review:

Two thirds of this show is absolutely brilliant science-fiction. There’s no excess, no silliness, no teenagers in giant robots, no random power ups for the sake of it, no actual fighting, but just new ideas and humanity reacting to those ideas. Here’s an unlimited power source. Okay, who is going to control it? What are the economic implications particularly for countries that rely on the export of fossil fuels? Are there any risks? It’s smart and incredibly thought provoking and while it may not be the most exciting thing to ever grace your screen, it is compelling and it was distinguishable from so many other first encounter stories. Yes, we’ve had peaceful first encounters before, but they are few and far between. Even with the nagging feeling that the benevolent zaShunina was up to something, and even if he had turned out to be evil, this show could still have maintained the tone that had really set it apart from the other anime in the Spring season.

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Alas, it was not to be. The final third of the story plunges us headlong into conflict, introducing a second anisotropic being, before going into a finale that really just needs to be scrapped and rewritten (more on that later, be warned about heavy spoilers coming). Previously, I wrote a feature about anime that end badly and some of the ways that anime manage to stuff up their endings. It is a frequent problem with anime in that resolutions seem to be really hard for them to get right. I’m not expecting a happily ever after for all involved but I would like my endings to make sense and that is where KADO failed completely. Somehow I left that option off the list of ways endings annoy me but KADO has definitely made it clear that this is worse than pulling a power of friendship card.

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However, I shouldn’t start by reviewing the end of the anime. Despite the appalling conclusion we arrive at, there is plenty to admire about this show and I would still argue that for avid anime fans it is worth the watch. At the very least, the first two thirds are quite compelling and even when it falls apart, it is more the disappointment of it that hurts rather than the story itself. There are plenty of worse endings out there. While the disappointment you feel as the show veers away from being that must watch, must talk about show of the year to something far more average is palpable, overall the show remains above average as a viewing experience because even at its lowest point it is still perfectly watchable (just no longer brilliant).This one just feels much worse because of how much better it could have been and that’s really an unfair scale to judge it on (though it doesn’t take away that bitter taste in your mouth after you watch it).

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Visually KADO is impressive. I know some people hated the look of it and that’s fine. And yes, there are some scenes where the CG doesn’t sit quite right particularly in some character movements, though fortunately they don’t move a lot because there’s a lot of standing or sitting and talking (it was a show about negotiation for the most part). There are some really beautiful sequences and moments and at the very least it is visually striking. The characters are easily distinguished and the settings are appealing to look at. Overall, it is a visual feast for the eyes and while it won’t be to everyones’ tastes, it certainly worked for me.

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The music is equally grandiose and memorable. The opening theme is one of my favourite for the year (not sure if it is my favourite yet but it is certainly a contender) and throughout episodes the background music is suitably subtle or dramatic depending on the requirement. I really enjoyed the music in this series and felt it really added to the overall tone.

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For the first two thirds, I really liked the characters. I liked how the different representatives in the government and on the UN council were portrayed. I liked how average citizens, reporters, the military, scientists, and a whole range of people and their reactions came across as the world essentially changed after the arrival of the cube. Other than a small group, very few of these characters progress beyond being a stand in for a larger section of society but that is the role they’ve been given and they do it well. Shindo and zaShunina and their interactions were thought provoking and occasionally even amusing. As the central characters they really had a lot of work pulling us along through what was an otherwise fairly dry first encounter portrayal and they did it really well.

I also liked the themes and questions this show raised. The discussion about the wam being a gift to humanity and not countries was clever and thought provoking as were many of the observations by characters in the early stages of this anime.

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And then it all went wrong.

Keep in mind, that up until episode 12, they hadn’t done anything that could not be salvaged but a lot of eyebrows were raised when they revealed that one of the human negotiators was actually also an anisotropic being and wanted to send zaShunina away because she didn’t like him messing with the world. Then they had a fight between the two anisotropic beings that ended with Shindo getting severely injured and a really cliché anime encounter as the female anisotropic being first healed him and then got really embarrassed because she wasn’t wearing clothes. This was not good. First we’d moved away from negotiations to combat, we’d introduced another super being so they could have a fight sequence (no human could have) and then we went smack into teen drama territory. Where did the clever and intriguing writing go during this phase?

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Episode 11 tried to raise our hopes. Shindo had a plan. He reconnected with various characters who had assisted him throughout the series and humans worked on a solution to the problem. Okay, so we’re not just going to leave it to the super beings? Awesome. We might get back on track.

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Turns out, no (Final Warning – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW).

The final episode delivers a mind-numbingly stupid twist.

In addition to the plan that the audience were let in on, a plan Shindo clearly knew was absolutely going to fail given the actual reveal, Shindo and anisotropic being number 2 hatch a second plan. Manipulate time, have a daughter, and have her deal with the problem.

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What?

Are you kidding me?

Now I could break into a rant here about feeling betrayed and all the rest but here’s the thing, just because this didn’t end the way I wanted it to or thought it might doesn’t actually make it bad. Certainly we’re left with questions and there’s a lot of logical gaps in how this concluded, and most certainly this isn’t exactly a satisfying ending when those of us who followed the show from the beginning followed it because of the different approach it was taking and not because we wanted to see super power beings babble at each other and then just end the fight. But, it does resolve the overall plot and given events in the final four episodes and zaShunina’s increasingly erratic behaviour in the final episode it kind of forced itself into this kind of conclusion.

I still think though if you are going to bring in time manipulation have the future daughter show up about twenty minutes earlier so that Shindo doesn’t die a completely pointless death. That wouldn’t make this ending any easier to swallow but at least wouldn’t make it a complete waste of space.

The show is actually a victim of its own earlier episodes. It set a tone and standard for its plot that the second half utterly failed to live up to. Most of us went in expecting nothing because we hadn’t even heard of the show until it started, and then it was amazing. It was well written and interesting and seemed to be heading somewhere a bit different. It just couldn’t hold onto that for a full 12 episodes. Pretty much everything after the introduction of the Sansa is questionable as to where this started going wrong. But, if I take away the expectations I gained from those first episodes and just look at the second half, this is still one of the better shows I watched this season. So for all that I want to rant and cry foul at such a travesty of an ending, stepping back I realised that while I am hoping for a fan-fiction ending that actually does the show justice, this is still not the absolute piece of dribble it could have been. It isn’t as though it all becomes a pointless dream sequence.

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But that then makes me wonder what the point of the ending was. Was that supposed to be a touching ending?

We had an incredibly pointless and avoidable death, followed by a dull and pointless chase and fight sequence, followed by dialogue that did nothing to answer any of the actual questions that people are sitting there thinking about. Where did the clever and thought provoking writing go? Where did an emphasis on dialogue and negotiation go? Hey, here’s a plan. It still sucks but might have worked a bit better. Why doesn’t future daughter actually try talking to zaShunina rather than turning him into pretty coloured lights? I might have believed her as Shindo’s daughter or legacy then. Some sort of compromise could have been reached once she showed up given zaShunina finally had someone who could stop him. Of course, future daughter is really an incredibly stupid plot device in the first place so it would have been better if Shindo had just figured out how to actually get zaShunina talking again given that would have actually fit the tone of the show.

Kado8

Basically, I’m annoyed because this show got my hopes up. It was so good. It was great. And then, it wasn’t. It doesn’t invalidate the good things earlier in the series. It doesn’t mean that this is a show that should be avoided at all costs. What it does mean is that you have to go in knowing that the ending won’t be as satisfying as you would like and just accept it for what it is. It is a science fiction that almost got it right but, despite its name, ultimately missed being the right answer.

Sorry that this review kind of flip flops around. I kept having to delete sections as I just went in to full rant territory because I was so disappointed by that ending.


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Karandi James.

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KADO Episode 12

Review:

As this is the final episode, assume major spoilers ahead. Minimal ranting – I’ll save that for the whole series review.

Kado12b

You know, given zaShunina’s development as a character up to this point, it would have been really nice if the revelation that a copy of Shindo wasn’t Shindo had actually had some bearing on his choices. Instead, he casually explains he came to that conclusion and then we just move on. Why bother even including that bit of dialogue if it is meaningless? And if Shindo thinks zaShunina is finally becoming a human because he’s having a temper tantrum because things haven’t gone his way, what is Shindo’s actual opinion of people?

Kado12c
Great, from higher being with different values to Bond villain in less than 5 minutes of poor dialogue.

Of all the things I didn’t like about how this show ended, zaShunina’s treatment is the one that bothers me the most. It’s like the writers gave up trying to consider what it would be like for a being of a higher dimension to come to Earth and just turned him into your typical overpowered and cocky villain. This becomes really clear in the ‘I predicted’ speech where essentially all of Shindo’s planning in the previous episode becomes just another wasted exercise. And all of this, including the destruction of what was an interesting character, comes so that the writers can throw one final ‘twist’ at the audience that this show definitely didn’t need.

I know earlier in the season, one of my praises for the show was its lack of tropes. It was an intelligent sci-fi focussing on human reactions and politics and felt incredibly real. Well, let the final episode kill that as we go for:

  • Over the top villain speeches
  • Brave hero rushing to his death
  • Over powered high school girl showing up to save the day

Kado12e

Yep, KADO went there. And while the explainer they give for her existence makes enough sense to skate across the surface of logic it really does not fit with the show we’ve been watching. More importantly, if this was the surprise trump card, show up five minutes earlier. Her presence and actions just make Shindo’s death completely and utterly wasted and unnecessary.

I will review the whole series. I still think Kado is worth watching but with this ending, it really isn’t the must watch it could have been.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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KADO Episode 11

Review:

After episodes 9 and 10, I was starting to really worry about where this show was going for a conclusion. I’m still not 100% sold that this is going to end well, but episode 11 definitely made me hopeful that I should have high expectations.

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Part of what helped was Shindo’s approach in this episode. He is still very much thinking through his options, considering the other party, considering what resources he has at his disposal, and generally doing his job and being quite competent. I really worried that with the introduction of Tsukai that humans would get sidelined during some final smack down that would not fit the tone or nature of the show. Admittedly, zaShunina and Tsukai did have a fight, but its done and Tsukai’s already lost. She’s taking a definite support role (or rather an advisory role) as Shindo puts his plans together.

The other part that made this episode far more promising than the previous two was that we started to put things together from much earlier in the series. Shindo goes back to the metal company he helped in episode 0 for assistance and also calls on crazy science girl for a new device. His plan is simple: surprise zaShinina. While most of those helping him think he is making a weapon, Shindo sees it very differently.

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That said, I kind of thought of a much easier way to deal with zaShunina. He wants to take a human; I’m pretty sure we found a volunteer.

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But that wouldn’t work if he wants to take all people or whatever and they’ve never really clarified given it seemed earlier that zaShunina would have been happy just taking Shindo.

On that note, favourite part of the episode was the ongoing development of emotions for zaShunina. Apparently even he realises that clone Shindo isn’t really Shindo. He never seems overly happy or satisfied when talking to Shindo and his treatment of the clones this episode just kind of makes it clear that zaShunina doesn’t see them as anything but cheap knock-offs.

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I’m really looking forward to how this story will end. It may not end up being brilliant, but I know this anime has really been great fun to follow this season and I’ve loved thinking it through each week and waiting for the next episode.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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KADO Episode 10

Review – Some spoilers:

I very nearly had a complaint about this episode but by the end of its run I was more confused as to whether this episode worked or not with what we already knew and with the tone of the story. After a rewatch, I liked it a bit better but I still have a lot of question marks.

As to what my complaint was, it was that we spent six minutes of the episode (minus the opening song and a brief recap) watching the formation of the universe. Pretty and all and the text discussion over it was kind of entertaining, but really, the whole thing is entirely skippable and by the way didn’t we leave our protagonist in a life or death situation so is this really the time for a walk through fictional universal history?

There is a point and eventually we get to Tsukai’s childhood where her father exposition dumps some cheesy dialogue about using our limited time to live the best we can and apparently this makes it some sort of profound statement that deeply affects her after this.

I was actually wondering if Tsukai had actually been born at all or whether she was just using the family as a cover, but it appears she’s actually been moving her way through lots of life forms in this universe and learning so we did get something out of this sequence. That said, I would probably put the first half of this episode as my least favourite sequence so far in the series. Sure it fills a couple of gaps and tries to give some motivation to Tsukai, but basically we knew she loved the world as it was from her monologue two episodes ago and everything else is just kind of filler.

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And so we move into the second half where we finally get back to zaShunina apparently threatening Shindo but he’ll take the time out to deal with Tsukai first  even though he actually blocked Shindo from moving at one point with the weapon he was trying to kill him with last week so it makes no sense why he didn’t just cut Shindo down then and there.

So let’s skip to my favourite part. Nope, not the bit where Shindo does the stupid protagonist thing and shoves Tsukai out of the way after her shield fails and takes the injury. We already knew from last week’s preview he was going to get hurt and this was just kind of a stupid, anime standard way to do it given, as I said earlier, zaShunina had plenty of opportunity earlier to make a clean hit of it.

My favourite part happened after Tsukai takes Shindo and flees and zaShunina is left with a copy of Shindo and a pool of blood.

If we weren’t already convinced that zaShunina had been changed through his encounters with Shindo, this sequence clearly shows the depth of that change in a very short time frame with only one word being spoken. Sure, zaShunina is cold, calculating, and utterly does not get what it means to be human. Sure, he was going to kill Shindo, use his copy, and move on. However, I don’t think even zaShunina realised that Shindo dying would affect him. He seemed incredibly surprised.

Then again, the show clearly wants to hammer this point home. Later in the episode when Shindo-clone is presenting the new device to a room full of excited journalists and scientist, zaShunina walks away and onto a roof top where he stares into the horizon. Nothing new about that given how many times we’ve seen a similar scene, but in this situation the expression on his face and the music really drive home his internal conflict and sadness.

And let’s all just ignore the cliché situation Shindo and Tsukai end up in after she heals him. Okay.

Hey this show has had a good run with 9 episodes that have just been great to watch and very few complaints. Even this episode in context isn’t so bad but as a stand alone is definitely weaker.

KADO is available on Crunchyroll.


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KADO Episode 9

Review:

I came to the conclusion while watching KADO this week that the question I’d been wondering about for most of the series was flawed. I’ve been trying to figure out what is going on with zaShunina and whether he is actually good or bad, but as this episode points out in relation to the WAM and Sansa, the terms have no meaning once you introduce a non-human element. Obviously, you could conclude from zaShunina’s actions in the second half of this episode that he is bad or evil, but that isn’t actually the case. He really kind of reminded me of Kyubey from Madoka in that he isn’t being bad, he just has a completely different set of values and agenda to consider.

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That said, if you’ve been waiting for answers and explanations, this episode is going to give them to you. It does it in the usual fashion of heavy dialogue but there’s certainly enough going on visually to keep you enthralled. Besides, despite this not going the direction I thought it would, everything being revealed here makes sense.

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Anyway, I’m really glad they finally gave Tsukai’s character a real explanation. She’s been a bit off for awhile and I really didn’t get her motives last week, nor did I really understand why she seemed so prominent in the opening theme. This week it all makes sense and when I rewatch this show I’m going to pay more attention to her.

Loved this episode. Love how this series has unfolded so far. Though, I rewatched this episode with a friend and their conclusion was that while it made enough sense it seems all too convenient that Tsukai was the negotiator chosen at the start all things considered. I had to concede the point. Given what we now know about her you do have to wonder how it was she just happened to be the one chosen so I’m kind of hoping an explanation is coming and it isn’t just plot convenience.

Kado is available on Crunchyroll.


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