What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime style?

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What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime style?

#1 Post by DaFool » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:50 pm

I've been meaning to ask this question a while now... there's mention that the art in Aselia The Eternal is "so 2003". What exactly makes the art seem outdated? Is there some new Photoshop technique that is commonly used that only came out recently?

I am asking the artists because I notice that visual novels tend to have a longer shelf life compared to other video games, since they're more like literature. So you would want to make the art timeless as well, unless one is specifically out to mimic the common character designs of the 80s for example.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#2 Post by Fawn » Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:23 pm

*re-writing this post to answer the question better*

Okay, so, I looked up the game you were talking about, and well... again, it should be pretty obvious why it looks "so 2003". Here's a CG from the game:

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First of all the characters have those (horrible) faces where the mouth and nose are tiny and crowded together in the middle, with big derpy sheep-like eyes; much like that of the original Kanon:
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Second, the use of shiny dodge in the hair. Back in 2003 and a little past that it was acceptable to use this effect but it looks really tacky these days...

And, of course, the colors are very saturated and the overall anatomy/shading is mediocre looking; especially compared to 2011's "styles":

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As you can see, less colors are used for shading in the "2011 style", but, notice that the shading looks nicer and has a more atmospheric effect. If I had to say there was a trend, I'd definitely say the use of blue and other reflective colors to give depth to the pictures and more pastel-like shading.
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#3 Post by Taleweaver » Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:03 pm

DaFool wrote:I am asking the artists because I notice that visual novels tend to have a longer shelf life compared to other video games, since they're more like literature. So you would want to make the art timeless as well, unless one is specifically out to mimic the common character designs of the 80s for example.
You're trying to go for timeless anime-style art? Ghibli girl! Hasn't changed since 1974!
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#4 Post by Glasskitten » Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:53 pm

-Are the Aselia game's Persian-kitty faces a 2003 thing?
-But they do have some of the same coloring techniques the Fawn-sama mentioned, it looks like.
-Perhaps an anime style with sufficiently unique properties might avoid date-locking...?

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#5 Post by Pugfarts » Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:52 pm

Glasskitten wrote:
-Perhaps an anime style with sufficiently unique properties might avoid date-locking...?
I agree here. I notice a lot of generic anime-style stuff here that looks very polished, but ultimately doesn't really stand out.
..though i'd love to see a resurgence of 80s anime styles.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#6 Post by Celianna » Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:34 pm

Anime style years ago was indeed a lot more satured. Or should I say, they chose the ugliest colour palettes they could manage to find that always seemed to clash? They over used highlights in the hair and eyes, making the characters look like plastic dolls. The anatomy also left much to be desired, and every female looked like each other except with a different hair style. It was also a trend to make the top of the hair more poofy. My point perfectly illustrated:

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The trend started to become less shiny, less highlights, and the colours clashed less.

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Eventually, highlights were barely shown unless it was to add the sparkle in the eye. Anatomy also highly improved, making characters have different body shapes, length, eyes etc.

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Cell-shading (the harsher one from the very first example) is becoming less and less apparent, with a favour going towards soft shading (with no highlights).

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Of course, highlights still exist, both in harsh cell-shading and soft shading.

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Notice how that harsh cell-shading now has stylized highlights in the hair, which is much different than years ago where each strand of hair got a highlight. The soft shading has plenty of highlights, but they're very detailed and subtle.

The earlier style was less detailed, used wacky colour palettes, went crazy with highlights, had poofy hair with matching sparkling eyes. Right now the shading has gone much softer and more subtle, anatomy improved, clashing colour palettes are almost unheard of, and highlights are barely used anymore.
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#7 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:31 pm

There had been significant growth in the area, definitely. If you look at most 80's and 90's stuff, there are very comman traits in all of them. More recently you have seen much more diversity and artistic freedom. I mostly put this down to natural growth and the natural mixing of styles that has accord with the advent of the internet. Artists from everywhere are being exposed to each other and so you are getting thoasands of hybrids of styles and influences that are cause everything to grow at a faster rate. It's the Darwin effect at it's best when it comes to memes (the cultural ones, not just the internet ones).

I personally despise the 'typical' anime style, drives me up the wall. All those styles you find in 'How to Draw Manga' books are just augh to me. I prefer stuff that is hybrid, with multiple influences, though some of the old school styles have a very nice sense of nostelgia to them, even if I don't find them quite as appealing visually.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#8 Post by AxemRed » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:05 pm

Taleweaver wrote:You're trying to go for timeless anime-style art? Ghibli girl! Hasn't changed since 1974!
1984
Celianna wrote:Anime style years ago was indeed a lot more satured. Or should I say, they chose the ugliest colour palettes they could manage to find that always seemed to clash? They over used highlights in the hair and eyes, making the characters look like plastic dolls. The anatomy also left much to be desired, and every female looked like each other except with a different hair style. It was also a trend to make the top of the hair more poofy.
Uhmm... no? Examples please.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#9 Post by lordcloudx » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:22 pm

shoujo manga style with multi-lines for eyes (as an old friend pointed out) seems pretty timeless to me as well -- or I'm propably just running living in the nineties.
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#10 Post by DaFool » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:23 pm

Love the feedback with examples, exactly what I was hoping for.

Last week I attended a Christmas party where people put their kids out on the stage to sing... they used The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas. Note the kids weren't even born when those movies were made (maybe it's more the parents' sense of nostalgia). But dang... no 3D animation, not even Tangled. That really showed me, what is considered 'classic' and 'timeless'.

Yeah when I was pretty new to Photoshop I loved to use the Dodge and Burn tools... I suppose those early game creators went overboard as well. Earlier, we can really excuse the lack of subtle color palette because Digital Ink & Paint was still new, so people didn't have millions of colors at their disposal... they only started with the most common colors used in hand-painted [physical] cel animation.

Since I don't have experience making manga I'm not familiar with common toning techniques, so I consider myself extremely bad at shading. Thankfully, the current trend of less shading is to my benefit... I think what might work nowadays is an almost flat look (like the Durarara example), and then use the atmosphere of the surrounding scene to determine where the overall light effects are.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#11 Post by Sapphi » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:50 pm

Fawn wrote: First of all the characters have those (horrible) faces where the mouth and nose are tiny and crowded together in the middle, with big derpy sheep-like eyes; much like that of the original Kanon
Nice to hear someone else is completely put off by those facial proportions. I've seen so many CG art with that look (the mouth way up by the tiny nose) that I was beginning to think I should try to draw like that. I am notorious for drawing mouths where chins should be, so I tried, but every time I tried to mimic the Kanon style it just looked bizarre to me and I had to erase it. Oh well ^_^;
DaFool wrote: Last week I attended a Christmas party where people put their kids out on the stage to sing... they used The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas. Note the kids weren't even born when those movies were made (maybe it's more the parents' sense of nostalgia). But dang... no 3D animation, not even Tangled. That really showed me, what is considered 'classic' and 'timeless'.
What's weird is that I thought of the way older Disney movies as being more classic (Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Bambi). Although, I will admit that the examples you mentioned seemed no more modern to me than the older classics when I was a child.

Now, what's going probably going to sound crazy is that I love their cheap, sketchy, dirty-looking 60s and 70s animation best. (Robin Hood, The Sword and the Stone, The Aristocats and The Rescuers especially.)
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#12 Post by LVUER » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:41 pm

I think it also have connection with the development of technology used. Nowadays you could find lots of software to make animation from scratch to finished products, something that's pretty non-existent at 80's and 90's. And computer nowadays also very powerful and more and more monitors are able to produce more accurate color tones. I also bet almost every professional studio have Wacom Cintiq (or equivalent) for their artists.
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#13 Post by lordcloudx » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:21 am

@lvuer: I'd argue that frame-by-frame animation software by Corel (Corelmove) has been in existence since the mid-nineties. I'm not sure what kind of following it had, though. Internet access was limited to 5 hours a month or less back then, so you were pretty much on your own unless you had some friends who were into the software as much as you IRL.
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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#14 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:35 am

1960s and 1970s
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In the early days anime artists were inspired by western animation like that coming out of the Disney Studios. Disney made animation for movies popular, so the large cartoon eyes and other features were copied by the Japanese. Though cartoony, you can still see that anime was focused on being more real or naturalistic.

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Anime continued to move away from the more cartoony western animation, but began experimenting with stylization itself. In part, this was a response to a changing technological climate - previously, all anime were made for movie theaters as shorts or serials, and as the transition to TV anime approached, a way to make the animation faster and less expensive was needed.

1980s
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As the 1980s progressed, the anime made for movies retained the more naturalistic and realistic style of the 1970s, while TV anime began getting progressively more stylized. Hair began being colored unrealistic colors, and hair styles got progressively more extreme, as did the features of the characters.

1990s
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The early and mid 1990s saw an explosion of stylistic designs and changes with bright contrasting colors and designs, rainbow hair, very sharp features and cell-shading, and giant eyes. The crazier the hair, the better. New technologies were making it easier to produce and color anime, so designers went crazy experimenting. Emotion was king over representational form. The shape of the eyes, style of the hair, and color of the hair were all developed into shorthand to describe a character's personality.

Late 1990s, Early 2000s
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In the late 1990s and early 2000s we started to see a definitive "split" in the anime art world. Some anime continued to push the stylization even farther, almost back to a purely cartoon aesthetic, emphasizing the style and cuteness over everything else. On the other hand, due to computer coloring and animating, the production cost of anime had fallen sufficiently that it started to become possible to emulate the old movie style anime of the 1970s and 1980s on TV, and many designers embraced a return to much more realistic forms and colors. While the stylized side of the anime world had almost done away with noses by this point, on this side of the design gap, noses suddenly became the most realistic they had been in over 20 years. Eyes shrank, and neutral and realistic color palettes appeared for perhaps the first time ever.

Today
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The divide in styles still remains, but the realistic design side seems to be winning the battle handily. Even in stylistic anime, natural hair colors are the rule rather the exception. Hyper realistic styles are praised and lauded, and even anime that is stylistic pays close attention to the forms of the body and is rigidly realistic in everything but the face. Gone are the hyper shiny hair highlights of the 1990s.


Others have pointed out how the harsh contrasting cell shaded style has given way to the soft shaded forms of modern anime. Part of this is cost. Soft shading used to be very expensive, and unusable for animation. Now, with computers, it is much easier and cheaper. While the cell shading has a tendency to make characters look flat, the softer shading gives them more of a three dimensional presence.

Fewer anime artists are using artistic shorthand now as well. The bodies of anime characters in the 1990s and earlier were very stylized, a long of long or sharp lines. Anime like Cowboy Bebop and movies like Perfect Blue started emphasizing a wider range of body types, and modern anime draws realistic bodies for the most part, even down to the folds and wrinkles in a hand, or showing proper muscle shading and shape in the arms, chest, and legs. The face is really the only thing that is changed from a realistic figure. Unlike the misshapen heads of the past, current anime heads are shaped like there is a real skull underneath, and the only differences come in on the jaw (slightly more sharpened chin or jawline on females), the nose, and eyes.

I'd say one difference (and I don't have any proof of this) is that it seems a lot more anime artists are coming from traditional art backgrounds rather than cartooning backgrounds. They know how to realistically depict the human body, and each change or stylization you see in modern anime is usually very deliberate and controlled for certain effect. I imagine the internet may be pushing things in this direction as well, since anime artists are facing immense competition. Drawing the simplified and stylized anime of the 1990s isn't going to cut it when half of DeviantArt can copy that style in a hot minute. Instead, anime artists are pushing forward more detailed, elaborate, and realistic styles with personal changes, because it is both inspiring to look at and impossible to copy without real artistic training and talent.

Now, as for a timeless style?
Look at my examples. Studio Ghibli has had a consistent style for decades, and it continues to work because it is emulating reality for the most part. The thing about the myriad of anime styles in the 1980s, 1990s, and even now, is that the more stylized something is, the more dated it will look later, just like clothing. Styles, by their nature, go out of style. In my opinion, emulating a natural or realistic style is the best way to go. Even some of that stuff from the 1970s looks pretty good today because they were going for a more realistic look, while the bright hair, super highlights, squashed heads, and insane hair of the late 1980s and 1990s looks very dated now, just like those bell-bottoms and pastel suits at the local thrift store.

And if the history of ALL art is any indication . . . everything always goes back to realism at some point. Art will shoot off into wild tangents of style for a while, but it always comes back to realism. Emulating artists like Range Murata is probably a good starting point. Then carefully add in the stylization you want for the effect you want.

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Re: What common traits of 'contemporary' i.e. 2011 anime sty

#15 Post by Taleweaver » Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:09 am

AxemRed wrote:
Taleweaver wrote:You're trying to go for timeless anime-style art? Ghibli girl! Hasn't changed since 1974!
1984
I stand corrected about Nausicaa. But what about
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