How Anime Art Has Changed Since 2010

[Image: 2ch]

Previously, Kotaku showed how anime art changed from the 1990s to the 2010s. Now, let's see see how anime art has evolved since the year 2010 in comparison to today.

That's only seven years! The changes are there, but subtle. You might have noticed them, but maybe not.

The comparisons originally appeared on 2ch, Japan's most popular internet forum. The below image is a revised version the net user uploaded after posting the top image. 

Generally, the difference is that anime art has become brighter. According to this comparison, anime art today has a lighter hue.

[Image: 2ch]

Other differences include how the eyes are drawn, especially the reflection in them. The refection in the air is also different. The cosmetics, namely on the lips (here, the lower lip for the 2017 version) as well as the eyelashes, are more pronounced as is the cheeks' colour.

Because the artistic style is constantly changing, in twenty, thirty, or forty years, the differences will be even greater. 

[Image via Nico]


    I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion here - the style itself hasn't shifted that much. I think what's really happened is that animation has moved from doing just digital coloring to using much more post-processing effects, and one of those has been the addition of brighter lighting with soft bloom over everything in cases where it makes sense to do so.

    The other difference is that in 2010 Japan's terrestrial broadcasts were only just switching over to digital. Most TV anime was still being produced with lower detail. The detail level has gone up considerably since then as high definition is now ubiquitous. Additionally video coding has come a long way since 2010 (primarily thanks to hardware decoding support for high-bitrate h264) allowing animators to get away with soft gradients and so on without massive issues with color banding and macro blocking artifacts.

    'Generic' style has definitely shifted over time, but often examples of this are pretty contrived, since modern anime (especially the last 10-12 years) has become vastly more diverse, with enormous amounts of variation in character design style from one show to the next, especially in higher-budget (and higher-profile) shows, which tend to be the ones people notice. There's also much more focus on the character designs for adaptations matching the original artwork, and much more focus on consistency of the design across the whole production. Much less common to see those cases where the animation quality drops through the floor 3-4 episodes in.

    To really see the stylistic shifts over time you need to look at character designs inside specific studios or by specific artists - the chart at the bottom of this doesn't do this and doesn't even assemble the examples in order aside from clustering them per decade.

      Yeah I hate that chart.
      Sure, general trends have definitely changed and techniques have evolved, but that chart is dumb.

      Fully agree with your first paragraph. If I should pick the biggest stylistic change myself, I'd choose the colour. So many gradients nowadays! (Not a bad--or, per-se--a good thing, just a thing).

      I also agree with your last paragraph, but I disagree somewhat with the second to last one. I don't particularly believe that there's a higher variation of character design nowadays, than there was 20 or even 30 years ago. The only difference is that the industry is bigger and fewer character designers/directors become household names. Often, when you saw people back in the day saying that "all anime looks the same" they were pointing at different series with the same character designer like Akemi Takada, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Leiji Matsumoto, or even Akira Toriyama. And yet, their styles diverged wildly from one another and from the many lesser famous designers and studios.

      There hasn't ever been an even arguable homogeneous look for anime (across different creators) since the 80's at the very least.

        I don't disagree that there was a lot of variation even back in the day, but the thing is there's tons more produced per season compared to the 80s, so the overall diversity is much higher. There's also way more variation because of all the different audiences and genres targeted, and because you see adaptations of so much stuff that would previously have been passed over, so you do see more minor variation.

        But also, this is why I was saying you need to compare within the same studio (Kyoto Animation for example has a particular style which you can see evolving over time) or the same artists to see trends (interesting example: compare Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress to Macross 7 - Mikimoto hasn't done much since the 90s and it gave the whole thing a very late-90s feel because the average stuff *has* changed since then, but his style hadn't), so I think we're actually in agreement.

          Yeah, when seen like that, I believe we are :)

    The biggest change has been the explosion of derivative, otaku-bait shows. And I point the finger squarely at Kyoto Animation and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

    Eromanga Sensei proved Miyazaki's point. Anime was a mistake.

      I'd disagree with that, Haruhi's star has well and truly faded now and they've largely moved on.

      If there's any real issue right now it's that every second show involves an unlikable idiot transferred to another world that is basically (sometimes literally) a video game and where they are stupidly popular and attractive and incredibly talented. Bonus points if they're snarky and antisocial. Sword Art Online has a lot to answer for. :(

        I'd say that that current fad is more a revival than a new issue. The 90's were shock-full of series like that as well, like El-Hazard or Dual Parallel.

        I share your distaste but if SAO has something to answer for is taking a good premise and a great execution (for the first 15 episodes) and then, entirely misunderstanding what made it great, grinding that legacy into the ground of insufferable tropes and gratuitous harem genreing.

          You can tell that the author originally planned a much shorter story and when it went big he scrambled to continue it, probably with a Kadokawa editor breathing down his neck telling him "this is what people want". It worked out commercially for sure, but it's massively frustrating how far it fell short of its potential.

          Also you're not wrong that Isekai stuff isn't a new thing (Mark Twain did it in the 1880s with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court) but the current glut of the premise (as well as Tensei, where they die and are reincarnated in a fantasy world) is way worse than the 80s or 90s. It's at the point where the big light novel prizes like Dengeki no longer accept novels with these premises, because everything is doing it. There's been at least two or three adaptations that use the premise in every season for the last 3-4 years. I think the current one is the first in a while where there's hardly any.

    Haruhi has definitely faded in popularity. I agree with that. But it certainly kicked off the slice of life/anime's answer to the manic pixie dream girl genre's surge in popularity in the late 00's. Also the rise of otaku-bait can definitely be centered on Kyoto Animation itself.

    Anime has become particularly bad in its "follow the leader" mentality. Usually every season there's a major success story. The next season, half the shows coming out are imitations.

    Currently it seems to be repugnant "imouto" shows and transported to a fantasy world shows. The latter is really sad, as there have been some excellent shows in that genre. Magic Knight Rayearth, Fushigi Yuugi and Escaflowne come to mind.

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