Anime Moments Where They Talk About How Strong You Are Cel-Shaded Animation in a Nutshell

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Cel-Shaded Animation in a Nutshell

Hand drawing will always be considered the beginning of animation. That’s why today, even with the advanced technology in the art of moving things from static images, computer graphics can revert to looking like hand-drawn animation. A key animation style to achieve this look is cel-shaded animation.

With the name of the animation style itself, it’s clear how rooted it is in hand drawing. Cels are clear sheets of acetate on which the classic 2D animation style of past Disney films was drawn. In short, cel-shaded animation aims to make computer graphics appear as if they were drawn by hand. This is achieved through non-photorealistic lighting.

The results may seem simple, but the actual process is quite complex. Starting with a 3D model, cel-shaded animation continues to create discrete shades that would give the typical flat look of 2D animation. Similar to comic books, emphasis can be placed on drawings that highlight black ink outlines and contour lines.

Cel-shaded animation is, oddly enough, often associated with video games. Whenever a new game comes out, many gamer geeks and fans would often ask about the quality of cel-shades. In short, the first successful application of cel-shaded animation in video games is Jet Set Radio with the Sega Dreamcast game. Not to be outdone, Sony PlayStation released Fear Effect. Good times for sure.

However, the first criticism at the time was the quality of the appearances of the characters. Although dramatic textures were achieved with these early games, they lacked dynamic light source and outlines.

Even with the technological limitations of the first batch of cel-animated video games, a small trend began to emerge among game developers. Cel-shaded games started popping up like mushrooms: Sly Cooper, Thievius Raccoonus, Dark Chronicle, Cel Damage, Clone 2: Lunatea’s Veil, Viewtiful Joe and, of course, Jet Set Radio Future. The ones that stood out from the group, at least commercially, were The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Tales of Symphonia and Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

A game that tried to capitalize on the popularity of cel-shaded animation unfortunately had poor results. The House of the Dead III, designed for the Microsoft Xbox, started the game in production with cel-shaded graphics – yes, the anime-like look of a zombie-based gunner game. So when cooking up this awkward recipe for disaster, SEGA decided to ditch the cel-shaded look and go for traditional animation styles. Perhaps the negative response was too overwhelming to ignore.

Although cel-shaded animation hasn’t taken the video game industry by storm, it’s still an effective motif to use when implemented correctly. The latest incarnations of Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy, Killer 7, No More Heroes, Metal Gear Acid 2, Okami, and Prince of Persia all feature 3D animation that appears anime-like or hand-drawn. Also, when handheld computers weren’t as powerful as they are today, most games were in cel-shading animation. Examples would be the Tony Hawk series and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS.

Cel-shaded animation can in some ways be compared to abstract painting. It doesn’t have to represent reality exactly, but when used skillfully and correctly, it can create amazing treatments for multimedia entertainment, such as video games and even animated films.

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