Posted by psgels on 3 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews

Okay, so apparently Urban Legend Story Hikiko was an OVA, released about a year ago. It’s a fully CG-Rendered movie done by some guy who also seems to have worked on Catblue Dynamite. Since I’m always in for a bit of good horror, especially since the past spring and summer season didn’t have any of it, I decided to give it a shot. So, did this movie do its job and give me a good scare?

Well, it did give me a good laugh…

This OVA is THE example of why 3D-rendered movies have a looong way to go at this point. While in theory, it seems like a logical thing to do: you can get smoother animation, there is more detail, you can get a more dynamic background and a more realistic set of character-designs than the drawings of traditional anime. It sounds all nice in theory… but this movie just looked so incredibly fake.

It’s a shame, though: this OVA does have a very neat story: there’s plenty of build-up, a deep main character, a nice set of plot twists. In traditional 2D animation, it would have been a pretty good horror OVA. The big problem however is that the characters’ expressions and motions look incredibly unrealistic. So unrealistic that they’re nearly impossible to take seriously. This may be because I’ve been too much used to anime, but even though there’s plenty of animation in this, but all the animation feels jerky, and especially the facial expressions of the characters look nowhere near accurate and more like a bunch of puppets.

There’s a saying in art that goes as follows: “if you can’t make it, fake it”, and 2D anime has become very good at this. It knows that its artwork is very detailed for animation standards, and that there’s no way to continuously animate everything in drawings, and so over the years they’ve perfected the art in simulating movement even though there isn’t any. As long as it doesn’t stand out as “fake” or “too much” in any way, these cinematic effects really work.

3D animation has yet to discover these techniques, and instead just try to… animate. The thing is, that unless you’ve got the budget of a small country or the imagination of Hayao Miyazaki, there is no way to perfectly emulate every subtle nuance in human movement, and this movie especially fails at it. The few attempts it makes to make up for the lack of movement are some of the most pathetic cinematic techniques all around, like a couple of cheap but loud sound effects during the intense part, and lots of shaking the camera around while looking at the characters with extremely scared faces.

The thing that 3D animation is going to have to learn is the art of cutting corners. American 2D-animation does this by extremely simplified drawings, Japanese animation does this by trying to limit the number of frames that need to be animated. At this moment, there’s nothing wrong with the artwork: show any still frame in this movie, and it looks gorgeous. Combine them… and they don’t.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 2/10
Setting: 7/10

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    Aw I didn’t think the animation was that bad, but the Japanese do suck in the CG department. I just imagined it was like an early Playstation game cutscene. I def. enjoyed the more creepy atmosphere despite it being more like every other single Japanese horror film, what made the movie a good watch was just it created a great atmosphere and creeped me out at some parts.

    But I do agree some scenes are pretty laughable!

  2. Avatar CJ says:

    Have you ever seen Mr. Stain in the Junk Alley (Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta)? It’s also CGI, but doesn’t even bother to try for realism, so it works much better with the series (14 short eps), consider giving it a try for your next CGI anime thing.

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