Posted by: AceRailgun | June 23, 2013

Does anime even need animation?

Shingeki no Kyojin 1

He’s gone off the deep end this time by even questioning this. Of course anime needs animation you foolish blogger you are thinking to yourself as you roll your eyes and lean on your right elbow. Anime without animation is manga you stupid head and if it’s not that it probably a visual novel so clearly the defining feature of anime is animation… But how much of anime is really animated?


If you subtract panning shots and lip movement shots then I’d say only 20% to 50% of anime is actual animation and in some cases you can remove walk cycles and you lose another 5%-10%. “That’s crazy talk you bumbling fool. Animation is constant there’s no way I’m looking at still images half the time….” You just noticed didn’t you and it’s a little bit sad but don’t you dare go blaming the animators because animation is bloody hard and even 50% take hours of hard work to animated.


So are we really only watching 50% of the anime? No of course not, anime is anime regardless of how much moving is going on and animation isn’t even a crucial point in anime. Without it you can still convey an amazing story so long as you make up for it in other ways such as good voice acting, music, art style and plot. These factors are even more important I’d say and if you take them away the anime falls apart just as much as it does if the animation is gone.


So they why does anime even need animation then if you can accomplish all those things without needing animation like Juniper’s Knot or the Virtue’s Last Reward series do and the only answer I can come up with is immersion. Even that’s debatable though seeing as anyone with a half decent imagination can paint pictures of events inside their head increasing their level of immersion without the need for fancy animation.

What do you think animation brings to the table in terms of the story and are you ever upset or annoyed when anime starts becoming a series of still images and mouth flaps?


  1. This is an interesting point and something that I encountered while playing School Days HQ. SDHQ is a visual novels that tries so very hard to be like an anime, but it’s ridiculously obvious that the vast majority of scenes and animations are recycled, and many scenes are just still images anyway.
    I guess my point is that it’s easy to notice when animation is done badly, and in actual anime I don’t notice it that often.
    The other point I want to make is that watching an anime after having played the visual novel it was based on is still entertaining because you get to see the characters come to life. In those cases i’m only watching for the animation because i’ve already experienced the story.
    Also, action scenes in anime can be pretty smexy.

    • i studied animation for three years at university and even after all that I seldom notice poor animation or still frames simply because I expect them and shouldn’t be complaining since I know animation is hard. You say that something like School Days HQ tries to be something it’s not which is pretty much the point when you notice something isn’t right and that feeling breaks immersion.

      i’ve never really thought about about it but I am guilty of wanting to watch anime adaptions of games and manga I’ve already read and it’s probably like you said as it breathes life into characters which is a form of immersion. Even if anime isn’t always animated the still images can still give life to the characters so even after all this thinking I’m still not confident in saying that anime needs animation.

  2. No, anime needs impressive animation as much as video games need photorealism (as much as a hole in their plots). Anyone who thinks they do has clearly not lived long enough to realize that ALL anime look like crap in a few short years. Just try to pick out a couple of older anime you’d want to rewatch for their animation quality.

    Now as for actually needing animation at all, that’s a tougher call. There have been a lot of crappy flash-like shows lately, but its rare for something poorly animated to be popular enough to justify its production. So if you’re just interested in making money (which, sadly, is increasingly what the anime is about) then I think decent animation is a must.

    • I’d forgotten about all those crappy flash-like anime recently and it’s true that just by looking at them I get a bad feeling and never watch them, not even a single one. Although it might be the bad animation which is off putting i think it’s also the fact that nothing substantial can be achieved in 2-5 minutes in a story.

      Going back and finding good anime because of their animation is hard and I don’t personally do that as I find animation quality to be one of the least important things in an anime. You’re right in saying that most anime don’t hold up in quality of animation as time passes but it’s rarely the animation which brings people back to their classics. Story and characters is always the reason I rewatch anime.

  3. The crucial thing here, I think, is not animation (that is, animated motion) itself, but the illusion of motion. Panning stills, walk cycles, moving mouths. . .all these things contribute to that. Only a tiny portion of the on-screen visual has to be truly changing, but if the illusion is any good, we think much more is. You mentioned people not noticing stills – that’s why. The illusion was good (or maybe they just weren’t paying attention). So yes, anime *needs* animation, but only enough to get the illusion going.

    For what it’s worth, though, shows with really good animation do stand out. Mushishi, for instance? I will always remember that for its fantastic visuals, and I’d even watch it for the express purpose of seeing them again. There are also shows like Cowboy Bebop, where you don’t take notice of how *much* motion there is – not consciously. But I do believe it adds to the experience, whether your brain realizes it or not. That’s not a *need*, of course, but. . .

    Anyway, that’s my take.

    • A solid take on the subject so I’d have to agree. Although i remember Mushi Shi looking nice and having some nice little animated parts I do recall the use of a lot of still images. It’s amazing how they can be so easily accepted when the attention is more on the beautiful artwork or the sheer strangeness of the things that are actually being animated, the mushi.

  4. A good anime is going to use animation to better express itself. Obviously, two talking heads doesn’t constitute good animation, but remember that approximately 80% of human communication is nonverbal. The best anime can and do take advantage of subtle body movements to accentuate characters’ emotions instead of resorting to the regrettably common inner monologue. I don’t even think I need to address why animation is beneficial to shows with more action. That being said, purposeful animation is necessary, but no more important than the setting, characters, music etc. It’s just another piece of the puzzle.

    • Oh sure I’ll agree that some subtle animation here and there can increase the quality of an anime as a whole but in truth inflection in the voice can do the same thing or even the words themselves can communicate more then what is spoken. Having a combination of these things can lead to truly amazing anime but I think as long as just one of these is done properly it’s possible for the others to be lacking slightly and not damage the final product.

  5. Anime needs to be animated all right, we can’t base the character’s emotions only from words, sometimes visual illustration is the best way to go. Its like convincing a blind person that the surrounding looks pretty. Imagining will sometimes give us huge expectations, and different insights so when two people who read the same manga will tend to argue since they imagined it differently. Nice post ace really wanted to talk about this with someone in such a long time ^_^

    • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it.

      I’ve never really looked at it like that and for some reason it reminds me of the time I watched an episode of Nisemonogatari without subtitles to see if I’d understand what’s going on. Even though it’s a dialog based anime I understood what the characters were doing to some extent based on reactions, tone of voice and movements. It all comes back to the imagination idea you mentioned, Instead of knowing what they were going to say I was creating the dialog in my head.

      • yeah, it only applicable in most anime that has a lot of movements in them but yeah in nisemonogatari or any other drama anime manga for me is better

  6. Even if an anime is reduced to still images and mouth flaps, I would probably still enjoy it over manga. Actually, an anime like that sounds a lot like a visual novel. What I get out of it is ease of consumption, plus coloured characters are nicer to look at.

    • “[…] coloured characters are nicer to look at.”

      And there you have it.

    • Anime surely is a more refined product so I guess that makes it better in the long run in most regards.

  7. Don’t care about the subject matter to bother going too deep when watching animation of any region on this planet to be honest. It’s about as irrelevant as the early debate on whether Avatar: The Last Air Bender’s an anime or not because it’s an American made show. Avatar kicks booty, even Legend of Korra.

    Point being, it doesn’t matter to me because I do not need to understand whether what I am watching is a Western cartoon, Eastern cartoon, anime, CGI, Claymation or whatever. If me likey, me watchey.

  8. Sights and sounds are one of anime’s defining structures. I would say anime need animations, and is one elements which makes it superior then other mediums in terms of motions. High speed sequences – fluid action scenes, fast moving vehicles – all these would look pretty disarrayed and at times, even confusing, with just still images and panels.

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