Pokemon Reflects the Changing Times

The Pokemon anime is making the transition to digital broadcast in the coming months in Japan, and I think it more than anything else marks the beginning of the end for standard television.

The Pokemon anime is older than some of the kids who are fans of the show in the first place. It’s seen some of the most significant changes in animation and entertainment in our time. The anime started in 1998 with cel animation and a somewhat limited budget resulting in somewhat limited animation. As Pokemon reached international success, the show clearly improved, and by the time the 2000s rolled around it was starting to go into digital animation, eventually converting over completely. Along the way there’s been multiple movies done in both cel and digital, and now we have a new era upon us of widescreen, high-definition, digitally animated, digitally broadcasted Pokemon. And that’s not even talking about the basic changes in episode styles and themes that are the result of starting with a primarily Japanese audience and moving into an international one.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Very few anime can say they’ve seen the world change around them as it has with Pokemon.

Examples of Anime’s Cel to Digital Conversion

Though much less frequent these days as the anime industry has all but completely converted to using digital means to animate shows (Sazae-san I believe is an exception which still uses cels), it wasn’t so long ago that debates about the merits of cel animation vs digital animation were a common sight among certain groups of otaku. Those on the side of cels would accuse digital animation of lacking life and energy, those on the side of digital would ask the cel supporters why they liked having dust on their animation frames so much. These days, I think it’s fair to say that much like 2d vs 3d animation, or drawing with paper vs drawing with a tablet, each has its own merits.

It can be difficult to compare digital to cel in the sense that usually entire shows have been done one way or the other, but there are a few which were made during that transitional period between cel and digital, and so they too are transitional. A brief list follows, if you want to take a closer look.

1) The Big O

Season 1 was done with cel animation, the Cartoon Network-sponsored Season 2 was done entirely digitally. Some will say that the second season lacked something the first had in terms of visuals, possibly that everything feels too “clean.” Judge for yourself.

2) Galaxy Angel

Again, Season 1 was all cel while for Season 2 Broccoli decided to go digital. They also decided to cover up Forte Stollen’s cleavage but that’s a discussion for another time.

3) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Stardust Crusaders)

In an odd twist, the later parts of the manga were animated in the 90s while the earlier parts were animated in the 2000s. Watching this show in chronological order can be very unusual.

4) Gaogaigar Final

Now this was really meant to be a big budget OVA and it shows. Gaogaigar Final began production in 1999 (with the first episode out in 2000), and ended in 2003. Being an OVA, there was a long period between each episode, so the jump to digital is rather sudden when watched side to side. This is probably the one that best exemplifies the power of both cel and digital animation.

Space Battles = Easier to Blend

If any anime company is crazy enough to do what the Zeta Gundam movies did, and combine mid-1980s cel animation with mid-2000s digital animation, please take my advice when I say that it’ll be a hell of a lot less jarring if you transition when the image is fairly dark. In this case, when battles take place in space and everything is nice and black or dark shades of blue, it’s fine. When it’s not, well…

Without video I can’t show you exactly what I mean, but here are some screen shots.

KIND OF OK

NOT OK

So basically, Initial D might have an easier time pulling this off.