As CG rendering technology improves, portions of anime that used to be drawn using cels are instead composed of vectors. Some people feel that unnecessary and/or too noticable CG makes an anime look cheap and that if the same scenes were hand-drawn, it would be a whole lot better. However, what if there were no cels nor computer graphics but instead clay and stop-motion? Does that kind of work have a right to be called anime?
That is the question that came to mind when I watched Triad’s fansub of Taiko Drum Master DVD 1; there are three other ones the group plans to release. The first disc contains 7 short episodes featuring the adventures of the characters from the Taiko Drum Master series of games. The stories are kiddy like Dogtato-kun; for example, one episode involves cotton candy talking to a cloud. Yeah, really.
Look at the details on those leaves! How could it not be anime?!
I would argue that Taiko should count as anime. The lead-in to each of the shorts calls it a “Clay Anime” but that just used the shortened version of “animation” written in romanji. As for a definition, I would consider an anime to be a work (1) that originates in Japan (i.e. production, character design) and (2) is an animation of some sort. Something like PowerPuff Girls Z would count under that definition even though it derives characters from an American cartoon. Anyway, since Taiko was made by Japanese people and is an animated work, it is an anime.
I suppose this distinction rings similar to the argument against calling OEL (original English-language) works “manga”. I feel that if it reads right-to-left and has stuff like speed lines or finely-drawn hair, it can be called manga. This eliminates English-language webcomics like Megatokyo from the classification because they read left-to-right, same goes for competitors in the annual Rising Stars of Manga. But it allows for works like those published by Seven Seas (e.g. Last Hope) to be included even if they are put into the more narrow category of “World Manga”. I suppose it could also allow for Hebrew or Arabic comics but I think those are published in the same format as American comic books.
Okay, back to the subject at hand and just in time for me to play devil’s advocate. The main reason why I say Taiko is not anime is because…it just doesn’t look like anime. The same thing could be said about Advent Children and I definitely don’t think that movie is anime. I view it on the same level as Shrek or Madagascar, as a CGI-animated feature length film. However, I consider the 2004 version of Appleseed to be anime. Why?
CEL-SHADING, BABY! …or rotoscoping, whichever term floats your boat. *cough*
Another thing is when I was watching Taiko, I felt like I was watching Wallace & Gromit or one of those Canada Film Board shorts (you know the ones…) than anime. However I don’t really regard feelings as an objective means of determining whether something is A or B. In this case, it’s either A or not A.
While writing this post, a couple recent series came to mind that have used claymation to create their credit sequences. Futakoi Alternative had endings with clay characters as does Coyote Ragtime Show. Both those series were animated by ufotable so I guess they really like clay or something.
Anybody who can come up with a better reason than just looks or feelings as to why Taiko should not be considered anime, please post in the comments. This isn’t a challenge (“I DARE you to give me a reason!”) but an invitation to present another point of view. Also, I don’t mean to start a flame war so don’t make it seem like I am. Because seriously, I’m not.
P.S. I found the perfect thing to put on future birthday cards. Thanks, Namco!