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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02 »« Nisekoi: – 01

Etotama – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「リトライ☆ランデヴー」 (Retry☆Rendezvous) by 村川梨衣 (Murakawa Rie)

「猫娘揚々」 (Nekomusume Yōyō)
“The Exuberant Cat Girl”

For those of you not in the know, Etotama is about an anthropomorphic cat of astrological origin, Nyaa-tan (Murakawa Rie), attempting to hold a place among the Chinese Zodiac. In order to fuel her battles to the top, she relies on an unwitting human, Amato Takeru (Shimono Hiro) to provide her with the energy she needs via feelings of happiness and gratefulness. She’ll fight against the entire zodiac, making friends and enemies along the way. Half of the story is illustrated through traditional 2D animation, but as soon as the fight sequences start up, every fighter turns into a 3D chibi, duking it out in an an alternate dimension. Etotama itself isn’t too remarkable. The show tries very hard to be meta without being meaningful or funny, the story lacks direction so far, and the characters overall are fairly forgettable at this stage. It has a passable enough plot with good enough traditional animation and a good cast of voice actors, but the overall package is (currently) unremarkable.

Well, almost unremarkable. Remember what I said about the 3D chibi characters? The quality of those chibis is surprisingly passable at worst, interesting at best. The initial looks of the graphics are deceiving, with the characters designs suited to a children’s show full of fanservice, but the graphics are fairly detailed with dynamic movements. The color palette chosen for the models also suits the tone of the show, encouraging a light-hearted yet intense flavor from the battles between chibis. Though this super-deformed style does feel like a cop-out in terms of fully animating a normally proportioned model, the trade-off allowed the CG team to accomplish much more with what was supposedly a fairly small budget. In comparison to improv and low budget shows such as gdgd Fairies, the quality blows that production out of the water, despite sharing similar proportioned models. As compared to the models seen in Ars Nova, the fluidity of both the frame rate and the character movements is a step up, while also boasting more detailed models. However, when it comes to comparing Etotama to actual full-fledged 3D productions within the mainstream, such as those released by Dreamworks, Pixar, and Square Enix, our show here is merely a baby. On the bright side, it is a baby that’s growing out of its anime little leagues and into the mainstream.

The reason why I decided to into Etotama is that it plays into a larger dialogue about the role of 3D animation in anime production. As production times and budgets continue to dwindle, studios are forced to cut corners to continue to maintain profitability. 3D animation is increasingly becoming a common method to save money. Commonly, this method is employed in mecha anime, where geometric models are easily modeled in 3D programs. However, there are several consequences to using this method, the most glaring of which is the mismatch of 2D animation and 3D models. Besides the perspective differences, problems with matching colors, framerates, and detail arise when the two art styles clash together.

Etotama suffers from many of these problems, especially in the transition of framerate and detail from 2D to 3D. Jumps from fairly average 2D drawings to a more detailed and smoother 3D experience is jarring, yet it shows potential for a smooth transition if the 2D animation could be brought up to par. Hence, Etotama is unique in that it feels opposite to the goals of other 3D modeled anime–the 2D animation is the limiting factor for cutting costs, rather than the 3D itself. In Etotama, the fights are the highlights, in all of its 3D glory, rather than the fairly boring and lower quality 2D backstory that precede it. As a result Etotama has stood out from the rest of the great titles airing this season, if only for a brief moment. It highlights the potential there is for 3D CG to be more than a cost-cutting method and more of a cornerstone of modern anime, as well as the inevitable drawbacks that come with combining 2D and 3D together. Just as Nyaa-tan aspires to join the ranks of the exclusive zodiac, so does Etotama strive to bring 3D as a legitimate and respected force in Japanese animation.

For those reasons, I’ll keep my eye out on Etotama a while longer, just to see what sorts of magic the 3D animation crew can do with this primary, rather than secondary, role. Perhaps you’ll see some more commentary in the monthly impressions as we reach May and June!

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「blue moment」 by Seollal BOB

Preview

April 12, 2015 at 2:32 am
22 comments »
  • April 12, 2015 at 2:37 amduck

    I like trains.

  • April 12, 2015 at 2:42 amRalicht

    I don’t know exactly how I feel about the 3D. I think it’s interesting when it takes center stage and is done well, although at the same time I wouldn’t want to see it so commonplace that it was a regular occurrence. Still, there’s a huge difference between 3D done right and then things like Sailor Moon Crystal’s poorly rendered 3d that looks like a CG advert from the 90s.

  • April 12, 2015 at 3:13 amRavenlord

    To be honest, I’d rather have (sometimes jarring) 3D sequences than have no anime at all. Which will happen if the studios can’t finance production.

  • April 12, 2015 at 3:35 amPatsuan

    Don’t mind much the 3D, but there are cute animal-girls in this and thats all I need to know.

  • April 12, 2015 at 3:50 ambelatkuro

    No wonder the character design felt familiar. It’s by Watanabe Akio who’s more known for the designs of Monogatari Series, Kaminomi and Grisaia.
    And there are animal girls in here. I also got some chuckles here and there so I’ll watch it.

    To be honest, I also can’t recite the Chinese Zodiac animals in proper order so I can’t blame half of them for being depressed.

  • April 12, 2015 at 5:28 amP Ko

    Not the best use of CGI because that goes to Show By Rock, but still enjoyable!

  • April 12, 2015 at 5:38 amcutemi2

    blog this, comedy all about 12 chinese zodiacs & 1 catgirl was supposed to include as the 13th chinese zodiac.

  • April 12, 2015 at 6:29 amSuperSaiyanZero

    Most of the people who hate 3D CG anime are people that grew up on 2D anime.
    The best eye-opening anime viewing experience they had involved 2D anime.
    They prefer 2D, kinda like how 30 year old adults like retro games.

    Kids today are growing up on 3D CG anime.
    The best anime viewing experience they have will be offered by a 3D CG anime.
    They feel that 2D anime is just old and outdated, exactly like retro games.

    • April 13, 2015 at 12:16 pmsithstormjedi

      The problem is that those animes tend to go for the 2D/3D CG hybrid that rarely works due to the unknown balance between them. The ones that come to mind on “awkward 2D/3D anime” are Sidonia, and (debateable) anything from Sanzigen. Im not sure why i hate on Sidonia’s or Sanzigen’s
      character modeling in particular but i think its the lack of “depth” or “detail” in those models, or maybe how they clash with the background. We still havent found the “right” balance where 3D and 2D wont clash.

      There are great 3D CG work like Appelseed Ex Machina/Alpha (2004 is debatable in today’s standards but today’s 3D anime are reaching that level), and probably Vexille/PlanZet. But all of them have in common is trying to model their characters like people instead of anime characters. (Plus having a movie budget and lots of computers to render helps too)

  • April 12, 2015 at 6:48 amSuperSaiyanZero

    As soon as there is a 3D CG anime that succeeds critically/financially/socially, like how Evangelion did back in its days, 3D CG anime will become the norm of the industry.

    And then 3D CG anime in general will have to do consistently better than 2D anime in terms of profit.

    This means such show would have to attract non-otaku viewers too, so it would require a VERY successful original novel/manga that is popular among even non-otaku.

    • April 13, 2015 at 12:27 pmsithstormjedi

      I dont think it would be expensive since one character model can be used infinitely as to opposed of having to draw the character over and over.

      However, the heavy resource consumption would be from making a good character model, a good background and how busy the scene in terms of how many entities are present, how well detailed those entities are, and how fluid the animation will be since that will affect how long it will take to render it, assuming you want it to look “smooth” in 24~60 frames per second. But im sure some of these animes will take the lazy route and do the “anime” method of skipping a few frames for the illusion of movement by posing the models, taking a screenshot and move on.

  • April 12, 2015 at 7:45 amstarss

    My God the CGI is getting better and better.

  • April 12, 2015 at 11:11 amMinaru Kamui

    You should check out Show by Rock!!, I tought it did a better job with the transition between 2D and 3D. It also had more substanse than Etotama. (Although that doesn’t mean much.)

    • April 13, 2015 at 4:56 pmstarss

      … do you think it’s a coincidence that Etotama and Show By Rock are airing in the same season?

  • April 14, 2015 at 2:55 amSolaris

    I wonder why they had to do chibi fights. Does this come out of some tablet game or just some budget constraint?

    Anyhow, what about the recent Ghibli’s Ronja? That had a nice full time CG too.

    • April 14, 2015 at 4:41 amBear

      I’ve been thinking that given the show’s type of humor that it’s an inside joke about those games and shows.

  • May 29, 2015 at 6:55 amWorldwideDepp

    Well,

    in the present Episodes (08) they make fun of Anime View rankings. That this Show is crushing down to 0. Yes, i know that was ironic and a Joke. But if you build in a serious undertone, then i explain why i think that could happen

    The MC is the Cat? Right?
    What have she done until now? Playing around, and every Episode so far she won a Piece of the Others. Even the Half-recap Episode (07) gave her Piece of free will away to her…
    So, her behavior is to playful. If you go there and give her now a serious touch, then your chance her to much. 8 Episodes where she is a playful character. This would be a frontier like Black and White.
    if you want to spice up. Then why not you go there and explain us viewers, the Hate of the Rat and Cat. Why have it come to this? Why is the Rat so forced to “kill” her? With this right played you could fill 1-2 Episodes. But i would save it for the Grand Finale
    Do the others have their screentime so far? You could use them to fill the gap, and prepare for rat and Cat Final fight…

    • May 29, 2015 at 1:32 pmWorldwideDepp

      ah, forgot something

      In Episode 07 we see the Snake-tan. She explain in a Graphical Map pf Japan, the territory protectors like they are.

      But there is a little thing that surprised me. These Zodiacs, are Chinese Zodiacs or not? All of a sudden they are Japan protector? :) Well, i know they Japan love to meddle things they like. Like Buddhism and other things, but this explanation of Japan Protectors surprised me

      i dont saw that coming

  • June 11, 2015 at 2:08 pmWorldwideDepp

    Etotama 10:

    Yes, looks like they use the Turbo Boost for serious matter. I hope they still reach the Save Harbor for this Show in their Ratings. But this dramatic turn, will surly not end without Pain. I hope for your Best.

    Ganbare, Mina-san

  • June 18, 2015 at 1:42 pmWorldwideDepp

    Etotama 11:

    Looks like they are on the right path, and even build more Tension for the Great Finale. Even Reddit are surprised from “should i drop this crap?” to “Oh no, only 1 Episode left. I miss it already”

    Seems like to take Nya-tan on the serious Path, worked out

  • June 25, 2015 at 10:10 amWorldwideDepp

    Etotama 12 (end):

    The End was satisfied for me. Good to see the Cow-eto Girl again. While explaining the Cat-eto secret technique is not for Destruction, i was thinking in the back, if the Rat-eto really killed the Cow-eto. The Spell was not for killing in the first place
    I am happy, that i pick the Anime up and stayed with it until the end.
    and the Manager saying “adios” :) to understand the inside Joke, you must understand the meaning of “adios”, yes it is a “bye bye” but where did “adios” came from? what is “adeus”?
    The final fight was worth it. I give them big credits for that. Your CG Studio did a splendid Job, congrats

  • August 7, 2015 at 7:37 amWorldwideDepp

    Update:

    If i want to tell someone that 3DCGI and 2D Anime can get into Symbiosis, and he do not believe me. Then i show him this Dance Video.
    But, Etotama is not the only one, but Etotama has the best 2D feeling

    Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVQXZsB_pXc

    link found on reddit