33 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Arpeggio of Blue Steel episode 1 – One day CG anime will look good

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This is a first for me. I had read the manga for Arpeggio of Blue Steel before watching the anime. It’s not fantastic, but it had great ideas that an anime adaptation could really improve on. Mostly I was determined to not be That Guy who claims the manga is soooooo much better. Certainly with this episode it’s hard to make any judgement call because most of it was anime original material. In fact, it did exactly what I asked an anime adaptation to do and started the story from when the main character meets Iona for the first time. The manga never even touches on their meeting and starts right at the point where Gunzou is asked to transport the new torpedo. This makes their story way easier to follow and allows you to understand the character dynamics much better. Shame they just did it really fucking badly.

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One thing I am grateful to Arpeggio for is it gives me the rare opportunity to talk about bad pacing that’s bad because it’s way too fast. The setup for this episode ended up being quite similar to the first episode of Code Geass, but completely messing up the opportunity for world building and character defining by rushing through the introduction. Take Gunzou’s character. We are told that he has a dad who defected to the Fleet of Fog, but this is told through a character whispering “is it true that his dad defected to the fleet of fog” and that’s about it. It does nothing to establish Gunzou’s character, except a little bit where he’s maybe a little annoyed people say this. In the first episode of Geass, Lelouch plays chess against nobles because he’s an arrogant little shit who despises the uptight nobles and has a chip on his shoulder against the establishment. It’s both just an inherently funny idea that he goes around beating nobles at chess just to annoy them, and does a fantastic job of establishing both Lelouch’s character and giving you greater insight into the world around him.

When Iona shows up and asks Gunzou to board her (hur hur hur), Gunzou’s reasoning comes out of nowhere. He’s apparently angry because he can’t move anywhere? Where exactly does that come out from? It’s terrible dialogue that seems like he’s just chosen that out of thin air. When Lelouch accepts C.C’s offer, you understand why it is he would accept it. The dialogue in general is just terrible. There’s so much “as you know” dialogue where characters explain to each other what the other already knows. I got a giggle from the fact that apparently the entire flashback was told through an “as you know”. The rare occasions the show tries to give the characters personality through their dialogue, it’s horribly forced. “So this is what it’s like to be human” kind of speech. The manga has this problem too, but the anime should have fixed this nonsense. If anything they just made it worse.

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As for the animation…[sigh] One day full CG anime will look good. Some day they won’t look like they were farted out of a PS2 graphics engine with low frame rate, stilted movement and bland facial expressions (although the stilted movement at least matches the stilted dialogue). When reading the manga I assumed an anime adaptation would CGify the ship battles, and they are far and away the best parts. The CG there actually works, even if they’re quite unambitious with it. But the people just look so awkward. Their faces look stretched out like it’s a reptile alien creature wearing the skin of a human but doesn’t quite get the specifics. None of the movement looks natural. Something I try to remember during CG anime is that all anime is unnatural with its stupidly big eyes and spiky hair and whatnot. CG anime can look good. 009 RE:Cyborg looks amazing. Arpeggio of Blue Steel does not. Arpeggio of Blue Steel looks like arse.

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33 Comments

  1. Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I told you Sanzigen’s work by themselves sucked sweaty balls, I really did.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      B-b-b-b-but Cyborg 009! What happened to that quality!?!

      [sigh]

      • Nagisa33
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        While the action in 009 worked well with the CG the characters looked a bit wonky. Also, I’m still confused by what Kenji Kamiyama was trying to say. With Freudian terms thrown around, conspiracy theories, and angels on the moon it’s easy to get a bit lost. What I gathered is that heroes are needed in every era.

        Any insight in to that movie’s message?

      • Scamp
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        Some of the character animation was wonky. It was what they used the CG to animate that made it amazing.

        As for the message though, fucking lol no idea

      • sqa
        Posted October 10, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        I had to look up a bunch of information on Re:Cyborg 009 to get even a clue of what was going on. The basic answer is that the Mangaka for the original series died during a story arc where the Cyborgs fought God. This was his attempt at an answer to the existential issues involved. I don’t think it worked well, but an Angel Corpse got left each time someone “changed the World”.

        As for the CG in Blue Steel, sometimes it was fine. Which is a pretty massive improvement over previous attempts, but it’s still not quite there.

  2. Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I decided to avoid looking at the manga prior to watching this series, hoping it would give me a less biased look at the show. Going back and browsing, you can see potential for something better than what this first episode did. You hit on all the main sticking points with this first episode: bad CG, poor dialogue, and and a terrible relaying of a characters motive. But look at the bright side, it can only go up from here, right?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      From my memory of the manga, what happens next is a load of terribly confusing fights that make no sense with barely any context behind them. So it might still get worse…but hey, it really picks up after that!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Actually what follows is first [MOD EDIT] SPOILERS YO

    • ANON
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      hah. You sound like one of those “IT GETS BETTER I SWEAR” people scamp!

      • Scamp
        Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        nooooooo what have I become nooooooooooo

  3. Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I think the CG in Sky Crawlers was also pretty damn great (actual film not so much because Mamoru Oshii and his “talking in circles” stuff doesn’t vibe with me). Much better than that awful Dragon Age movie at any rate and also better than Re: Cyborg 009, although I’d need to see both movies again to actually confirm that.

    Anyways, I like the ideas enough to stay for a bit and I don’t think it’s as impenetrable as some of the other “deep” CG stuff I’ve seen. If it does increase the crypticness though, it’ll probably lose me.

  4. Lanf
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Clearly what we needed was for the characters to be rotoscoped instead.

    This anime is unfairly going to get my support for reminding me of Evangelion, Jormungand and FMP! All it needs to compete with those is a comprehensive storyline or characters that are remotely interesting. Perhaps even memorable music. Or being memorable at all.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      I think moe battleships makes it memorable. Not good, but certainly not a thing you’ll forget in a hurry

  5. Cobrah
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I just can’t get past the animation on this one, so I bailed out of the episode pretty quick. Sounds like I’m not missing much though. On a side note, any idea on what you’re going to blog?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      No I don’t and it’s starting to worry me. Arpeggio was my pre-season choice but now I don’t know. The only show I’ve genuinely liked so far is Kill la Kill but Shinmaru has that. My next favourite was friggen Meganebu…

      • Cobrah
        Posted October 9, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

        There’s always Samurai Flamenco coming out this week. I don’t think any information as really been revealed about that, so it might be good.

  6. Inushinde
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    You still have Meganebu.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      …well, it does serve a nice contrast with blogging Monogatari I guess

  7. Adam
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    The ending soundtrack though is the best. Far better then anything I have heard in a long time. Personally I prefer it to the Shingeki no Kyojin op.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Really? I heard people were excited for it, but I thought it wasn’t particularly good at all. Much prefer both the Titan OPs

  8. strukingfourd
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Authors should ask for a No Seiji Kishi clause when they negotiate the adaptations of their works.

    PD: how can I add an avatar to my post?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Makes me wonder how good the source material to stuff like Humanity has Declined is.

      Gravatar.com for avatar.

  9. Wodes
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    At first I was like “oh that’s cool her movements are really unnatural because she’s a robot”
    Then i noticed every other character was just as badly done and said “fuck this”

    I really think you ought to blog Gingitsune. The first episode was really nicely done, and reminded me of Miyazaki.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of Future Diary’s CG. It looked weird, robotic and other-worldly, so they only animated the one character who was supposed to be weird, robotic and other-worldly in CG.

      I saw the first episode of Gingitsune but thought it was really bland and safe. It’s so inoffensive about everything that I have nothing to latch onto.

    • Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Funny, I thought the exact same thing. All throughout this year it’s been the case where you can just feel how badly anime studios want to rope low-budget CG into their series. It’s like the obligatory 90’s OVA boob shot, except this time with a crowd of robot-people stomping silently around the backdrop, stealing focus from the fore with how creepy and unnatural they look.

      Every single time it sticks out like a sore thumb, looks abysmal, and is immediately recognizable for what it is… and every single time it’s because the people making the CG just don’t know what they’re doing. There are basic tenets of animation they’re not following and concepts they’re not understanding, which is why Disney can get away with this same method and it looks fantastic.

      There is a rift between 2D backdrops/characters and 3D models, and it’s not an easy job making the two appear to occupy the same visual space. I sympathize with the animators on that problem, but that’s not where Arpeggio fails. Its models look reasonably at home… until they move. Its animation is just poor, plain and simple.

      On top of this, Arpeggio’s staff often don’t even use 3D animation itself to its strengths. What’s one thing 3D can do easily which 2D can’t? Repetition of motion. It’s a matter of minutes to set up some subtle overlapping animation loops to make a guard seem like he’s animate and alive while standing off in the background. You can reuse these, replay them, randomize their order and motion, all at the press of a button. Once you make a good set, you have them for every single character in every episode should you need them again.

      But Arpeggio’s guards? They’re immobile statues, as if still constrained by the effort needed for a human to draw their animation frames.

      I think there’s this idea circulating among the studios that they can make quality scenes for cheap using CGI. Naturally, they’re only half right: cheap CGI filling in for cheap 2D still looks cheap – just in different, arguably even more distracting ways.

    • Posted October 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      The link above wound up busted somehow. It should be to here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL-7Xo5QPeY&hd=1).

      • Someone Else
        Posted October 10, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        The link you posted reminds me of .Hack trilogy movie which is also cel-shaded. But true the problem really lies on how terrible the animation is rather than the blending. Makes me wonder which one actually takes more effort, 3D animation or 2D animation? They seem to be trying to do budget cuts with 3D animation and that’s kind of sad considering how good the other animes this season (animation wise). On a side note, one dark horse in terms of 2D animation is Yuusha ni narenakatta (I can’t be a hero) which is too impressive for being an ecchi genre, the movements reminds me of korra. Or maybe it will just be like that on the first scene

  10. Posted October 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    The bad CGI burns my eyes! Noooooooooooooooooo!

    I will stick around for a few more episodes >.>

  11. Aethelwulf
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    The thing that annoyed me with the CG was how much it varied. The submarine girl was gorgeously rendered. The random background characters were so terrible that they were distracting. And, of course, the main male lead’s features were as wooden as his personality…

  12. Someone Else
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    This post is unfair! Comparing it to Code Geass? Of course it would look bad in comparison >.>

    As for the CG, it’s really weird. If they aren’t moving it actually does look like they were hand drawn. However their movements really is unnatural. I don’t know, low frame rate? The ease-in-out? They were trying to imitate the hand drawn movements but fails so badly. They should just learn from the ones who made the cg of Code Geass Akito or Majestic Prince

  13. Posted October 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    “He’s apparently angry because he can’t move anywhere? Where exactly does that come out from? It’s terrible dialogue that seems like he’s just chosen that out of thin air.”

    It feels that way because it was chosen out of thin air.

    That whole school sequence doesn’t happen in the manga. Hell, when we do eventually get a short flashback in the manga, it’s very different from how the whole thing goes down in the anime.

    And, honestly, I much prefer how the manga opens.

    Plus, there is evidence to suggest that this thing is a retelling of the story rather than a straight adaptation, so we might be seeing even more changes as it goes on.

  14. fathomlessblue
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Watching the cgi in Arpeggio reminded of those sakuga panels on YouTube, in which they talk about how decent animators try to mask the key-poses from the storyboards in order to make the characters movements feel natural. This is the complete opposite of that, with models jerkily moving from one predetermined pose to the next. They’re basically puppets on a string, and it does somewhat take you out of the mood. There’s also the issue often found with cgi models in computer games, in which there’s a clear difference in the level of detail between the main cast and peripheral characters, both in texture, detail and movement. I didn’t like it in RE:Cyborg, and this is even worse

    Still, the writing is my biggest concern. Aside from Seiji Kishi’s usual inability with scene transitions, with every scene coming across like a cut/paste job (I get there was no ideal location for the flashback, but it should have been written in better than that), the dialogue also has been simplified and dumbed down. I recall everything being far more subtle and underplayed in the manga, with far less sexual innuendo going on between Gunzou and Iona. Maybe they were some artistic liberties from the subbers, but it certainly felt the show was pushing more of a relationship angle from the get go.

    I still hold some level of optimism, and hope many of the directorial issues are first episode nerves like with Persona 4, but it looks like I may have to pick the manga pack up for my submarine loli fix.

    TL:DR This season sucks ass!

  15. jherb33
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    i thought it was damn good.

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