The 2nd Dimension

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Viewing Journal: TANK S.W.A.T. 01

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Overall= D
Story = D+
Video = D
Audio = D


TANK SWAT 01 is a work from Digital Tokiwa Village Project, "a government initiative aimed at fostering independent CG animation." It uses some of the characters from a Masamune Shirow manga called Dominion Tank Police, mixes them up in a slightly different dynamic, and presents a short 30-minute story using CG animation with "cell shading" techniques.

Since this story is was so short and strait-forward, I can't really judge much on the character or plot development. The main reason I gave it such a low grade on story is because I don't like how the characters and setting deviate from the original Dominion anime (which was one of the first anime I ever saw). But even all that aside, the biggest issue that I have with this is the use of cell-shade animation.

I have never liked cell-shade -- at least when it is used on characters. It can be used well when it animates mechanics like cars or machines, but when it is used on characters it just sucks the life out of an anime.

Cell-shading is a compromise that tries to combine the best elements of of CG and hand-drawn animation but ends up with the worst. I don't care how much they refine the CG technique, the use of computer algorithms to give characters a solid the shape and realistic movement, will never have the level of abstraction, spontaneity and flexibility that gives traditional hand-drawn 2D anime so much of its energy and fun.

Alternately, when an audience sees CG they expect the visuals to look solid, if not realistic. So the use of cell-shade to render the characters makes the visuals look cheap, like the creative staff was too lazy to fill in the details in the characters' design.

And the fact that this show uses Shirow's Tank Police storyline illustrates all the more the limitations of CG. The original anime has a lot of over-the-top destruction and mayhem which gives it so much of its high-energy fun. TANK SWAT 01 tries to include that element of parody-like destruction, but when comparing it with the original anime, the action and characters just seem lifeless.

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