I just tried to watch a feature from Comix Wave called Asylum Session. That was a non-starter. It’s a cell-shaded computer animated feature, and oh man it looks just awful. This might sound snobbish, but I watched maybe two minutes of it. The animation is overly bright and garish. Characters move awkwardly and freeze perfectly still to talk to someone. And their mouths, sweet merciful crap what is up with the way their mouths move?
It’s unwatchable. It’s broken. I don’t think I’ve ever given up on something so fast. Reboot has better animation, and that show is over 10 years old. I can’t believe this is the same company that’s been involved in Makoto Shinkai’s productions. I only hope Asylum Session represents the worst of Comix Wave’s catalog, because if its produced something even more awful I don’t wanna know about it.
Giving up on Asylum Session reminded me of another CG anime I gave up on sometime last year: Freedom. Katsuhiro Otomo’s name is attched to the project, but don’t let that fool you, he just did some mecha designs and has been reluctant to talk about his involvement at length. I’ve heard the story of Freedom criticized a fair bit, but if you ask me the animation is the reason why that OVA doesn’t work.
Freedom is better than Asylum, but the character animation is still unnatural. People in Freedom’s world wobble around while they talk and their mouths contort awkwardly when they speak. Worse yet, a lot of the background work is done in traditional style, including incidental characters, and the two do not mesh well at all. I technically finished the first two episodes of Freedom, but I mentally checked out when Takeru saw a traditionally animated character he thought he recognized in the middle of the second episode. As his hand reached out to touch her shoulder, she turned into a computer animated character. Ouch.
I certainly think it’s possible for worthwhile computer animated features to be made in Japan. Although the stories may not be perfect, titles such as the Appleseed movies and Final Fantasy: Advent Children can be a lot of fun to watch. The animation is nowhere near Pixar or even Dreamworks quality, but those features are by no means badly animated. However, if the budget or the talent just isn’t there, computer animation should not even be attempted. I’ve built up something of a tolerance to bad traditional animation, but bad computer animation? I raise my white flag and retreat.