The artist, Tsutomu Nihei, apparently studied to be an architect, and this shows in the massive worlds he designs and draws in his manga. He also works in a very much "show don't tell" style, with very little dialogue in his comics, and lots of visual storytelling. His work was screaming to be animated.
Some very low budget net animation was done back in the day, but even as much as I loved the manga, I couldn't get into it. I wanted the real thing. One day, while watching the Polygon Pictures TV series Knights of Sidonia, a new, and more mainstream, series from the same author, They threw in a tease about a possible movie for BLAME!
That movie finally happened! Now, I want to go ahead and get something out of the way immediately. Yes. I would have loved for this property to be given the Ghost in the Shell treatment and get a big budget, 2D hand drawn adaptation in that vein. That would have been a dream come true. Since Polygon Pictures was always going to be behind it, though, and they are known for 3D cel shaded works, that was never going to happen. Luckily, which each passing show that they do, from Tron Uprising, Knights of Sidonia, Ajin etc. They get better and better. BLAME! is the best work I have seen from then yet!
Although this is a 3D CGI show, the backgrounds in the show are 2D paintings. This makes sense, as it is a quest adventure and many locations appear only once. These worlds are insanely huge and detailed. Who wants to model all that stuff for a single shot?!
There are occasionally full 3D backgrounds, though, especially when they need the camera to really move or firing action sequences. They do tend to stand out, but they are getting better at matching them than ever before.
The characters are another story. There is still some of the stiffness commonly associated with cel shaded animation. Unlike their previous show, Knights of Sidonia, though, this time they really got the faces and the shading right. Some shots are truly spot on! Unfortunately they also have some very unnecessary texture detail in some places.
There is good reason for this show to be cel shaded. Most characters are cyborgs, robots or wear very detailed armor suits. I can imagine it would be hell to draw. There is a lot of technology everywhere. It's in a cyber dungeon after all. Also, most of the characters were the exact same costume, just with minor variations. This is not a cheat. It's that way in the manga, and is probably done so that you don't confuse what group someone is associated with.
What this means, though, is that for most characters they only need to concentrate on making a new head. There is also a limited number of characters in total, which is another ideal situation for cel shading versus 2D hand drawn. Unlike Berserk, this is a property one would look at and have no choice but to give 3D cel shading serious consideration.
Don't get me wrong. I still wish I could see BLAME! hand animated on the level of Spriggan, Akira or Innocence. Unfortunately, I know that would probably be the biggest budget animated film ever made in Japan, and would just not be feasible. I can still be happy with the BLAME! we have.
Oh yeah. I think there might have been a story in there somewhere too…
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