Many make the mistake of overlooking the actual animation aspect of anime, or even the individual aesthetic details which truly compose it – thus as aesthetes, we begin an eternal insight into elemental eyecandy.
An animation consists of many thousands of frames – individual illustrations which transition in sequence to form the motion visuals we see, yet most do not consider the sheer strain involved in their creation.
Each frame which marks the start of a significant action or movement is a “key frame”. These define prominent points in the animation, and as such, are usually sketched out by specialists in the appropriate style of animation desired for that scene, or sakuga animators – whereas the remaining frames or “in-betweens” are composed by the appropriately named “in-betweeners” who may be anything from trainees, up and coming animators, or simply budget animators.
Our interest here however is specifically the key frames – these are the heart of the animation as they actually, and quite literally, define scenes. Unlike the regular frames or “in-betweens” which merely branch off of the key frames, these so-called “key frames” are original illustrations in themselves which set a scene, the magic word here being “original”.
Although this may also hold true to many in-between frames as well, with certainty we can say keyframes must be fleshed out to a point it could stand on its own as an artwork – utilizing a variety of aesthetic elements and standards, and this is very noticeable in many of the higher quality anime series out there. For sake of example, let’s look at a key frame from the latest episode of a currently ongoing and well recognized title from SHAFT:
Imagine the time it would take for one to devise such a gorgeously abstract work of art as this, then realize that the key animators must go through the process hundreds, if not thousands, of times to finally complete their share of the animation. And that’s merely giving it an abridged thought and focusing only on the drawing aspect, not even taking into account the coloring, CG, and the likes to form the refined end result seen above.
The subject matter within this single key frame is something which rivals that of finest contemporary art, in the greatest of museums. If one hadn’t seen the full episode and simply focused on this image alone, it would truly be mind boggling as to what exactly is occurring. And even having seen the source of this still, it does indeed remain quite a head turning sight. While our focal point of onii-chan stabilizing on top of imouto-rin is more or less symmetrical, the image as a whole is not.
Amongst a poll of small discrepancies one can see if studying the image intently, the most notable differential between the right and left divides of the image is that the composition is off-set by the orange railing to the left.
Now keeping in mind the hue of this miniature fence, look to the sky which varies in gradients of blue – going from a darker shade on the right, to a lighter on the left. The blue complements the orange, yet the direct shade of blue to do this is darkest of the blues to be seen – thus more simply, this means that the complementing colors have been set diagonally from each other, allowing the artist to visually balance out the work, and enabling the foreground to act as center stage for Shuragi-kun and his imouto.
At this point the artist has the background in a state of harmony, making it the “stage” for our “lead singer”, who in this case would be the focal point of imouto and Arararagi – yet the lead singer must always stand out from the stage. The intercessions of soft yet intense white take care of this by washing out the background – ensuring it doesn’t overpower our main focus.
We’ve already contemplated much, however we’ve yet to even think of the pattern present – something especially notorious in the Monogatari series’ artwork. The railing is all done to precision, with gaps at a very specific increment – whilst opposite it to the right, the homes are all tiled and cross hatched as far as the eye can see. Both of these facets, along with everything else within, even the small ledges of concrete to each side, and the power lines above, all go back to a vanishing point responsible for the perspective effect.
In the case of this artwork, the vanishing point is the small puddle of white behind Karen-tan which interestingly, expands to escape slightly to to her right side – being only partially hidden.
All of this consideration and we’ve yet to even speak of the shadow seen throughout the art piece, let alone the many thousands of other incredible frames to be found within the remainder of the episode.