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Sunrise Producer: 'We're the Only Studio That Can Make Hand-Drawn Robot Anime'

posted on by Kim Morrissy

In an interview with Anime! Anime!, Sunrise Producer Naohiro Ogata discussed the rise of 3D animation to depict mecha action in anime and the difficulties of producing hand-drawn mecha. He said, "Even if you search the globe, Sunrise is the only studio that can create hand-drawn robot anime to such a high level."

Sunrise is best known for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, which first began in 1979. The studio has also produced other original mecha anime, including Code Geass and Valvrave the Liberator.

Ogata explained that Sunrise is divided into nine substudios, and each project involves a varying degree of CG. Ogata said that Studio 3, which works on Gundam Build Divers and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, uses "almost 90%" hand-drawn animation. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn uses CG for the Unicorn Gundam's transformation scene, but the rest is hand-drawn. Ogata said that he initially assumed that half of Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative's mecha scenes would be 3D, but a lot of it ended up being hand-drawn.

The reason that hand-drawn mecha is still such a prominent element of Sunrise anime despite the industry's shift towards 3D-animated robots is because the creators still want to create hand-drawn mecha, Ogata explained. However, the number of animators who can draw mecha is dwindling, especially among in-betweeners. There are not many young people who learn how to draw mecha, and the veterans are aging to the point where drawing an intensive amount by themselves could lead to health problems. This limits what many studios can do, including Sunrise.

Ogata said that Sunrise has been able to stand at the top of hand-drawn mecha animation because it is a very small niche. He also said that from 2005 to 2011 Sunrise held animation "cram school" in order to teach young animators how to draw Sunrise's classics. The first wave of graduates are working in the industry, including Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative character designer Se Jun Kim and Love Live! character designer Yūhei Murota. Sunrise is restarting the program this year.

However, Ogata implied that even Sunrise won't be able to do hand-drawn mecha forever. He said that in the future it is likely that 3D will become even more prominent, and hand-drawn animation will be used to guide the 3D animation. He also mentioned that although he comes from a generation that prefers hand-drawn animation, he thinks that Sunrise should proactively work towards making full CG anime in order to adapt with the times.

Source: Anime! Anime!

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