Post #1 in a 5 part blog series, uploaded every week (previously every 2 days), where I:
- Share 3 Songs
- Write a short article about animation or the animation community
- Ask 3 questions
- Share 5 images
- Share 5 sakuga clips
West vs. East
Today’s article is about the perception of sakuga in western animation and anime. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people in the sakuga community believe that Japanese animators are better than western animators. People often say things like “Western animation is more consistently good, but sakuga in anime is better than sakuga from the west”. I think this opinion is widespread partially because the word sakuga attracts anime fans. If we called great animation Disneyga or Rod Scribnerga the community would be made up of people who feel differently.
But part of this is due to the Wow factor of Japanese animation, where the sakuga is high energy and the creativity of a shot is front and centre. Western animation generally only stands out when it’s done badly. The expressiveness of western animated characters is often taken for granted and great effects shots from the west are usually understated. Great effects animation in shots like this one from The Iron Giant are rarely discussed:
I think the reason for this could be that the staging of these kinds of shots emphasise the comedy of the situation rather than the effects themselves. By having the effects add character and emotion the skill involved in the animation isn’t as noticeable.
This is related to another widespread belief, that western animation is better at character acting and anime better at action/effects animation. In my opinion, they just take different approaches Like LonelyCowFromOuterSpace said in the comments of my Character Acting MAD, “Japanese animation might not be as robust or character driven as American animation, but the weight of and emphasis on motion gives it raw, evocative emotion”.
I think it’s also unfortunate that conversations about East vs. West animation often boil down to America vs Japan. Animation from other countries is often overlooked. I think there’s overlap in approaches to sakuga between countries, and influence from outside cultures in every animation industry. French animation feels like it takes the flamboyant poses and staging of anime in tow with expressive, Disney-style character acting, for example. South Korean animation is often anime-like but with even timing and an appetite for complicated choreography and violent smears. I think highlighting great animation in different cultures shows that there are usually only differences in style between animation industries, not in skill.
- What are the biggest stylistic differences between Western and Japanese animation?
- Will/should Western animated films adopt a more effects focused, Japanese sakuga-like approach in the future?
- Should the word sakuga be used to describe any kind of great animation or should it only describe great animation in anime? Should we have different words to describe great animation from other countries, or create more words to differentiate between styles of great animation?
5 Sakuga Clips
Turn on subtitles to see the list of sources & animators.
The song used is Honey by Emancipator.