Children’s Science, December 2014 issue

GO to the site of manufacturing

The fusion of CG and freehand drawing!

Behind the scenes of an Anime production

What is anime, which everyone watches now? A lot of anime is broadcast every week. What is the secret of its attraction? Character? Story? Or production? This time we sneak into the production site of Space Battleship Yamato 2199, for which the latest movie will be released on December 6! We reveal the secret behind anime’s attraction. Yamato, launch!

Coverage cooperation / Production IG Co., Ltd.
Text / Yuki Shiono
Photography / Yutaka Iijima

Producer Mikio Gunji told us the story. “If you want to participate in the production of anime, you must not think only about anime. Many things, such as astronomy and mechanics are related to anime, so please develop familiarity with a wide variety of fields.”

How do you make anime?

The basics of anime are the same as flip manga. By projecting pictures in succession which change their movement little by little, it is seen as animation. In old anime, all these pictures were drawn by hand, but now there is anime made with full CG by using a computer. So how is Yamato 2199 made?

“Mecha such as Yamato is done in 3DCG, but people are drawn by hand,” says Mikio Gunji of Production IG. “For characters, it’s easier to empathize with a hand drawing than with CG.”

In the case of Yamato’s mecha, first it is made into 3DCG from a design image, and moved in accordance with a scene. It is matched up with people and scenery drawn by hand. However, even as you watch it, it doesn’t feel like CG. It is naturally matched up with the hand-drawn parts.

“Because CG looks inorganic, we actually do hand-drawing over the CG. We make a great effort to add things like scratches and dirt.” – Gunji

If it’s done there, isn’t it best to draw everything by hand? But if you think about it, if every scene with a spaceship was drawn by hand, it would be very time-consuming. The use of CG makes it possible to drew precise mecha in a short time. Some images are chosen to combine hand-drawing with CG.

[1] Prominence: The phenomenon of gas exploding outward from a fixed star. Yamato is in a pinch when it gets caught up in this!

[2] Wave-Motion gun: Yamato’s Wave-Motion Gun has overwhelming power. Its official name seems to be “Dimensional Wave-Motion Implosion Radiation Machine.”

[3] Large Magellanic Galaxy: The actual Magellanic Galaxy (right), and a CG version of the Magellanic Galaxy (above) that appears in the story. They’re so similar that you can’t tell the difference! (image courtesy NASA)

[4] Above is Jupiter, which appears in the story. It is a familiar figure. Below is the Planet Iscandar, where Yamato is going. Of course, it is a fictional planet that does not exist.

How real is it? Truth and fiction in mecha and space

Small Corvette warship, Space assault destroyer Yukikaze
If you look at the sketch from the design stage, you can see that
its internal structure is carefully considered.

When building something in 3DCG, the front, side, and top views of the design must be consistent. Therefore, the designs must be carefully done as shown at left. However, none of these drawings are used in the film. They do not appear at all in the story, but there is a reason they are so precise and detailed.

“Thinking about internal structure and the structure of mecha brings depth to a story. They become part of the overall worldview. Where does the enemy come from, and why do we fight them? The structure and the principles must work properly even if they don’t come out in the story, otherwise the story will be rather flimsy.” – Gunji

The same can be said in the field of the astronomy. In fact, Professor Toshihiro Honda of Kagoshima University participates in Yamato 2199 as a scientific researcher. In the pursuit of reality, the distance to the Magellanic Galaxy to which Yamato travels was changed from 148,000 light years in the original TV series to 168,000 light years, based on the latest theories. In addition, another highlight is that the planets of the solar system, including Jupiter, are depicted realistically, based on the latest research.

However, not everything has to look real. Fictional planets appear in the story. This is essentially anime. Making it too real can spoil the fun.

“There’s a scene in which a star moves from the window of the captain’s room to behind Yamato. In reality, it shouldn’t be visible, but the director dared to do it.” -Gunji

Other things, such as the warp and the Wave-Motion Gun cannot be explained by modern science either. The combination of truth and fiction adds up to an interesting story.


Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – how it is made

Ark of the Stars, the movie to be shown in December, is now at the height of production! Let’s look at how it is made, while also including material from the Yamato TV series!


The planning first begins with “Let’s make a movie!” This is where the main staff is gathered, such as the people in charge of directing, writing, character design, and mecha design.


When a plan is decided, a script is written. At this stage, it is still only written in words. Based on this, the composition of the scenes and the position of the characters is decided for the anime, and storyboards can be drawn. It is, so to speak, the blueprint for anime.


Photo: Instructions for how something moves on the screen

Based on the storyboards, a layout is drawn to precisely designate how a person or object are placed against a background in each scene. From here, the work is divided up to to draw both the people and the backgrounds separately.


Photo: The original art is divided into folders for each shot like this.

[Translator’s note: the Japanese term for original art is “genga.” In this context, it can also be considered “key animation.”]

The first part is to draw the movement of the person according to the layout. This is the “original art.” Then in-between drawings are made to fit between the original art to create fluid movement for “animation.” This is where the largest number of people is needed for anime production.

Above: Animators silently work on the original art

Animation Basics

Anime is basically flip manga. By showing continuous pictures with slightly different movement, they appear as smooth animation. In anime, 24 frames per second is the basis. Several frames of original art [key animation] are drawn, then the rest are done to fill out the animation.

Here is a point

Because the original art in Ark of the Stars is drawn by 40-50 people, the individuality of the people who draw it can arise in the pictures. The animation director has to check all of the originals! Some of the lines must be revised by a few millimeters to make sure the pictures look the same throughout the work.

At left: The original art is drawn on white paper, and modifications are drawn on different overlays of colored paper.


The completed picture is scanned and colors are painted on a PC. The picture is now almost complete!

At right: The finishing studio where coloring is carried out.


Backgrounds become the work of different people. Currently they are drawn digitally on a PC. Detailed space backgrounds are prepared based on real photographs.

7. 3D WORK

In Yamato 2199, most mecha is drawn in 3DCG. First, 3DCG data for the mecha is created. It is moved to suit each scene. The data is matched with the background and people via photography in the next process.


The complete pictures of people and backgrounds are combined with the mecha data made in 3DCG into a single scene. These days it is done on computers, but in the old days all the hand-drawn pictures where photographed on a camera one frame at a time. Therefore, this process is still called photography. Afterward, the finished scenes are edited together into a single piece. To adjust the small “in-betweens,” the exact lengths are added or subtracted.

A voice actor and the production staff at the Afreco site.


Abbreviation of “After recording.” A voice actor records a line while watching a finished picture. In Yamato 2199, characters expand at the afreco stage!


When all pictures, sound, music and sound effects are put together, it is completed!

Finally released in theaters!

The End

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