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View Poll Results: How are you affected by the "uncanny valley" in watching an anime series?
I'm affected, to the point that it affects how I see a series as a whole. 3 7.32%
It depends on the story. Story or superior aspects may sway me into proceeding regardless. 15 36.59%
Character designs do matter, but it doesn't undermine my enjoyment of the series. 13 31.71%
It doesn't affect me at all. 10 24.39%
Voters: 41. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 2013-04-05, 20:37   Link #1
Marcus H.
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The Uncanny Valley of Anime Character Design

"The uncanny valley is a concept which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as a function of a robot's human likeness."


Anime is definitely not an exception to the concept of the uncanny valley, and both 2D and 3D animation has cases where people show negative responses to the depiction of people if they reach a certain level of realism.

I opened this topic after an epiphany as I dove into the discussions in MAL, Animesuki and 4chan about the premiere of Aku no Hana. I discovered that I feel uncomfortable in watching anime series whose character designs are too realistic (the only item in my Anime List that I dropped is BECK, which had a realistic character design, although it is a bit simplified). I forgot about this concept in anime for some time until I stumbled upon the character designs for Aku no Hana. It was there that I fully accepted the concept.

How about you guys? Are you just as affected as I am when it comes to the uncanny valley in anime to the point of dropping or not enjoying the series? I'd also like to learn about how character designs in general affect the viewer's insight of the series.

As a sneak peek, here are the designs for the Aku no Hana manga (left) and anime (right).

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Last edited by Marcus H.; 2013-04-06 at 02:14. Reason: Clarifications on BECK anime as example.
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Old 2013-04-05, 20:48   Link #2
Midonin
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When it comes to a majority of anime designs, I'm fine with the cartoonish exaggeration. This is why Pixar chose to animate their films with humans (The Incredibles, Brave) the way that they did, because they were well aware of this concept. The only 3D I've had a problem with is the Precure dance endings, because I find 3D cel-shaded models that move too well more unsettling than those that are limited by the frames of animation. Now, Toei has been getting better about this - anime in general has been getting better about it. Even Love Live and AKB0048 were mostly okay with their models not interfering and/or mixing with the 2D well enough.

But this is why, when Photo Kano's anime adaptation was announced, I was excited, because compared to Kimikiss and Amagami, the game originally had a very similar case of that cel-shaded 3D model thing, and in a visual novel... it just doesn't look right. If it's in motion like Seisai no Resonance's girls, where the models are almost constantly fighting, or done in a cutesy SD style like Gensou Douwa ALICETALE's (a similar style made me ease into gdgd Fairies and Straight Title Robot Anime [and Gyrozetter's robots - those are supposed to look artificial]), then I'm okay with it... but for the talking scenes, the 3D just looks out of place. So the best thing Photo Kano did was render its heroines in full, glorious 2D.

I realized I talked more about 3D than 2D here, but bad CG modeling can take me out of something pretty easily.
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Old 2013-04-05, 20:51   Link #3
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I just want to post a little comment here that this thread, though totally fine, shouldn't be a redux of the Aku no Hana thread, even though that show is obviously the example that prompted the thread.



As for my (meagre) contribution to the topic... I would say that, generally speaking, anime is fairly-far removed from the uncanny valley issue since it's very highly-stylized. This may be why, in those instances where it does come up, it provokes even more controversy, since it's quite unusual and outside the norm. Anime doesn't usually look anything close to "realistic".

As a quasi-related point, sometimes the use of CG in an otherwise hand-drawn anime can also have a bit of an "uncanny valley" sort of effect, because certain objects have a totally different look (or move at a different framerate) than the objects around them. This can make things stick out in a bad way.

(Edit: As I was writing this, Midonin posted and was thinking the same thing about the 3D/CG thing, so at least I wasn't alone in that coming to mind.)
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Old 2013-04-05, 20:58   Link #4
Marcus H.
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Quote:
When it comes to a majority of anime designs, I'm fine with the cartoonish exaggeration. This is why Pixar chose to animate their films with humans (The Incredibles, Brave) the way that they did, because they were well aware of this concept. The only 3D I've had a problem with is the Precure dance endings, because I find 3D cel-shaded models that move too well more unsettling than those that are limited by the frames of animation. Now, Toei has been getting better about this - anime in general has been getting better about it. Even Love Live and AKB0048 were mostly okay with their models not interfering and/or mixing with the 2D well enough.
And there's that upcoming MMO Scarlet Blade Online (a bit off-topic), which is a bit creepy as well.

Quote:
I realized I talked more about 3D than 2D here, but bad CG modeling can take me out of something pretty easily.
Well, thanks to the advances in technology, 3D now has the ability to look as 2D as possible. That said, using 3D in 2D animation is better left for distance scenes, away from focus. (Maoyuu and Vividred Operation, two anime from the previous season, used this quite efficiently.) BRS is an exception, though, as it deliberately used 2D and 3D to illustrate how different two two worlds involved are.

Quote:
As for my (meagre) contribution to the topic... I would say that, generally speaking, anime is fairly-far removed from the uncanny valley issue since it's very highly-stylized. This may be why, in those instances where it does come up, it provokes even more controversy, since it's quite unusual and outside the norm. Anime doesn't usually look anything close to "realistic".
Mostly. Aku no Hana's character designs looked like they were traced from live-action scenes.
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Old 2013-04-05, 21:38   Link #5
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I admit I watch anime for its stylish representations; some styles I like, and some styles I don't. Here's the thing, though: if I don't like a style (examples: Clannad, Cross Game), seeing it in motion usually lessens the effect, and in time I forget about it.

With the more realistic character designs, I find it's the opposite. I don't mind much, when I see the pictures, but once they start moving I start to feel disoriented. Examples are most of Satoshi Kon's work, and - most recently - Momo e Tegami. That is: rather than deminishing the effect of the art (if it's there in the first place), it gets worse for a while. I usually get over it fairly quickly, but it's a feeling somewhat akin to dizziness (I don't actually get dizzy, but that's what it feels like).

I'm really curious to see whether Aku no Hana will work for me.
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Old 2013-04-06, 00:04   Link #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus H. View Post
Mostly. Aku no Hana's character designs looked like they were traced from live-action scenes.
They didn't just "look like", they were really traced from live-action scenes.

An interesting use of Uncanny Valley for me was the way the cyborg from psycho pass was designed and animated, something just felt off about him and that was a sign he wasn't quite human
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Old 2013-04-06, 00:48   Link #7
Marcus H.
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They didn't just "look like", they were really traced from live-action scenes.
Brainfart.

Makes me wonder how much money they wasted on making live-action scenes for rotoscoping instead of going for full-blown live-action.
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Old 2013-04-06, 01:57   Link #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by totoum View Post
They didn't just "look like", they were really traced from live-action scenes.

An interesting use of Uncanny Valley for me was the way the cyborg from psycho pass was designed and animated, something just felt off about him and that was a sign he wasn't quite human
I actually think that this was intentional. It's of no consequence to talk about this bit of Psycho-Pass, nor is it a secret, so I will. Cyborgs aren't really a thing in that world, so he's basically one of the only cyborgs in Japan (or maybe even the world). Since he was supposed to be the forefront of the technology, I got the impression that they intentionally made him look imperfect so that the audience would find him a bit eerie.

Personally I find character designs whether realistic or unrealistic, to be quite fine. The only thing that really gets me is when they're poorly proportioned. The thing is, has anime even come close to matching human likeness? Psycho-Pass I feel makes a good example here, and I found its character design to be quite realistic compared to other shows. As far as the "Uncanny Valley" goes, I think what turns people off more is when characters are being pitched as humanesque to begin with (Vocaloid is a good example of this as there were certainly people out there who found it to be creepy).

Edit: Well... OK then...
Initially when I read the opening posts I had NO IDEA what people were talking about as to what had brought up this argument. Now I'm a bit more up to speed on what this discussion is about. Thanks for that, industry.
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Old 2013-04-06, 02:13   Link #9
Marcus H.
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Meta: Should I have that posted on the OP?

EDIT: Never mind, I did already.
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Old 2013-04-06, 02:20   Link #10
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Okay, you guys had me interested in Aku no Hana from the rotoscoping comment. Then I saw that side by side comparison and now not so much anymore lol
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Old 2013-04-06, 03:21   Link #11
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WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! The manga designs were more than good enough and fit the story. Just why?!
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Old 2013-04-06, 05:41   Link #12
Traece
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As I've apparently derailed this topic in a way that we're not supposed to, I'm going to attempt to steer it back on course a bit.

After thinking about this subject a bit more (and gaining some proper context), it seems to me like the "Uncanny Valley" is really hard to properly quantify. I feel like every visual example from anime that I can think of lends itself more to being a CGI abomination, rather than being in that niche between inhuman, and perfectly human. Part of the reason I say this is because when it comes to video games, this tends to not show up very often. You either have ultra-realistic characters, or characters who just aren't. It's very rare in that industry to see characters fall into this niche, and L.A. Noire is the only example I can really think of as the techniques they used meant their characters had very good facial animation while the rest of the character had less quality (but the average player didn't really notice, and I didn't even catch that myself).

Reiterating slightly, that CGI appearance tends to be an issue for anime. I don't think that that CGI appearance is necessarily to blame however. As much as I hate to draw on Aku no Hana once more, I think that people would be far more receptive to the appearance of the show if the characters weren't so poorly proportioned and lacking in texture.

I guess the only way I feel the "Uncanny Valley" exists is when you're attempting to portray a human that's just not quite right (as with the Psycho-Pass cyborg mentioned in my previous post). Beyond cases like that (which, afaik, are far more intentional than poor design choice), I don't feel that the "Uncanny Valley" really exists for this medium.

Honestly, I think this applies more to real life with attempts to create androids that are very shiny, and plasticized, and lacking real texture to their features. In fact, I think that's mainly where you get the effect from, in terms of visual appearance. This goes great with my CGI mention, because CGI objects tend to lack that texture (and be strangely 3D looking in a 2D world).
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Old 2013-04-06, 08:24   Link #13
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I really think that in the most recent case which is Aku no Hana, it's completely intentional. The premise is supposed to be. . . well revolting and the animation just amplified that even further (and they haven't even done anything yet).

If you guys have watched the disney short Paperman, that tries to combine the feel of 2d (for that more earthly feel) and 3d. There are many anime too that incorporate CGI in backgrounds (HSI, Hyouka, Ufotable films) and as time passes by, the animators get more techniques in trying to blend CGI and 2d together to the point that it looks pleasant to the eyes.
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Old 2013-04-06, 08:52   Link #14
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For me, even "realistic" character representations in anime are so far removed from actual humans that they fail to come close to the "uncanny valley" phenomenon. I actually prefer shows with realistic designs like Monster or Bartender, but I don't find those representations disturbing in the way the uncanny-valley hypothesis describes. I also doubt that realistic designs will displace the highly-stylized representations that dominate the world of modern anime. Cute girls with enormous eyes and few other distinctive facial features will continue to dominate anime shows for quite some time to come.
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Old 2013-04-06, 10:41   Link #15
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The more the show is trying to endear me, the less closer it should be to the uncanny valley.
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Old 2013-04-07, 09:38   Link #16
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I really think the harmony of the combination of plot (or series premise) and character design needs to reach an equilibrium in order to factor in its success. Any amount imbalance can make or break the series. In my opinion, the weakness of one aspect can easily drag down the other unless the other is strong enough to engage viewers.

However, there can also be the case where the backlash against a particular decision of design (Yes, I'm looking at you, Japanese Les Fleurs Du Mal, though there should be better examples I should look at) affecting it in a way that, while I do follow the source material, I don't really perceive anything stellar about the plot AND the character design; it mostly affects the reputation of the source material in a negative fashion, if not already unimpressive to some.

There are do's and don'ts of character design in general when you're trying to attract viewers. A design decision too novel can break the production value of a work as much as a bland design, if not worse. Some might find that interesting, but when it detracts more than attracts, you might as well give that a revision and see how much benefit it can return you in the long run.

Also, the methods. While the common viewers aren't exactly the brightest beings on Earth, there is no way that they are dumb either (Of course, we wouldn't be here discussing about anything if we were, no?) to be pulled in by designs that can be perceived as a cheapness or laziness on the studio's part.

All in all it comes to the visual perception of the viewers. In general, if it's pleasing to look at, then that's part of the job well done. When that's done, all is left is to depend on how they carry the show. Is it a comedy? If so, did you manage to get a good laugh out of it? Or is it romance? If so, did you find the moments in the series heartwarming or romantic to you? Or if it's drama, does watching the scenes invoke a particular feeling within you?

So to sum up this long blabberwall:

"Decent" (scales up to good and beyond) design + "decent" premise: Your average do-well series, might be the most excellent if the scales go up all the way
"Meh" (scales down below decent to all the way down to the 'drivel' category) design + "decent premise: Might be a turn-off factor to some, but to some others it's still tolerable, depending on their level of tolerance.
"Decent" design + "meh" premise: Same as above, but due to the "meh" scale of the premise, it might factor heavily to the enjoyment of the viewer towards a work - some people might as well watch it for the "decent" designs alone.

... Of course, we have the "So crap it loops back into the good territory" kinds of production... but that'll be a very hard one to measure and is very unpredictable.
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Old 2013-04-07, 12:29   Link #17
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Aku no Hana is the first time anime has entered the uncanny valley for me. Other series/movies have used rotoscoping before but it looked realistic and well integrated enough for it not to bother me. Aku no hana, on the other hand, is stuck in-between live action and anime, and the end result is absolutely terrible to me. The characters look neither human nor "anime-esque". With proper shading or more details (like in Trapeze), it could have look fine, but as it is it looks plain bad, and frankly, lazy. I wonder just how much work it required compared to traditional animation.

That said, this wouldn't have stopped me from watching the series if I had found it interesting enough. I can get over any kind of visuals no matter how repulsive they may be if the story can pull me in. I've watched and read a lot of stuff I didn't find visually pleasing.
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Old 2013-04-07, 16:51   Link #18
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Wow that girl looks like she has down's syndrome.
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Old 2013-04-07, 17:39   Link #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by synaesthetic View Post
Wow that girl looks like she has down's syndrome.
Anyone who has their picture taken while they're blinking looks like they have down's syndrome.
That's what happened here,the screenshot is taken while she's blinking.
I have issues with the show but I hate how this pic is being used.
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Old 2013-04-07, 18:37   Link #20
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I heard about the Uncanny Valley in reference to The Hobbit's higher framerate. That seemed to make some sense to me, but I don't understand the premise of this 'too realistic' animation version of the Uncanny Valley. Why are the hyper-realistic graphics in modern video games exempt?
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