What a beautiful illustration of Nadia – Secret of Blue Water by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto-san, who worked on the character design for this animated series.
I remember seeing Nadia on TV as a kid but I honestly can’t remember much of it except the opening sequence. As you mentioned I’m sure no single factor is at play but many, but I suspect budgetary issues is one of them.
I don’t think lower frame rates are to blame, because a skilled animator can still animate on 3s and get very beautiful work.
If you are talking pure visuals alone, I think the recent anime film, Redline, reaches the levels of great animation in those movies you mentioned.
I don’t know about anyone else, but most of the 80s and early 90s anime I saw were on VHS tape and television.
Imo, handmade work of any kind always feels more organic and textured than its digital counter-part. Akira and Ghost in the Shell and even Nadia are exceptions, a lot of crap was also produced back then but they were not popular nor succesful. Another nice digital production I could mention would be the anime segment in Kill Bill Vol.1.
But that’s not all, they also give them every single frames for the digital tracing process sometimes. Usually, they digitally trace every single drawn frame for the final process and rendering.

And that’s why the lines look so unnatural and straight without any hand-drawn dynamics in them. But even so, I still think there is hope for the industry, there are people that are working hard to break the limits again. I also wish the best for Satoshi Kons movie wich has hard time getting actually finished due budget, hopefully they will be able to finish his last masterpiece soon.
Mind Game is quite simply mind blowing – it’s experimental in some ways but the quality of animation is unbelievable !
Agreed wholeheartedly that any technical or monetary limitations can be overcome by people with true vision, skill and dedication.
Ultimately if you give talented people freedom and money they will make really good things for you.
Analog’s lossy methods of reproduction can have pleasing effects on the original source material. I’m not really an expert, and I may easily miss some of the subtleties in animation, but I would like to express a less pessimistic point of view. However it’s sad to read that animators are paid so little, this is going to have serious consequences in the future. He was also the character designer for a whole bunch of other films like Evangelion, Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, just to name a few.
Anime probably doesn’t garner as big a viewership these days, and on top of the reduced budget part of has to go to 3D work as well.

I think that plays a part too, although I feel its more a paradigm shift in the Japanese society on the whole as well. Hiroyuki Okiura, Toshiyuki Inoue, Mitsuo Iso and many others have reached the highest stage as animators, and it is getting time that the new generation of animators raise even higher.
Animatrix was also a production that had lots of support so they were able to produce some great quality shorts there (Kids Story, Beyond).
2D animators are paid very little ( a travesty in my opinion, given the amazing skill-set they have ), and less and less talent is entering the industry because it’s really tough to survive. An animator’s feel and understanding of posing, timing and action is much more important than a high frame rate. After being rescued along with Nadia, Jean and Marie by the Nautilus, she and her henchmen befriend the children.
Would you believe me if I told you working about the same hours in Macdonalds (cover some midnight shift every day) would get me about twice as much money as a junior 2D animator ? She develops a huge crush on Captain Nemo and develops a small rivalry with Electra during her time on the Nautilus.
Are we seeing more details, or just seeing more dirt the camera man didn’t think he had to worry about?

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