There's a running joke in moviemaking, a mantra for the hurried and unsure: "We'll fix it in post." Basically it's a sometimes futile self-assurance that filmmakers can untangle their jumbled mess in post-production, with slick editing, snazzy special effects and other techniques designed to make you forget what a terrible movie you're watching. Often the same thing goes for anime, with a slight tweak: "We'll fix it on the Blu-ray."
Since a lot of these shows are run weekly with animators drawing almost on-the-fly with multiple production houses taking turns every episode, the visual quality was bound to suffer. Fans of Dragon Ball Super know what I'm talking about.
The DBZ follow-up series disappointed fans in 2015 when, after just a few episodes, the animation quality dropped dramatically. The scene where Goku tries in vain to fight cat god/Mr. Bigglesworth fursuit enthusiast Beerus was particulalry shoddy. You can see what I'm talking about above on the left; Beerus looks okay, but Goku looks like a fifth-grader used their teeth to draw a Chinese bootleg action figure. Try to put aside the derpy face for a minute -- check out his hands. Those fists are congealed fingerballs straight out of Tekken 2 on PS1. It's no wonder this scene was given a complete overhaul for the home release.
But the alterations in Dragon Ball Super are actually pretty minor compared to other Blu-ray reduxes. For one, Goku is at least recognizable as himself in both versions. The same can't be said for Mekakucity Actors.
That... doesn't even look like the same show. The characters aren't even wearing the same clothes, for crying out loud. Then again, that was probably the whole point -- the original CGI animation was so stilted and fugly that the studio figured the best course of action was to wipe the slate clean and redo everything.
Granted, the redo only applies to one baffling scene in a series that usually didn't resemble a Dreamcast launch game. But CGI in general has become more prevalent in anime, the extent that hugely-anticipated shows like the Berserk revival are using it extensively. CG doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but when it airs like this, it's no wonder they fix it up for the Blu-ray.
The difference here is more than night and day. It's night and perma-noon on a planet in orbit around five suns. I would say that the original version looks like an anime made with puppets, but that would be an insult to the awesome anime that is actually made with puppets. Obviously someone at the studio agreed that the creepy dead-eyed plastic girl looks like Teddy Ruxpin fucked a blow-up doll, and so the character work was improved for the BD.
The sad fact of the matter is, this is sort of standard procedure when it comes to broadcast anime. It's so expected that the visuals will improve on the home release that the changes are actually advertised outright by the publisher. "Not as shitty as the TV version!" is an implicit bullet point on the back of the box. Anime studios have already proven they're willing to wring every penny out of their fans with exhorbitantly expensive discs that contain three or four episodes, so it only makes sense that they'd bake in added incentive for purchasers with Blu-ray perks like "good animation."
That's not to say fans don't share the blame, here. Every episode of every show is always going to be ripped, subbed and streaming for anyone who wants to watch their favorite show for free. Why spend a bunch of resources up front for an audience that's going to steal the show anyway?
Then again, it's a wonder why some studios animate something at all if they're just going to completely redraw it later.
As pointed out by Twitter user twintail22222, the anime Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu (or Gonna Be the Twin Tail!! if you're nasty) saw some pretty drastic changes for the Blu-ray. I have studied the above scene for, let's say a while, and have come to the conclusion that every cel outside of the background was redrawn. Most notable are the tweaks to the lighting -- that is, there is lighting -- and a face that's recentered to more closely simulate a real human facial expression.
But it's not always visual quality that changes from TV to BD. As we've explored in the past, anime that airs on TV is often censored in a hilariously haphazard way.
Those "little black bars" are one of the oldest, most recognizable forms of censorship. Are Adam and Eve's modesty leaves not covering enough skin? Just toss up a couple dark rectangles over their naughty parts and suddenly you're clear to air on TV. Lately though, televised anime in Japan has been taking that concept to another level. In an ultraviolent sci-fi show like Terra Formars, this means obscuring headless corpses with black circles using MS Paint.
That hulking humanoid cockroach (long story) just decaptiated a gunner and is currently holding her head in its sweaty, glistening hands -- but that's almost impossible to figure out because of the giant floating censorship circles obscuring the relevant visual information. If a show blurs out someone flipping the bird, you can at least make a guess at what's happening based on your previous experience with middle fingers. But the censorship here is actually detrimental to the clarity of the storytelling. If censorship gets in the way of moment-to-moment action and it becomes hard to follow, there is something seriously wrong. Not only that, but you come to something like Terra Formars for the creepy bug people murdering stupid humans. There's no G-D point if all that ultraviolence isn't even visible.
So why even release a series in this state if the end product is undecipherable? Well, think of those big black circles like advertisements that read "Wanna see what's under here? Buy the Blu-ray!!" No matter the intent behind the show (which is an adaptation of a similarly violent manga), the end product feels like it was intentionally designed to make viewers feel like they're missing out on something.
Keeping that in mind, the Blu-ray release of Nisekoi flies in the face of everything we've examined up to this point.
I didn't mix up these screencaps. On the left, you can see what aired on Japanese televisions in a shameless fanservice episode set at a hot spring. In the TV edition, wisps of steam barely cover the chest of a girl tragically born without nipples; you'd think that, like Terra Formars, the "censorship" would be removed for the boys and girls thirsty enough to shell out the cash for an explicit version on a disc. In a bizarre twist, the BD is actually less racy than the broadcast episode. The studio literally censored their own show for a format that has next to no censorship barriers.
The whole thing is bewildering to the point of being laughable. Production house Shaft got their audience all hot and bothered only to flick them in the dick.
I'm not gonna come out and demand that someone defog these pictures of supple cartoon high school girls, but there are definitely people out there who have and will. Rewarding loyal fans with less of what they came for (ahem) is pretty cruel, even for anime.
The extra steam is consistent throughout the episode... except for a couple parts that accidentally (?) show more skin
What's the game here, Shaft? Is this a subtle commentary on the sorry state of anime and the near toxic cycle of broadcast-to-home-release cycle? Is this a way of punishing pirates who steal Blu-ray rips of episodes, giving them an inferior version of the show compared to TV-watchers? Or is it all one big joke?
I'm going to go with one big joke. Tristan Cooper can be found apologizing to his parents on Twitter.