Screenshot: NHK

Today in Japan, NHK revealed the debut trailer for Aya to Majo (Aya and the Witch), Studio Ghibli’s upcoming CG film. The trailer is streaming on NHK’s site and hasn’t been posted on official YouTube channels. Have a look! 

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.



So I think I can tell what’s going on here, and it explains the main criticisms this will face: they’re trying to reduce the massive overhead that goes into a 2D Ghibli film — both time and money — while transitioning into a medium that has a lot more resources dedicated to it in the year 2020.

As telegraphed, my biggest criticism is that it looks cheap. Like Garfield 3D show, Netflix original kids’ programming cheap. There’s little in the way of dynamic scenery or interesting lighting and effects. There’s very little artfulness! Everything feels kind of flat and empty and lifeless: the opposite of a Ghibli film.

I’m betting what’s going on here is that Ghibli is *refusing* to implement a lot of tools, plugins, and workflows that have been well-established at other 3D production houses. It seems they want to start from scratch, and since this is their first baby steps they’re taking it easy on things like lighting engines, texture mapping, and generated effects. I’m betting over time they’ll be more ambitious, but there’s going to be a huge skill lag so long as they insist on learning from scratch.

It’s like transitioning from horse racing to formula 1 by insisting you learn to build your own automobile without looking at others’ schematics. And, unfortunately, a lot of the 2D lessons/principles they want to apply, such as with expressions, will be more of a barrier than anything, since it means learning some things that the rest of the industry can’t really do well yet.