What Percentage Of Anime Is Still Hand Drawn?

Have you ever watched an anime and thought that it was entirely impossible for any of it to be drawn by hand? With all the special effects and animation software available today, is the percentage of hand-drawn anime becoming smaller? What exactly is the percentage of anime that is still hand-drawn?

Big anime production houses have 70-85% of hand-drawn anime content. This does not only include the characters and inbetweening, but also storyboarding, script-writing, and backgrounds. The percentage may vary for small production houses as combining traditional and digital media is expensive.

Were you surprised that your favorite modern anime was still drawn by artists? We got some insider information about how an anime is drawn by hand, so keep on reading for more surprises!

A Huge Percentage Of Anime Is Still Hand Drawn

We were able to get some information from Koji Hirawa, who worked as a storyboarding editor of a major production house. He worked at the said production house for almost 16 years and is viewed as an expert in his field.

According to the interview, 70-85% of anime is still hand-drawn. We might think that all traditional drawing comes into play during character designs, as well as the planned sequences, but we were surprised to know that even during pre-production, there is already hand drawing involved.

Koji-san also remarked that this is a long and painful process, but it should be done as it is part of the Japanese culture. He added that the percentage of hand-drawn media may decrease for independent or small production houses.

The reason for this is not because these houses are taking shortcuts, but it is due to budget constraints. “Animating traditional drawings do not only involve technology but also the time and effort of artists,” he said.

As much as possible, major anime production houses aim to have a huge percentage of hand-drawn media in anime episodes. We value our traditional drawing methods. It is what makes our shows, Japanese.

Koji Hirawa

He referred to the back and forth of different departments to finish just one sequence. There are instances when the raw drawing does not look good on the computer when scanned, so everyone will start from scratch.

Hundreds of drawings are scrapped and they go all the way back to storyboarding to fix an error. For Koji-san, this process requires a lot of funding.

This is why some smaller production houses rely on computer-generated content because everything can be corrected with a click of the mouse.

Here is a sample of a storyboarding block. According to Koji-san, there are numerous times that the raw block from a storyboard is used in the final production. 100% of the blocks are hand-drawn. (Source)

What Are The Components Of Anime That Are 100% Hand-Drawn?

It may come as a surprise that all characters are hand-drawn. Koji-san stated that in all his years of working in the anime industry, he never saw a character that was drawn digitally. Everything starts from paper, then it will be scanned to be edited digitally.

If you are curious as to what type of paper is used to draw anime, you can check this article.

Koji-san shared that when the timeline for an anime is released to the departments, all that you can hear in the offices are the scribbling of pencils.

When it was time to clock out (if they have an opportunity to do so) they looked like coal miners as their hands are covered with lead, even their arms and faces.

He claimed that for major production houses, it is almost guaranteed that the following are hand-drawn:

  • All characters
  • Key animation scenes
  • In-betweening scenes
  • Major backgrounds

As he cannot speak for small and independent production houses, he still said that even though those houses have limited budgets, it is highly likely that all characters are still hand-drawn.

You can check this article to know the process of making an anime, so you can have a deeper knowledge of the animation processes that we listed above.

The characters should be drawn by hand. Even small production houses know this. Drawing them digitally is frowned upon.

Koji Hirawa

Are The Animations In Anime 100% Hand-Drawn?

Koji- san answered this with a yes and no. Yes, because at least in his experience everything that is animated digitally came from a traditional drawing.

He also answered no, because there are elements that are added digitally as no one uses cel animation anymore (except intentionally)

They do not look down on the use of 3D and CGI to enhance the raw material. In fact, he said, this adds value to our art.

He mentioned that the trend now is to combine traditional and digital media, given that the base of a scene came from a traditional drawing.

We showed this picture to Koji-san and he said, besides the glowing red spots and the blood on the cheek, one can easily spot that it is hand-drawn. There is a certain beauty in the imperfection of the lines of and on the face.

He sang praises about the people behind Demon Slayer and Ufotable Productions as he said, they found the perfect balance between honoring Japanese tradition and utilizing modern technology to create a masterpiece.

He added that Ufotable truly deserved the Best Animation Award as they found the secret formula of inbetweening while combining traditional drawings and using 3D. He was referring to the magnificent scene below.

When asked about other components which are purely made digitally, he answered that it was coloring. Even in major production houses, they intend to do the coloring by hand. However, it almost always ends up being done digitally simply because of tight deadlines.

Further, the colors that they want to reflect accurately are much better when done digitally. Koji-san also noted that this does not mean that it was easier. In fact, the coloring artists can spend two days just coloring a single sequence block.

Final Thoughts

According to Koji Hirawa, it is not proper to say that classic animes are the better ones in terms of hand-drawn elements. Modern anime are still hand-drawn, even if you do not notice it.

In fact, he said that the ones that make use of 3D and CGI combined with traditional drawing should be praised as it is a step closer to mirroring reality. This, for him, is every artists’ dream. “To draw and to animate with the end product looking real.”

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