3DCG animation has become somewhat controversial in anime circles in recent years. Though cheaper and easier to produce, and capable of accomplishing shots and scenes that would be difficult, if not impossible, with hand animation, 3DCG animation is often criticized for its flatness, cheap-looking quality, and smooth-but-lifeless movement. (Many of Netflix’s original anime titles, including Blame!, Godzilla, and Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac, are 3DCG productions.)
But if you want to see what 3DCG animation is capable of when it’s done right, then watch the latest trailer for Lupin the Third: The First, the latest installment in the long-running Lupin the Third franchise, which follows the outrageous exploits of master thief Arsène Lupin III.
There’s nothing at all cheap or lifeless in this trailer, which makes me happy every time I watch it. All of the details — Lupin’s smirks and mannerisms, objects (like Lupin’s beloved 1965 Fiat 500) moving as if they actually have mass and weight — are perfectly rendered in a way that contains both the warmth and vividness of hand animation and the clarity and detail of computer animation. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that you’re even watching CG animation at times. It easily rivals anything that Pixar has done to date.
Lupin the Third: The First opens in Japanese theaters on December 6. No word yet on a North American release, but I really hope one’s eventually announced because this looks like a total blast.