People often tell me they don’t understand my tastes in anime Asking questions like: How can you be such a huge fan of “Log Horizon” but have no interest whatsoever in “Overlord”? They’re both shows about a hard core MMORPG player getting sucked into a game world and using masterful strategies to manage the world around them… Can they really be so different that you’d have totally opposite opinions of them? The answer is yes And its because there are so many more elements to a show than the concept and genre In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there are a million different ways that an anime can succeed or fail And that almost every single show does things just differently enough that they can totally change my enjoyment of them just by tweaking a couple of elements Let examine one of the simplest and most straightforward elements of anime production: The background art You’d think you could make a pretty simple distinction between good backgrounds like what you’d see in say, “My Neighbor Totoro” and bad backgrounds, like what you’d see in say, “Berserk” (2016) But there’s a lot more to it than that When the topic of anime backgrounds come up viewers often defer to the hyper realistic very digital look of Mokoto Shinkai films Such as “Your Name” Personally, though, when i think of anime backgrounds I always think of Shinichiro Kobayashi and his artwork films like “Angel’s Egg” Each of these is unquestionably of a high quality but they are very different stylistically and most viewers are likely to have a preference of one over the other Even comparing two shows which are both known for the way that they linger on their painterly backgrounds in order to set a placid, contemplative tone (Mushishi and Yokohama Shopping Log) We can see a difference in the results Mushishi is more densely and detailed realistic lending it a sense of mystery, wonder, and adventure Yokohama Shopping Log, meanwhile, is open and breezy Meant to calm and relax the viewer and lull them into a warm state of peace I think most people would argue that these shows both have excellent background art, and that said artwork is a major focal-point in how the show communicates its message But the subtle differences in those messages may cause a viewer to adore one show while remaining indifferent towards the other Even when backgrounds are not the focus of a series they can do a lot to elevate it when handled with care K-On is a slice of life series which uses incredibly detailed artwork based on real locations to make the world feel lived in and to add more personality to the characters Meanwhile you can look at a genre cousin, such as “Kiniro Mosaic” wherein the backgrounds seem to be more of an afterthought and that extra layer of personality simply isn’t there Instead, the relative lack of intrigue in the backgrounds really emphasizes the feeling of watching a gag comedy anime In which the world doesn’t really exist beyond these characters delivering punchlines into the camera Even simply featuring nice looking backgrounds Isn’t necessarily an automatic boost to a shows aesthetic credibility “Owari no Seraph” suffers from an awkward difference between its painterly backgrounds and the more sleek and modern look of its character designs At times, the characters don’t even really seem to Inhabit the world that the show seems to take place in Which can take a viewer out of the experience if they notice it In the case of “Guilty Crown”, the backgrounds very detailed but are largely indistinct and generic in their art design, just looking like any other blown out city — as opposed to much more carefully considered work that’s gone into crafting a uniquely rundown city like the underground world of “Texhnolyze” We haven’t even gotten into backgrounds which convey specific aesthetics which might resonate with some viewers a lot more than others Personally I would love it if the entire world was purple and yellow So I’m a big fan of the backgrounds in films like “Ai City” But I also wouldn’t mind if the world looked like the inside of a Sanrio Store So I’m pretty into the backgrounds of “Urahara”, as well Strangely, though, I find my self less interested In the storybook worlds of a show like “Flip-Flappers” Which seems to be a big part of the appeal to fans who love the series It’s just a matter of personal taste, really How about entire genres which are partially defined by the style of their background art, like “Cyberpunk”? Do you prefer the oppressive, seemingly skyless concrete jungle of Hong Kong, as portrayed in “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence”? Or the ultra-clean and orderly city that “Psycho-Pass” is set in? Maybe you like your sci-fi settings to feel hopeful and grandiose like they do in “Macross Frontier” Or maybe you like them grungy and worn-out like they are in “Cowboy Bebop” Maybe you prefer that your sci-fi not even resemble reality and be rendered in more of a bizarro style, À la “Kaiba” Or maybe the portrayal of futuristic societies doesn’t really resonate with you at all, and you’d be more interested in isolated desert planets of a sci-fi future gone wrong like what you’ll find in shows like “Trigun” All of these aesthetic presentations are valid reasons to love or hate an anime series For me, the gorgeously rendered and uniquely well realized fantasy world of “Made in Abyss” was a massive part of what made the series captivating To the point that I couldn’t imagine the show even being all that good with out the background art Meanwhile there are shows like “Shin Sekai Yori” with relatively interesting narrative conceits, but with artwork that i find so unappealing that it makes watching the show a real struggle And that’s background art Probably the most simplistic and straightforward aspect of anime construction I could break down character designs like this for an hour And I could break down story and characters like this for the rest of my life Every single show contains every single one of these elements, Always in a new combination and usually with some spark of individuality that sets it apart from the show next to it From my perspective, a show like “Log Horizon” and one like “Overlord” aren’t even all that similar Sure they are both ostensibly about kind of the same thing But the number of differences between them are so vast that it would take me hours to point out every single one of them And a few of those are the crucial ones that make one into the show that I love with every once of my heart And the other into something I couldn’t care less about There’s a million ways to love Digibro too, I hear At least I know Digibro has made no less than a million videos Keep up with them by becoming a Patron and getting inundated with more content than you can possibly consume Thanks again for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one!