The Obsession with Hand-Drawn Background Art: Interview with Background Company Studio Pablo Vol. 2

We are interviewing the staff of Studio Pablo, the company responsible for the background art in Saint Seiya Omega and the anime movie Buddha among others. Last time, we learned about the schemes and procedures unique to background art. Among the approximately 70 background companies in Japan, there are only about 10 that do the work mainly by hand. This time, we asked about their fixation on hand-drawn backgrounds.

TOM: Although background art plays a very important role in anime, we tend to overlook it. What is the reason for being obsessed with hand drawing it even despite that?
Studio Pablo: Although in background creation the mainstream is digital drawing, we at Studio Pablo mainly draw backgrounds by hand. The reason is very simple: It’s because we like hand-drawn backgrounds.

In the past, I tried drawing only in digital and creating pictures in 3D without the obsession for manual art, but I thought I wasn’t made out for that. In digital, color correction is very convenient, so I use it, but I am doubtful toward digital creation that aims for that hand-drawn feeling. Although, I think it can be fun when you draw something that can only be expressed in digital...

TOM: Do you feel a difference in the atmosphere when looking at them?
SP: This might sound like something a maniac would say, but I think the amount of information is on a whole different level. People usually think that digital images that can be simply copy-pasted contain more information, but that is only true in the case when there are multiple objects. When drawing a simple object, I think hand-drawn images contain more information.

For example, let’s compare the gradation of a wall in hand-drawn and digital. If you look at the complete pictures on the pixel level, the difference is obvious. The pixels of the hand-drawn picture have different colors under magnification; the colors of the adjoining dots vary. However, zooming in on the digital picture, the pixels have nearly no difference in colors. Since they are painted uniformly, the color gradually changes, but the pixels next to each other have nearly the same color. I think we could say that the pixels in hand-drawn pictures are more diverse.

In the scenes you usually see, there is some “noise” mixed in, like dirt and dust. I think this noise corresponds to dots in digital, and the diversity of the dots comes off as an aerial feeling. What I find wonderful is that the human eye can unconsciously tell the difference. When comparing the gradation of a digital and a hand-drawn picture, we unconsciously judge which one is to the scenery we usually see. By the way, there is a technique to mix noise and differentiate between the dots in digital, but mysteriously enough, it still gives the impression that it’s unable to escape uniformity.

TOM: Are there any schemes particular to anime backgrounds?
SP: As I think background plays a role in the story, we do scheming that brings out the atmosphere required for the scene. For instance, even when drawing “rooms with a bed in it, with the same design,” we change the colors of the shadows according to whether it’s a boy’s room or girl’s room. For boys, we use vigorously clear colors with some modulation, but for girls, we paint the shadows colorful and sweet. Furthermore, in a sad scene, we decrease the color saturation of the room and make it darker. For a happy scene, on the contrary, we raise the color saturation and the number of colors. We try to draw differently in accordance with the atmosphere wanted by adjusting the colors and touches. When we reach our, aim I’m very happy.

“Indeed, there is space, but it feels weird” - they look very lively with their voices bouncing as they talk about their fixation with manual art. Hand-drawn background art has a unique warmth to it that can entirely change the viewer's’ impression. Be sure to try paying attention to this the next time you watch anime.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

The Obsession with Hand-Drawn Background Art: Interview with Background Company Studio Pablo Vol. 2 1
The Obsession with Hand-Drawn Background Art: Interview with Background Company Studio Pablo Vol. 2 2
The Obsession with Hand-Drawn Background Art: Interview with Background Company Studio Pablo Vol. 2 3