One aspect of anime that’s come up in recent years is the “high definition” standard. Technically the European Broadcasting Union defines “high definition” as having anything above a 1280×720 resolution on a TV screen. Begining around 2006, we started to see anime being produced in high definition formats (with some stragglers). This was accompanied by an increase in the paper size needed to hand-draw frames, making it more time-consuming (bigger pictures need more time) and costly (buying new paper). But, if “High Definition” merely means anything above 1280×720, how do we know what’s meeting the minimum standards and what’s going above them to “Full HD” (1920×1080)? That’s a good question and one I hope to answer in this (exceptionally long) post.
To begin, I want to thank muhootsaver for alerting me to an absolute godsend when it comes to animation quality: Anibin. Anibin uses TV recordings to measure the detail being displayed. This can range between SD, HD-1280 (minimum), and now to Full HD (maximum). Anibin provides detail range images for each analysis they perform. Let’s show some examples of each:
As you see, as we move right and more towards HD, the amount of details present increases in all 4 quadrants. These are three random shows/CMs I picked from the three categories (and won’t be providing screencaps for), so there was no bias towards one or the others. But what about actual shows and images? Let’s begin with a more recent show. A lot of people praised Nisemonogatari for its visuals compared to its predecessor, but what does Anibin have to say about it?
Anibin’s analysis shows Nisemonogatari was animated in 720p and it’s evident in the BD screencap (stolen from TMSIDR’s review). Click on the image and look at the lineart. You’ll notice it’s a tad blurry at the 1080p resolution it’s upscaled to on the BD. The manufacturers upscale the footage at their facilitates to provide standard video amongst all video players.
So how about a show people describe as one of the prettiest animation shows in recent years: Fate/Zero?
You’ll notice more clarity than the other 720p shows I’ve linked to in Anibin’s analysis. They’ve determined it’s likely the same resolution that the Kara no Kyoukai movies were animated at: 1520×855. Not full HD (1980×1080), but higher than 720p. The right image is a screencap from the episode (again, stolen from TMSIDR). Looking at Rin, you’ll notice some of the lineart is blurry (jagged) in the 1080 shot, but it looks more crisp than the previous Nisemonogatari screencap.
So that’s two HD shows, what about an SD show upscaled? Here’s one from my collection: Saki.
Anibin has this as SD (though noting it lacks a lot of jaggies in line art), but you’ll notice that it still looks much smaller and compact than the previous two shows. When looking at the BD screenshot, you’ll see the horrible upscale taking away details in the mahjong tiles and making them look fuzzier than what they should be. This is one mark that we look for when measuring upscales. Alas, Saki was not given a great one.
Next we’ll look at a studio who hasn’t had the most favorable reception regarding HD quality: JC. Staff. I’ll link the two shows I have: Shakugan no Shana III and To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
Anibin’s analysis for both Railgun and Shana III show that they were both animated at 720, but Railgun‘s distribution is a wee small. Again, you can see the lack of clarity on the line art for both shows when you see the screencaps taken from the BDs. Definitely HD, but the minimum resolution. Meh.
Next we’ll take a look at another studio whose visuals are highly touted: P.A. Works with their 2011 show: Hanasaku Iroha:
Anibin’s analysis has Iroha at 720p, the same as Railgun and Nise. A bit shocking to me since I’d never looked it up, but it’s true once you look at the screencap. You’ll notice what Anibin points out: the line art is evident of the 720p style, which means it’s only 1280×720. Surprising, huh?
And so that wraps up the non-Kyoani portion of the post. Kyoto Animation is an interesting case as they keep evolving. I’m going to show data from an SD show, an 720p show, a 720p movie, a current show, and a full HD show. Let’s start with SD: Lucky Star:
Seriously, even Anibin went “I dunno” at Lucky Star. It was only when the BD-Box was announced when we discovered that Lucky Star was an SD show and the upscale proves it. Again, not a very good upscale, but you can still see the jagged edges near Kagami’s (far right) hair. Lack of details and jagged edges even when upscaled on BD are evidence of a SD production. Now, onto two HD productions!
The Anibin analysis for K-On! is the usual 720p, but had to be done via Blu-Ray instead of TV due to airing in 4:3 format. As you’ll see with S2, the BD comparison is apt to what it would be on TV. Again, you’ll notice the standard blurriness as well as line art styles with this show when viewing the BD. The same holds true for Clannad. (Thanks to Goggen for the screencaps)
So what about their movies? KyoAni’s done good wok on movies, right? Let’s take a look at the Haruhi movie.
The first big notable title for KyoAni was Haruhi in 2006, so they would spare no expense for the movie right? Anibin puts the movie at just under 1280×720 (around 715p). Looking at the screencap, you’ll notice a thicker than usual line art, exemplifying that. As much of a fan as I am, it’s definitely not up to more recent work.
Speaking of recent work, let’s take a look at Hyouka, KyoAni’s spring show for this year.
Hyouka continues a trend started with Nichijou of having the show animated at higher than 720p, but lower than full HD. Anibin puts the show at a mid-955.5p resolution because of the vertical detail. You can see in the first screencap that the video is sharp, but not as sharp as it could be. The interesting part comes in the second row. The OP/ED for Hyouka was animated in 1080p Full HD. Check the screencap and you’ll notice no blurring, no line errors, nothing. Full HD in 1080p resolution. Anibin has the currently airing Chuunibyou in the same style.
And all that leads up to the first full HD production by KyoAni: K-on! The Movie!:
Again, no line art issues, no blurriness, nothing but a clear picture at a 1080p resolution. This is a full HD production. Question the content all you want, but you can’t argue that this is the top production KyoAni has put out thus far.
And so I suppose people who know me may be wondering “where’s the Haruhi TV series fit into KyoAni’s situation?” The answer: Nearly all of them. Let’s take a look.
Whew, let’s make sense of Anibin’s post. The 2006 episodes are upscaled and were upscaled for the broadcast as evident by the detail burst with a lack of fineness. The 2009 episodes were animated at 715p similar to the movie mentioned above. Notice the blurriness around Mikuru’s chin. The lines are a bit off there as well. But what is that third row? KyoAni remade the OP/ED from 2006 for the Blu-Ray box and this was the first time Anibin had gotten to analyze it. It’s very similar to Hyouka‘s normal episode quality, which puts it as KyoAni’s first 955.5 production! So what resolution is Haruhi? SD, 715, and 955!
And so that wraps up this exceedingly long post as we looked at screencaps and compared them to the images you’ll see on Anibin. As you can tell, we’re looking at fine details in upscales and so searching for these irregularities can be difficult. I find that Anibin is more constantly right about shows than anyone else I’ve found thus far and use the blog as a very valuable resource. I’m only linked a few shows here, but you can find most of the seasons on the blog. Good luck and I hope this was informative. Again, a giant thanks to TMSIDR and Goggen for screencaps. They’re my KyoAni buddies across the Atlantic.
If you have any corrections, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for sticking with this really long post.
Edit: Someone requested a comparison of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies in the comments, so thanks to muhootsaver for allowing me to link images from his blog.
(Forgive the last one for being a TV rip thanks to Vito Plahuta, no easily available BD version is available at the moment) Anibin has evaluated all of the Evangelion:New Theatre Ver movies and said that each one was animated in 720p. This doesn’t take into account special effects/CGI which are commonly animated at a higher resolution, but you can see the line art for each of the images is still rather noticeable when blown up to 1080 pixels high. The part which throws people is the animation (pretty good) and the vividness of the color palette. Personally, I was surprised when I saw Anibin evaluate Q at 720p; it seems like they would improve since 2009, but oh well.