Why Are Most Anime 2D?

5 min readFeb 19, 2023


Welcome to the world of animation, where the possibilities are endless, and creativity is king. If you’re an animation fan, then you know that the industry has come a long way in entertainment.

From game graphics to movies and shows, the advancements in animation technology are nothing short of breathtaking.

But amidst all the glitz and glamour of 3D graphics and CGI, one medium stands out in its 2D stylistic glory: anime.

In a world where companies like Pixar and Disney are at the forefront of animated content, anime stands proud in its distinct 2D format.

You might wonder, why is anime so adamant about staying 2D, especially when 3D animation is the standard for most movies and shows these days?

The answer lies in Japan’s preference for the art form. They like the unique technique used in anime, like shooting a movie and painting over it. This technique gives anime its characteristic perspective, setting it apart from other animation works.

Sure, 3D animation has its place and can be stunningly beautiful when done right. Movies like Tangled and Peter Rabbit showcase VFX’s ability to emulate real-life elements.

But bigger and more ‘life-like’ animation doesn’t necessarily mean better animation.

Anime has only risen in the digital age despite needing to conform to 3D ideals. It’s now bigger than ever, dominating the box office and competing with mainstream releases.

The fact that anime persists solely in a 2D art format speaks volumes about its artistic merits.

While Western animation has been advancing towards 3D, anime has remained steadfast in its 2D glory. It’s not just a cultural difference but a creative one as well.

Is 3D Animation Easier Than 2D Animation?

The financial aspect is important: opting for more 2D animation means utilizing fewer resources!

Although it may sound like a cost-cutting measure, anime is a business that seeks to maximize profits like any other.

In a high-pressure environment where new anime releases are frequent, the industry cannot afford to invest its limited resources into an experimental and expensive format.

With the need to produce consistently good content within a tight schedule, 3D animation takes too long to compete effectively.

This is why high-budget anime with CGI mixed in can take so long to create. On the other hand, 2D animation is much more accessible and easier to budget around.

It’s a tried-and-true format guaranteed to be received well, making it a low-risk, high-payout investment for the industry.

In the end, 2D anime has proven to be a reliable and profitable format, while 3D animation is considered too risky to attempt.

When something works well, there’s no need to fix it, right?

2d anime

Japan Has a Strong Preference for What it Likes

Though anime has become a global phenomenon, its primary target audience remains the Japanese.

After all, that’s where it originates from and has always had the strongest following for 2D anime releases over 3D Western ones.

But there’s a reason why this tradition works so well — something is calming and familiar about it.

Anime has always been in 2D format, and its quirks and gags are uniquely suited to this medium.

Its stories are understood by the audience that lives in the society it’s trying to portray, and that shared experience is integral to its success.

In other words, the very essence of what makes anime so appealing would fall flat if it were animated in 3D.

Unsurprisingly, the anime industry caters to its local audience and their preferences to keep profits flowing.

Most of the industry’s revenue is generated by selling related merchandise to the Japanese audience.

Ignoring what the paying customer wants wouldn’t be a wise choice if they want to keep their business afloat.

Will 2D Animation Die Out

2D is essential to anime’s iconic imagery, and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

What matters most is that attempts at 3D anime don’t seem to cut it. The clunky, jarring visuals don’t appeal to viewers, especially when the entire production is in that same style.

Although there are cases where 3D and 2D merge to create something better, such as in the case of Evangelion Rebuilds, it’s not the norm.

It’s true that fight sequences now incorporate CGI to add more dimension and dynamism, but I still argue that it can’t replace the beauty and nuance of 2D art.

The lower frames per second rate of 2D animation adds a unique stop-gap between frames that can create tension and nuance in certain scenes, which 3D animation could never truly emulate properly.

In the end, 2D anime remains a fixture in the global pop culture consciousness and will continue to do so for a long time.

Despite advancements in 3D animation, there’s just something special about the 2D format that can’t be replicated.

Will 3D Animation Eventually Replace 2D Anime?

3D anime has gained global recognition and admiration

It’s important to recognize that people enjoy and watch anime worldwide, even though 2D animation is more popular in Japan. The significance of foreign viewers, both culturally and financially, is increasing as time goes by.

Even in Japan, many kids enjoy 3D animation shows like Shaun the Sheep, so the aversion that some Japanese anime viewers have to 3D animation is less relevant when considering the backgrounds of those who grew up with shows like Jimmy Neutron.

Many 3D animation studios in Japan have already recognized the global appeal of their product.

Studios like Polygon Pictures and Digital Frontier have set their sights on providing animation that the whole world can enjoy.

Polygon Pictures, in particular, has been expanding its reach by working with Western companies and producing successful shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Tron: Uprising for Disney.

Despite Polygon Pictures’ shift towards animation that resembles anime, the studio’s productions are not limited to a Japanese audience.

CEO Shuzo John Shiota has been working directly with Netflix to distribute the studio’s Japanese animations to the entire world, dubbed and subbed in various languages.

Digital Frontier’s film, Gantz: O, was also released globally on Netflix just three months after screening in cinemas in Japan.

In conclusion, 3D anime has gained a significant following and recognition worldwide.

With many Japanese studios recognizing the global appeal of their product, we can expect to see more high-quality 3D anime productions in the future that are accessible to a broader audience.

3D in Anime: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny




Hi there! My name is Kenny, and I am a massive fan of animation, cartoons, and all things creative. Can visit my site for more: https://cartoonvibe.com