An Ode To The Unsung Art Of Anime Backgrounds

An Ode To The Unsung Art Of Anime Backgrounds

Backdrops are called backdrops for a reason — they’re designed to fade against the focus of a particular scene. But as a new single-serving Tumblr called Anime Backgrounds proves, sometimes the best art is to be found behind the characters.

Like the late, great Animation Backgrounds blog, Anime Backgrounds highlights random moments of beauty that take place while most of us are focused on the story. “I feel like there are lots of blogs dedicated to the art of western animation,” the anonymous creator writes, “so this blog will be ‘mainly’ focused on Japanese and non-western animation.” Since there aren’t terribly many scenes that don’t contain characters, the moderator meticulously Photoshops them out, letting us enjoy the scenes without the intrusion of people and giving us a much-deserved look at the (really) amazing technical drawing skills of greats like Osamu Tezuka and Masamune Shirow.

It bears mentioning that anime, manga and architecture share a surprisingly intimate relationship, thanks to generations of young architects who grow up watching or reading visual stories set in cities. As Japan recovered from World War II, a group of young Japanese architects — known as the Metabolists — imagined rebuilding cities as organic, adaptable megastructures (some of them succeeded).

Kiyonori Kikutake’s Stratiform Structure Module, from 1972.

When anime came of age in the 1970s, many films were set in cities that bore both the scars of war and the signs of Metabolist-style regeneration, multiplied by a few orders of magnitude for visual effect. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, a new generation of architects emerged with a vision of the city that was deeply informed by the classic anime they grew up with — hence, “anime architecture“.

But that’s a cultural history for someone else to parse — for now, enjoy these intricate architectural stage sets, courtesy of Anime Backgrounds.

5 Centimeters Per Second, 1997.

Ghost in the Shell, 1995.

Tekkonkinkreet, 1996.

Metropolis, 2000.

Blood: The Last Vampire, 2000.

What other gems are missing? Feel free to comment with your own favourites.