Updated: Sep 5, 2019
As someone who loves watching Japanese anime, I've been wanting to create (or recreate) an anime scene in Blender. Photorealism is my preferred artstyle when creating a scene in Blender, however this time, just like my Green Gardens remake, I wanted to go towards an artstyle that matches what the scene is from (or what it would be from). So rather than making a realistic version of an anime scene, I wanted to have the scene be stylized in it's original art direction.
At first, I tried going for my own scene (a tatami room) with an anime artstyle. The biggest challenge here was getting it to look like a 2D scene. Anime scenes tend to have a lot of solid colors used throughout, so I tried to keep the textures as minimal as possible. Only the floors, ceiling, and tatami mat have textures, while every other geometry in the scene only have a solid diffuse color. At first glance, I thought the scene looked pretty okay, but when I took it to Reddit to get some feedback from others, it didn't get a lot of praise. I thought maybe the room was too big, or that the lighting was off, or that the composition was just bad.
So I tried adjusting the focal length and angle of the camera, changed the lighting and color composition, and closed off the room more. However, even after all those changes, the scene still looked off. I felt as if the scene looked a little bit realistic, as some elements in the scene didn't blend with the other elements (e.g. the potted plant and apples compared to the furniture). I also felt as if the composition of the scene wasn't right (e.g. focus of scene, camera placement and perspective, object placement).
The next day, I figured I should try and recreate a scene that's from an anime and use that as the reference to go off of. This would not only be easier on my part, but also helpful as I would be able to understand how the composition of an existing anime scene(s) would work, as well as be able to try match the exact look from the image. The only question then was to figure out what I would be basing my next attempt to an anime stylized scene from. I considered many things, like the streets of Tokyo from Your Name 君の名は。or the rails and Bullet Trains from many other slice of life animes. After a good 15 minutes of thinking, I decided to take reference from an anime I recently watched and enjoyed. I decided to recreate the observatory from Celestial Method (Sora No Method そらメソ ).
The observatory is the main landmark of the show's setting, so I figured that anyone who have watched the show would easily be able to make out the scene (and correct I was, as I posted a draft render on reddit for feedback, a reddit user actually guessed what the render is based on). I decided to recreate the scene of the observatory above.
Most slice of life animes have locations that are based on real life locations in Japan, so I searched for the real life location of the observatory from the show, and used it as a reference of the geometry and shape of the observatory.
All textures used for the models were painted in Krita. I used my own painted textures for the base and walls of the observatory's tower, the bridge, bridge fence, and the grunge on the top grey of the observatory.
I was afraid to put in a little too much detail to the textures, as it could make the scene look a bit too real or very off. Applying the door texture into the scene was a little tough because of how alpha and blended materials work in the Eeevee engine of Blender, but I eventually was able to figure it out. For other parts of the scene such as the top of the observatory and the trees, I used solid diffuse colors just like in the tatami room. The trees were handled differently since there were multiple trees.
Most trees in anime are textured as a water colored tree, so I had no idea how I would be able to recreate that exactly look in Blender, so I decided to work around it and go for something that would work just as well. I made procedural set up for the leaves material that would create a constant solid gradient that I would be able to control the direction it was facing. In this instance, I had the solid gradient consist of 3 different colors. The colors would match the following; shadowed, diffused, highlighted. So without having to color grade, I was able to control the normal facing of the gradient to match where the sun would hit the trees and where the shadows from the leaves are. For the vines, I had the leaves use a modified version of the same procedural material used for the trees. The difference being the direction of the gradient.
Finally, I went ahead and modeled a background element (utility pole) for the scene, despite the anime and real life location actually having any utility poles behind it. While this does break the "true recreation" of the scene, I felt as if the background needed something. It felt too empty.
The utility pole's material mainly consisted of solid colors and recycled textures since it was a faraway background element. It's funny how much effort went into a simple background element of a scene. A lot of the detail would not be visible to the viewer's eye in the final render, but I still gave it my all!
While making this scene, I realized that it was hard to create an anime scene before because of the lack of a focus. It is standard composition rule, yet I still forget about it sometimes. Most anime scenes have the focus being on the character running or doing some action in the scenery despite the environment being wide and big, or they'll have the focus be on a specific landmark/item/structure in the scene while the characters are talking to each other or to be found else where. My point is, at first, I thought just making some 3D scene and giving it a 2D look would do the job. However, since I failed to create a proper composition for the first scene, it failed to attract or even keep the viewer on the screen.