The animation industry in Japan has gone through some major changes throughout the years, the largest of which occurred sometime in the early 2000s when studios switched from cel animation to CG. As someone who has been in the animation artwork hobby for going on 25 years, it’s very sad to see an era of the most gorgeous pieces of art come and go. That being said, another major shift may strike yet another nail in the coffin of physical animation materials.

Earlier this month, Mitsubishi announced that it would be ceasing production of all but one of their “7700” line of hard-core colored pencils which have been a favorite among animators since they allowed animators to draw much finer lines than with typical colored pencils. Originally with 12 different colors, all but 4 colors were discontinued in 2015, leaving orange #4, yellow-green #5, light blue #8, and red #15. For whatever reason, as reported by NHK, Mitsubishi stated that it had become difficult to obtain raw materials needed to produce the pencils recently, perhaps stemming from the COVID pandemic, and decided to discontinue the production of all but a single shade: Red.

Regarding discontinuing these three colors, Mitsubishi stated, “We apologize for the inconvenience caused to customers who have used it as a necessity, but we thank them for their patronage over the years." Likewise, the Association of Japanese Animations stated that the “7700” line of pencils were “an important tool indispensable for animation production, which will be greatly affected by its discontinuation.” Final orders for the pencils have closed on February 10 with production ending in later in June.

Below are a couple samples of animation production artwork that I personally own in my gallery. The following are from the early to mid 90s, so you can see how many different colors were used at the time for these illustrations. The first is from what is known as a genga whereas the latter is a douga. Generally speaking, genga are much more detailed and may contain an assortment of colors with large areas colored in, whereas on the other hand, douga are the final illustrations that are used to produce a single frame of animation with a cel. Of course, all of these were originally drawn and/or painted by hand.

As time continues to pass, it’s not unreasonable to assume additional changes in the animation production will continue to transpire, furthering the digital era of animation. For us traditional art collectors, it’s very sad, but there are still many amazing things that can only be done with CG. Some amazing examples of this can be seen by studios such as ufotable with their FATE and more recently Demon Slayer series of animations. Although the majority of these shows are entirely CG, the initial illustrations such as the genga and douga among others, are all still drawn by hand.

By - Terra Dragos.