A Comprehensive Guide to Old School Anime Artificial Intelligence

With the recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, many are wondering how these technologies could be applied to classic anime from earlier eras. In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the possibilities, challenges, and ethical considerations around developing AI for anime franchises from the 1980s through early 2000s.

What is Old School Anime?

Old school anime, also called retro anime, refers generally to anime television series and films produced between 1980 to early 2000s. This era saw the birth and rise of many beloved franchises that still have passionate fanbases today. Some canonical examples include Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, and Cardcaptor Sakura.

Can AI Generate Old School Anime Art Styles?

One promising application of AI is generating original artwork and animation in the visual styles of classic anime series. Several startups are exploring this using neural networks trained on thousands of individual cels and frames from retro shows. Preliminary results have been impressive, with AI reproducing character designs, background environments, and even animation sequences that are nearly indistinguishable from the originals.

However, accurately simulating the intricate techniques of cel and watercolor animation from that era remains challenging. Subtle stylistic elements like intricate shadowing, color palette choices, and brushstroke textures are hard to fully capture computationally. Researchers continue improving neural network architectures to better understand and emulate retro animation aesthetics at a fine-grained level.

Could AI Help Continue Beloved Storylines?

With many beloved old school anime never getting concrete endings, fans often debate “what really happened next?” AI may one day assist in continuing neglected storylines in a sensitive, canon-compliant manner. However, accurately predicting complex character arcs and narrative turns requires a nuanced grasp of Japanese culture, lore, and the original creator’s artistic vision—areas most AI still struggle with.

For the foreseeable future, any AI continuation would likely work best as non-canon side stories and remixes, with clear human oversight. Directly “finishing” unfinished works through AI alone risks damaging fan investment in the original source material. Subtlety, emotional coherence, and respecting a work’s spirit are hurdles AI must still progress on.

Voice Synthesis for Classic Characters

With voice actors sadly no longer available, could AI synthesize convincing new dialogue for retro characters? While text-to-speech for existing characters shows promise, generating entirely new written scripts that capture a character’s unique personality, backstory nuances, and speech patterns presents even bigger challenges.

For beloved characters, the risk of AI scripts feeling emotionless or out-of-character could upset fans. A hybrid human-AI approach, with writers carefully crafting dialogue for AI voices, may achieve the most natural results while maintaining creative control and quality assurance. Addressing these social and technical dilemmas will be key to preventing potential AI-generated content from damaging a franchise’s legacy.

Key Takeaways

In summary, while AI holds exciting possibilities, developers must thoughtfully consider various risks around continuing beloved yet incomplete retro anime works without original creator guidance. A careful, nuanced partnership between AI and human experts seems most promising. Focusing on non-canon applications like supplementary storytelling or artwork generation first could help build experience while avoiding issues. Overall, with prudent development and clear communication with fans, AI may one day assist in new ways to experience classic series while respecting their cultural impact and artistic spirit.


Q: Will AI ever fully replace human animation?

While AI is improving, the complex artistry of cel animation cannot be fully automated yet. AI will likely continue enhancing human studios rather than replacing them.

Q: Is it wrong to use AI to continue unfinished stories?

While exciting to fans, directly finishing incomplete works through AI alone risks changing the original creator’s vision and message. AI is better suited to supplemental non-canon content for now.

Q: Could AI help restore lost or damaged old anime?

With enough archived reference material, AI shows promise in restoring elements like colors or lineart that have degraded over time. This is an area where AI augmentation could profoundly benefit preservation.

Q: Is it legal to create AI continuations of copyrighted works?

The legality depends on many factors but non-commercial fanworks, especially non-canon ones, tend to have more leeway. Direct commercial use would likely require rights holders’ involvement. As with any derivatives, proper attribution is important.

Q: Why are some fans opposed to AI-generated anime content?

For the most invested fans, only the original creators’ artistry is considered “authentic”. There are also fears AI could lower production values or infringe on respect for the source material. Transparency around AI’s role helps address these concerns.

I hope this overview provided a comprehensive look at both the opportunities and complexities around applying artificial intelligence to classic retro anime. Please feel free to explore related topics in more depth or provide your own thoughts and questions! Properly developed, AI could enhance appreciation for these beloved works for years to come.

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