Cute Japanese cityscape in '2.5D'

If you've ever spent more hours than is strictly wise cultivating your own urban sprawl in the game SimCity, you'll experience a familiar thrill when watching buildings pop out of the ground and roads shoot off towards the horizon in City Planning, animation duo Onionskin's new video for the latest track from Japanese indie group Doit Science.

Animation: City Planning

Onionskin’s Toshikazu Tamura: “It was hard artistically and technically because it was the longest music video we’ve made so far”

Yet according to Toshikazu Tamura - who formed Onionskin with fellow Tokyo University of the Arts student Ai Sugaya - the '90s PC-gaming phenomenon wasn’t on the map.

"It's very interesting: we had never played SimCity until we heard the web comments saying that it was like it," Tamura reveals. "If we did it again, we would add a natural disaster scene like in the game."

Animation: City Planning 2

The futuristic visions of illustrator Hiroshi Manabe provided Onionskin with inspiration for scenes where a rocket blasts off to establish a city on another planet

The song's lyrics reference airfields, baseball fields, pedestrian crossings and the Tokyo Tower. "Therefore we planned a city that syncs with the rhythm and lyrics of the song," Tamura says.

"We didn't make a storyboard exactly. We made many kinds of buildings, and we placed them in a completed drawing of the city in Illustrator. Then we opened it in After Effects and thought about how a city moved to music."

'2.5D' landscape

Tamura credits the colourful and whimsical world of Katamari Damacy as an influence, as well as the 1983 console game Antarctic Adventure. Accordingly, the landscape is neither flat nor 3D, but deliberately '2.5D': "We didn't want to make something like existing motion graphic and 3D movies. We think that the expression of 2.5D, different from both 2D and 3D, is unique and kawaii."

This showcase was originally published in Computer Arts issue 204.

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