We've all been there: you're watching an anime with seemingly bland animation when all of a sudden it turns into a cinematic masterpiece. In the anime world, people calls this sakuga, a little-known term used to reference scenes where the quality of animation goes from simple to spectacular.
The best sakuga scenes manage to amp up already fantastic animation—the Monogatari series almost always looks remarkable, but Araragi's fight with Kiss Shot takes things to another level.
Other sakuga scenes occur in shows with uneven animation track records. Many of Naruto's filler arcs look pretty terrible, but during showdown between Kakashi and Obito, you'll have a hard time keeping your jaw off the floor.
Sakuga scenes usually appear during the climax of a series or a particularly important scene. Because of the sharp contrast in animation, noteworthy sakuga anime scenes stick with you long after you watch them.
Kakashi Vs. Obito — Naruto
Naruto's animation is really hit-or-miss, but when Studio Pierrot puts the effort in, the show offers some of the most spectacular sakuga scenes ever made.
The fight between Kakashi and Obito, two former best friends who now find themselves on the opposite sides of a war, is a prime example of the studio's heights. With no elaborate jutsu, no verbal interruptions, and no background, the scene shows the two of them swinging their fists in sharp, masterful movements.
Naruto Vs. Sasuke — Naruto
The inital fight between Naruto and Sasuke marks one of the first times Naruto really shows off its sakuga capabilities.
While in motion, many of the characters' finer details fall away—the folds in Sasuke's shirt are gone, for example. This allows for quicker, frenetic actions that make the scene come alive.
During the battle between Spike Spiegel and Vincent Volaju, Spike tells Vincent about his eye for detail. Clearly, whoever animated this scene share's Spike's talent, as far more happens than just exchanging blows.
The punches possess realistic human impact—spit flies from Spike's mouth when he's hit in the face, and the characters routinely catch their breath and struggle to regain balance. What's more, thanks to the festival surrounding them, the backdrop comes alive with fireworks and balloons, adding to the atmosphere of the scene.
Mob Psycho 100's sakuga scenes are predicted by the percentage counter that ticks off the the main character's increasing emotional instability.
When the counter reaches 100%, his psychic powers burst forth, and the cheerful tone of the anime changes completely. Instead of clearly defined figures, the bodies become scribbles and outlines. Instead of bright colors, the characters contrast starkly with the backgrounds.
Scenes like this remind viewers Mob Psycho 100 is far more serious than its innocent animation suggests.