Nowadays there seems to be nothing that AI programs cannot do. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have made digital “face-offs” with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays on the fly Eye. Pretty soon, AI will likely decide who wins at the Oscars.
Over the past year, AI has also been used to create beautiful artwork in seconds, creating a viral new trend and bringing a boon to fan artists around the world. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip with lots of AI generated images from Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are portrayed as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is worrying to say the least. Depending on your point of view, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original artworks or enhance artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as an anime of the 1980s?
The video plays Metro Boomin’s rap remix of the famous monologue “I’m the One Who Knocks,” and features cast images that range from shockingly realistic to completely over the top. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their opinions on the art. One user wrote, “Entertainment industry implications notwithstanding, I can’t wait for the AI to advance enough to animate the whole show like this.”
Despite the hype, the anime images in the video look like something you would see after taking a hit of Heisenberg’s “Blue Sky.” To be fair, the digital art itself is pretty good, especially considering an AI program pulled it off. However, it’s quite harrowing to see Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Gus Fring, and so many other iconic characters from the live-action show recreated as anime drawings. Usually in this case it is the other way around.
An imperfect art
There has been much controversy over the increasing popularity of AI-generated art, as people fear such a practice will eventually replace human artists, making them unemployed and robbing the world of its true creativity. You could say they’re worried that the AI will “become the one who knocks”. That fear is best summed up by another TikTok user, who commented on the idea of using an AI to create a Breaking Bad anime: “To have the opportunity would be amazing, but I wouldn’t want to watch a show that.” was only made by AI. without any human intervention… imo.”
In the end, although AI art generators are quite remarkable and efficient, there is no substitute for human artists. Artificial intelligence can sometimes be prone to human error without really being aware of the problem, so the art doesn’t always come out right. Case in point: when Walter and Jesse were recreated in their signature yellow hazmat suits, the program gave them what looks like Mobile Suit Gundam pilot uniforms. On top of that, the anime Saul Goodman looks more like Phoenix Wright’s illegitimate child: Ace Attorney and Michael Bluth from Arrested Development than the real thing.
If the purpose is to faithfully recreate the original, then Breaking Bad AI has failed. If the goal here is to create something that is dramatically different from the source material, why do it at all? This work obviously infringes copyrighted works, isn’t funny enough to warrant parody status, and only exists because… it can. Did Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan ask for this? Probably not. What if he feels the artificially intelligent work is undermining his original vision? Does the original artist’s opinion matter if someone uses AI to create another piece of art based on their creation? It seems that Breaking Bad AI has no other purpose than to scare people about technological advances.
A harbinger of the future?
And it’s frightening. It is somewhat disconcerting that a computer program can now realistically recreate the human body so quickly. People managing these AI artists should, as Walter would say, “take it easy” as there comes a point where the animation ventures too deep into the uncanny valley.
Unfortunately, some of these anime drawings sit right on the edge of this dreaded territory, as Walter and Gus’ hands look more like real human hands than the rest of their bodies. It’s like the computer chopped off real people’s hands and pasted them on these anime drawings, which is a little creepy.
While obviously made with good intentions and a light-hearted spirit, this AI-produced collection of Breaking Bad animes is both technically amazing and borderline frightening. What other works are ripe for an unofficial “remake”? And will these remakes unleashed in the wilds of the internet and social media outperform the original? Or does this represent an opportunity for artists to test their creative skills and workshop projects for the public to see if they work or not.
Thanks to this fan art, people now know what a Breaking Bad anime would look like. And judging by the enthusiastic feedback in the video’s comments section, it’s clear that many viewers would tune in to watch it. It remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or not.
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