Production I.G is one of the most recognizable, prolific, and respected anime studios. The company has been responsible for many popular and culturally important anime titles such as Ghost in the Shell, Pyscho-Pass, Patlabor, Guilty Crown, and Haikyuu!! and has also provided animation for video games like Namco's Tales of series of RPGs and Sakura Wars. In this Editorial Tuesday we're going to discuss the history of Production I.G from early beginnings and major milestones to modern activities.
CREATION – PUTTING THE I AND G INTO PRODUCTION
Production I.G was officially established on December 15, 1987 as “I.G .Tatsunoko” as a break-off group from venerable anime studio Tatsunoko Production (Speed Racer, Ping Pong The Animation, Gatchaman Crowds, etc.). Led by production manager/producer Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and character designer Takayuki Goto (with Ishikawa and Goto being the origin of the “I.G.”) with support from Hideaki Hatta of Kyoto Animation, I.G. Tatsunoko was created as a way to keep the staff who had worked on Tatsunoko's sci-fi anime Zillion together. The company officially changed its name to Production I.G during the last stages of production on the anime movie Patlabor 2 after it became financially separate from Tatsunoko Productions in 1993 (which had previously held 20% of the company's stock). Since becoming its own company, Production I.G has grown tremendously.
Technically, the studio currently exists as part of the holding company IG Port Inc., a merger between Production I.G and manga publisher Mag Garden, which also includes major anime producers Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, The Ancient Magus' Bride, etc.) and XEBEC (Love Hina, Negima!, To Love-Ru, etc.). In addition, Production I.G was heavily involved in the creation of the studio Bee Train Production (known for the .hack// series and El Cazador de la Bruja) which was a subsidiary of Production I.G until becoming independent in 2006.
Mitsuhisa Ishikawa remains the CEO of Production I.G and also works as a producer and part-time director. He is also one of the owners of Tatsunoko Production. Ishikawa has publically stated before that the “I.G” could also mean “Itsumo (always) Genki (happy/energetic)” now that he is the sole president but that in reality it still stands for his and Goto's initials.
BREAKOUT SUCCESS & INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION
Production I.G's first major hit under its current name was 1995's Ghost in the Shell by visionary director Mamoru Oshii, who has worked with Production I.G to produce the animation for all of his films since Patlabor: The Movie. Based on the popular manga series of the same name by Masamune Shirow, Oshii's Ghost in the Shell remains one of the most influential and popular anime films of all time. A seminal title in establishing the cyberpunk genre, Ghost in the Shell was also the best-selling home video release of 1996 in the United States and has been a huge inspiration for famous western film directors such the Wachowskis and James Cameron.
Production I.G would also be the studio for Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the first Japanese animated feature to compete for the Palme d'Or at the Festival de Cannes in 2004, along with other Ghost in the Shell works like Kenji Kamiyama's acclaimed TV anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and, more recently, 2015's Ghost in the Shell: Arise.
One of the defining characteristics of Production I.G has been the studio's collaborations with other anime studios and, more uniquely for an anime studio, with non-Japanese companies and properties. Following shortly after the original Ghost in the Shell movie, Production I.G collaborated with GAINAX to produce the animation for Hideaki Anno's acclaimed films: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion in 1997. The studio would work together with GAINAX again to produce the cult hit OVA series FLCL.
Production I.G has also worked on a variety of Western properties and productions. The studio provided the animation for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1, the second Batman: Gotham Knight short film (Crossfire), Ezra Koenig's TV series Neo Yokio (co-production with Studio DEEN), and two entries in 343 Industries' Halo Legends short film series (The Duel and Homecoming, the later in cooperation with Bee Train Production). American readers might also remember the mecha-racing series IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix, which Production I.G. co-developed and co-produced with Cartoon Network. This marked the first collaboration between a U.S. cable network and a Japanese anime studio in 2003. Production I.G. has continued the trend with Cartoon Network again for FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative, and with Netflix for B: The Beginning.
Anime viewers have definitely praised the top-notch animation quality that Production I.G is known for, in particular with their action sequences. The studio has been quite forward-thinking in adopting digital techniques and carefully blending traditionally drawn 2D animation with 3D models to both enhance and ease production. Production I.G is probably best known for making science-fiction stories with a philosophical or psychological element to them, with a penchant for characters that are part of police or paramilitary force as seen in Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass, Patlabor, and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The studio has also had its hand in a handful of bizarre, off-the-wall anime like Dead Leaves and FLCL. In addition, Production I.G has recently created some of the most popular and well-regarded sports anime series with Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko's Basketball) in 2012 and Haikyuu!! in 2014. Another hallmark of the studio worth mentioning is high-quality music from both high-profile composers like the legendary Yoko Kanno (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) and famous musical groups like The Pillows (FLCL).
INTO THE (LIKELY) BRILLIANT FUTURE
As evidenced by the studio's continual growth, talent, and attitude of staying ahead of the curve in terms of technology and new techniques, we can only imagine great things to keep coming from Production I.G. going forward. After finishing up currently airing series like FLCL Alternative/Progressive and The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: The New Thesis, the next big project for Production I.G looks to be a full 3DCG, motion-captured adaptation of the new Ultraman manga in collaboration with Sola Digital Arts led by duo directors Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East, etc.) and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed Alpha, Starship Troopers: Invasion, etc.) which is set to release in 2019. It has also been announced that the same pair will also be working on a new Ghost in the Shell project but no other details are currently known so stay tuned!
Since its foundation in the late 80s, Production I.G has grown from a splinter group from of another company to a powerhouse in the anime industry. The studio has created many memorable and influential works, pioneered techniques that have pushed the industry forward, nurtured new talent, spawned new breakout studios themselves, and been a major force in making anime the international phenomenon that it is today. We at Honey's Anime wish Production I.G. the best of luck going forward, we can't wait to see what the studio has in store for us!