Although not a household name, Studio 4°C has been one of the most productive studios over the past thirty years with projects that span across multiple mediums and countries. Since its formation in 1986, Studio 4°C has had their hand in anime, movies, music videos, live action movies, and American cartoons. Despite their vast array of works, the first thing most people think of when it comes to Studio 4°C are Mind Game and Tekkonkinkreet. If these are the only Studio 4°C movies you have seen, you are doing yourself a disservice. With a wide variety of niche films and anime, Studio 4°C may be one of the most underrated production studios in all of Japan.
Today, we will be looking at the history of Studio 4°C, which is as unique as the anime they create. We will be going over how the studio started, the important people involved with the company along the way, and the many things they have created. With so much history behind the studio, we won't be able to cover every little detail, but we are sure to include as many important details as possible in hopes of giving you a much info as possible. Whether you know nothing about Studio 4°C or are a huge fan of their work, hopefully, you will gain a newfound appreciation for them after you finish the article.
The Early Years
Studio 4°C was founded in 1986 by Eiko Tanaka, and Koji Morimoto. Koji Morimoto was an animator that got his start working on Tomorrow's Joe before becoming a freelance animator. He would work as a freelance animator throughout the early years of Studio 4°C and he would eventually go on to direct a short film called "Franken's Gears" for a short anthology film. Eiko Tanaka had been working at Studio Ghibli as a line producer and work on many of the studio’s earliest films. During the early years of the company, the Studio took on no projects with each of the founding members working on larger projects. It wouldn't be until 1989 that Studio 4°C would produce its first anime.
Jack to Mame no Ki was a short created as a part of a collection of animated shorts inspired by popular children's stories. With their first production underway, the founding members took up new roles that they still keep today. Koji Morimoto took over as director and Eiko Tanaka served as the producer for the short. Although it was only a short, Studio 4°C had proven itself with a unique and interesting style fitting of its name. The origin of the studio's name comes from the fact that it was the temperature water is densest and the founder's desire to "always create works that are dense with substance and quality." Over the next few years, the studio would work on smaller projects like OVAs and music videos. It wouldn't be until 1995 that Studio 4°C took up a bigger project and one that would truly fit the ideals of the founders.
Studio 4°C Branches Out
In 1995 , Studio 4°C teamed up with Madhouse and produced their first ever full-length movie. The movie was called Memories and was a collection of three short stories, two written by Katsuhiro Otomo and one written by Satoshi Kon. The studios brought together some of the top talents in the industry. Koji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura, and Katsuhiro Otomo each directed one of the three segments while the music was composed by Yoko Kanno, Jun Miyake, and Hiroyuki Nagashima. Although Memories never a commercial or critical success, Studio 4°C pushed forward, only wanting to create great content without worrying about money.
After the release of Memories, Studio 4 °C continued to produce minor works including OVAs and music videos. The studio worked on a short film called Noiseman Sound Insect that uniquely used the music to match up with the dialogue. Some of their other major works during the late 90's were the Debutante Detective Corps OVA, which they produced alongside Gainax and a series of shorts called Kimagure Robot that was sponsored by Yahoo. The last project Studio 4 °C would work on in the 90's was an anime film adaption of the manga Spriggan.
Now in the early 2000's, Studio 4°C branched out even more as they started working on video games, commercials, and providing animated segments for major films. Studio 4 °C even teamed up with the Wachowskis to produce four shorts for their animated movie The Animatrix, based on the Wachowskis hit movie The Matrix. Even though Studio 4°C was producing all kinds of content over various mediums, their distinct art and animation style made always let people know exactly who had worked on the project. This artistic style would soon evolve into a much more eccentric style that would make each of Studio 4°C's next few movies stand out.
Mind Game and Tekkonkinkreet
Studio 4 °C saw its workload increase tremendously with all the new projects and began to expand its small team. Studio 4 °C began producing its fourth film. This time they would be adapting Mind Game, a manga by Robin Nishi. The film was directed by Masaaki Yuasa and the film would be his first feature-length film. Mind game was a received well by both the Japanese and foreign audiences. With crazy visuals and a creative spin on the anthology style, Studio 4 °C was able to create something that was truly unique and it was the first time Studio 4 °C has begun to receive some kind of mainstream recognition.
Around the release of Mind Game, Studio 4 °C began work on another project that had been almost ten years in the making. Michael Arias began work on a short, based on Tekkonkinkreet after Koji Morimoto introduced him to the manga's author, Taiyo Matsumoto. The short was released in 1999 and received praised and awards. It wouldn't be until after Michael Arias read a screenplay of Tekkonkinkreet written by Anthony Weintraub, that he would decide to take up the project. After, talks with Koji Morimoto, Michael Arias decided to continue the project at Studio 4 °C. Despite Tekkonkinkreet being Michael Arias' directorial debut, production continued smoothly and the movie was finished in August of 2006.
Even though there were many outsiders working on Tekkonkinkreet, the movie more than any other produced by Studio 4 °C matched the company's mantra. Tekkonkinkreet captivated audiences with its deep story and colorful visuals. Ultimately, the film was received well worldwide, receiving awards in multiple countries. With two critically acclaimed movies produced in three years, Studio 4 °C completed its evolution from a relatively unknown production company to one of the most creative production studios around.
Studio 4c Today
Post Tekkonkinkreet, Studio 4°C continued to put out a variety of products, but never reached the popularity they reached with Tekkonkinkreet. Ater 2006 had come and gone, Studio 4°C started focusing on different types of project more on different types of projects. The studio worked on its last few music videos, and turned its attention to working on short films and T.V. series, with the occasional video game project. The studio also went on to work on some larger projects like Detroit Metal City and an adaption of Berserk's Golden Age arc, while also having smaller roles in movies such as Colorful. Studio 4°C also started working on many foreign productions.
The first foreign production Studio 4°C started working on was Batman: Gotham Knight, where they work alongside many other Japanese studios. Their streak of foreign collaborations continued with the company releasing four of these movies over seven years. Studio 4°C's first collaboration, was First Squad a movie they produced alongside Russian based Molot Entertainment. They would then go on to produce Birdboy: The Forgotten Child and Mutafukaz, which were Spanish and French collaborations respectively. Foreign television series were also worked on by Studio 4°C with the studio working on Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go, Transformers: Animated, and the 2011 version of Thundercats. Outside of these works, Studio 4°C also produced Harmony, a movie directed by Michael Arias that is based on the work of Satoshi Ito. With their most recent movie release being Mutafukaz, it is only a matter of time before Studio 4°C announces their next big project.
With a focus on quality over quantity, Studio 4°C has steadily built itself an impressive resume of shows that only get more unique and stylish as the years go by. In spite of the fact they have created so many quality anime movies, they will never be thought of alongside some of animes biggest produces. What are your thoughts on Studio 4℃? What is your favorite anime they have produced? Let us know in the comments below.