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The world of Anime/Animation studios is a complex one. We’re never sure where to give credit for some of our favourite moments of animation since so much animation is outsourced to freelancers who may not stick around for the studio’s next project. However, each studio does have their own set of regulars and in-house talent that helps create their image and develop their shows into something special.
This is a list of the top ten best anime/animation studios based on the work produced either by in-house staff, animators that were originally hired by them, frequent freelancers and most importantly, their works today.
10. Doga Kobo
Don’t stop moving. It’s a philosophy that Doga Kobo, a big anime studio, seems to embrace with their best works. Ever since Yuru Yuri, the Doga Gods (As I like to refer to them) have assembled a star team made up of freelancers and in-house staff to create some of the most consistent character animation within anime. With talents such as Masayuki Nonoka and Ryousuke Nishii, there is no such thing as a still cut when they’re involved.
Doga Kobo’s production output has increased dramatically since Yuru Yuri and their success within comedy series. With Love Lab being an example of incredible character animation and Plastic Memories putting this talent to use for dramatic scenes, this studio always attempts to surpass their own limits and try out new things. Whilst some of their ventures into different genres haven’t been overly successful, I’m looking forward to seeing their work on the currently airing Aria of Scarlet Ammo AA.
It’s honestly quite depressing to have to put Studio Madhouse this far down on the list. Once hailed as one of the most talented anime studios with the creation of many incredible films such as Satoshi Kon’s Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers, they are no longer in a position to be able to create such works at any frequent rate. With Madhouse’s failure to create the final Satoshi Kon film, The Dreaming Machine, the studio’s founder left to set up Studio MAPPA instead, taking many key staff with him.
However, their reputation from the past with works such as Redline, Paprika and Ninja Scroll is not to be forgotten and this prestige has kept them on track, giving them opportunities to create new original projects such as Death Parade and the opportunity to work on larger projects like the currently airing One Punch Man. Whilst they may be regarded as a relic from the past, Madhouse still do have a strong staff and who knows? Maybe Takeshi Koike is working on his next film for them. Hopefully it doesn’t take 7 years this time.
8. WIT STUDIO
Claiming immediate fame with their work on Attack on Titan in 2013, anime studio Wit Studio immediately became a key part of Production IG. With new anime productions such as Hoozuki no Reitetsu and The Rolling Girls, they’ve expanded their library into new genres entirely and executed them effectively. With regulars like Arifumi Imai creating some of Attack on Titan’s greatest fight scenes and Animation Director Katsuhiko designing The Rolling Girls’ incredible aesthetic, Wit Studio is not at all short on talent in their phone book.
With the production of Attack on Titan Season 2, the Project Itoh film Empire of Corpses and Knocking on the Wall of the Armoured Fortress, Wit will certainly be busy over the next few years. Look forward to Armoured Fortress in particular. Director Tetsuo Araki has a strange superpower that turns everything he works on into the next big thing.
In a world where “Former Gainax” is becoming an ever present term, Gainax is an anime studio that’s given rise to some of the best animators in the industry who eventually left. Once known for Neon Genesis Evagangelion, Gurren Lagann and FLCL, they’ve certainly downsized since, producing smaller works like Magica Wars and Wish Upon the Pleiades (Fun fact: It’s sponsored by Subaru).
However, despite the studio now being smaller, they’re still producing gems, just less of them. With director Shouji Saeki and animators such as Megumi Kouno and Sumie Kinoshita, their work demonstrates what modern Gainax really can be with shows like Hanamaru Kindergarten and Medaka Box. It’s a new Gainax and whilst it may be lacking Hiroyuki Imaishi after he left to help found Trigger, I’m perfectly fine with what we have right now.
I mentioned earlier that one of the original founders of Madhouse, Masao Maruyama left. Studio MAPPA was the product of that departure; the opportunity to create the sort of works that others wouldn’t. In his attempt to revive what can now be regarded as an older Madhouse, Maruyama started this anime studio to finish off The Dreaming Machine by the late Satoshi Kon. However in the meantime, MAPPA has produced the newest work by Shinichiro Watanabe, Terror in Resonance, the epic fantasy series, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, the incredibly unique original series, Punch Line and more.
Currently collaborating on Ushio to Tora with Studio VOLN and with the upcoming film, In This Corner of the World, Studio MAPPA are becoming a team to keep an eye on. Maruyama has promised to never give up on The Dreaming Machine either, so expect wonderful things from the studio in the future. (Hopefully the near future)
Yeah! It’s those guys who make those Monogatari series. Despite this anime studio having been formed in 1975, it’s their work since 2006 that has really captured viewer’s attention. It was around this point that Akiyuki Shinbo stepped on board to create some of the studio’s most popular works. With Madoka Magica, Nisekoi and the Monogatari series, Shinbo was given the opportunity to express his own personal insanity with expressive shots and an eccentric use of shape and colour.
Thankfully SHAFT is staffed by a talented team of animators that can somehow keep up with this insanity. People like Gen’ichirou Abe and the incredible Ryo Imamura guarantee that there’s not a single dull episode when you’re watching a SHAFT show. Or film, come to think of it, Kizumonogatari will be releasing its first part next year and from the look of it, it’s going to be goddamn amazing.
4. Tatsunoko Production
When you think of classic anime, there’s two words that immediately come to mind. One is Tezuka and the other is Tatsunoko. As one of the two anime studios that are still alive after being founded during the dawn of TV Anime (The other is Toei Animation), Tatsunoko lives based on its heritage. Although Names like Gatchaman, Yatterman and Space Ace are still familiar to classic anime fans, they didn’t have any new hits for many years.
It was only in 2010 when Tatsunoko Production brought in Ryo-chimo, a web animator with an incredible amount of talent that Tatsunoko started to develop a new image. No longer a relic in the past, Tatsunoko became the face of web animation with an incredible new team who worked to develop shows like Yozakura Quartet, Gatchaman Crowds and Yatterman Night. With incredibly fluid animation that stands as a great example of modern anime, I cannot wait to watch each and every new series by them.
There are some anime studios that struggle to keep afloat, slowly making anime whenever they can. Then there’s Sunrise with its 13 studios, huge original franchises and 5 currently airing shows. As a part of Bandai Namco, Sunrise has a huge staff, capable of producing multiple series at once and stand at the top of the anime industry in this respect. Whether it’s Aikatsu, Gundam, Gintama or Tiger & Bunny, you can expect regular installments of some of your favourite Sunrise series.
Sunrise has such a huge catalogue and with shows like Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass and Love Live, you’ve probably seen something from at least one of their army of studios. Currently working on Brave Beats, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Gintama, there’s no given point where they’re not working on something great. Especially the new Gundam, definitely give it a watch!
2. Kyoto Animation
Kyoto Animation is the isolated iron fortress of animation. Obscure reference aside, they are the only anime studio within the animation industry to not use freelancers or outsource anything. Every production is built from the ground up inside the Kyoto Animation studio walls. This creates an incredibly consistent quality as all animators are on the same page at all times and everyone involved knows exactly what needs to be done. They’re also one of the very few studios to pay their animators a decent livable wage, meaning that their animators have no reason to freelance either.
Not that they’d be able to anyways, Kyoto Animation (as the name implies) is set up in Kyoto, whilst most other studios are clustered together in Tokyo. So out there in the west, they’re able to produce stunning shows like Hibike Euphonium, Haruhi Suzumiya and Hyouka without having to rely on a freelancer who knows nothing about the project outside of a storyboard.
Finally there is the anime studio Bones. Nowadays, Studio Bones animators exist within the pinnacle of modern animation. People like Yoshimichi Kameda, Bahi JD and a whole bunch of incredibly talented animators have all spent time in the Studio Bones offices. With standout works like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Eureka Seven and Ouran High School Host Club, they’ve established themselves within recent history and they’ve been breaking our expectations each and every year.
With Space Dandy being the best animated TV anime of all time, Studio Bones made a whole load of new contacts and they’ve capitalised on this in future works such as this year’s Blood Blockade Battlefront. Now with this season’s Concrete Revolutio, they’re really showing off why they’re regarded so highly within the anime space with some incredible animation.
So there you go, these are 10 names that you should definitely be looking out for whenever new shows get announced. They’ve each got their unique histories within the anime medium and have talented animators on call, all with specific talents regarding different sides of animation. Let me know who your favourite anime studios are in the comments below!