Sunrise is a studio that needs no introduction. Like many studios formed in the 70s, it was originally made up of ex-Mushi Pro members. Sunrise quickly distinguished itself, and grew into a huge production company with numerous sub-studios. Specialising in mecha anime, the studio has often been at the forefront of the genre, defining the genre from the 70s to today.
This top 10 details Sunrise’s most successful anime - it’s a mix of commercial and critical success, and how much influence they had on a particular genre. Included are only anime produced by Sunrise (or as prime contractors). At number 10 is one of Sunrise’s most recent offerings; Kakumeiki Valvrave!
10. Kakumeiki Valvrave (Valvrave the Liberator)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2013 - Jun 2013
In a future earth dominated by war between two world-superpowers, Haruto Tokishima is a normal high school boy, living in one of the only remaining peaceful regions. However, when one of the factions invades his peaceful colony, this looks set to change forever. Discovering the secret super-weapon Valvrave, Haruto now has the power to protect everything he loves, but at a terrible cost!
Though not as well known as some of Sunrise’s other mecha offerings, Kakumeiki Valvrave still has plenty to offer! The series is an important addition to the studio’s extensive mecha collection as it shows that even now it’s possible to add new elements to a very well established genre.
9. City Hunter
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Apr 1987 - Mar 1988
Set in 1980s Tokyo, City Hunter follows Ryo Saeba, a super-cool, womanising, hired gun, and his partner, the beautiful-but-tough Kaori Makimura. The pair roam Tokyo, solving cases and fighting crime, while kicking ass to 80s beats.
Another anime which is based on a popular manga, Sunrise’s adaptation is a cult series in its own right. Seriously aided by its voice acting, the series’ main characters Ryo and Kaori were voted amongst the most popular anime characters for several years running. Sunrise capitalised on the series’ success with the release of a movie and several specials.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2003 - Apr 2004
When travelling outside earth is part of daily life, humanity is plagued by a few problems you might never think of. For example - what happens when a speeding shuttle hits an old, abandoned satellite at thousands of miles per hour? Enter Technora’s Debris Collecting section; a gang of underpaid and overworked space-cleaners. It’s their job to clean up all the debris floating junk, be it big or small, and keep humanity safe above the skies.
At first glance Planetes might seem mundane, but this futuristic slice-of-life anime is one of Sunrise’s hidden gems! Despite modest popularity, it won awards in anime and sci-fi circles, and showcases Sunrise’s ability to please both mass markets and anime connoisseurs alike.
7. Densetsu Kyojin Ideon (Space Runaway Ideon)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: May 1980 - Jan 1981
On the planet Solo, human scientists uncover the remains of an ancient civilisation. These include a mysterious robot called the Ideon. It soon transpires that humans from another planet, calling themselves the Buff Clan, are also searching for something on Solo. After their meeting turns violent, the Earthlings must discover the secrets of the Ideon before it’s too late!
Space Runaway Ideon is a Sunrise anime with far-reaching influence. Though not as critically successful as Gundam, Ideon was one of the first truly dark and gritty mecha anime, paving the way for favourites such as Evangelion. Though low ratings forced the show to end prematurely, fans eventually pressured the studio into releasing two movies which concluded the action, leading to it eventually becoming a cult classic.
6. Tiger and Bunny
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2011 - Sep 2011
Enter Sternbuild City, where all superheroes compete in a reality TV show to be crowned “King of Heroes”. One of these superheroes is veteran Wild Tiger; he’s considered past his prime and has virtually no chance of taking the award. However, when he is teamed up with rookie Barnaby “Bunny” Brooks, things start to look up for the old-timer - that is while the two aren’t busy arguing! Can Tiger and Bunny overcome their differences and be crowned kings?
One of Sunrise’s more recent fan favourites, Tiger and Bunny was a critical and commercial success. It spawned a one-shot manga, and two films - a sort-of prequel and a sequel. The series was so successful that when Bandai released a series of action figures they quickly sold out!
- Episodes: 167
- Aired: Oct 2000 - Sep 2004
Higurashi Kagome is just a normal schoolgirl, until one day she is transported to Feudal Japan by a demon. As if this wasn’t enough, she discovers she is the bearer of a powerful gem, whose power could be devastating if it falls into the wrong hands. When the gem is smashed into a million pieces, Kagome joins forces with the half-demon Inu Yasha, and a host of other characters, to hunt down the gem’s shards, and stop them being used for evil!
From number 5 onwards we enter the big guns! Inuyasha is based on a popular manga which itself had an original run of 8 years! Not to be outdone however, Sunrise followed Inuyasha with a second season, four movies and an OVA. Inuyasha is an anime which is quietly successful, and one that every anime fan has heard of!
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: Apr 2006 - Mar 2010
Gintoki Sakata is a samurai living in feudal Japan. Well, he was, before aliens conquered humanity and made carrying swords illegal. Now he is joined by Kagura and Shinpachi as the Yorozuya - people who will do anything for money! As can be expected, things rarely go to plan, and often the trio are led on hilarious adventures, which rarely pay them in the way they expect it.
As if being responsible for a load of cult anime from the 70s, 80s and 90s wasn’t enough, Sunrise also had a string of hits in the 2000s. Gintama is one of these; based on a popular manga, the anime arguably rose to be as popular, if not eclipsing the manga’s fame. For Sunrise the anime is a star performer, with two sequel series and two movies.
3. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 2006 - Jul 2007
Seven years ago Japan was invaded by the Holy Empire of Britannia, using newly developed mobile suits called Knightmare Frames. In the present day Japan is called Area 11, and Japanese people live as second-class citizens while the Britannian aristocracy lives comfortably in fortified settlements. Lelouch is one of these aristocrats: disillusioned by the actions of the Empire, he one day receives a power which starts him on a journey to bring the Empire down!
Code Geass is massive! A blockbuster, and often gateway series for new anime fans, it received a string of awards including best anime at the International Anime Fair. With its constant lauding, it’s no surprise that it was followed by manga, OVAs, novels and video games. Code Geass is one of Sunrise’s most important anime and has something for all anime lovers!
2. Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidou Senshi Gundam)
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: Apr 1979 - Jan 1980
In the future, humanity is split into two main factions; the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. The two factions are locked in a war in space - one that will seemingly never end! One day, when Amuro Ray’s colony is attacked by the Principality’s forces, he takes control of the Gundam - a weapon that is hoped to end the war and bring peace to the galaxy.
Here is an anime which needs no introduction! Gundam is one of the most prolific anime of all time, spawning a massive amount of spin-offs, many of which are successful in their own right. Surprisingly the series was cancelled for low ratings - but it was brought back when the toys were a sellout success. This series was absolutely critical for sunrise, and was a big factor in transforming it from a single studio to the giant of anime it is today! As well as portraying mobile suit pilots as ordinary people, which arguably changed the genre for good, Gundam is now a cult series which went on to win numerous awards.
1. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 1998 - Apr 1999
In the year 2071, humanity is now spread amongst the solar system. Unable to police the new frontier, the Inter Solar Police System relies on bounty hunters to bring in dangerous criminals, often for massive rewards! The series follows Spike and Jet, a bounty-hunting duo for whom things always seem to be going wrong. Along the way they are joined by the zany Edward, and the mysterious Faye Valentine.
Widely considered a masterpiece, this is another gateway anime which has attracted many people to the genre. For Sunrise this was nothing new, but another cult anime couldn’t hurt their already sizeable reputation! Winning best anime at the Anime Grand Prix awards and a string of best character awards too, it also spawned a manga, a movie and two video games!
That’s all for this list! The top 4 for this were really hard to place - I’ll admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Gundam, despite its dodgy animation and voice acting. Cowboy Bebop will always be one of my favourites though; it features one of the coolest fighting duos ever, and has a kick-ass soundtrack too. If you have anything to say, let’s hear it in the comments!