Behind the Scenes: Top 10 Japanese Animation Studios

  • Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks are company names that sound familiar to all of us. They are, in fact, animation studios. Since the early 1900’s, cartoons have graced the world; the more famous earlier works coming from Walt Disney himself. And to this day, animation studios continue growing, using cutting-edge technology to visualize amazing stories. Japan is known for producing massive amounts of anime, and all thanks to the animation studios that work hard to bring fans their favorite manga and novels to life. Here are some of the biggest animation studios that produced some of our favorite anime of all time.

    1. Manglobe

    Manglobe is probably one of the lesser known animation studios. However, they have produced some really great anime such as Samurai Champloo, The World Only God Knows, Karneval and their recent anime adaptation GANGSTA. Manglobe is sadly the same studio that did the anime adaptation of Deadman Wonderland. Unfortunately, September 29, 2015 the studio announced that they have filed for bankruptcy and have taken down their website.

    2. Studio Pierrot

    Studio Pierrot is an animation studio founded in 1979 with its headquarters in Mitaka, Tokyo. The name comes from the classic character “Pierrot”, which in Japanese means clown (that said, ANY clown). The company logo also has the face of a clown on it. Studio Pierrot is a more well-known animation studio having produced worldwide hits such as Naruto, Bleach, Tokyo Ghoul, Yu Yu Hakusho and Fushigi Yugi. Yu Yu Hakusho and Saiyuki won the Animage Grand Prix award.

    3. Studio Pierrot
    P.A. Works Corporation is an animation studio located in Nanto, Toyama, Japan. P.A. stands for Progressive Animation. The company was founded by Kenji Horikawa in 2000. Aside from animated films, P.A. Works also develops animation for video games. In the past, P.A. Works only collaborated with other animation studios and it wasn’t until 2008 that they started fully producing anime series. They are known for the series True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha, Another, and Charlotte.

    P.A. Works

    4. Studio Ghibli

    One of the more popular animation studios, Studio Ghibli is world-renowned for their animated films. Studio Ghibli is responsible for eight out of the fifteen highest grossing anime films in Japan, with Spirited Away standing as number one. In 2003, Spirited Away won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Four other films have received nominations in the same category throughout the years. Hayao Miyazaki, one of the key people known for pioneering anime, comes from Ghibli. Aside from Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli produced many other famous movies such as Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro.

    5. Production I.G

    Production I.G is known for numerous anime television series, OVAs, theatrical films and is also involved in video game design. The letters I.G comes from the names of the company founders, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Takayuki Goto. Production I.G is known prominently for producing the Ghost in the Shell series, Psycho-Pass, Guilty Crown and Eden of the East. In 2013, Production I.G worked on the anime adaptation of the popular manga Attack on Titan.

    Production I.G *Japanese

    6. Bones

    Bones Animation Studio was founded in 1998 by 3 Sunrise members. Their early projects included a collaboration with Sunrise and a feature film that was based off the Cowboy Bebop series. In 2007, one of the co-founders Hiroshi Osaka, passed away after battling cancer. He was well-known for his work on the Gundam Series. Production I.G has produced series such as Wolf’s Rain, two Fullmetal Alchemist adaptations, Ouran High School Host Club, Darker than Black, Soul Eater and Noragami.

    Bones *Japanese

    7. Kyoto Animation

    Kyoto Animation is one of the more recent top-grossing animation studios that became famous after their major success with the Free! series. Kyoto Animation series are easily identified since most people can distinguish their art style easily from other series, hence, people tend to say that it’s repetitive. Despite this, Kyoto Animation was recognised for its high production values and for the sensitivity to the wonders of ordinary life. Kyoto Animation is responsible for the series like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, K-On, Kyoukai no Kanata and Free!

    Kyoto Animation *Japanese

    8. Sunrise

    Sunrise Inc. can be considered to be one of the biggest animation studios in Japan and is a subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings. Sunrise has grown so much that various sub-divisions called studios have been created. While other companies produced animes that were mainstream and focused on genres such as manga adaptations, sports and children’s stories, Sunrise focused on producing robot anime; which is harder to animate. Sunrise is known to be the studio behind Cyborg 009, the Gundam Series, InuYasha, Gintama, Cowboy Bebop and Code Geass.


    9. Toei Animation

    Formerly known as Nihon Doga Eiga and Toei Doga, is an animation company with Toei Company as its biggest shareholder. Over the years, the studio has created many series, movies and adaptations that were and still are popular worldwide. Hayao Miyazaki and Leiji Matsumoto have worked with Toei in the past. Toei has produced some of the worlds’ most famous manga artists, one of whom is Eiichiro Oda, the author of One Piece. Toei has produced series like GeGeGe no Kitaro, Sailor Moon, Slam Dunk, Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon and World Trigger.

    Toei Animation

    10. Madhouse

    Madhouse was founded in 1972 and has created and helped to produce many shows. This animation studio is known for collaborating with talented manga artists such as Naoki Urusawa and Clamp. They have also collaborated with Square Enix for Last Order: Final Fantasy VII and Capcom for the Devil May Cry animated series as wll as with Studio Ghibli. Satoshi Kon, who was a part of Madhouse, produced movies such as Perfect Blue and Paprika that later inspired Hollywood Movies Black Swan and Inception respectively. Madhouse produced anime such as Kiba, Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, Wolf Children, Death Parade and One-Punch Man.


    Of course aside from these ten, there are plenty more animation studios in Japan. Even though anime industry is a tough one, animation studios still keep pushing themselves to produce series that people will truly enjoy. If you’re an anime fan and is looking for an anime to watch, try to see which studio produced your favorite ones and watch their other series too. After all, the studios should get all the support they can get from their fans. Did your favorite animation studio make it in the list?

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