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Top 5 biggest animation studios in Japan

With a long history of well-known and well-loved animated films and series, Japan is the home of many talented studios. They have been acclaimed for their hard work in bringing fans the best films of all time. Below is an overview of Japanese animation and a list of the top 5 biggest animation studios in Japan.

The development of animation in Japan

Origins of the Japanese animation

Japanese animation has gone through a long way from its birth to today with ups and downs. The origins of many Japanese films come from an art form known in Japan as manga a.k.a. Japanese comic books (which began in 1917 - the age of silent films). At that time, however, anime production was mostly used for public relations and anti-American propaganda campaigns.

animation studios - Origins of the Japanese animation
Japanese anime were inspired by manga (Source: Pinterest)

During this period, people started talking about the high quality of Japanese “anime”. But Japanese productions were overshadowed and heavily influenced by the popularity of Disney cartoons and others from Western studios.

The popularity of Japanese animation

In the 1960s, as the styles and techniques of anime progressed, Japanese anime also became more popular than in the preceding years. However, anime films produced at that time were not well-received as international fans were not ready for a new animation genre.

The 1980s were considered the golden age of Japanese anime with a visual quality renewal thanks to a new generation of directors. The pioneer is the famous animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, who founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. The studio went on to release the most iconic films of all time such as Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), etc.

animation studios - The popularity of Japanese animation
The famous Japanese producer Hayao Miyazaki (Source: Pinterest)

From the 1990s to now, Japanese animation has seen some popularity around the world, and it is outside the country's borders. Both anime movies and series had loyal, devoted fans, and were firm fixtures of Japanese culture.

List of the five biggest animation studios in Japan

Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was established in 1985 and is known for the high quality of its filmmaking and its artistry. Studio Ghibli has expertise in producing many types of animation from animated feature films, television series to television commercials.

Its feature films won critical and popular praise and influenced other animation studios (being responsible for six out of the fifteen highest-grossing anime films in Japan, with Spirited Away standing as number one). Spirited Away helped redefine the opinion of Western audiences about Japanese animation and also reflected the rise of a new generation of filmmakers.

Other famous movies such as Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro have found success both in Japan and internationally.

Recently, Studio Ghibli has signed co-production deals with Netflix to bring more animated films to one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world.

Sunrise Inc.

Sunrise Inc. was founded in 1972 in Tokyo with the former name Nippon Sunrise. While most studios developed genres such as manga adaptations, sports, and children’s stories, Sunrise focused on producing robot anime, which is more difficult to animate. In an interview with Anime!Anime!, the studio’s representative affirmed that “Even if you search the globe, Sunrise is the only studio that can create hand-drawn robot anime to such a high level."

Sunrise is the studio behind Cyborg 009, the TV series based on the classic but unfinished Japanese comic book written by Shoutarou Ishinomori. Cyborg 009 follows the story of the nine cyborg rebels as they seek to halt the sinister intentions of Black Ghost while also attempting to deal with the alienation caused by their new identities.

animation studios - Sunrise Inc.
Characters in Cyborg 009 (Source: DeviantArt)

This studio also produced the Gundam series, InuYasha, Gintama, Cowboy Bebop, and Code Geass.

Toei Animation

Toei is one of the top Japanese animation companies and is known across the globe for a large number of works ranging from feature-length films, TV animation, or video games (nearly 300 projects from the 1960s to the present).

animation studios - Toei Animation
Toei is one of the biggest animation studios in Japan (Source: MultiAnime)

They are largely recognized for working with famous manga artists to produce iconic anime shows like Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Saint Seiya, and Sailor Moon. Some award-winning anime from Toei Animation are Galaxy Express 999 in 1981, Saint Seiya in 1987, and Sailor Moon in 1992 (the Animage Anime Grand Prix award).

Studio Pierrot

Studio Pierrot is another name on the list. Established in May 1979, Studio Pierrot has developed, produced several genres of animation.

Over the years, Studio Pierrot’s reputation has gone beyond the country border with worldwide hits such as Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach, Tokyo Ghoul, and Fushigi Yugi.

animation studios - Studio Pierrot
Studio Pierrot stands behind the success of the Naruto series (Source: Pinterest)

They have won the prestigious Animage Anime Grand Prix Award twice and took part in producing several episodes for The Legend of Korra.

Shin-Ei Animation

Shin-Ei Animation, founded in 1976, is also one of the largest and oldest studios in Japan. Shin-Ei’s expertise has been proven through its exciting productions, TV series, feature films, and TV specials, and unique artisanal aesthetic.

Shin-Ei Animation is collaborating with DeeDee Animation Studio, the fast-growing animation house based in Vietnam, to co-produce an original anime series that will be released in 2022.

animation studios - Shin-Ei Animation
Shin-Ei Animation is best-known for its TV series Doraemon (Source: Pinterest)

Two of the most successful productions from Shin-Ei Animation are anime television series: Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan.

Conclusion

To this day, the number of animation studios in Japan is increasing along with the massive amount of their high-quality productions released to the public. Their works are not only recognized and respected by the worldwide animation industry but also motivate smaller studios and animators in other countries. As one of the most well-known animation studios in Vietnam, DeeDee never stops learning from preceding studios to improve and come up with animation projects that are not only interesting but also inspiring and valuable.

References:

Jpninfo.com, Behind the scenes: Top 10 Japanese animation studio

Gogonihon.com, A small glimpse into the history of Japanese anime

Nippon.com, The evolution of the Japanese animation anime industry




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