R.I.P: Defunct Anime Studios


While the state of the anime industry isn’t necessarily dire, not all anime studios have been lucky enough to withstand the test of time. There are perhaps around 80 Japanese anime studios currently churning out new titles on a regular (or at least semi-regular) basis, but others have unfortunately closed down, largely due to either the death of their respective founders or, more commonly, major financial problems.

Mushi Production


Starting from the oldest and working our way forwards, Mushi Production was headed by the late, great godfather of manga himself, Tezuka Osamu. After Tezuka’s contract with Toei Animation expired in 1961, he founded Mushi Production as a rival company the same year, and the studio ended up as a pioneer of televised anime. At first primarily animating Tezuka’s own creations such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Princess Knight, Tezuka himself stepped down as acting director in 1968 and formed a new animation studio, Tezuka Productions. Meanwhile, Mushi Production declared bankruptcy in 1973 and its assets were divided – though it’s worth a note that a new version of Mushi Production was later founded in 1977 and continues to operate today.

Group TAC


When Tezuka left Mushi Production in 1968, former staff members went on to found their own studio, Group TAC. Headed by producer Tashiro Atsumi, the members of Group TAC worked not only on anime TV shows including Those Who Hunt Elves, Gilgamesh, and Black Blood Brothers, but also films and commercials, until Tashiro’s death in July 2010. In September of that same year, the studio filed for bankruptcy and liquidated all assets. However, Diomedéa, a studio created in 2005 after a split from Group TAC, is still operating today and has released titles such as Gingitsune, Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, The Lost Village, Girlish Number, and Fuuka.

Topcraft


Established in 1971 by former Toei Animation producer Hara Toru, Topcraft was particularly well-known for working on the animation for hand-drawn titles by American production company Rankin/Bass Productions. However, it was also famous for the production of one of Miyazaki Hayao’s first major anime films, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, as well as for the film Macross: Do You Remember Love?, both released in 1984. The studio went bankrupt the following year and was bought by Miyazaki, along with fellow director Takahata Isao, and the pair went on to change the name from Topcraft to Studio Ghibli, with Hara Toru its first manager.

Hal Film Maker


Founded by former Toei Animation staff in 1993, Hal Film Maker lasted sixteen years in business before the studio’s parent company, TYO Animations, merged Hal Film Marker with its other studio subsidiary, Yumeta Company, in 2009. TYO Animations continues to release anime titles today, but several of Hal Film Maker’s productions are still arguably more famous, including all three seasons of Aria as well as fan favourite Princess Tutu.

Radix Ace Entertainment


The shortest-lived studio on this list, Radix Entertainment lasted only eleven years in business, being founded in 1995 and closing down in 2006. Few of its anime titles achieved any particular cultural significance or popularity, with the exception of perhaps two titles, both written by notable graphic artist Yoshitoshi Abe: Haibane Renmei and NieA_7.

Manglobe


Last but certainly not least, the most recent company on this list to fold was Manglobe. Formed in 2002 by producers from studio Sunrise, Kobayashi Shinichirou and Kochiyama Takashi, Manglobe was perhaps best known for producing original shows rather than manga, game, or light novel adaptations – several of which were highly ambitious, groundbreaking, or popular titles such as Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy, Michiko to Hatchin, and Samurai Flamenco. After accruing an estimated debt of 350 million yen (or nearly four million US dollars), Manglobe filed for bankruptcy in September 2015 just as their final series, Gangsta, was airing. The same studio staff went on to form Gene Studio in November, although as of this writing, the only title to be released under that name is Genocidal Organ; Manglobe’s postponed anime film.

Question of the post: Which defunct anime studio do you miss the most? Are there any other studios you can think of that I missed out on?

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23 thoughts on “R.I.P: Defunct Anime Studios

  1. R.I.P. Manglobe and certainly a beacon of true creativity. They clearly are not the best at what they do but what really matters is the fact that they have always tried.

    Embodying that very essence today is P.A. Works. They are always keen to make anime original shows. I just cannot stop praising their efforts!

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    • I’m pretty on the fence about P.A.Works. They’ve released a few titles that I think are both original and/or emotionally hard-hitting – Angel Beats and Uchouten Kazoku being two of them that immediately spring to mind. Others have struck me as lacking in quality though and just retreading the same waters that a thousand titles have done before, like Haruchika or Charlotte.

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      • That’s right haha!
        They are hitting and missing. Just thinking about their best shows makes me somehow proud for having watched it but realizing that they also have insane flops (hello there GlasSLIP)… well… yeah all that matters is really, they are still trying!

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  2. Does anyone know what happened to Bee Train? They’ve been inactive since Hyougemono in 2011, I think. I’ve never heard anything about them dissolving, though, and their substudio Studio Road is still busy with helping out others. I’d love to see a new show of theirs – always liked them.

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    • As far as I’m aware, they’re still around. It may be that they’re now active mostly as a general for-hire company, assisting in tasks like animation as opposed to taking the lead in terms of production (much like Studio Road is doing).

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      • I checked ANN’s database before I came here and couldn’t find any shows they were involved in. Then, after your post, I went back to check in more detail and found one: Mahou Sensou (I wonder how I missed this one… /sarcasm). Where I missed one, I probably missed more. With Road, though, only a cursory glance revealed lots of shows.

        They’re website doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2012, either. Even if they’re not dead, they’re near comatose.

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  3. I wonder if part of the collapse of anime studios like Manglobe was due to a lack of business experience and awareness among its founders and staff. They may have the artistic smarts to make anime, but not the knowhow required to ensure their businesses remain in good financial health or optimal resource allocation for various projects.

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    • It’s possible, though there’s no way to know for sure without having some kind of real insider knowledge. Personally though, I think it probably has more to do with the various financial and staffing difficulties that all anime studios have been facing for a while now. There are plenty of titles being produced but not enough staff to actually support them – largely because the job isn’t attracting enough newcomers. Which, given the extremely long hours and extremely low beginner pay rates of the job, isn’t especially surprising.

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      • Re financial and staffing difficulties, so far one major studio that seems to have avoided this common pitfall is Kyoto Animation. I’ve heard they have a permanent staff who are paid salaries, rather than the usual practice of hiring contract animators paid a certain commission. Plus their in-house business practices and adaptations of their own IPs mean most revenue made from their animes flow into their pockets rather than to an external production committee (although arguably this means they take on more risk themselves!)

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  4. Pingback: Anime and Manga Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week: October 27, 2017 | Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

    • Apologies for the late reply – for some reason this went straight into my spam folder.

      I think you’re referring to Artland, which was mentioned in one of the above comments. But in short, I believe (?) they’re still technically around, but either won’t be for much longer or are on some kind of indefinite hiatus.

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    • I suppose at least some studios are able to carry on under another name, and of course just because a studio is no longer running does not mean that the staff working at those studios are no longer creating. Still, it’s always a downer when studios go bankrupt or some such.

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