As the first post for this blog, I’m going to be discussing the Japanese Anime studio, Sunrise. Sunrise have been around for over 30 years and have produced an immense number of TV shows, specials, OVAs and movies.
To find out how Studio Sunrise was born, we should know that it was born out of the fall of another studio. In the early 1970s, there was an anime studio known as Mushi Production and they were facing many financial difficulties, many staff members began leaving long before it filed for bankruptcy in 1973. A problem some staff members had was that Mushi Pro was an Osamu Tezuka lead studio and all the projects there were centered around Tezuka’s ideas. While this is not a bad idea, they felt creativity was being hindered because they were only following the vision of one man.
In 1972 a group of former Mushi Pro staff decided to band together and form their own studio, this was studio was named Nippon Sunrise. One of their main goals upon creation was to have an environment where they could have a variety of original ideas nourished and animated. They wanted a place where they were not bound to produce endless adaptations of manga like Mushi Pro where many of the anime were adaptations of Tezuka’s manga.
To create shows with different visions from all the various producers and directors, Sunrise have established many studios over the years. As such each of their sub-studios is lead by a particular producer or set of producers, creative team, theme or style.
Sunrise Studio 1:
-Studio 1 is the oldest Sunrise studio and it is where many of their classic shows were born.
-Studio 1 started out in 1972 by creating works in cooperation with other studios at the time. They worked mainly with Toei who were the leaders in creating robot anime at the time.
-Their list of works includes Zambot, Daitarn, Gundam, Ideon, Votoms, Patlabor, Gundam Wing(+EW), Gundam X and Turn A Gundam.
-Around 77′, they started creating their own in-house works with Zambot 3.
-Recent works include InuYasha(old + new), Kekkaishi and Tales of the Abyss.
-Currently working on the production of the Gundam Unicorn OVA series.
Sunrise Studio 2:
-Considered Sunrise’s best studio in terms of animation quality during the 80s and 90s.
-Created circa 1974-75 to take the load off Studio 1. Continued doing co-productions until 1982.
-After which they started off a string of productions helmed by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
-Older works include the majority of the Gundam UC timeline; Zeta, ZZ, CCA, F91 along with G Gundam, Dunbine, Xabungle, L Gaim, Escaflowne, Bebop and many more.
-Mass migration occurred in 1998 and Studio Bones was formed. Many of these people initially resided in BONES Studio B.
-Studio 2′s final work was Cowboy Bebop before BONES was created.
-Post the BONES migration, Studio 2 have helped with the Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne movies, then on King Gainer, Planetes and Wings of Rean.
-Tomino’s upcoming ‘G Reco’ could be a work of Studio 2.
Sunrise Studio 3:
-Founded in the later half of 1975, co-produced Kumu Kumu with ITC Japan and Born Free with Tsuburuya Productions.
-Their first solo work was doing an adaptation of White Fang in 1981, the first non-scifi production by Sunrise.
-Continued doing Vifam, Layzner and the City Hunter series, moved onto Stardust Memory, Victory Gundam and 08th MS Team.
-Been the main Gundam studio since SEED Destiny. Worked on both seasons of Gundam 00 and the movie. High chance of Studio 3 also working on Gundam AGE.
Sunrise Studio 4:
-Founded around 1979, some of their works are credited as Studio 4, some as Studio Iogi, information about this studio is a bit sketchy but it is clear there is a link between the two.
-Their first work was Cyborg 009.
-It is now a Gorō Taniguchi lead Studio, and they recently produced both seasons of Code Geass.
-Very few works credited to S4 directly, a rumour is that this number was skipped due superstitions about the number 4 in Japanese culture. Perhaps that is why the name Iogi was used instead?
-Worked on a few shows from ’79-87 then nothing for a long time. Of those credited works they include; Dirty Pair, Giant Gorg and the Votoms Big Battle OVA.
-Probably working on the Geass Sequel.
-Studio’s 4b and 4c supposedly exist, but very little info on them.
Sunrise Studio Iogi:
-Studio Iogi was disbanded after Wings of Rean and then renamed as Studio 4. More of a collective force of staff, under this name they have assisted on the following works: S-cry-ED, King Gainer, Planetes and Wings of Rean.
Sunrise Studio 5:
-Founded in 1979 a little while after Studio 4.
-Their first work was Tanser 5, after that the studio stayed silent for the next few years.
-They came back in 1987 with the original SD Gundam shorts and the Starship Troopers OVA.
-Other works include Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket OVA, the Eldoran series, Banner/Crest of the Stars series, Inuyasha movies and currently devoted to Gintama.
-The Eldoran series was a joint between toy makers Tomy, who created the merchandise while Sunrise produced the anime.
-In 1994, Sunrise got bought out by Bandai, who were a rival toy maker and thus the Eldoran deal was scrapped.
-One of the producers, Mikihiro Iwata, left Studio 5 and helped create the studio A1 Pictures.
Sunrise Studio 6:
-First founded around 1983, their first works was a movie compilation for Xabungle and Dougram which were released together.
-After 1983, there is a big silence until 1996, which is when they got re-established.
-Worked on sequels of City Hunter, Cyber Formula and Machine Eiyuuden Wataru before their first original work, The Big O.
-Studio 6 was Keroro Gunso’s main studio for the first 4 years.
-For year 5 of Keroro and beyond some people left to found Studio Bridge, who continued working on Keroro, although Sunrise still gets credited.
-Their first work after Studio Bridge’s creation was Tiger and Bunny.
Sunrise Studio 7:
-Created around 1985. Restructured around 1995(see note 2).
-Their first work was working on American cartoon “The Centurions” then went on to create Dragonar as their first original work.
-This was quite a large studio and often worked on two shows at once, until about 1995-1996 when Studio 9 was created and some of their work was transferred to them.
-Worked on the Yuusha series throughout the 90s, Cyber Formula OVAs and the Zeta Gundam remake movies in the 00s.
-Similar to the Eldoran series, the Yuusha Series was a joint, but this time with another toy maker called Takara.
-After the 1994 buyout by Bandai, the Yuusha series proved successful and despite Bandai and Takara being rivals, the deal continued on as such the franchise wasn’t given an axe like the Eldoran series was.
-Some producers from Studio 7 broke away to form Manglobe in 2002.
-In 2003-2004 some staff from Studio 7 went over to Studio 8.
-In terms of animation quality, Studio 7′s animation quality is only second to Studio 2′s.
-Their most recent work is, aptly called, Sacred Seven.
Sunrise Studio 8:
-Established around 1995(see note 2), their first works were Chouja Raideen and Sentimental J.
-Studio 8 have worked on the Mai Hime/Otome Series, Idolmaster Xenoglossia and Sora o Kakeru Shoujo.
-Latest work is Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon.
-In 2003-2004 some staff from Studio 7 and Studio 10 came over to Studio 8.
-Known as the “moe” branch of Sunrise, creating cute girls in sci-fi settings.
-Known for keeping their works quite well on schedule.
Sunrise Studio 9:
-Established around 1996(see note 2) was branched off from Studio 7.
-Worked on Gasaraki, Infinite Ryuuvis, Argento Soma, Zegapain and on Gundam SEED.
-Their most recent work is the Battle Spirits series.
Sunrise Studio 10:
-Established around 1996(see note 2)
-Their first work was working on the Cyber Saga series, and then their first original production was Outlaw Star.
-Works include Angel Links, Gear Fighter Dendoh, Crush Gear, Onmyou Taisenki and Dinosaur King, currently working on Phi Brain.
-Works mostly on the Saturday morning cartoon types of shows.
Sunrise Studio 11:
-The most recent studio, established around 2009, they worked on Kurokami and the recent SD Gundam Sengoku series.
-There are a few other studios or collective forces, like the ones used for FREEDOM or Gundam Evolve.
-Around 1993/1994 pressure from toy companies was increasing as they wanted more control over Sunrise shows. Mostly because they wanted to make them more toyetic, and so far Sunrise had done well in resisting the pressure. As the pressure built up several directors started becoming quite upset, Tomino in particular was very unhappy when he was creating Victory Gundam and rumour has it he worked his best in trying to make it as hard as possible for the sponsors to create toys from the show, with odd designs and a depressing and dark story. He even goes as far as to tell people not to watch Victory Gundam!
-Similar thing also happened on the Yuusha series with the ending of Might Gaine(’93-’94). The staff were getting more and more pressured into creating more variations and toys and place them into the show. As a result the ending of Might Gaine was a huge stab at the sponsors. Quite well explained on Wikipedia:
In the ending of Might Gaine, the characters find out that they are merely fictional characters whose conflicts are artificially generated so that their evil otherdimensional mastermind can sell toys and merchandise. Maito reacts to this with a speech that Japanese critics interpreted as a defense of Da Garn’s(the Yuusha show that aired before Might Gaine) character-driven storytelling style, which Takara is generally believed to have disliked. After making his speech, Maito destroys the enemy, thereby asserting his own “reality” as a true character and not a merchandising tool. This analysis of the series often considers many plot elements throughout the series as Sunrise effectively “striking back” at Takara for forcing them to create shows with less plot in order to cram in more toy designs and action sequences. For instance, many robots in Might Gaine appear with no explanation, or arbitrarily transform into alternate modes that make no particular sense.
-Eventually the sponsors won and Bandai managed a completely buy out of Sunrise. G Gundam could have been seen as an attempt by the new owners to create a toyetic Gundam show as possible, seeing as Tomino still had influence, they let him chose who would direct the show. Tomino went and hired the one man who was just as daring and rebellious as Tomino, Yasuhiro Imagawa. Imagawa tried his best to create a show that would be hard to produce toys from and create a dark and layered story despite the simpler plot synopsis. You can read more about Imagawa’s experience in creating G Gundam here.
-Between 1995-1996 there was a big shuffle of some of the studios, which caused several of the studios to be reorganised and re-established. A lot of productions and staff got juggled around as a result.
-Studios 8, 9 and 10 were created during this period and Studio 6 and 7 got reorganised. Studio 9 was created by branching away some of the productions from Studio 7.
-This was most likely due to the buyout of Sunrise by Bandai.
-I didn’t have a way of fitting this into the article, but still interesting. Whether it be pressure from sponsors or something else between 1995 and 1996, Sunrise created 3 shows with quite similar premise and aired roughly at the same time. I refer to, Gundam Wing, Yuusha Dagwon and Chouja Raideen. All 3 were new iterations of classic Sunrise shows but instead featuring a cast of 5 young men drawn in a bishounen art style.