As the first post for this blog, I will be discussing the Japanese Anime studio called Sunrise. Sunrise have been around for over 30 years and have produced an immense number of TV shows, specials, OVAs and movies.
To know how Studio Sunrise was born, I should begin by mentioning how it was born; from the fallout of another studio. In the 1970s, there was an anime studio known as Mushi Production and during the early 1970s they were facing financial difficulties. Because of this many staff members began leaving and soon enough they filed for bankruptcy in 1973. A problem some staff members had with the studio was that it was an Osamu Tezuka lead studio and all the projects there were centred around Tezuka’s ideas. While this is not inherently bad, 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 banded together and formed their own studio, this 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 be brought to TV screens. They wanted to have a place where they were not bound to produce endless manga adaptations like they did at Mushi Pro; where many of their adaptations were based on Tezuka’s manga.
To be able to create shows from all the various producers and directors that are lead by differing visions, Sunrise 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 began in 1972 by creating works in cooperation with other studios. They worked mainly with Toei who were the leaders in creating robot anime at the time.
-Around 1977, they started creating their own in-house works with Zambot 3.
-Their list of works includes: Zambot 3, Daitarn 3 , Mobile Suit Gundam, Space Runaway Ideon, Armored Trooper Votoms, Dirty Pair (various), Mobile Police Patlabor (TV series & OVA), New Mobile Report Gundam Wing (TV series & OVA), After War Gundam X and Turn A Gundam.
-Recent works include InuYasha (Both old + new versions), 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: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam F91 and Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Along with Aura Battler Dunbine, Combat Mecha Xabungle, Heavy Metal L Gaim, The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop and many more.
-A mass migration occurred in 1998 when Studio Bones was formed. Many of the people who moved on over initially resided in BONES Studio B.
-Studio 2’s final work was Cowboy Bebop before BONES was created.
-Following the BONES migration, Studio 2 kept in contact and helped with the Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne movies. They then proceeded to work 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.
-Following that they produced Galactic Drigter Vifam, Blue Comet SPT Layzner and the City Hunter series. From there they moved onto Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, Mobile Suit Victory Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team.
-They have been the main ‘Gundam studio’ since Gundam SEED Destiny. They worked on both seasons of Gundam 00 and the subsequent movie. Gundam AGE and the Memory of Eden sequel was also produced at Studio 3.
-Their most recent show is Gundam Build Fighters.
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.
-Studio’s 4b and 4c supposedly exist, but there is very little info on them.
-Their most recent work is Code Geass: Akito the Exiled.
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 short 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, Kaiketsu Zorori TV series and the main studio behind the various Gintama shows and movies.
-The Eldoran series was a joint between toy makers Tomy, who created the merchandise while Sunrise produced 3 anime shows that lasted a year each.
-In 1994 Sunrise were bought out by Bandai, who were a rival toy maker to Tomy and thus the Eldoran deal was scrapped.
-Around 2005/6 one of the producers, Mikihiro Iwata, left Studio 5 and helped create the studio A1 Pictures.
-Their current work is a movie for the Kaiketsu Zorori franchise along with taking over production for Aikatsu’s second season.
Sunrise Studio 6:
-First founded around 1983, their first works was a movie compilation for Xabungle and Dougram which were released together.
-After 1983 they lay silent until 1996, which is when they were re-established.
-They worked on several sequels for City Hunter, Future GPX Cyber Formula and Machine Eiyuuden Wataru before their first original work, The Big O in 1999.
-Studio 6 was Keroro Gunso’s main studio for the first 4 years, from 2004 to 2008. For the 5th year of Keroro and onwards, several people left to found Studio Bridge, who continued working on Keroro although Sunrise still got credited.
-Their first work after Studio Bridge’s creation was Tiger and Bunny and continue to work on the Tiger and Bunny movies.
Sunrise Studio 7:
-Created around 1985. Restructured around 1995 (see note 2).
-Their first major project was working on animation side for the American cartoon “The Centurions” then went on to create Metal Armor 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.
-They worked extensively on the Yuusha series throughout the 90s along with Cyber Formula OVAs.
-Similar to the Eldoran series, the Yuusha Series was a joint production 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 until much later.
-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.
-Through the 2000s they worked on the Zeta Gundam remake movies in the 2000s, as well as Witch Hunter Robin and Intrigue in the Bakumatsu – Irohanihoheto.
-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.
-In 2003-2004 some staff from Studio 7 and Studio 10 came over to Studio 8.
-Sometimes known as the “moe” branch of Sunrise, as their shows often feature cute girls in sci-fi settings.
-They are also known for keeping their works quite well on schedule.
-In the past Studio 8 have worked on the Mai Hime/Otome Series, Idolmaster Xenoglossia, Sora o Kakeru Shoujo and the Votoms: Case Irvine OVA.
-In recent years they have worked on Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, Accel World, Nerawareta Gakuen and Love Live.
-Their most recent work is Buddy Complex & Love Live s2.
Sunrise Studio 9:
-Established around 1996 (see note 2) and it was branched away from Studio 7.
-They have worked on Gasaraki, Infinite Ryuuvis, Argento Soma, Zegapain and on Gundam SEED over the years.
-Their recent works include the various seasons of Battle Spirits, Daily Lives of High School Boys, Binbougami Ga and Aikatsu s1.
-Aikatsu! season 1 was a joint between Sunrise & Telecom Animation Film however TAF left for season 2 and so Studio 5 took over production.
-Their most recent work is Ultimate Zero, the newest entry in the Battle Spirits series.
Sunrise Studio 10:
-Established around 1996 (see note 2)
-Their first work was working on the Future GPX Cyber Formula Saga series following that their first original production was Outlaw Star.
-Works that Studio 10 have created include include Angel Links, Gear Fighter Dendoh, Gekito! Crush Gear Turbo, Onmyou Taisenki and Dinosaur King.
-They tend to work mostly on the Saturday morning cartoon types of shows.
-Their most current show is the Phi Brain series.
Sunrise Studio 11:
-This is the most recently established Sunrise studio, established around 2009.
-11’s first show was Kurokami and the recent SD Gundam Sangokuden (Uncertain, could also be Ogikubo) series.
-Their most recent show is Natsuiro Kiseki.
-This is Sunrise’s in-house CGI production studio. They often lend their hand creating CGI assets for many of Sunrise’s shows.
-Tiger & Bunny and Gundam MS Igloo feature their work quite prominently.
-Interestingly they lend a hand for the recent Space Battleship Yamato remake.
Nerima Studio (Formerly Ogikubo Studio(Even more formerly known as Sunrise Emotion)):
-Initially established for Steamboy I believe, went on to work on Katsuhiro Otomo’s FREEDOM OVA series and then onto Hipira: The Little Vampire, SD Gundam Sangokuden (or St.11 perhaps?), Coicent and the King of Thorn movie.
-Their most recent show is Valvrave the Liberator and they also created the Short Peace 4-part movie.
Bandai Namco Pictures:
-This is a division established by Sunrise’s parent company Bandai Namco Group in 2015. I believe it was part of a restructuring process for Sunrise and Bamco’s properties to consolidate the many children and family aimed shows under one collective group. Also anything with a lot of marketing potential has been transferred over as well.
-Largely all the kid-focused shows have moved their production over to the BNP banner. Aikatsu, Battle Spirits, Gintama, Tribe Cool Crew, Sgt. Frog, Dinosaur King, Tiger & Bunny, Tales of the Abyss and the Phi Brain series.
-BNP also seem to have their own sub-studio structure. Going from A-D. A is handling Aikatsu, B is handling Battle Spirits, C is handling Gintama and D is for Tribe Cool Crew.
-BNP Studio C seems to be Sunrise Studio 5, but with a name change.
-As of writing, July 2015, the BNP President and the Sunrise President are the same person. Several of the managing directors for BNP are also Sunrise MDs, though BNP also has several from the larger Bamco group as well. The BNP website also lists Sunrise as their sole stock holder and BNP is listed as a Sunrise subsidiary. As for how true this holds, I’ve no clue.
-There are some cases where Sunrise will outsource the animation work to another studio. On the 2010 Colorful movie despite Sunrise being credited for animation, much of the work was actually done at a studio called Ascension.
-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. Whether this was an intentional direction or not, I don’t know but it is something to note.
September 2013 – I’ve rewritten and updated some of this post.
July 2015 – Added entry on Bandai Namco Pictures.