anime production house power rankings™

Just in time for the playoffs, I go through and rank all the quarterbacks in the NFL based on their… uh… wait… where am I? What blog is this? Oh yeah… I wanted for some time now to rank the various production houses. It’s a much more subjective undertaking than I expected it to be, and, surprisingly, Sunrise is pretty damn good.

(No, I’m not drunk, high, or delirious. You read that correctly.)

Before I start, I want to make one thing clear: I’m judging studios with how they animate and how they bring a source material to animated form. I am not judging “Oh this show is awesome!” This post only goes through studios that (a) I remember and (b) are main production houses for TV anime. This post also has a lot of NFL references… so much so that if you don’t watch NFL regularly, you may want to skip this one. Anyway, here’s my quasi-criteria:

Animation Quality

I’m looking for superior animation. I’m looking for things like “How well do they make use of HDTV?”, “How many frames are animated?”, “Does the background move?”, “When a character speaks, do they redraw the whole character or just the face/mouth?”, etc. Some studios are really good at hiding their animation shortcuts, but I’m also not too bad at picking them out (after seeing thousands of frames of these, of course). There’s also bad drawing (like quality cabbage), bad animation (like the character-like statues in Kimikiss), and an unholy combination of the two (Gun Musashi, Neuro, Xenoglossia). There’s also good drawing (Black Lagoon), good animation (Minami-ke), and an unholy combination of the two (Haruhi Suzumiya, Gigantic Formula, Escaflowne).

Use of Source Material

I’m not judging on source material just because it’s not a studio’s fault that the studio would wind up with H2O or Reche Caldwell. All I expect is that the studio lives up to their source material. If H2O is C- source and ZEXCS submits a C- job, then they’re average. If they do a better than C- job in plot and narrative, then they get points, and, if they do substantially worse, it’s a penalty. For Kyrios’ sake, it’s H2O. How the hell do you savage that mess? Since this point is important, I’ll stress it again: degree of difficulty matters. For example, it’s much easier to make Mirai Nikki enjoyable than it is to make Lucky Star. Mirai Nikki would be A source material while Lucky Star is more of a C. If Mirai Nikki anime turned out to be an A, the studio doesn’t get credit for that. If Lucky Star anime turned out to be an B, the studio will get credit for it.

Anime Production House Power Rankings™

Tier 1, The Pantheon: Kyoto Animation

Being a studio in The Pantheon tier is much like having a Hall of Fame quarterback. You just know you’re in good hands. Much like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, any anime series is in the running with Kyoto Animation as the signal caller. Top caliber, in their primes, and dating fabulous supermodels (or at least Taniguchi). Also, much like Brady, Kyoto is one of the rare studios that can elevate even with subprime source material: Kyoto working on Lucky Star is much like Brady tossing the pigskin to Reche Caldwell and a 33 year old Troy Brown. Fortunately, we’ve seen both Brady with a real receiver (Randy Moss) and Kyoto with real source material (Haruhi Suzumiya). Kyoto only met expectations with an excellent performance and anything less is a disappointment. Kyoto has done well with good-to-great source material, and they’ve managed to elevate source material that wasn’t so great, and they do not have a lot of weaknesses.

(The thing that impresses me about Kyoto is that they learn and improve. Watching Air then Kanon then Clannad, the animation quality keeps getting better as well as their ability to distill from a visual novel. I can’t say the same thing about Studio Deen.)

Tier 2, Absolutely Farvian: Gainax

After seeing Brett Farve play over the last decade, he had a great early career (along with a Super Bowl win), but then he started getting old and just started chucking the ball without care. More than one person thought he was washed up. Then 2007 came along, and it was like we got back age 28 Brett Farve instead of age 38. Gainax busted out of the gates with the landmark Evangelion, which influence still pervades anime today, followed it up with the fantastic Kare Kano, FLCL, Ebichu, and Mahoromatic, and then proceeded to mail in series like He Is My Master and Konomini. It’s scary the parallels between the two, especially with the “Who the fuck do you think we are?” power play of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in 2007 for Gainax. The Absolutely Farvian tier is very dangerous just because they can submit a pantheon performance even better than The Pantheon tier, but they can also toss game-ending interceptions in the red zone. Still, I absolutely would not bet against this tier.

(Honestly, the most impressive thing about Gainax is that Evangelion and Gurren Lagann were original stories. Kyoto’s attempt at an original story? Munto. Big. Huge. Giga drill-sized difference.)

Tier 3, Dangerous When Derailed: Doumu, Sunrise

Story of two recent, young quarterbacks. Both were awesome coming out of the gate (one winning a Super Bowl, even if it’s against Da Bears), and both gets derailed (one by a motorcycle accident; the other by Jessica Simpson and her breasts). I see the same cycle with this tier. Doumu started strong with La Verite, Ichigo Mashimaro, Onegai Teacher before flubbing Crescent Love and now only recoving with Minami-ke. Sunrise is the company of Escaflowne, Keroro, Cowboy Bebop, The Big O, Crest of the Stars, and Gundam! I mean, that’s some serious firepower. I don’t know what happened, possibly derailed by excessive greed, but we got pooped on with Gundam Seed Destiny, Mai Otome, Xenoglossia, and others too depressing to name.

Still, I’d absolutely take Doumu for a much needed remake for Spice and Wolf. Sunrise… not so much, until they proved they’re over their derailing. This tier, much like The Pantheon tier, can elevate subpar source material, and they’ll win more than they lose; however, they just don’t have the aura of “Fuck you, we’re taking the ball and shoving it up your ass” aura that the higher tiers have.

(Hey, I think Tony Romo’s a good quarterback. He just needs to avoid dating people whose last names are “Simpson,” “Lohan,” “Hilton,” “Spears,” and “Reid.” I feel the same away about Sunrise and “Fukuda” and “Obara.”)

Tier 4, Needs Game Experience: Telecom, Nomad

The Texans made a significant bet at the beginning of the season on Matt Schaub, and it’s still unclear if he can be a top tier quarterback or an average journeyman or the second coming of David Carr. We don’t know. Unlike a benchwarmer like Brady Quinn, we have seen Matt Schaub play a bit. Unlike Philip Rivers, we haven’t seen Matt Schaub play enough. This tier is in a similar mold. Telecom is very intriguing because they can pull off both an entertaining story (Muteki Kanban Musume) and do an above average job on animation (Tide Line Blue), but they can also stink up the joint (Futakoi). I’m very intrigued about their upcoming collaboration with Bones, Nijou-Mensuu no Musume. Nomad is intriguing because they have done a great job (Rozen Maiden), a so-so job (Sola), and one poor job (Chocotto Sister). Both of these studios need more data points.

Tier 5, Tantalizing Potential: P.A. Works, Shirogumi

Sometimes new isn’t better but just seems better. Will Brady Quinn be the next Tom Brady, or the next epic failure along the lines of Ryan Leaf, David Carr, and Joey Harrington? I don’t know, but, if I were a fan of a bad, going-nowhere-fast franchise, I’d rather see kids with potential who could be good than blah veterans. P.A. Works is the new kid on the block with True Tears as their first foray into full anime production. Their animation is very solid, and it’s at least on the same level as Doumu and Sunrise. True Tears might be a tad lower in quality than Da Capo as far as source material is concerned, and P.A. Works seems to be dealing with it, but not to the extent or experience of a Kyoto Animation. Shirogumi only has had one series so far, Moyashimon, and… uh… it was fantastic. Great animation, cute microbes, and they kept the lesbian fanservice. Hopefully these are good signs of a blossoming competent studios (because, Kyrios knows, the industry could use some) and not the second coming of Gonzo.

Kyou Intervenes Anime Production House Power Rankings™!

Tier 6, Solid Veterans: Bones, Production I.G., Madhouse

I think Bones, Production I.G., and Madhouse are solid, solid studios. They don’t screw up. They don’t mess around. And they have consistently high animation standards. Very similar to Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, and Drew Brees. They just lack of the youth and upside of the newer studios, and the Super Bowl rings of the higher tiers. Below this tier, I start to cringe when I hear that they’ll be animating a series.

(Well, Blood+ is kind of a screw up… it would have been a decent 13 episode series… 50 not so much.)

Tier 7, The Ghost of Jake Plummer: SHAFT

*both of my readers and who are Denver Broncos fans are nodding right now*

Tier 8, Aging Rapidly: JC Staff

As recent as a year or two ago, I would have tossed JC Staff in the Solid Veterans tier. Today? After the horrors that are Zero no Tsukaima 2 and Shana 2, I reconsidered. I think the weakness of JC Staff is that they cannot go all-in with the source material… they must muck around with it. I should have seen it coming when they decided against animating the ending to Maboraba. Whatever happened to the JC Staff that brought us Azumanga and Utena? Please come back to us. It’s almost like as JC Staff got older, they developed more of a “I know what I’m doing, and I’ll do it my way” attitude. Uh, not good. I feel like this studio is two or three more disappointing series away from joining Gonzo and Studio Deen.

Tier 9, The Stopgap Journeymen: AIC, Toei, Studio Perriot

The same philosophy as “it’s better to start Trent Green over Cleo Lemon,” but I just don’t foresee a lot of playoff victories nonetheless. These studios are palatable options and nothing more.

Tier 10, Michigan Quarterbacks Not Named Brady: Oriental Light and Magic, Feel

If your team is starting is quarterback from the University of Michigan, and his name isn’t “Tom Brady,” it’s a bad sign. Brian Griese? Todd Collins? They’ll pull out miracle wins once in a while (like Todd in Washington this season), but, being realistic, they’ll crash back down in earth within two games. I feel the same way about studios in this tier. Much like Griese and Collins having fatal flaws, these studios have a few fatal flaws. With Feel, I can also point out the collapse point of their series, whether it be giant penises or the ribbon episode. While Feel is decent with animation quality, they seem to dabble and play around with the source material a bit too much, with poor results. Oriental Light and Magic, on the other hand, needs to improve their animation. I think they’ve actually done a decent job with both Mini-Goddesses, Gift, and Utawarerumono, but their animation quality varies greatly from acceptable to quality cabbage.

Tier 11, Injury Replacement: IMAGIN

Seeing a studio being the butt of a joke in an episode of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is probably as bad of a sign as hearing the announcer say “Kyle Orton is making an injury replacement for Brian Griese.” I’m willing to be open minded about IMAGIN, but their only bodies of work have been Love Love, Cosprayers, and Smash Hit. If that doesn’t scream “Kyle Orton,” I don’t know what does. Yes, I’m very worried about Spice and Wolf. Deeply.

Tier 12, Could Be Worse: TNK, ZEXCS

As in “Could be worse. At least we’re not starting Alex Smith and have him on the salary cap for $50 million. Oh wait… OH SHI-“. On the bright side, at least Frank Gore is always healthy… OH SHI-

Tier 13, Plain Bad: Artland

We’re firmly in “My quarterback got sent to sing-sing on dogfighting charges, and, OH FUCK NO!!!!! The backup is Joey Harrington!!!!!” stage. I was watching Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ and thought that Umisho and Mushishi were enjoyable in spite of Artland. It’s scary how much better either series could be with a decent studio. Artland’s Gunslinger Girl is significantly worse animated than Madhouse’s version, and Madhouse made theirs four years ago! They went backwards with Gunslinger Girl by how much Kanon went forward from Toei to Kyoto. I’m bummed. I think my next post will be “Anime Better Studios Need to Remake ASAP Power Rankings™.”

Tier 14, The Steve Franchise: Gonzo, Studio Deen

Sorry to break the NFL references, but this tier is perfect for an NBA one. Pretty often, a player would demand max (franchise-level) money, but they’re not franchise players. For the sake of discussion, let’s call these people “Steve Francis” and “Rashard Lewis.” The anime studio equivalent, of course, would be studios that get way too much credit for doing a few things well while just overall pumping out crummy anime. Gonzo always seems to overhype their shows just to deliver incoherent messes. I’ve already gone through a full and thorough Gonzo bashing, and Studio Deen isn’t much better. Poor adaptation, below average animation, and no direction generally describe a typical series from this tier, much like any team with Steve Francis as its starting point guard. And with that, I wrap up the first ever Anime Production House Power Rankings™.

41 Responses to “anime production house power rankings™”

  1. In before some people whining.

  2. mm… Kyou looks like she’s not wearing anything underneath.

    I think a post like this was long overdue.

  3. they learn and improve. Watching Air then Kanon then Clannad, the animation quality keeps getting better as well as their ability to distill from a visual novel.

    Not just their animation but also their storytelling. Unlike Ayu, Nagisa doesn’t feel forced and is not sticking out as the result of own Key’s Next reality show. Because it is kinda how I feel with Kanon 2006.

  4. What about directors? For some reason, I’ve noticed that I tend to fanboy more over them than studios.

    And, as someone who doesn’t know what NFL stands for, I can agree that most of this was Sanskrit to me. I’d whine about Kyoto Animation, too, but I have other places to do that.

  5. I have high hopes for Nomad and PA works, I’ll be checking out their series more often from now on, and yes please go back to the greatness that was formerly known as J.C. Staff Ver. 1. Although after the last ep of Shana 2 my faith is being restored slowly along with Shigofumi which has been going great for the first 2 eps.

  6. Kyoto Animation deserved the number 1 spot..
    Because I’m not too familiar with the others..

  7. Not being american, or into sports, all the NFL/NBA references really got me lost.

  8. Ah, to tell you something, the most profitable one

    tier 1: sunrise

    tier 2: studio pierrot

    that’s all matters to studios right now

    haruhi maybe a hit, but it can’t sell enough merchandise _worldwide_ as good as bleach, gundam kits, or some ninja toys…

    (that’s a bit depressing to write)

  9. I enjoyed the comparisons but it seems like you ranked it more on NFL QB parallels (Romo, Roethlisberger, Doumu, Sunrise) than a proper ranking of competency – Onegai Teacher c’mon(backhanded compliments ftw). I also think studios need to get a couple series under their belt to be fairly evaluated – Vince Young had a great start last year and this year not so much (when your coach is considering starting Kerry Collins over you thats not a good sign). Also lets not forget JC did do Potemayo.

  10. Mahoraba’s pretty good for a sign of J.C.Staff’s impending failure. And I’ll agree with the above: no studio that put out Potemayo last year can be considered in decline. I do admit to having sold my soul to J.C.Staff so my remarks are more than a little biased. But J.C.Staff has shown enough good, even recently, for people to have faith that they’ll bounce back from Shana 2 and Louise 2 in a big way.

  11. everything you said was derailed by kyou

  12. Although the sports references fly over my head, I find myself in general agreement with these rankings. Kyo(u)to deserves the top spot for being able to consistently bring out the gold in franchises they touch. The only glaring flaw is the postponement of popular series (Haruhi, FMP) for what I can only assume to be a bigger wad of cash being offered.

    And Kyou can do an intervention on power rankings™ any time she wants. Seven doctor in eight agree, it makes your life better.

  13. Seeing a studio being the butt of a joke in an episode of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

    Actually, not really. They were actually referencing Kamen Rider Den-o, the latest Masked Rider series in the Kamen Rider franchise. Imagen are the names of the supernatural monster race, some of whom lend their powers to the protagonist, transforming them into the series’ titular heroes.

    Although, yes, the (intentional?) pot shot to IMAGEN was funny… but I thought you hated SZS now?

  14. You know… It’s amazing how the brain works. Notice how the brain of Darry here works backwards:

    “[Blank] the [blank] of every company that delivers the eye-heroin. Kick, while they’re down, every other company that doesn’t deliver. Not as simple as that since I’m using analogies, but it’s actually as simple as that.”

    Hey, look. Just go ahead and say it. I am:

    SHAFT sucks. $unrise had lost that special shining thing when it lost Yoshiyuki Tomino. Kyoto Ani is a whore. I’m checking to see… You still haven’t gotten around from that rape Gainax gave you in the [blank]. Gonzo and Xebec seemed to be the only collectives out there doing their jobs right (until Gonzo made the decision not to make any serious, mature-minded anime anymore).

    Oh, there you go again shooting yourself up with the eye-heroin. It’s a good thing you’re not robbing from me. Or else I’d shoot you.

  15. If Plummer was called Jake the Snake then does that mean Shaft is named Shaft the Daft?

  16. Hmmm….I do wonder where Xebec would fit into the list.

  17. I still have faith in JC Staff. Despite their recent troubles, they are the studio that gave us Azumanga, Honey and Clover, Shana, Asatte no Houkou and Nodame Cantabile. That run was as good as any studio has ever done.

  18. Bears, Seahawks, what’s the difference?

  19. Gonzo is something that has been especially annoying to me, to be honest. I liked how originally they stood out as being a paperless studio, and they did do just plain good shows I thought, as seen with Last Exile and Saikano overall.

    But then they just sorta got bigger and bigger, and after Last Exile, there really hasn’t been a show they’ve done that has impressed me. Their animation is super-inconsistant, they can’t write out of a paper bag, and they just seem to of gone the route of “Throw as much as out as possible and we’ll be good”, while other studios are much more in the quality v. quantity vein of things, as shown by Production IG, Kyoto, and Gainax.

    And stuff I guess. Good post as always^_^

  20. Jason, how do you rank for UFOTable?

  21. JC Staff did okay with H&C, and in their defense the last chapters of Mahoraba had not been written when they did their ending…. which actually seems to have either influenced, or just shared a similar resolution, to the manga’s, minus the timeshift.

    I’d probably put Telecom on Tier 5 with PA Works, if only because their animation is serviceable if not the best, but they can (with the right director) get an entertaining story done, even if they don’t follow the manga source religiously. That’s something that JC Staff used to be really good at once upon a time (H&C’s pretty much a direct retelling of the manga, in animated format), while keeping the changes in line with the spirit of the original as well as being entertaining.

  22. You know… It’s amazing how the brain works. Notice how the brain of Darry here works backwards:

    “[Blank] the [blank] of every company that delivers the eye-heroin. Kick, while they’re down, every other company that doesn’t deliver. Not as simple as that since I’m using analogies, but it’s actually as simple as that.”

    Hey, look. Just go ahead and say it. I am:

    SHAFT sucks. $unrise had lost that special shining thing when it lost Yoshiyuki Tomino. Kyoto Ani is a whore. I’m checking to see… You still haven’t gotten around from that rape Gainax gave you in the [blank]. Gonzo and Xebec seemed to be the only collectives out there doing their jobs right (until Gonzo made the decision not to make any serious, mature-minded anime anymore).

    Oh, there you go again shooting yourself up with the eye-heroin. It’s a good thing you’re not robbing from me. Or else I’d shoot you.

    Every time you post, you go on a swearfest against the owner of this blog. You’de be a good teammate with Kaioshin-sama who often complain about Jason whenever Jason point out something he dun like about Gundam or whatever mech anime by sunrise.

  23. I was thinking KyoAni=Tom Brady as soon as I see where you are going.

    No mention of Jason Campbell? He is gonna be better than Tony Homo and that other Manning next season.

    Oh Cowgirls lost today. Too bad Giants can’t lose in the same game.

  24. >Sheba

    Don’t feed the trolls.

    IMHO Jason is as biased as hell for Kyoto, but then again his biasness is justified, Kyoto is pretty damn good. That’s not to say they aren’t perfect though, one of the prime reasons they were so good was they only do a show a season, plus some of them are half a season long. Of course, that trend is starting to buck, whatnot with their 26-episode forays.

    I also heavily agree with IKnight, I think its usually more of a case of superior directors over animation studios. Say Lucky Star, it only seriously got good only when they had that director swap. TTGL failed on episode 4 mainly because Hiroyuki Imaishi left the directing chair for that one. Also notes that a lot of work is done outsourced, read the credits for any anime and I’ll bet about half to 3/4 of them have Korean names in them, mostly doing in-betweening work.

    It’s one very entertaining read, and I generally agree with Jason’s rankings, but there are more credits that meets the eye. Basically if you sum up my little rant, it goes like “You can’t judge a studio based on an anime that could’ve been someone else’s credit”

  25. Artland has no good staff available; after Mushishi all of them were drafted to work on the Eva movies. This is why “Megazone 23” is delayed until next year. But anyone who can do Mushishi or has Nobuteru Ishiguro can’t be called bad.

    ps shaft is awesome, even if they completely avoid trying to actually animate

  26. While I don’t disagree with you positioning Gainax at #2, I think you’re being a bit unfair to them – He Is My Master, Mahoromatic and Konomini were all joint productions with SHAFT.

    Also, ‘pantheon’… is this a football usage of the term? You’ll have to excuse my ignorance if it is – I’m Australian – but that term is used to refer to the entirety of the deities of a certain religion, eg the Greek Pantheon.

    Incidentally, a good part of the difference in overall quality between Kanon ’06 and Clannad is very likely not anything to do with Kyoani, and more to do with the quality of the writing in the original games going up. Key have learned a lot as they progressed too.

  27. As someone who grew up in Denver, and therefore a Broncos fan, I can’t agree more with the Jake Plummer award. Watching a SHAFT show is like the first half any Broncos game last year. It was looking pretty good and then Plummer throws five interceptions in five drives and we end up losing to Kansas City.

  28. Wow…that ~is~ a nice picture of Kyou….

    Ok…and, uh, yeah, i totally agree with everything you said, Jason.

  29. When you suck at math this blog punishes you and erases your comment.

    I’m not going to lie, I’m not even mad, I deserve it for glossing over 7+4 with two PhD mathematicians for parents.

  30. Yeah, it’s absolutely terrible that JC Staff only made three awesome shows last year, and that’s if you count Kimikiss, Sky Girls, Shana II -and- the Shana movie as abject failures.

    How dare only half the shows they make be awesome. What on earth were they thinking?

  31. >Sheba

    Don’t feed the trolls.

    They are more along the likes of internet warriors. Something like “Robin, the Jason says something bad about Sunrise, bring the batmobile.”
    It’s not a secret for anyone who read this blog that Jason is biased in favor of KyoAni. Nobody is unbiased or objective ever, thinking, claiming or expecting otherwise is as foolish as expecting Nostradamus’ prophecies coming true or France winning a second World Cup.

  32. “No mention of Jason Campbell? He is gonna be better than Tony Homo and that other Manning next season.”

    I agree. And no I’m not saying that because I’m a Skins fan… Er…

    Anyway, I’m also wondering what about ufotable. Have you seen enough shows from them to rank them here? I would figure they would be high-tier. :/

  33. i would rank Production IG higher, like tier 3, also i would add ufo table to the mid tier

  34. Wow… I’m embarassed to say how long it took me to recognized the SOS-dan logo on the back of Haruhi in the first picture. The first thing to catch my eye was a cat where Boota should be, then the rest started to fall in place.

  35. J.C. Staff is a hard studio to rank imho, they don’t really produce garbage and have a made a large number of good shows, with the rest being watchable at least, as well as a few excellent series. A few disappointments shouldn’t be enough reason to place them so low I think.

    I like Artland only for their Mushishi, the rest is fairly decent(Umisho) to plain bad(the rest), but at least they did a good job on Mushishi. I can only imagine the horror if they didn’t pick it up and GONZO would have done the adaptation. *shudders*
    And I can’t hate Studio DEEN because of all the shows of them I enjoyed in the past, R.O.D. alone is enough to support them through thick and thin for me. ;)

    You’re missing Xebec and Ufotable though, Xebec is well… decent at least and ufotable is a pretty solid studio I think.

  36. > I like Artland only for their Mushishi

    why don’t people in anime blogs know anything that happened over a year ago

  37. good read. anywhere I can find an HD of that haruhi pic from this post to use as wallpaper?

  38. if you think about it, J.C. is only bad at making sequels. Their one time manga/visual novel/novel adaptation is quite decent to good. They should stop making sequels.

    Shaft, I think is seasonal. Sometimes they do good sometimes they do beyond horrible.

  39. This post has nothing to do with the Anime Industry only football. Cleveland has a better upside then then the entire AFC north. That is all.

  40. Yay Kyou! Too bad there’s a tumor in her right thigh…

    I enjoyed Black Cat and Chrno Crusade so I don’t mind Gonzo that much. Had I read the source material I’m certain my head would’ve exploded in impudent rage.

  41. Has it been two years already?

    How do these production houses stand now?
    Kyoto has hit itself with a few bumps (Haruhi S1.5/Munto TV) and a few aces (K-On/Clannad AS)…even. Awaiting the call on Haruhi Movie.
    DEEN may have scored for once.
    Shaft scored big time with a stapler.
    Gainax is doing Potemayo Kindergarten.
    JC Staff has pulled Railgun and brought in Maria to act has head meido.
    Madhouse is gearing up for High School of the Dead
    And Sunrise….well they are exactly the same. Probably best that way.
    Doumu needs to get Minami-ke back.

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