a sunset for sunrise

I was reading the comments for worstest idea ever, and it got me thinking… wait, has there really been a good Sunrise series? Or did i just forget about them?


Look, I like train wreck anime, and I think it’s one thing that sets AoMM part from most other anime blogs. I’d give horrible shows like Higurashi and Code Geass a thumbs up just because they are just so bad but still so entertaining… and isn’t that the point of watching TV? To be entertained? If I want to learn something, I’ll crack open a textbook or wikipedia. I’m just here to say if something is worth watching.

With that said, Sunrise shows have been formulaic, predictable, and train wrecks of the highest order these days. There’s nothing about them that’s special beyond that they were one of the best anime studios around, and now they’ve run into a sandbar and capsized. This aspect is disappointing, and with a possible Mai Hime Destiny on the horizon, I’m not sure if they have it in them or even want to attempt a comeback like what Gainax is doing with Gurren Lagann. It’s like Sunrise is content to be bad these days.

A quick sampling, with the current rating from anidb in (), ANN in []:

Patlabor (7.5) [7.1]: Dated, but good. Movies were fantastic, I think. 1990.

Dirty Pair Flash (6.8) [6.9]: Yuri fanservice is really this series’ only redeeming quality. No, I don’t mean that kind of Yuri… I mean the character… sadly…

Gasaraki (6.4) [6.4]: Serviceable mecha series, but had a great OP… “dust to dust…”

Argento Soma (6.8) [6.7]: Prodding mediocre action drama. Forgettable but hot horrible. A lot of the older series have worse scores just due to the community effect… as more a series ages, the scores always seems to trend downward. I still remember Fate/Stay Night chillin’ at a 9.9 before falling and falling and falling.

Betterman (6.2) [5.8]: Serviceable action series. Sai was fantastic…

Cowboy Bebop (8.6) [9.0]: My vote for greatest Sunrise series ever. One of the shows that got me hooked on anime, and Ballad of Fallen Angels is still one of the greatest episodes in anime history, blowing “It’s was a delicious strategy” out of the water. 1998.

Crest of the Stars (8.6) [8.0]: Excellent series. One of Sunrise’s finest… Crest and Banner I-II were great, but they were in the 99-01 timeframe. Banner III was just too compressed… 05. See a pattern developing?

Outlaw Star (7.5) [7.8]: A poor man’s Bebop but still very good. I think the community scores for this series would be better if CN didn’t censor it… digitally adding a swimsuit Melfina and cutting the epic hot springs episode was just unforgivable. Yes, nothing is more enjoyable than a mecha series that requires a nakkid female pilot (hello Full Metal Panic, bye-bye Vandread). Outlaw Star is also Ayako Kawasumi’s debut series, warrants mentioning.

Escaflowne (8.0) [8.2]: One of my favorite series. Maaya Sakamoto’s debut series, warrants mentioning.

The Big O (6.7) [7.0]: One of my favorite series that got raped by CN. I think CN having a hand in season two was one of the biggest mistakes ever, almost on par with a Spears/Federline marriage. 1999.

Inu Yasha (7.4) [7.4]: Afraid to say anything. Fangirls are scary as evidenced that AoMM’s most visited post is my old “full moon wo sagashite 52” write up. I’m delighted and scared of this fact. 2000-2004.

Witch Hunter Robin (7.6) [7.6]: Mediocre series that reminded me a bit too much of La Femme Nikita. 2002.

Keroro (8.0) [8.0]: I’ve been watching the earlier episodes, and I have to say that Keroro is succeeding in spite of Sunrise. The animation quality was very loose… Natsumi’s face would change shape like five times an episode. (Andohbytheway, I’ve been watching the live action version of Sexy Voice and Robo, and I’m almost convinced that the success of Densha Otoko gave the studios impetus to greenlight Robo. Anytime we have otaku in live action dramas, they always seem to come off of as parodies of the highest order. I’m also convinced that Robo is really Keroro in a pekopon disguise.)

Mai Hime (8.1) [8.4]: Very mediocre show except for three key things. The first has to be all the emo facial distortions that paved the way for Higurashi. The second would be the reality TV aspect, where they voted off a girl every week like American Idol or Survivor. (I enjoyed the “Himelander” meme, but the McClouds didn’t want to be the last man standing and just wanted peace whereas almost everyone in Hime wanted to be the last girl standing, much like American Idol or Survivor. Big difference in my mind.) The third would be Shizuru. She pushes Mai Hime from being “ok” to “OMFGBBQWTF” just like how Kamina is single-handedly pushing Gainax’s Gurren Lagann from “great series” to “pantheon class.” (Yes, I didn’t anticipate typing “pantheon” and “Gainax” in the same sentence ever again since Eva.) When she took advantage of poor Natsuki… well… that was probably the greatest anime moment that year. But the key point is that with Mai Hime, Sunrise transitions from bringing good and enjoyable anime to bringing train wreck anime. It is sadly the bridge between Cowboy Bebop and Mai Otome Zwei.

Mai Otome (7.8) [7.7]: Entertaining if only for the train wreck nature. Anytime you can have an anime involving a love triangle between a girl, her father, and her 14 year old friend and have a climax involve the father bedding her daughter to stop her vicious killing persona, but somehow not working, you have to… uh… I don’t know. Anyway, I enjoyed THEM Anime’s epic review of Mai Otome if only because the reviewer spent like 1,000 words on it, watched 13 episodes, and couldn’t describe the plot. Instead, he focuses on what else to watch but ends up as rambling and off-topic as myself… kinda like my upcoming entry for Gundam

Zegapain (8.1) [8.0]: Mediocre mecha series that needed more polish on the plot, less spikey-haired flaming youth, and a lot more Shizuno fanservice.

Gundam (7.0) [7.5]: Dated as hell, but revolutionized the mecha genre like how StarCraft revolutioned RTS. (Yes, I’m excited for StarCraft II if only for the possibility that Blizzard would leave the ending of the expansion pack since you know there will be one open-ended in preparation of the next WoW expansion: “The Queen of Blades.” Yes, I feel like the new Protoss look sure looks like those Dranei… they both had their homeworlds overrun… they both teleport their buildings… I can’t wait to roll a Protoss paladin…)

Gundam Wing (7.3) [7.4]: If it were 1994, and I’d tell you that in 1995 Sunrise would crank out a Gundam series that had the most lopsided mecha ever, 5 gay pilots who were better off on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, the largest wet blanket female character ever, and that it would become one of the most popular Gundam series ever, would you believe me? Thought so.

Turn a Gundam (7.3) [8.0]: Gundam with a mustache. Gundam with a mustache. Gundam with a cheesy, Sherlock Holmes-era mustache.

Gundam SEED (8.4) [8.2]: Hailed as the rebirth of the Gundam franchise (not hard accomplishment if the previous two series were about a mustache Gundam and 5 gay pilots) but relied too much on just redoing the original series and too many instant plot twists. I hate instant plot twists because it shows that the writer just gave up. Instead of developing real suspense and drama, they cheap out. The good news is that Battlestar Galactica is now the king of TV instant plot twists. Thank you Starbuck…

Gundam SEED Destiny (7.4) [7.4]: Good or bad, I’m out of things to say about this one.

Code Geass (8.6) [8.8]: Gotta love how Code Geass ends up being the highest ranked Sunrise series on anidb and ANN; of course, it’ll be silly to suggest that Pizza Hut bribed all the votes with free pan pizza. I think if Production IG handled Code Geass, it could have been as good as Guardian of the Sacred Spirit. Of course, we wouldn’t get any Pizza Hut, table humping, or Euphie going Oyashiro on us.

Looking at the shows, I’d say that there was a time when Sunrise was a big game studio capable of taking risks and developing solid anime. Then SEED and Hime rolled around, and they figured, well, let’s just feed them the same formulaic crap from now on. The problem is that Sunrise seems to be content these days just ripping off their old ideas and calling them new shows and not do a good job of it in the process. For someone who was an anime fan in the 90s, seeing Sunrise crank out stuff like Code Geass causes my eyes to bleed… this was the same studio that brought us Crest of the Stars, Bebop, and Escaflowne! Sunrise! What happened!?! They’re only above average series now is Keroro, but that’s really something that started before their current free-fall.

We should have known by Hime and gotten clues from SEED. The problem is that once Sunrise realized that they could sell tons of figures and DVDs by writing crap but tossing in gimmicks, they were set. Why bother developing a good story when 24 episodes of crap can be wiped away with some Shizuru/Natsuki rape, table humping, or killing off Mr Impossible (and then bringing him back)? Why bother? Save money, develop junk, and feed it to the public. They almost seem like the Mickey D’s of anime studios.



A few footnotes:

  • Bandai I think helped Sunrise out more than we believe. While they may not be like Kyoto and Gonzo for Full Metal Panic, the Bandai/Sunrise projects seem to be better than just the pure Sunrise ones. Someone (not me) needs to come up with these stats or something.
  • A few people have speculated that the reason for Sunrise being Sunrise these days is due to a personnel change. My argument is that if the company culture were strong, it would endure the loss of a few people or at least be smart enough to keep these people happy.
  • Ratio of dead to dead-but-came-back characters pre-2003 and post-2003.
  • Another theory is that Sunrise just wants to sell toys. I’m not sure about this one as Bandai sells the toys, but whatever. I’m still waiting for what I really want: The Shizuru and Nayuki Action Playset.

43 Responses to “a sunset for sunrise”

  1. 08th MS Team and Infinite Ryvius were both excellent in my humble opinion.

  2. >>I’m still waiting for what I really want: The Shizuru and Nayuki Action Playset.

    You are a bad, sick, and depraved man Jason. I salute you.

    You didn’t mention Xenoglossia though. (actually, I don’t mind Xenoglossia that much. Its ridiculous but hasn’t reached the Nina-Wong/Nina-Table yet)

    That reminds me: Never ever ever ever ever let Sunrise do a Breath of Fire anime. I do not want to know what they’d do to that poor winged princess.

  3. I wonder if you’re crediting the studio with too much of the responsibility for plot train-wrecks, and failing to note the contribution that the individual directors and scriptwriters make to the same.

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why Sunrise kept letting Tomino direct after V-Gundam. I loved Turn-A, but it’s far from a tightly written series. Of course given what they got AFTER they let someone play Gundam, (Wing, Seed, etc.) perhaps it makes a little more sense.

    In comparison, much of what Kazuki Akane directs turns into gold. (Or at least a competantly written and directed series, like Escaflowne, Heat Guy J, and Noein.)

    And then there’s stuff on there that has the Sunrise name, but is clearly the brain child of someone else. Big-O and Betterman are blatant Chiaki Konaka product, with his trademark WTF bent. And if you’re gonna point the finger at Inu-yasha, Rumiko Takahashi deserves much of the blame.

  4. Besides Xenoglossia (which you might be better off not reviewing since it seems like more of Hime/Otome stuff), you didn’t mention Kekkaishi. I actually hear it’s a pretty decent series, though not my personal cup of tea.

  5. Eh? Sunrise has always, and pretty much always will be, a toy-show studio who occasionally produces other stuff on the side. I mean, you completely neglect to mention GaoGaiGar or the dozens of other super robots shows which made up most of their output right up until the mid-90s.

    Coincidently, from most reports, Banner III wasn’t really compressed – there was just that little actually going on in the book. If Morioka would hurry up a churn out a couple more books, you might yet get something a little more substantial.

    But, whatever, I absolutely love Sunrises recent productions. Heck, they may not be particularly clever (indeed, most of them are incredibly stupid), but at least they are rarely entirely predictable, and frankly they are entertaining. It’s nice to be able to kick back and watch something you don’t have to think particularly hard about every now and again.

  6. Cowboy Bebop was so great 90% due to Shinichirō Watanabe.

    Following your pattern though, I can’t see how that Dilandu thing they pulled in Escaflowne wouldn’t have made you dislike it.

    If Sunrise can make money from retarded story lines with instant gratification, why would they bother with a better script? Where’s the incentive?

  7. you left out Gintama ;;

    by far my fav sunrise show in the recent years, somewhat like k66 but deliciously different

  8. Sigh… everyone forgets about Planetes.

  9. lol good call

    it was indeed a enjoyable series, though not very sunrise like (prob why every1 forgot about it)

  10. i would have rated Outlaw Star so much higher. on one hand, i had always wished for a second season, but seeing what Sunrise does with those these days, i would rather keep the season we got now the way it is.

    and now i must smack myself for jinxing things…

  11. “…and Ballad of Fallen Angels is still one of the greatest episodes in anime history…”


  12. what quigonkenny said.

  13. >> too many instant plot twists. I hate instant plot twists because it shows that the writer just gave up.

    Yes, I hate those too. It is like the writer don’t know where he is going so he pull something out of his ass to get the plot artificially moving, like woah Kyon is actually Mikuru’s father, Nagato going oyashirosama on us is a part of the plan of this alt Itsuki from that alt SOS-Dan, because LOL Just As Planned =D


  14. I second the “What about Planetes?”


  15. Higurashi and Code Geass shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. It’s blasphemous.

  16. I know SUNRISE gave us IdolM@ster Xenoglossia…. LOL

  17. btw, regarding what Konata was playing


    so it definitly is FFXI in the manga, however doesn’t match the anime

  18. Sunrise had became very formulaic ever since they made that blasted series called Dragonar(Kiko Senki Dragonar, 1987) That was the series that signaled the downfall of Sunrise from being the premier anime studio to one in the crowd in the views of male high school age viewers. Something like Crest of Stars should be considered as exception instead of what we can normally expect from Sunrise. Crest of Stars was made at just the right time when Asian movie viewers were treated to the movie Star Trek: First Contact.

  19. p…p…planetes!

  20. Sunrise does many series but take Inu Yasha for example, its not from Sunrise since its based on the Manga (that is still ongoing), same with Crest of the Stars that is based on the novel series of the same name.

    That lies one of the issues, if they are good at making their own series or animate someone else work.

    That is why I do not jump into Kyoto Animation bandwagon since so far they done nothing that is “theirs”.

  21. I’m gonna agree with everyone else who mentions PlanetES. I positively loved that series if only because I found the behavior of the people endearing, in a silly goofy way. Also, like you said, Cowboy Bebop was indeed incredible. I loved that show. The hunt for the cassette player got a huge laugh from me as well.

    On another note, you liked Escaflowne? Someone said it before and I’m going to have to agree… Something just made me think you’d hate that show. I dunno maybe just following your pattern it seemed it’d be on the list of stuff you disliked.

  22. Jason’s conviently leaving out a substantial number of the great series Sunrise has done so he can continue to push his Trainwreck lies. In fact I’m starting to wonder if Sunrise killed his family or something, because this hatred is getting ridiculous if not completely unfair and biased.

  23. I’d also like to add that he completely fails to notice that Kyoto Animation does the same type of thing with it’s shows now that it realizes it can milk the Moe Theme and rake in the dough, yet they aren’t getting half as much flak for this as Sunrise gets.

    Frankly I’d be complaining about both of them quite profusely, if they didn’t put effort into their shows to make them fun and watchable despite this, but you know they do, so I can forgive it because I don’t care about the products anyway, I care about the show and frankly Sunrise only has two bad series in books and those are the Seed Franchise and the Mai Hime Franchise and the rest have been good. If people can’t forgive two mistakes in a sea of fun successes, then they either are unfair or unaware.

  24. Alan Schezar is going to go cut him up for it….or fire charon-boosted rockets into him depending on what fictional universe you’re in.

  25. I don’t know, maybe I’m being a bit bitchy about it, but it is like the 3rd time (at least that I’ve noticed) that he’s brought this up in like 5 posts. I tend to go on Kyoto Animation rants elsewhere, but even I’m not this frequent with it (especially in recent weeks). It’s the frequency of it that is startling, AND that’s it’s just blown out proportion, even for AOMM.

  26. With Hunter was amazing and you know it, Jason > .

  27. Escaflowne, Crest of the Stars, and even Cowboy Bebop (yes, I’m surprised I’m listing it here also) are all very good series.

    I’d probably rank them in that order too.

  28. Just want to say that although I know Turn-A Gundam itself looks stupid, I think the series is fantastic and really captures what’s great (except cool mobile suits) about the early gundam series.

  29. Escaflowne would’ve been better if it hadn’t been raped for FOX viewership. Then there’s that pronounciation of the “e” at the end (which is supposed to be silent).

    S-Cry-Ed had been left out. It was slightly good for the pre-train-wreck-style anime during its time.

    Outlaw Star was the poor man’s Cowboy Bebop, Betterman was bittersweet for some scary mecha drama. And Gundam (more dated than a prostitute) was basically the battle between Yoshiyuki Tomino the storyteller and $unrise the toymaker. Said battle coming to blinding end when $unrise created Gundam Seed.

    And no. Mitsuo Fukuda didn’t revive the series. He lucked out via the high-grade models and the voice-overs being instant idols and celling CDs.

    Hell, Miao. It’s fine if you lick train wrecks. I have constant protests and disses on YouTubes, myself.

  30. We should also note that almost everything from 2004-2006 was trainwreck like in varying degrees, with a few survivors and outstanding series here and there. I’m thinking we should take into account the times we were living in then (Heavy Media Censorship, Economic Uncertainty, Idol Trends) before we pass judgement on the future of any company. As much as Code Geass isn’t as good as Sunrises old series for example it’s still better than anything they put out during the 2004-2006 by a huge leap, almost towards the horizon to evoke cheesy imagery of a Sunrise. And no I’m not going to use some confusing and hard to understand analogy to Politics to explain that this time, because I’ve been accused of using the Mary Jane last time I did it.

  31. i sticked to hime for the yuri…
    otome just sukced big time..
    seed was watched solely for lacus clyne..
    scryed was pretty good…damn dat was long ago when i was watching this….

  32. It’s sad that Big-O didnt get the success it so richly deserved. It has everything: a good setting, likeable characters, a great and challenging scenario, awesome dialogues & lines, and the good ol’ “wtf!?” factor.

  33. Sunrise is just a production company, it’s not the writer or director for any of these shows. Plus, a lot of my favorite series have come out of Sunrise. You’re probably just basing the idea of Sunrise = trainwreck on the newest series that are fresh in your mind (although I’ll argue with you that Code Geass was not a trainwreck).

    In other news, I’m disgusted at the lack of mention about the awesomeness known as Yakitate! Japan (although it wasn’t an original Sunrise production).

  34. Some quips:

    – The “Patlabor” television series should be differentiated from the OVA series. The former was done by Sunrise while the latter by Studio DEEN (who had a good wealth of material, and was a lot different from the failed game to anime adaptions we see today). The movies are subsequently the sequels to the OVA series, and the most recent OVA series is a conclusion to the television series.

    – “Gasaraki,” “Cowboy Bebop,” “Escaflowne,” and “The Big O” are insanely awesome. During the mid to late 90’s Sunrise put out some of THE BEST anime television series out there.

    – “Outlaw Star” was fun. Its actual merits are not much more than decent, but it’s simply a mindless, fun ride from start to finish.

    – “Witch Hunter Robin” is actually worthwhile, but nothing to really twist and break your neck over. Slow-paced anime are some of the best examples you can find in the medium, but WHR is not one of them.

    – “Infinite Ryvius” is very good, too, assuming that you understand that the entire cast isn’t meant to be really likable. It came at the end of the 90’s era for Sunrise, which is probably a good indicator.

    – If the “Planetes” anime is anything like the excellent manga which it is based on, then it’s certainly more watching as well.

    – I haven’t seen it, but Sunrise made “GaoGaiGar,” which is pretty much regarded as one of the greatest manly super robot shows out there.

    … In the end I think what all of this bitching about Sunrise train wrecks simply reflects their output in recent years. They care enough to produce anime that will be a success, but they don’t care enough to create an anime that is actually well-written… at least to the more discriminating eye. (Some might call that elitism, but eh, whatever.)

    >> Big-O and Betterman are blatant Chiaki Konaka product, with his trademark WTF bent.

    Except Chiaki Konaka didn’t write Betterman, it was Hiroshi Yamaguchi:


    Curiously enough, he also wrote the script for the unfavorable fourth episode of “Gurren Lagann.” Coincidence? (Yeah, yeah, there were animation issues there, but my point still stands.)

    >> And if you’re gonna point the finger at Inu-yasha, Rumiko Takahashi deserves much of the blame.

    Unless Takahashi told Sunrise to not even give “Inu Yasha” any type of real ending, then they do deserve the blame of letting down those who followed it through one hundred sixty-some episodes (which doesn’t include myself).

  35. Inu Yasha is currently at 500+ chapters, there is no ending in sight.

    Sunrise could create a ending but this is licensed territory, they could go into fillers (as Naruto and Bleach) or take a break but I suspect that there was no much interest in continue with Inu Yasha since there was Bleach and Naruto.

    Its also not new, Ranma ½ also had no ending for the same reason … (too long, no ending in the manga in sight)

  36. For me, I tend to enjoy the current Sunrise. Seed got me into Gundam. Mai Hime was great, but I can’t say the same for Otome. Still say they sould make the movie they teased us with a year ago.
    Old school shows like Crest of the Stars through Escaflowne are great.

    Then there are shows like Code Geass, with a plot that has no idea where it’s going, and a constantly changing feel. Is it a school romance or is it a Gundam ripoff, oh wait but what are all these CLAMP characters doing in my Gundam….. AND PIZZA HUT!!!!!
    Besides, having characters die off in tragic story changing events, only to have them return a couple episodes later is practicly their trademark by now.

    I’m sure I’ll watch the new Mai Hime series as soon as possible, but I do have to admit my bar of expectations is lower then Code Geass at the moment…. But probubly higher then Otome and Higurashi combined………. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be there for Higruashi 2, I NEED MORE KILLER LOLI in my anime!!!!!!!

    As for the little blurb on Sexy Voice and Robo, I havn’t experienced the manga version. But decided to give the LA a chance. Overall, it’s not that great. But Robo’s character is more then enough to keep me coming back.

  37. That first picture you have on this post. The one with the purple haired girl and the blonde/brown haired one …what anime is that from? Pardon my ignorance, I just recently got back into anime from a long hiatus and stumbled upon your site and thought this was interesting …

  38. Umm, as others have said, look like you’ve missed all Sunrise’s works Taniguchi Goro has directed beside Code Geass (Infinite Ryvius, Planetes and Scryed)^^;

    @ What anime is that?

    — Those are Chizuru and Natsuki, for Mai Hime.

  39. What Sunrise need for gundam is an Gundam version of Aura Battler Dubine. Escaflowne meets gundam minus a happy ending just like how kill’em all tomino used to make them.

  40. also Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto

    above par series for sure

  41. Bit late to the party but… looking through the provided list I must conclude that Cowboy Bebop was their finest hour. I also liked 08th MS team very much; maybe Gundams can be good if they make them SHORT. :P

    I haven’t seen Escaflowne (shame, shaaaaaaaame!) but a friend who has tastes similar to mine says it’s a good one.

  42. Just watched the newly released ep 3 of Mai Otome Zwei and… well, I’d say it’s pretty interesting… Mainly since it’s the first and likely last time the Otomes are shown with their funbags uncensored.
    The plot is still meh… with some continuity errors thrown in.

  43. it is utterly outrageous that Planet ES is not hailed for its greatness in this list. seriously…

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