anime production house power rankings™

You must be surprised to see this post. *wink* Big O… showtime!

(Another one of the many posts yet to be written by needs to be written, along with “There can never be enough meme for ‘boobs'” and “Why do I enjoy parenthesis so much?”)

Before I start, I want to make one thing clear before I start: I’m judging studios with how they animate and how they bring a source material to animated form, as that’s the main job of an animation studio. Senjougahara’s bitter wit? Nothing to do with Shaft. Senjougahara’s ten minute long changing scene done in high definition? Something to do with Shaft. That’s the distinction. I am not judging “Oh this show is awesome!” but rather should this show have sucked. This post only covers studios that (a) I remember and (b) are main production houses for TV anime. As a 2010 wrinkle, I’m also considering the TWGOKCOPAS, which I’ll explain later.

Anime Production House Power Rankings™

Tier 1, Peerless: Kyoto Animation

I think people are too worked up over 15,532 and not worked up enough over Clannad After Story… only the greatest woven story to come along in a long time. Kyoto did the (almost) impossible in packaging the huge visual novel into anime format, made everything so damn pretty, and tossed in a few jam-mu in-jokes. Now that’s an anime studio. Oh, they also gave us the Kyou and Tomoyo OVAs… which I immensely enjoyed. More studios need to follow their lead and give us alternate OVAs for the other haremettes… like I would love to see a Kallen end for Code Geass.

After Story would have earned Kyoto a return trip to Tier 1 alone… but what really defines a top studio? Being able to take the source material and really fulfilling its potential. Kyoto outdid themselves with K-On!. Unlike Lucky Star where they pulled a lot of gimmicks, K-On! was carried by the strength of Kyoto presenting Mio, Yui, Mugi, and Ritsu as they are. (And moe~ moe~ kyun~ sure didn’t hurt.) Consider that K-On!‘s source material isn’t really that much better than Seitokai‘s, but the anime adaptation of the two are so different. And, of course, with K-On!, Kyoto unleashed their greatest ED since Hare Hare Yukai. Don’t say that I’m crazy, but I think that helped. Mio 4ever.

(And they have the best 1-2 punch coming up in 2010 with K-On! season 2 and Vanishment, which isn’t a word, but whatever. I think Vanishment of Haruhi Suzumiya is going to prove that Kyoto can still hang with the rest in terms of pure animation. But I’m more excited that everyone’s favorite Canadian is returning during a Canadian winter Olympics.)

Tier 2, Pantheon: Shaft, Madhouse

I had only one word in my mind when I found out that Madhouse is animating Highschool of the Dead: YES! Now that’s what I want from a pantheon-worthy studio. Both Madhouse and Shaft have had a checkered past… as bad as what some people think Negima is, that’s nothing compared to some excrement that Madhouse had dumped on us in the past (Rizelmine, Hanaukyou Meido). But they’re both here now for what they’ve done recently… Madhouse for the awesome, awesome job on Summer Wars, the brave job on Needless, and the unforgettable job on Kamen on Meido Guy. And Shaft for… well… just Bakemonogatari. Okay, that’s a lie. Shaft also had recently the highly enjoyable Zetsubou franchise, the increasingly enjoyable Dance in the Vampire Bund**, and, well, for the brokenly enjoyable Maria+Holic. Both studios have great animation production values and generally sane choices for seiyuu. Both studios are like cagey aging vets. Keep those hits coming.

** Yet Another Post That Needs To Be Written Yet Hasn’t. Vampire Bund is getting good.

Tier 3, I Have a Great Big Johnny; Do You Want To See It?: Production IG

Only one show of note recently (not a plus), and it is a good one. Can’t deny Eden of the East set a new bar for most Johnnies (okay, not a plus), most beautiful backgrounds, most frumpy outfits (not a plus either), most awesome cell phone, most references to movies from the 1970s, and most inspired use of augmented reality. I’m absolutely convinced if they swapped Saki and her frumpy outfits for Mio and Sawa-chan’s specialty outfits, Eden of the East and Production IG would be a lot higher.

(Halo Legends… did not help Production IG. I’ll say that.)

Tier 4, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: AIC ASTA, Brains Base

Wildly impressed with Brains Base and a good job on Durarararara!! could vault them into the next tier, just like how I’m wildly impressed with AIC ASTA and how Sora no Otoshimono vaulted them into this spot. Brains Base’s animation is above average, their backgrounds are third only to Kyoto and Production IG, and they’re doing a competent job in translating source material. They saved the Spice and Wolf franchise from IMAGIN, and they surprised me with Denpa Teki no Kanojo. AIC ASTA just came from nowhere and did a great job on Bamboo Blade and then followed it up with an even better job on Sora no Otoshimono. If there’s a show with fanservice, it’s a hard, hard toss-up who I want to get it more… AIC ASTA or Madhouse.

Andohbytheway, this is the TWGOKCOPAS, The World God Only Knows Cut-Off Point All-Stars, as in I’m hoping any of the studios listed above get that source material. Who is in the TWGOKCOPAS? TWGOK for one. I’ll also toss in Mirai Nikki and Sword Art Online.

(You can also think of TWGOKCOPAS as a confidence level. I have confidence that AIC ASTA would do the haremettes justice. I have confidence Shaft would make a spectacle of the Capturing God. I have confidence Production IG will make shiny red fire trucks for Elsee.)

Tier 5, They Are What They Are: JC Staff, Gainax, Sunrise

At one point, Shaft was the dominate force in this category. How times change. JC Staff is just what they are, a good but not great studio that really should have gotten Hanamaru Kindergarten. Gainax makes us fall in love with them just to break our hearts… and they really shouldn’t be handling Hanamaru. (Gainax is the Brett Favre of anime studios. Never forget this.) Sunrise… well… is Sunrise.

(Railgun is actually good. Like much better than Index. When was the last time a spin-off surpassed the original? Laverne & Shirley from Happy Days?)

(Kyoto is trying to kiss and make up with Vanishment… Gainax made up for Mahoro with the 2009 Mahoro OVAs. And, yes, if Gainax made a new Mahoro OVA that basically said the final two episodes were actually a bad dream sequence, I would have started cheering like a New Orleans Saints fan.)


You know it’s honmei choco if you feel the razor blade

Tier 6, Matt Stafford, Josh Freemen, and Mark Sanchez: Hoods, Silver Link, and White Fox

All promising rookies, but you just know maybe one is going onto greatness, maybe one is going to be mediocre, and maybe one is going to be the new Gonzo. (And, really, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression and a huge slump in DVD sales is the perfect time window to launch a new anime studio… sigh.) We just don’t know which is which.

Hoods has only two productions under their belt, and their both doozies: Aki Sora, an H-anime about twincest, and Seikon no Qwaser, which should have been an H-anime. Hell, they even made the effort to make two versions of Seikon, one rated R and another rated NC17 that have different scenes. Silver Link has just one main production in Idiots, Tests, and Summons, and let’s just say that compressing source material isn’t going to cut it if they want to climb this list. White Fox has two shows, Katanagatari, which probably would have been better with Shaft (not a good sign), and Tears to Tiara, which was excellent (a good sign). We just don’t know with these studios, but, chances are, most won’t pan out (see later on).

Tier 7, It Could Be Worse: Synergy SP, A-1, BONES

I actually like Synergy, and I didn’t agree with them losing Hayate. (I also didn’t agree with Doumu losing Minami-ke, but that’s another story.) Their animation is really good, and, for the most part, their adaptation is mediocre. Which is the theme of this tier. Synergy did screw up the beginning of Cross Game, but the pacing got better as that show went on. BONES is really strong animation-wise, but watching Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Xam’d, and Darker Than Black Gemini, they’re just missing something. Studios like Kyoto, Shaft, AIC ASTA… they all bring something to their anime. BONES feels like a lot of flash, but not a lot of substance… even when there should be substance. KannagiValkyriaPersonaSo-Ra-No-Wo-To… I would put A-1 in that same boat as the other two. (Is So-Ra-No-Wo-To better animated than Gemini? Mmm…)

Tier 8, AIC: AIC, AIC Spirits, AIC Plus

Basically, I’m lumping all the AIC houses except ASTA in this tier… all pretty mediocre. The shows either suffer from bad animation (Asu no Yoichi), bad adaptation (Ga-Rei Zero), or are just mediocre productions (GA: Geijutsuka Art). AIC is the Denny’s of anime production houses.

Tier 9, Stopgaps: Seven Arcs, Satelite, TNK

Mixed bag… Basquash! (original script featuring basketball with giant robots… no thanks), Kiddy Girl-and (original script that’s actually good), White Album (blah), Asura Cryin’ (train wreck), Akasaka (actually good, if uncensored version), Nanoha (a franchise so badly mismanaged it had to reboot)… needless to say, I really, really don’t want any TWGOKCOPAS being animated by these guys.

Tier 10, At Least It’s Not Syphilis: Feel, ZEXCS, Studio Pierrot, Toei, OLM

Nothing is more terrifying to me than Studio Pierrot animating GTO 14 Days… can we get them to pass it on? Well… maybe Toei animating TWGOK is more terrifying.

Tier 11, Dog Poop: Dogakobo

11eyesKoihime Musou… yeah, about right. Really doesn’t matter anymore… hard to quantify how much better or worse Dogakobo is with respect to, oh, ZEXCS… just at this point, we’ve moved beyond the clearance bin to the trash bin outside.

Tier 12, Sophomore Slump: Shirogumi, P.A. Works, Doumu, Nomad

The “rookies” from the last power rankings that, well, haven’t done much, with only Canaan and Kampfer between them. Ugh. The odds aren’t much better for NBA rookies are they are for anime production house rookies… going up against Kyoto is like going up against LeBron.

Tier 13, Syphilis: Studio Deen

Self-explanatory. If not, go watch Umineko.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: Gonzo


34 Responses to “anime production house power rankings™”

  1. in defense of Seven-Arc, they did gave us Inukami and the elephant. I would put them in the up and coming tier with some bumps. They have come a long way form Night Shift Nurses.

  2. Frankly I’m still surprised that, after the stunt it pulled, Jason still puts KyoAni in such high regard. Frankly, a lot of people I talk to recently did not like the studio’s current direction in selecting low-calorie Moe franchises like K-ON.

  3. Ack, for the lack of an Edit fuction.

    And I know it’s just a matter of taste, but I’m actually missing the silly bits of overextended exposition in Index than the filler after FILLER after GODDARNED FILLER we’re treated to with Railgun.

  4. I’m amazed that KyoAni are still on the top of that list. With Fumoffu they did a great job of adaptation and animation. With the first Haruhi they set a new bar for production values for all other studios to meet. With Kanon they pushed up the detail. Lucky Star was a blip, but I didn’t hate it. With Clannad they refined their Kanon style even more, and with After Story they worked well with a major shift in storytelling from the first season to something serious and even touching.

    K-On had them get sloppy again. I’d rank it along side Lucky Star as watchable but not one for the ages. I’d write that off as a blip too…Except then they aired the same episode every week for two months. With animation much worse than that of the same show three years ago. Oh, and this was the sequel to the most popular show these guys had ever produced. What spark KyoAni once had is gone if a decision like that can get OKed on so many artistic and managerial levels.

    I hope they can make amends with the movie, but until then then, Production IG is king.

  5. I don’t care about syphillis… but I heard that Fate/Stay Night – UBW is actually not bad. Thank Haruhi.

  6. >>> bad adaptation (Ga-Rei Zero)

    I disagree. Would like to hear why you believe the adaptation to be bad.

  7. Kyo-Ani have too limited appeal and I wouldn’t give them a higher ranking than ‘they are what they are’. Then again, this is coming from a moe hater so meh~

    Madhouse will always be king in my book

    BONES – OURAN OF COURSE!! *boosts ranking* Have to admit, their action animation is astounding in every series that has it.
    Can’t wait for K-ON!! April 6 was it? (yes, double exclamation marks, o so smart, probably ripped it off like Hayate no Gotoku!!)
    “I had only one word in my mind when I found out that Madhouse is animating Highschool of the Dead: YES!”
    Also Production I.G. – Kimi ni Todoke, you can see the amazing animation and scenery, etc *A*

  9. Ryoko will get us another gold medal, I’m sure of it.

  10. She’d be awesome at the javelin, but that’s a Summer Game.

  11. you can’t forget that bones made Eureka Seven,
    I agree about DEEN they should die in a fire…

    and fuck yeah Madhouse for HoTD !

  12. When was the last time a spin-off surpassed the original?

    Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which was a spinoff of Triangle Hearts.

    Until Muvluv gets a proper animated adaption, that’s my yardstick on spinoffs surpassing the original series.

  13. Petitioning for Tier 5 to be renamed “They Are Who We Thought They Were! Now Crown Their Ass!”

    Haven’t seen enough recent shows to be able to have an opinion on studio tiers, unfortunately.

  14. I so don’t agree with Bones being rated below Sunrise… they feel about the same rank to me (every hit they have is matched with 2 misses)

    Maybe I’m just down on the whole anime scene in general – this season has been littered with horrible adaptations. Pretty much all the good shows are holdovers from the previous season.

  15. DEEN…
    But what about “Seitokai no Ichizon”?

  16. A-1 goes up several spots for me solely for the awesomeness that is Oofuri, and the awesomeness that will be Oofuri S2.

  17. You didn’t like Gar Rei Zero? I have to say I’m surprised.

    Still, it’s a good list, although BONES deserves better (I’m freaking LOVING brotherhood), but that’s just me.

    JC Staff have been surprisingly good of late too. Hayate 2 and Railgun are excellent. I’m hoping their next slate of Shana is equally good. And they should steer clear of any Zero No Tsukaima for a while.

    Finally, I’ll say this. When slaggin off about Kyoani, people tend to forget how very recent Clannad and AS were. Sure, endless 8 and K-on sucked, but they are still capable of pumping out exceptional shows.

  18. @ithekro: Again, it’s a ranking of how well they adapted source material. Seitokai should have been a great show; too bad Deen gave it syphilis. I’ll remind people that this list isn’t about how great a show is… it’s how great the adaptation was. Like Seitokai is A-material. I would argue that Deen made it worse than the material and that most studios on this list would do a much better job on Seitokai. For example, if we swapped K-On! with Seitokai for Kyoto and Deen, K-On! would most likely not be beating Bakemonogatari in DVD/BD sales right now. It would be a much worse show whereas Seitokai would be a much better show. That’s how you evaluate… not “ZOMG I LOVED THIS SHOW THEREFORE THIS STUDIO SHOULD BE HIGHER!” Did the studio do a good job of adapting? If I swapped studio A with studio B, would the anime have been better?

  19. > But what about “Seitokai no Ichizon”?

    That only confirms their ranking, doesn’t it? *Any* studio would have made that show better.

    My only beef with the ranking is White Fox. I think Katanagatari is unique (in a positive way), and while Tears to Tiara wasn’t able to hold my interest, it looked fine. I don’t think they belong in the same tier as the other two studios mentioned there. Mostly because I think the other two should be ranked far lower…

  20. KyoAni’s decline really depends on the movement of the many staff to other studios, and I really hope that they can pull one back. They still have so many things they can do well with (Haruhi, FMP, Key) and things they can fall back on (Lucky Star).

  21. Couple of studios are missing. Ordet and Manglobe can’t be ignored. Then again, if Jason’s going to use TWGOK as a yardstick, then perhaps leaving them out was a good idea…

  22. I would drop Kyoto Ani one tier, if not because of the faux-pas that was Endless Eight. This is coming from one of the guys who did not think of K-on as the Antichrist of Anime.

  23. BONES should be higher, but only for the ‘Sword of the Stranger’ movie which is vastly better then any show they have done.

  24. I’m surprised that asread isn’t on there considering the disasters they did in adapting Shuffle! and the last two Minami-ke seasons.

  25. How much of Haruhi2 episode direction up to KyoAni, and how much up to Kadokawa?

    And, where’s ufotable (Kara no Kyoukai)?

  26. J.C. Staff also brought us:
    Toradora (won Japan saimoe)
    Hayate!! (won international saimoe)
    Index (beautiful, but disconnected)
    Railgun (awesome first arc, then filler. Is still very pretty.)

    I think they could get higher, at least to TWGOKCOPAS imo.

  27. I don’t think that winning popularity contests such as Saimoe is telling of the quality of an anime.

  28. Madhouse
    Great Production…
    Last couple years…

    Mouryo no Hako
    Hajime no Ippo
    Chi’s Sweet Home
    Souten Kouro
    Cobra: Time Drive


    Rose colored glasses much, Jason?

  29. There are many ways to compare anime, such as story, characters, animation, sound, etc. I think Hayate and Toradora have also done really well in those areas, too. It’s just harder to quantify such information.

  30. I don’t think you can be the standalone #1 studio if you run your best franchise into the ground. Also, is KyoAni even capable of drawing anything other than moeblobs anymore?

  31. You can if you do it with style. Aside from the repeating plot, every single episode was well aminated. Many were gaint in terms of use of color, lighting and other visual effects. Also audio effects were used heavily. Take a single episode of Endless Eight alone without meta knowledge of the other seven episodes. For the majority of them you will see excellent work in terms of how the art, sound, voices, and animation are concerned. On a meta level…it takes some serious guts to pull what they pulled. (or epic stupidity…either works). While there may be such a thing as negative press, everyone was talking about it. Everyone knew about it. And I don’t think people will forget it, though the color/slant it takes as time passes may change.
    Add to this Clannad’s beautiful used of just about every amination effect from music to lighting to backgrounds, and you have an A class studio. They might be seen as only doing certains types of shows now (and some may question their sanity when it comes to some choices), but they know how to animate thing with emotion behind it.

  32. I kind of think A-1 deserves better, but I admit it may be preference. I liked Kannagi and am liking Sora no Woot, but both had good character animation (which I love) and good writing (the first was funny for the dry sort of humor, the latter is shaping up to be really good.)

    Satelite too. Basquash didn’t end up great, but was fun and elements of technical design, character design and at least trying for an original script were cool (I loved the setting myself.) And Birdy the Mighty Decode was more nejoyable the the original I still feel. Bones does deserve some flack for the way Darker than Black ended. THey gotta work on pacing. But then, they also did Sword of the Stranger, one of my favorite anime movies well, ever. So I think they at least deserved better, I feel.

    But as any of these, it is opinion. And I do agree that Kyo-Ani on actual production is pretty much king (though again, some fo the lower guys are doing pretty damned good. I think Sora no Woto is a better show then K-On! when it comes to similar-looking asthetics).

    And stuff. Good post as always Jason:)

  33. Hmmm,

    It seems that picking an anime studio can be a little biased based on the shows we like (based on the source material more than anything), but I’m pretty surprised Gainax isn’t up higher on the list. Maybe their animation is a bit stylized and God Knows they’ve had some losers, but they’ve had some of the most polarizing shows to ever air. I’ve read your Evangelion and Tengen Toppen Gurren Lagann posts. I know that you think they’ve created some of the best original animation out there: Does that not get any credit in this ranking? Sure I wouldn’t want them to adapt TWGOK after their debacles with He Is My Master or the all out weirdness of The Melody of Oblivion, but I can’t help but watch everything Gainax produces because I know they have to produce some of the best stuff (using the anime median to the fullest) out there. When I think of anime I think of Gainax and and KyoAni, and that to me puts them at the top of the list.

    As for all of the back and forth on KyoAni: They’ve put out a lot of shows at the top of peoples watch lists. I for one liked Lucky Star but only moderately appreciate K-On. Nevertheless I have a hard time imagining myself not watching something Kyoto Animation comes out with while the other studios come and go based on the story.

  34. The thing is though… KyoAni took probably the #1 franchise in anime at the time and ran it into the ground. The two studios below it made shows of approximately equal quality depending on genre taste and DIDN’T ruin their flagship franchise just for fun. No matter how pretty each Endless Eight episode was by itself, the fact remains that KyoAni told the same exact story with every meaningful detail exactly the same seven times in a row. Each part might be great but taken as a whole, it failed. And Endless Eight was more than half of the season. I’m not saying KyoAni sucks, but I don’t think they can be the sole #1 studio of the moment.

Leave a Reply