While the state of the anime industry isn’t necessarily dire, not all anime studios have been lucky enough to withstand the test of time. There are perhaps around 80 Japanese anime studios currently churning out new titles on a regular (or at least semi-regular) basis, but others have unfortunately closed down, largely due to either the death of their respective founders or, more commonly, major financial problems.
Starting from the oldest and working our way forwards, Mushi Production was headed by the late, great godfather of manga himself, Tezuka Osamu. After Tezuka’s contract with Toei Animation expired in 1961, he founded Mushi Production as a rival company the same year, and the studio ended up as a pioneer of televised anime. At first primarily animating Tezuka’s own creations such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Princess Knight, Tezuka himself stepped down as acting director in 1968 and formed a new animation studio, Tezuka Productions. Meanwhile, Mushi Production declared bankruptcy in 1973 and its assets were divided – though it’s worth a note that a new version of Mushi Production was later founded in 1977 and continues to operate today.
When Tezuka left Mushi Production in 1968, former staff members went on to found their own studio, Group TAC. Headed by producer Tashiro Atsumi, the members of Group TAC worked not only on anime TV shows including Those Who Hunt Elves, Gilgamesh, and Black Blood Brothers, but also films and commercials, until Tashiro’s death in July 2010. In September of that same year, the studio filed for bankruptcy and liquidated all assets. However, Diomedéa, a studio created in 2005 after a split from Group TAC, is still operating today and has released titles such as Gingitsune, Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, The Lost Village, Girlish Number, and Fuuka.
Established in 1971 by former Toei Animation producer Hara Toru, Topcraft was particularly well-known for working on the animation for hand-drawn titles by American production company Rankin/Bass Productions. However, it was also famous for the production of one of Miyazaki Hayao’s first major anime films, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, as well as for the film Macross: Do You Remember Love?, both released in 1984. The studio went bankrupt the following year and was bought by Miyazaki, along with fellow director Takahata Isao, and the pair went on to change the name from Topcraft to Studio Ghibli, with Hara Toru its first manager.
Hal Film Maker
Founded by former Toei Animation staff in 1993, Hal Film Maker lasted sixteen years in business before the studio’s parent company, TYO Animations, merged Hal Film Marker with its other studio subsidiary, Yumeta Company, in 2009. TYO Animations continues to release anime titles today, but several of Hal Film Maker’s productions are still arguably more famous, including all three seasons of Aria as well as fan favourite Princess Tutu.
Radix Ace Entertainment
The shortest-lived studio on this list, Radix Entertainment lasted only eleven years in business, being founded in 1995 and closing down in 2006. Few of its anime titles achieved any particular cultural significance or popularity, with the exception of perhaps two titles, both written by notable graphic artist Yoshitoshi Abe: Haibane Renmei and NieA_7.
Last but certainly not least, the most recent company on this list to fold was Manglobe. Formed in 2002 by producers from studio Sunrise, Kobayashi Shinichirou and Kochiyama Takashi, Manglobe was perhaps best known for producing original shows rather than manga, game, or light novel adaptations – several of which were highly ambitious, groundbreaking, or popular titles such as Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy, Michiko to Hatchin, and Samurai Flamenco. After accruing an estimated debt of 350 million yen (or nearly four million US dollars), Manglobe filed for bankruptcy in September 2015 just as their final series, Gangsta, was airing. The same studio staff went on to form Gene Studio in November, although as of this writing, the only title to be released under that name is Genocidal Organ; Manglobe’s postponed anime film.
Question of the post: Which defunct anime studio do you miss the most? Are there any other studios you can think of that I missed out on?