Entry updated 30 August 2021. Tagged: Community, Film, TV.
Japan's 1981 SF Convention, DAICON III, opened with a short animated film from DAICON Film, a studio founded by sf fans (see Fandom) from various Japanese universities – including Takami Akai, Hideaki Anno, Toshio Okada, Yasuhiro Takeda and Hiroyuki Yamaga. After gaining further experience – such as a short for DAICON IV, the 22nd SF Convention in 1983; working on Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982-1983); working with Hayao Miyazaki on Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (1984); and producing live-action Tokusatsu film Parodies – they formed Studio Gainax (aka Gainax) in 1984, adding further staff such as producers Hiroaki Inoue and Shigeru Watanabe.
Some Gainax filmographies start with an OVA, the surreal (and unfortunately containing racist caricatures) The Chocolate Panic Picture Show (1985); others with the film Oneamisu no Tsubasa (1987; vt Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise). After the latter they concentrated on Television series and OVAs (plus their film spin-offs): most notably (television series unless otherwise stated): Appurushīdo (OVA 1988; vt Appleseed) (see Appleseed); Top o Nerae (OVA 1988; vt Gunbuster); Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (1990-1991; vt Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water) (see Steamboy); Otaku no Bideo (OVA 1991; vt Otaku no Video); Shinseiki Evangelion (1995-1996; vt Neon Genesis Evangelion); FLCL (OVA 2000; original title Furi Kuri); Gurren Lagann (2007; original title Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; vt Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan) and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (2010). Since 2015 no new works have appeared; however, a film trilogy titled Zero Century, based on the writings of Leiji Matsumoto, is planned for the 2020s. They have frequently worked on other studios' shows, mainly providing clean-up and in-between animation.
Gainax also created a popular series of Videogames such as Princess Maker (as well as some soft porn titles) which helped the company survive its first decade; later, games and merchandise based on their successful shows would generate considerable revenue. Though Top o Nerae was a critical success, it was Evangelion that changed Gainax's fortunes – despite production and budgetary difficulties – ending their occasional periods of hand-to-mouth existence. As of June 2020 Evangelion was estimated to be the world's 28th highest-grossing media franchise.
Part of the fan generation inspired by Uchū Senkan Yamato (1974-1975) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-1980), Gainax's work reinvigorated Anime in the late 1980s and 1990s. Exciting action and visual impact were mixed with darker themes (see Paranoia) and with ambitious storylines that were enthusiastically pretentious – plus plenty of Fan Service. Evangelion was particularly influential, not just on the Mecha genre and not just in terms of plot and visuals: subsequent anime with flawed protagonists and psychological trauma also owed it a debt. The studio's stylistic idiosyncrasies were notorious enough to earn their own trope names such as the Gainax Ending, where a show's climax proves somewhat tangential to what has gone before in terms of plot, tone or animation quality (often a response to running out of money); another is Gainaxing (aka Gainax Bounce), where a considerable amount of animation time and budget has clearly been spent on depicting breast movement. Famously, in Top o Nerae, trope two led to trope one.
The studio was also known for its production difficulties, usually due to a lack of funds and/or eccentric planning choices: it has never been the most professional of concerns, particularly regarding payment of salaries, debts or taxes. This came to a head in 2016 when it was successfully sued for 100 million yen by Studio Khara, a company formed by ex-Gainax founder Anno; this was doubtless a factor in its subsequent dormancy. Gainax's history, good and bad, is partially explained by its origins: the founders considered themselves otaku, or fans, rather than businessmen – viewing their work (in the early days at least) as a labour of love first, and a product second. This closeness to the fan community showed itself in Otaku no Bideo, which fondly parodied the otaku lifestyle they had been part of. Its animated segments are partially autobiographical; the live-action mock-documentary scenes more satirical. This relationship was not always sunny: Akai resigned from Gainax in 2007 following his impolite response to fan comments about his current show Gurren Lagann.
Gainax's problems, particularly in later years, were exacerbated by a loss of talent as staff left to found their own studios. Most notably: Studio Gonzo (Kabushiki-gaisha Gonzo), formed in 1992, which produced television series such as Hellsing (2001-2002) and Full Metal Panic (2002); the aforementioned Studio Khara (Kabushiki-gaisha Karā), founded in 2006, that created the four-film Rebuild of Evangelion series (2007-2020) (again see Shinseiki Evangelion); and, most notably, Studio Trigger (which see). [SP]
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