To be honest, while I am decently familiar with who made what in terms of both studios and the interchangeable staff between them, I haven’t really reflected much on what studio exudes a particular fanboy confidence in me.
Narrowing this down is only difficult for me in the sense that I am unsure of which studio has the most consistently excellent staff, but I suppose the simplest way of going about deciding on a favourite animation studio would be to compare which one produced the most favourable anime to me.
I mean this to describe studios with creators that have an apparent dedication to crafting memorable characters and stories, like Gainax & Trigger seem to have a very, very good track record for succeeding in. This is not by any means a comprehensive survey, as I have not seen everything from a single studio or proportionate amount of shows from several studios to draw a “fair conclusion”. It is possible the answer I give here will not be the same I’ll have in a year or so, because I’ll most likely have seen a lot of more shows from different studios by then.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Madhouse isn’t the same studio it once was, and according to The Canipa Effect, it has changed multiple times, and so drastically that the original staff are all but gone, including most of its founders – having either retired or joined other studios. It’s really hard to tell where Madhouse lies on my list of studios. As much as I’d love to point at my favourite anime and believe that the studio and creators behind that also created some of other favourite anime, that’s seldom the case it seems, except maybe for the latter. You can probably tell my lacking in expertise when it comes to my knowledge of anime studios by this point. Additionally, I cannot comment on P.A. Works or J.C. Staff, as I’d need to watch more of their works to garner any opinion on them.
Studio Pierrot was behind Yu Yu Hakusho, one my top favourite anime. But nothing else they’ve done is what I’d consider good enough to warrant calling them my favourite animation studio. I greatly appreciate their efforts and phenomenal execution in bringing Yu Yu Hakusho to life, but not so much that I’d consider them the best studio in my mind. I do however, maintain some nostalgia for their work with Dragon Ball. But for the most part I either haven’t seen a lot of their works, or just don’t care much for the ones I have seen aside from the above mentioned.
Bones has produced a lot more shows I both thoroughly enjoyed and marvelled in awe at, what with their fluid animation and awesome action sequences, as seen in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. They are also well-capable of handling emotion both delicately and intensely and generally seem to have a strong writing crew backing their works. They’re execution and production is especially notable in these two works, what with their sustained excellence and charming, relatable cast of characters. Gave me one of the most satisfying anime experiences ever.
Production I.G. was behind such works as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Psycho-Pass, both of which I consider excellent Sci-Fi anime and among my favourites for the remarkable level of detail, top-notch writing and direction, and dense amount of thought-provoking themes and ideas. Incredibly good at exploring rich settings more thoroughly and backed with strong sets of characters, these are technically brilliant shows filled with a lot of visual and symbolic nuanced moments, and full of good stuff that offers quite a bit to mull about. Superlative on many levels.
Kyoto Animation has being growing on me a lot lately, and I have developed a dear fondness for quite a few of its works, particularly Lucky Star, K-On, Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon and Hibike! Euphonium. Unstoppably charming, heartwarming, and moving with their innocence; they excel at making shows for you to sit back and relax watching. I applaud the gorgeous visuals and awesome use of animation for such small-scale movements and little neat details, i.e. focusing on a character warming their hands and them having frosted breath and reacting to the cold, etc. They offer cuteness and deliver with so much more. I expect extremely pleasant slice-of-life shows and that’s exactly what I get.
Precise execution of unambitious characteristics in a nice, light and breezy atmosphere. The kind of stuff that really warms one’s heart. I really admire the focus they have on such tiny details and really bringing them to life. It looks effortless, but that’s because a lot of work went into making it seem that way. Cute and endearing; it’s truly commendable. Everything is well-animated and even the most seemingly meaningless gesture looks beautiful and really, really makes the quality work in favour of the verisimilitude for getting the viewer more absorbed into the worlds they create. And what’s more remarkable is that they’re able to produce such high-quality animations without compromising the narrative of these shows, and they maintain being emotionally complex with a huge heart beating through them. Someone at ANN wrote a more detailed look at the studio I recommend checking out if you’re interested.
Ufotable can be super awesome when they’re behind works like Fate/Zero and Kara no Kyoukai; exceptionally animated and breathtakingly gorgeous. The action and fight choreography puts the ‘awe’ in awesome. The animation of the battles and duels is very fluid and slick, and can get very gorey at times. Even though there are a lot of fancy tricks in the likes of Fate/Zero, and its fantastical in every sense of the world despite its modern setting, there is still this foundation on realistic elements that allows for the fantastic elements to truly shine. This approach makes these shows very, very enjoyable for me. It’s fetishized, no doubt about that. But I can’t deny how awesome it looks and feels watching these mythical characters walk the line between practical swordsmanship and ‘super swordsmanship’. Though I can’t speak on much else the studio does well, aside from between these two particular works being exceptional in a lot more regards than I care to mention here. Overall, excellent studio and wish they’d be able to do more of their own work.
All that being said, I’d say Gainax and Studio Trigger are my favourite animation studios. Is it cheating if the history of Trigger is intrinsically tied into the evolution of Gainax? I don’t think so. To me the two are inseparable entities and essentially the same studio under a different name with quite a few that departed from Gainax. Combined they’ve created the most shows I personally hold in high respect and get a ton of enjoyment out of: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Inferno Cop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, etc.
I mean they’ve made more shows I care about than a lot of other studios, who have made only one or two that really matter to me. I wish I could say more about them, but my fanboy heart gets so excited thinking about their works that it just comes out as incoherent enthusiastic muttering. Actually it’s less to do with that, and me just making excuses so I can talk more about them later. That said, I do hope to write about them more in the future. In short… They. Are. Awesome.