The success of any anime series or film relies heavily on the work of animation studios. Choosing a good manga as source material is always a great start, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful series.
Many animation studios, both new and old, are making a name for themselves in the industry. Listed below are the 10 greatest animation studios and their most iconic series, ranked in no particular order.
Note: This article is subjective and solely reflects the opinions of the writer
Madhouse, Wit, and 8 other incredible animation studios and their most iconic anime
1) Toei Animation, Dragon Ball Z/One Piece
Toei Animation was first established in 1948 by Kenzo Masaoka and Zenjiro Yamamato. It was originally called Japan Animated Films. The studio was purchased by Toei Company in 1956 and renamed Toei Animation thereafter.
Toei Animation's first television anime was Wolf Boy Ken, which premiered in 1963.
Contemporarily, the studio's most iconic anime series are undoubtedly Dragon Ball Z and One Piece. The former is a massive international hit and helped popularize anime overseas, while the latter is one of the most popular series in Japan with a respectable international following.
2) Ufotable, Demon Slayer
Ufotable Studios was founded in October 2000 by former staff of Telecom Animation Film, which itself was a subsidiary of TMS Entertainment. Its first TV anime series was Weiß Kreuz Glühen, which aired from 2002 to 2003 for a total of 13 episodes.
Contemporarily, Ufotable Studios is best known for Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer, which has been an overnight success as an anime series.
3) Bones, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Bones Studio was founded by Sunrise staff members Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Osaka, and Toshihiro Kawamoto in October 1998. Sadly, Osaka passed away after losing his battle with cancer on September 24, 2007.
Since Osaka’s death, however, the company has flourished and grown to become one of the most well-respected studios in the industry.
Bones Studio's first TV anime was Hiwou War Chronicles, airing from 2000-2001 for 26 episodes. However, the company is best known for the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series, which is meant to be a more faithful adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s original manga series.
4) Madhouse, Death Note
Madhouse was founded in 1972 by ex-Mushi Pro animators Masao Maruyama, Osamu Dezaki, Rintaro, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and more. The company has helped animate some of the biggest series in the anime medium, including Trigun, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Monster.
However, Madhouse's biggest series is undoubtedly the smash-hit Death Note anime series. It is one of the most popular anime series of all time and is critically acclaimed for its noir-like suspense and thrills.
5) Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away/My Neighbor Totoro
The world-famous Studio Ghibli was founded on June 15, 1985, by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki.
Specializing in films rather than TV anime, the company’s first theatrical project was Castle in the Sky, directed by Miyazaki himself. Plenty of films have come out since the studio’s humble beginnings, with two of the biggest being Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.
Studio Ghibli has helped popularize anime thanks to its work, which usually includes a feature-length film format, lack of fanservice, and beautiful storytelling supplemented by exceptional animation.
6) Wit Studio, Attack on Titan Seasons 1-3
Wit Studio was founded on June 1, 2012, by George Wada and other producers at Production I.G. as a subsidiary of IG Port, a Japanese holding company.
The studio's first anime series, also their most iconic, was Attack on Titan, for which they animated the first three seasons.
People praised Wit Studio for doing an exceptional job on its debut series, highlighting the exceptional animation, the brutally realistic depiction of gore, and the action sequences’ fluidity.
7) MAPPA Studios, Jujutsu Kaisen
MAPPA Studios was founded in 2011 by Masao Maruyama, co-founder and producer at Madhouse, where he served as CEO for five years before stepping down of his own accord.
The studio's first TV anime series was Kids on the Slope, which aired in 2012 for 12 episodes. However, its first project was the movie This Corner of the World.
However, MAPPA Studios' most iconic series is likely their adaptation of Gege Akutami’s Jujutsu Kaisen manga. The first season was incredibly well-received, being praised for its fight scene animation and the vibrancy of its color palette.
8) Production I.G., Haikyuu!!
Production I.G. was originally founded in 1987 by Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Takayuki Goto as I.G. Tatsunoko Limited. Its first television series, made under its original name, was Zillion, running from April 12, 1987, to December 13, 1987, with 31 episodes.
Since then, the studio has gone on to produce many more household name series, but none as iconic as Haikyuu!!. Many fans call it the best sports anime of all time. They love Production I.G.’s exceptional animation for the series, the fluidity of mid-match scenes, and the way that no corners or frames seem to have been cut or skipped.
9) Sunrise, Cowboy Bebop
Sunrise Studio is best known for animating Cowboy Bebop. The original anime series was fully created and produced by the company's team members. It was celebrated for its overall aesthetics, animation, voice acting, and musical composition.
Sunrise Studio was originally founded by former members of Mushi Production in 1972. The founders decided that rather than having anime production centered on a single creator, the focus should instead be on various producers.
The studio's first anime series was Hazedon, which ran from October 5, 1972, to March 29, 1973, for 26 episodes.
10) TMS Entertainment, Lupin the Third
TMS Entertainment is one of the oldest and most famous anime studios in Japan. It was established on October 22, 1946, as Asahi Gloves Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Its animation endeavors began in 1964, when it established itself as Tokyo Movie, eventually becoming known as Tokyo Movie Shinsa.
The studio's first TV anime was Lupin the Third Part II. The Lupin the Third franchise is likely its most iconic series. It is one of the longest-running anime franchises in the medium’s history and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Fans typically praise the Lupin the Third franchise for the spectacular animation each part boasts and its incredible musical composition.