The top 10 Japanese animation studios, along with one of their most iconic animes, are:
- Madhouse (Death Note).
- Studio Bones (My Hero Academia).
- Wit Studio (Attack on Titan).
- MAPPA (Yuri!!!! on ICE).
- Kyoto Animation (Violet Evergarden).
- Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro).
- Sunrise (Cowboy Bebop).
- Production I.G (Ghost In The Shell).
- A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online).
- Studio Pierrot (Naruto).
Anime, or Japanese-style animations, are as mainstream in Japanese culture as Dreamworks and Disney are to the American audience.
Not only are Japanese-style animations adored by fans around the world, but the increasing budget of cutting-edge technology to visualize perception-changing stories with high-end visual effects makes anime a bustling and competitive industry.
Anime focuses on bringing manga (hand-drawn comics by Japanese artists) to life through the art of storytelling, voice acting, and animation.
This article will showcase Japan’s top 10 animation studios, and some of their hottest animes that are loved by fans around the world.
What are Japan’s Top 10 Animation Studios?
Back in 1972, a group of master-level animators left Mushi Production to form their own animation studio, Madhouse. For the past 50 or so years, the studio continues to amaze its audience away with many popular titles.
Madhouse knows the value of working alongside manga artists to ensure material is canon with the source material, and they brought world-class Director Satoshi Kon to help head the team in the right direction.
Madhouse has many hot titles that are loved by the anime community, such as DeathNote and One Punch Man.
What is DeathNote?
Death Note is a story about a young teenager, Light Yagami, who finds a mysterious notebook called the Death Note, which can kill anyone whose name is written on its pages.
As the story progresses, Light begins to use the notebook to rid the world of criminals, while an elite police task force led by L, the world’s greatest detective, tries to apprehend and stop him.
Studio Bones, founded in 1998 by former members of Studio Sunrise, have created amazing titles such as both versions of Full Metal Alchemist, My Hero Academia, and Ouran HighSchool Host Club.
In 2007 the studio went through a few changes, inviting Makoto Wanatabe and Takahiro Komori to the board of directors, which revolutionized the studio’s artistic sensibilities.
What is My Hero Academia?
My Hero Academia is about Izuku Midoriya, a young boy who was born without superpowers in a world where superpowers are common and celebrated.
Despite this, he still dreams of becoming a superhero and is scouted by All Might, who is regarded as the greatest hero and makes Midoriya his successor. Midoriya is then enrolled in a high school made for superheroes in training.
Being a subsidiary of Production IG, Wit Studio made a huge impression on the anime community with their debut anime, Attack on Titan, which earned a spot as one of the best anime of all time.
Wit Studio has continued to impress viewers with other releases such as The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Great Pretender, and Vinland Saga.
What is Attack on Titan?
Attack on Titan takes place in a world where the remaining members of humanity live in stone-cased walls that are meant to protect them from giant, human-eating monsters referred to as Titans. The story follows Eren Yeager, who wishes to bring an end to the Titans once and for all after they destroy his home and family.
MAPPA was formed in 2011 by a former Madhouse employee and has created some popular animes such as Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance. MAPPA specializes in tackling subject matter that most studios wouldn’t feel confident with, and has made this studio stand out in a short period of time.
One of their most iconic anime is Yuri!!!! on ICE, along with Dororo and Jujutsu Kaisen.
What is Yuri!!!! on ICE?
Yuri!!!! on ICE is an anime about figure skating, and follows Yuri Katsuki after a crushing figure-skating competition defeat. He is caught skating an advanced routine, which catches the eye of his idol, a skating figure champion named Victor Nikiforov, who offers to coach Katsuki.
Kyoto Animation has an evolving style with distinct, easily recognizable characters, and prefer to rely on salaried animators who are always on staff, as opposed to freelancers.
They are known for some iconic anime, such as Violet Evergarden, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Full Metal Panic.
What is Violet Evergarden?
Violet Evergarden is a story about the protagonist, Violet Evergarden, who becomes an Auto Memory Doll (someone who writes for others) after the war to understand what her mentor and guardian, Majo Gilbert, meant when he said “I love you.”
Studio Ghibli is a widely known and popular anime studio, specializing in theatrical movies with an iconic animation style and compelling storytelling, creating some of the most spectacular movies in recent times.
Studio Ghibli is led by Hayao Miyazaki, with most of the films following themes of coming-of-age, and young girls with messages about the natural environment and humanity’s role as a caretaker.
Some of the top, most beloved titles Studio Ghibli has created are My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away.
What is My Neighbor Totoro?
My Neighbor Totoro follows a family of a father and two young daughters who move into an old house to be closer to their mother, who is in the hospital and recovering from an illness. The story follows the two girls’ adventures in befriending the friendly and mysterious forest spirits nearby.
Sunrise is one of the largest and most well-known animation studios in the industry, with over 10 separate studios with their own separate projects. Sunrise produces hundreds of different types of anime, with many becoming popular with the community.
Sunrise initially focused on a specific genre: mecha anime. They are the reason the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is so popular. They also worked on other iconic anime with a mecha aesthetic such as Cowboy Bebop and Code Geass.
What is Cowboy Bebop?
Cowboy Bebop is set in the future of 2071, where an event made the earth uninhabitable, forcing humanity to spread out into the galaxy to inhabit many of the moons, rocks, and asteroids available.
The colonies were faced with a rising crime problem, which was combat with the ISSP (Inter Solar System Police) created contracts between themselves and bounty hunters (also called ‘cowboys’) to bring in wanted criminals alive for a reward.
Spike Spiegel, the main protagonist, is a bounty hunter on the spaceship Bebop, along with Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein, who go on many adventures together to capture bounties and wanted criminals.
While surviving many mishaps that leave the crew with next to no money, the anime beautifully portrays their haunting backstories, giving the viewer an inside look at how they ended up on the Bebop.
Initially being a subsidiary of Tatsunoko Production, Production I.G was founded to keep its best animators on and to give them a chance to work on animation projects that appealed to them more.
The studio has become a great success with over 120 people working on projects that have turned into beloved anime that are well known in the anime community, such as Ghost In The Shell, Psycho-Pass, and Haikyu!!
What is Ghost in the Shell?
Ghost in the Shell follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg who uses a full-body prosthesis that houses her cyber brain. Her high level of technology infusion, however, leaves her brain open to attack, even as much of a hacker attack as to take over their body and bend their will.
Founded in 2005 to make animations for Aniplex, A-1 Pictures has created some amazing titles such as Sword Art Online, Fairy Tail, Your Lie in April, and Silver Spoon.
What is Sword Art Online?
Sword Art Online is set in 2022, where virtual reality is a realized product, allowing people to put on a headset and be fully immersed in a virtual world.
On the SAO’s game release day, 10,000 players logged into the game and found they were unable to log out. The game creator made the trapped players aware they would have to beat the game in order to be freed.
One of the trapped players, Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya, is also one of the few beta testers of the game, and quickly progresses in SAO to the dislike of most of the other players, causing him to isolate himself. The story follows him and how people struggle with this new life in permanent virtual reality.
Studio Pierrot was created by ex-members of Tatsunoko Production and Mushi Production and has created some of the most notable anime that is known worldwide, with lots of sequels and merchandise for their titles such as Naruto, Tokyo Ghoul, and Bleach.
What is Naruto?
Naruto follows the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who wants to become the next leader of his village, which is called the Hokage. He struggles with fitting in, as the village distances themselves from him due to the demon living in him, but manages to make friends along his journey to become the best ninja.