is a Japanese anime
studio famous for productions such as The Wings of Honneamise
, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
, Neon Genesis Evangelion
and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
which have gone on to critical acclaim and commercial success, as well as for their association with award-winning anime director and studio co-founder Hideaki Anno
Until Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gainax typically worked on stories created in-house, but the studio has increasingly developed anime adaptations of existing manga like Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou and Mahoromatic.
The Animage Anime Grand Prix has been awarded to Gainax for Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water in 1991, Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1995 and 1996, and The End of Evangelion in 1997.
The studio was formed in the early 1980s
as Daicon Film
by university students Hideaki Anno
, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
, Takami Akai
, Toshio Okada
, Yasuhiro Takeda
, and Shinji Higuchi
. Their first project was to make an animated short for the 20th Annual Japan National SF Convention
, also known as Daicon III
, held in 1981
in Osaka, Japan
. The short film is about a little girl who fights all sorts of monsters, robots, and spaceships from earlier science fiction TV shows (including Ultraman
, Space Runaway Ideon
, Space Battleship Yamato
, Star Trek
, Star Wars
, and many others) until she finally reaches a desert plain and pours a glass of water on a dried-out daikon radish
, which immediately resurrects itself and grows into a huge spaceship and beams her aboard. While this animated short was ambitious, its animation was rough and low-quality.
The group made a much bigger splash at the 22nd Annual Japan National SF Convention, Daicon IV, in 1983. The short they produced for this convention started with a recap of the original short, showing highlights of the little girl's adventures with much better animation quality; then it showed the girl all grown up: wearing a Playboy bunny suit, fighting an even wider selection of creatures from all sorts of science fiction and fantasy movies and novels (appearances include various Mobile Suits from the Gundam series, Darth Vader, an Alien, a Macross Valkyrie, a Pern dragon, Aslan, a Klingon battle cruiser, Spider-Man, and a pan across a vast array of hundreds of other characters) as she surfs through the sky on the sword Stormbringer. The action was set to the song "Twilight" from the group Electric Light Orchestra. The use of this song, however, was unlicensed, preventing the short from being officially released on DVD, making the limited laserdisc release (Daicon Film) of the Daicon shorts very rare and highly sought after. The Daicon IV short firmly established Daicon Film as a talented new anime studio (albeit small and on a shoestring - it was founded in Musashino, Tokyo with only 20 million yen, ~200,000USD). The studio changed its name to Gainax in 1985. Since Gainax has originated as a group of fans, it has maintained ties to the general otaku community, allowing doujinshi of its work, fan-made action figures, and promoting series like Evangelion at private festivals and so on.
As a commercial entity, Gainax's first essay was Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, released in 1987. Honneamise was (and still is) critically acclaimed and a classic anime movie; however, it had a tepid commercial reaction. Gainax would attempt to develop a sequel later in March 1992 and abandon it for lack of funds. Gunbuster was the next release, in 1988. The OVA was a commercial success and put Gainax on the stabler footing to produce works like Nadia or Otaku no Video.
During this period, Gainax produced a number of items besides anime series and movies - garagekits, adult video games (a major earner which kept Gainax afloat on occasion, and which were sometimes banned), and other such items.
In 1995, Gainax produced perhaps their best known series, the commercially successful and critically acclaimed Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the wake of Evangelion's success, Gainax was accused of tax evasion and its president, Takeshi Sawamura, was sentenced to jail for accounting fraud.
In 2004, Gainax marked their 20th anniversary with the production of Diebuster, the sequel to Gunbuster. Gainax's most recent success on television was the popular Mecha anime series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007), which revived the Super Robot genre of the 1970s, combined with elements from Real Robot anime of the 1980s and Evangelion-inspired anime of the late 1990s.
Gainax works include (year given is that of first broadcast, theatre showing, or publishing):
Gainax has also produced a number of computer games, including a strip mahjong game featuring Evangelion characters, and its most famous games, the Princess Maker series, which was later adapted as Puchi Puri Yūshi.
Gainax has also teamed with other groups to create various works; they have worked on a 1987 promotional video for the song "Marionette" by Boøwy
, and collaborated with a Japanese fashion doll
company to create Momoko
-based "Gainax Girls" fashion dolls in 2006.
Daicon Tokusatsu fan films
As Daicon Films, Gainax was also notable for making a series of tokusatsu fan film
shorts in the 1980s, usually parodies of monster movies and superhero shows, which have gotten lots of favorable media coverage. These productions included:
- (1982): A parody of the popular Super Sentai shows, which is also a satire of the Russo-Japanese War. The title team is based on Japanese culture (of course) and the villains, the evil Red Bear Empire led by "Death Kremlin", are Russians. In this "episode", Red Bear confronts our heroes with the giant shark monster, Minsk Mask, while attempting to brainwash the children of Japan by swapping out the pages of their textbooks with red paper. Shinji Higuchi worked on the special effects. The ending theme is almost exactly the same as an insert song from the anime series, Uchuu Senshi Baldios.
- (1982): A parody of Shotaro Ishinomori's Kaiketsu Zubat; the name of the hero's alter-ego (Ken Hayakawa) is the same, but the hero wears a sillier costume! Daicon/Gainax producer Yasuhiro Takeda played Ken Hayakawa. It spawned three sequels: "Kaiketsu Noutenki 2" in which he faces off against a mechanical clone of himself, Mecha Noutenki; "Noutenki in USA" where the hero walks around in San Francisco, California, seeing the sights whilst in costume; and a supposed role-playing video.
- (1983): A same-title parody of Return of Ultraman, with some impressive special effects, even for a low budget. The usual Ultraman derring-do ensues, only replace New Ultraman/Ultraman Jack with a giant Hideaki Anno in a vinyl Ultraman trick-or-treat outfit and glasses! Anno directed while Takami Akai directed the special effects.
- (1985): Daicon's epic 72-minute sendup of daikaiju (giant monster) movies, with special effects by Shinji Higuchi. This was the most heavily promoted of their short films.
- Takeda, Yasuhiro; Yu Sugitani, Yasuhiro Kamimura, Takayoshi Miwa; translated by Javier Lopez, Jack Wiedrick, Brendan Frayne, Kay Bertrand, Gina Koerner, Hiroaki Fukuda, and Sheridan Jacobs (2002, 2005). The Notenki Memoirs: Studio Gainax and the Men Who Created Evangelion. Houston: ADV Manga.
- Hernandez, Lea. "The Curse of Urusei Yatsura", interview by PULP magazine, vol. 5, no. 8 (August 2001): 24–29. ISSN 1096-0228.
- Howell, Shon. "The Fabulous Dog and Pony Show: An Interview with Shon Howell". By Ben Dunn. Mangazine, vol. 2, no. 23 (May 1993): 11–18. Shon Howell was the second vice president of Gainax in charge of United States operations (General Products) after Lea Hernandez (the first) quit.
- Howell, Shon. "The Fabulous Dog and Pony Show". Mangazine, vol. 2, nos. 24 (June 1993), 25 (July 1993), 27 (September 1993), 30 (December 1993), 31 (January 1994), 32 (February 1994). A column further detailing Shon Howell's experiences with Gainax.
- Leonard, Andrew. "Heads Up, Mickey" Wired, issue 3.04, April 1995. An article on anime, focusing on the history of Gainax.