Anime fans like to aggregate the medium as if it’s one, big body of work. However, the industry isn’t as simple as just a tab on Netflix or Hulu. It is comprised of various studios that have each found their own design and business philosophy to define their work and the industry as a whole. This has resulted in the strong variety of styles and animation that fans know today.
However, a few companies just can’t help but be so unique that they develop a distinct style of their own, thus becoming idiosyncratic. And while ambitious companies like these can be identified with just a single frame, others have played it safe and walked on the path more traveled. This list will be looking at either, as it goes over some of the most unique anime studios and some of the most generic.
10 Unique: Ghibli
Starting off this list is one of the most iconic and influential anime studios of all time. With an inherent magic that even children can notice, Studio Ghibli has been crafting some of the most distinctive films in all of animation and that’s including the wonderful works of Disney.
Studio Ghibli’s style relegates to expressive, fluid body motion, realistic and detailed backdrops, and incredibly sincere facial expressions. That’s not even counting the grounded sound design inherent to some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. Whether it’s the earthy battlegrounds of Princess Mononoke or the domineering bathhouse of Spirited Away, fans can always tell if a film is from Studio Ghibli.
9 Generic: Toei Animation
To be fair, Toei Animation does seem to have a style of its own. They are the studio responsible for hit series like Dragon Ball and One Piece and a long line of other youthful series like Sailor Moon, Toriko, or Digimon. However, it’s that same dependency on the children demographic that works against them.
Toei Animation’s same rounded, streamlined style has become near synonymous with children’s content and has practically defined the type of anime that people watched on early morning Cartoon Network or 4Kids.
8 Unique: Kyoto Animation
Two words: Cute girls. Kyoto Animation has developed some of the sweetest, most endearing looking series known to anime. Their directing style carries a nostalgic energy guided by strong direction and tubs of vaseline practically smeared on the camera. The studio is also famous for its long line of cute girls.
Much rather than objectify these ladies like other studios, Kyoto Animation uses defined body language, distinct character designs, and expressive facial animation to make these girls appear warmer, more familiar, and all the more human, helping audiences connect with them at a more personal level.
7 Generic: Pierrot
To Pierrot’s credit, they are the studio responsible for the anime adaptation of the Shonen giant, Naruto, and have even crafted the modern version of Mr. Osomatsu, one of the most stylized and colorful anime of the modern age. However, these are exceptions to Pierrot’s body of work, and even in Naruto‘s case, Pierrot has dropped the ball in terms of production quality.
Pierrot can certainly color within the lines when it comes to adapting popular works, but they somehow streamlined industry giants, like Tokyo Ghoul or Kingdom to look and sound like every other anime on the market.
6 Unique: Studio Shaft
While an anime studio can certainly develop a style of its own, Studio Shaft manages to overachieve by having a feeling like no other. On the surface, series like Monogatari, March Comes in Like a Lion, or Arakawa Under the Bridge may not seem related, but when seeing them in motion, any fan can instantly tell they’ve been made by Studio Shaft.
Whether it’s the strange yet expressive body language of the characters, the distinct shifts in color palette and backgrounds, or even the constant cuts to text, Shaft has a sense of momentum that no other studio may ever replicate.
5 Generic: J.C. Staff
In their defense, J.C. Staff may very well be one of the most popular and well-received anime studios of the modern age. Having produced hit series such as DanMachi, A Certain Scientific Railgun, and Food Wars!, J.C. Staff is never going to have a tough time finding work in the future. With that being said, maybe they should.
While they’ve certainly brought series like these to the small screen, they really haven’t made the animation and style itself all that expressive and unique. Look no further than the infamous One-Punch Man debacle to see why some fans worry when this studio picks up a fan-favorite series. Rather than meet high expectations, J.C. Staff seems set in just making another anime.
4 Unique: Trigger
No one is ever going to confuse a Trigger anime with any other anime, ever. This is the studio that doesn’t even need to include its name in the credits for any otaku to immediately identify the immediate chaos as a Trigger animation. Trigger comprises its style out of sharp, colorful character design, fluid animation, and tons of explosions and particle effects.
This is a studio that knows that it loves fights and giant robots and does everything that it can to make such look as cool as possible, going as far as to blatantly forsake logic in the process (not that the fans are complaining). Despite Gurren Lagann having been made during the creator’s Gainax years, fans can still tell that it came from the same heart that made Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, and Little Witch Academia.
3 Generic: Deen
To start things out positively, Studio Deen has produced animation standouts such as Mononoke, Descending Stories, and KonoSuba. However, besides those series, they’ve really struggled to stand out. Even KonoSuba itself is hard to pick out from a lineup just based on its style. Deen has a long line of anime that, well, look exactly how any casual fan thinks anime looks.
It’s the same safe color palettes and character designs that fans have seen for ages, and if it wasn’t for that one friend that points out studio names, no one could really tell that the next okay romance or action series was made by Studio Deen.
2 Unique: Science SARU
It’s hard to talk about Science SARU without mentioning the beloved director that has come to define them since 2014. Masaaki Yuasa is one of the fastest rising anime directors of the modern age, producing vibrant films like Night is Short, Walk on Girl or Lu Over the Wall or the latest critically-acclaimed anime that the most avid anime fans won’t stop talking about, such as The Tatami Galaxy, Devilman Crybaby, or Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Each of these projects is famous for its intense motion, fluid style, and colorful character designs, setting Science SARU apart as one of the most ambitious companies of the new generation.
1 Generic: A-1 Pictures
Studios don’t get more generic than A-1 Pictures. While they’ve certainly produced hit series, like Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Wotakoi, or Record of Grancrest War, it’s hard to argue that the average fan can pick these series out of a lineup. They all have the same solid faces, colorful hairstyles, and slender bodies that have defined anime for ages.
Look no further than their top series, Sword Art Online, to find a line of characters that could easily be in the backdrop of any other anime. Even the face of the series, Kirito, looks exactly like every other black-haired, bowl cut, teenage boy found in any high school anime. While there’s certainly no besmirching the studio’s success, one has to wonder if they could do better.
Anime fans will, no doubt, recognize these 5 anime studios that have their own unique style and these other 5 that are rather generic.