GONZO: A Rich Kid with Potential But Needs to be Spanked Hard

We all know what GONZO is. As an animation studio, it has brought us amazing titles that have revolutionised the industry. I distinctly remember how I rushed home everyday when I was still schooling, to catch the latest episodes of Gatekeepers and Vandread on TV. I was bored of anime when in high school, but Last Exile made me realise anime can easily create worlds of grand epic scale, on a relatively small (compared to Hollywood) budget.

My favourite studio then was GONZO, who blended CG into their anime seamlessly, augmenting the story and injecting excitement with pretty visuals on a never seen before scale. I have a pretty varied taste, so I watch across all genres, but my favourite has always been sci-fi/action and GONZO makes a lot of these.

But even I, a fan of theirs, have to admit that they have pretty much degraded into making completely repetitive cheesy stylish flicks without substance. I still watch but I’m waiting patiently for them to wake up and realise that they now suck and go back to making Last Exiles.

I notice many anime bloggers dislike GONZO. It’s mainly down to these few reasons.

  • They like to make changes to original plots and mess it up.
  • They use bad CG.
  • All their girls are skimpily dressed.
  • They have no plot.
  • They are cliche.
  • All their series are sci-fi and repetitive.
  • They churn out tonnes of stuff yearly. And most are “crap”.

The above are mainly true. Read the chunk below for more hard info, but for the benefit of those with short attention spans, I shall spew my own thoughts about this first.

GONZO is after all, a very business minded entity, as evident from its stock listing. From when they were n00bs in the industry, they have since become giants through ONE style of anime – the epic scifi. Be it Blue Submarine 6, Yukikaze, Vandread or Gatekeepers. And they cemented their status with Last Exile. They have become famous for the CG-blended anime. Unfortunately, they have stuck too long to this success formula and other competitors have rapidly evolved since then.

Back then, they were the only ones who could do masterful CG that impressed and didn’t look out of place. But now, most studios can do it. They thus need to start differentiating their product in a new way. When Vandread and Gatekeepers were airing, they were aweeesommme. Even now, as I’m rewatching Gatekeepers, I still find the animation top-notch and above what most of 2006 has to offer. GONZO’s strong point is obvious – the animation standard. So by keeping this strength, they can easily make epics by just getting the right people to do a good story. But no, in recent years especially, they seem to be thinking “Why bother? My animation is good already. People will like my show even if I don’t have a plot.” This is when people started to hate GONZO. It’s born out of missed opportunity. So much potential, all wasted. For no apparent reason. Instead, they resort to silly tricks (albeit successful), such as half naked females, CG mecha (out of place), dual guns for everyone, substanceless style and the same old rehashed plot to attract viewers.

Case in point : The rubbished version of Hellsing. Solty Rei. Burst Angel. Btw I like the character designs for all of these, so I am a victim of GONZO.

And they are now branching out into the merchandise market. Solty Revant 1/8 PVC? By GDH. Makes sense since majority of their females are really pretty and sexy. But shouldn’t they be focusing on making GOOD anime in the first place?

But, all is not lost. It seems every 5 years or so, when GONZO has an anniversary bash, they celebrate it with good anime. Coming up is Mardock Scramble, slated for greatness just like Last Exile. They have also done several good to great series recently, which balances out their trash. Think about it, if a studio makes 5 series a year and 1 is good, I consider that a success. No doubt the funds from the shitty 4 could have been better used to augment the production of the 1 good one, but let’s not be too greedy here. 2005 saw the rise of Speed Grapher, which was frankly quite underrated. 2004 had Gankutsuou, also underrated. 2003 had Last Exile. And before 2003, GONZO was still in its “everything rocks” stage, so most were great.

The fact is, money is all important in this world. GONZO has money and if they want to, they can just throw money and hire the best staff to do the best show using the best budget. This is essentially why GONZO is a winner. It’s a bit like Chelsea, they have the money, it’s just whether they want to use it.

In conclusion, GONZO is a rich but lazy kid that loves taking shortcuts. He needs to be spanked so that he’ll put in effort and do the best he can.


From here on is proper data, stolen from Wiki and official sites.
The formation of the GONZO DIGIMATION HOLDINGS (GDH) group has rapidly increased their scale of operations but it brings with it the stink of sell-out commercialism.

On their official site, it says: “The GDH group consists of companies in next generation image culture that have set their sights on becoming digital content market leaders. The group has five pillars: the GONZO brand, which enjoys an excellent reputation among cutting-edge viewers, GONZO, a state-of-the-art digital technology-based production studio with strong ability to develop worldwide content with an emphasis on new media, 2000creators.com, which plans and develops content for cellular phone terminals and produces digital videos for cinema and television, Future Vision Music, an animation music company, and GDH, which develops, executes and manages management strategy for the entire group.”

In other words, “We now have 4 tentacles and a brain and we are going to take over the world.” And that’s not all the groups under the GDH umbrella.

A full list would be:

GONZO K.K.

  • Plans, develops and produces animation
  • Plans, designs, edits and consults on characters and the view of the world of work
  • Manages creative assets
  • Manages copyrights
  • Sells, imports and exports animation
  • Plans and produces 3D CG and edit images
  • Plan sand produces movies, television programs and commercials
  • Develops application software

G-creators K.K.

  • Plans and develops content for cellular phone terminals and the broadband market
  • Manages and licenses video content copyright and produce digital images for video, cinema and television

Future Vision Music K.K.

  • Creates music for animation titles and manages associated copyrights
  • Finds, fosters development of and manages lyricists and composers

GONZINO K.K.

  • Plans and creates animation for kids

GONZO Rosso Online K.K.

  • Plans, develops and operates online games for massively multiplayer online role playing games(MMORPG)

GDH CAPITAL K.K.

  • Organises content investment funds and provides value added financial services such as acting as venture investor on behalf of content enterprises

GK Entertainment K.K.

  • Creates animation for GONZO animation

The last one is a Korean branch. As you can see, GDH has very diverse operations and are probably the most “corporate” animation company out there. While this has its advantages such as improving work efficiency, economies of scale etc, it also means there will be the inevitable weight of commercial expectation on each and every series they make. The safe way would be to use the same formula and just inject pretty CG, fanservice and cool stuff.

I stole this history bit from their website.

02/2006 GK Entertainment K.K. established
12/2005 GDH CAPITAL K.K. established
12/2005 Warp Gate Online K.K. changed its company name to GONZO Rosso Online K.K.
09/2005 Warp Gate Online K.K. becomes subsidiary
07/2005 GONZINO K.K. established
11/2004 Listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers
07/2004 Gonzo Digimation K.K. changed its company name to GONZO K.K.
Creators.com K.K. changed its name to G-creators K.K.
GONZO DIGIMATION HOLDING changed its company name to GDH K.K.
06/2004 Partnership established with GO-N Productions, France
11/2003 Future Vision Music K.K. established
04/2002 GONZO K.K. and Digimation K.K. merge; the combined company is renamed GONZO DIGIMATION K.K.
05/2000 Creators.com K.K. established
02/2000 GDH established
05/1999 GONZO Inc. changed its company name to GONZO K.K.
05/1996 Digimation K.K. established
09/1992 GONZO Inc. established

Last Exile was the 10th anniversary special since GONZO was established in 1992.

For those not interested in the actual company, let’s move along and check out the works.

TV series

Upcoming Works

  • Afro Samurai
  • Mardock Scramble (15th Anniversary Special)
  • Miina (the Densha Otoko mascot is set to get her own series)

2006

  • Witchblade
  • Brave Story
  • Glass no Kantai
  • Giniro no Kami no Agito

2005

  • Solty Rei
  • Basilisk
  • Black Cat
  • Densha Otoko Opening animation.
  • G.I. Joe: Sigma 6
  • Transformers: Cybertron
  • Trinity Blood
  • Speed Grapher

2004

  • Kaleido Star Aratanaru Tsubasa Extra Stage
  • Sunabouzu (Desert Punk)
  • Gankutsuou
  • Samurai 7
  • GANTZ
  • Burst Angel
  • Gravion Zwei

2003

  • Chrono Crusade
  • Peacemaker Kurogane
  • Kaleido Star
  • Last Exile
  • Gad Guard
  • Digigirl Pop! STRAWBERRY&POP MIX FLAVOR

2002

  • Kiddy Grade
  • Gravion
  • Saikano
  • Gatekeepers 21
  • Full Metal Panic!

2001

  • i -wish you were here-
  • Final Fantasy: Unlimited
  • Hellsing
  • Vandread the Second Stage
  • Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School

2000

  • Vandread
  • Gate Keepers

OVAs

  • 2002-2005 Sentou Yousei Yukikaze
  • 1999-2000 Melty Lancer THE ANIMATION
  • 1998-2000 Blue Submarine No. 6

Games

  • 1998: Radiant Silvergun – Contributed anime sequences
  • 1998: Lunar 2: Eternal Blue (Saturn remake) – Contributed anime sequences
  • 1996: Lunar: Silver Star Story (Saturn remake) – Contributed anime sequences

Notice a trend? GONZO is of course, increasing in scale but conversely, the average standard has decreased. And an increasing number of manga based anime are being made into anime yet with massive changes, most of which are bad. That said, they still produce a couple of amazing series each year, so there’s really no need to hit the alarm bells too hard yet. Mardock Scramble is going to be a super super show, looking at its staff, which includes the likes of Renge Murata (character designer for Last Exile) and a whole lot of others who were involved in Gankutsuou and Last Exile. I look forward to this very much.

Here’s a link to the main site and promo video.

17 Responses to “GONZO: A Rich Kid with Potential But Needs to be Spanked Hard”


  • LOL… Wow… Detailed Information… Good JOB my friend :P I think GONZO isn’t that bad… I pretty like that studio… I dont have much complaina about them… Because I dont really pay attention to Studio…

  • Great post! I pretty much agree with you on Gonzo; while many of their titles straddle the average line, when they truly put effort in they can create some true masterpieces – Gankutsuou, Last Exile, Saikano, among others. I’m slightly nervous, though, about how they will treat the NHK manga – I hope they choose not to digress from the source material as much as they have done in the past. I’ve just seen the Mardock promo video, and now I have a new "most anticipated anime."

  • They like to make changes to original plots and mess it up.
    They use bad CG.
    All their girls are skimpily dressed.

    Which is why I cried when I watched Chrno Crusade, not because it was good, but because they HURT IT.  If not having the most original plot in the world, Chrno Crusade the manga was certainly better than the stupidity that ensued in the anime.  Oh, and they took Rosette – a nun, for god’s sake – brainwashed her by a demon, dressed her in a sober black dress, only to have it -blow in the wind- to reveal hot pink panties.  I’ll never forgive them for doing that to her.I also started watching the Black Cat anime and wondered who that emo little gun wielder was, only to realize it was Train.  Another wtf? moment.So it’s nice to know it’s not only CC they f’d up.  Sigh.

  • I thought the CC anime was just baddd. Baddd as pronounced by a sheep. Baaaaadd.

    On the other hand, the BC one was weird too. The BC manga isn’t good actually, but I liked it a lot because of Sephilia and Eve. And they were uglified in the anime. But it was ok in the end, an average anime for an average manga.

    Hopeless: I’m pretty sure they’ll screw up the NHK. There has never been a case where they followed the source. That’s why GONZO should just stick to original anime and not do manga conversions. It’s like asking Tiger Woods to play tennis.

  • Hopeless: I’m pretty sure they’ll screw up the NHK.Your deduction just made me go into depression.

  • T_T||| i see you’re bashing GONZO like kwok bashes Square Enix.  They do produce quality anime from time to time, just that:
     
    1.  They have set such high expectations that well, its hard to meet them for like every series.
     
    2.  They are after all, a commercialised company like what tjhan said… so oh well.  Economics rule in the real world. 
     
    :(   Cruel, but true.

  • High expectations… not really. Actually, most have low expectations for GONZO. We just know they’ll screw something up if its a manga conversion.

    Its like Sunrise. There are 2 Sunrises, the studio that produced Mai-otome and the studio that produced Overman King Gainer. Same for GONZO. One made Last Exile, the other made Chrono Crusade.

    Btw I was reminded that what we have said applies to Square Enix.

  • Freakin hell Mr kokanaden™. Can you READ?! I was quoting tjhan you dick.In any case, I’ve made myself damn clear before to OBN that I am a supporter of GONZO. Kyoto comes in second and Madhouse third.

  • “GONZO: A Rich Kid with Potential But Needs to be Spanked Hard” – The best assessment of GONZO I’ve ever heard. :D Btw, I agree with you completely.

  • You lost me with " That said, they still produce a couple of amazing series each year."  "Gonzo" and "amazing" should never be used in the same sentence unless "lack of script editing" followed the "amazing."

  • The only decent GONZO series I saw in recent years were Sunabouzu(Desert Punk) and Gankutsuou(Count of Monte Cristo), both which were produced in 2004.I was once the same as you, watching Vandread/GateKeepers and aweing at it’s special effects, but yes they probably one of the worst when it comes to conversions. (The CC anime was killed and raped)

  • is GONZO the microsoft of anime?

  • Oh yeah but Basilisk was well done. And that was a conversion. So it’s an exception. 2005 had Speed Grapher which I liked a lot.

  • hi, just to reply to T_T|||, if you really say so, then you shouldn’t have quoted that in the first place. You may not have meant it, but people might have gotten that meaning…. after all, most people are not OBN……

  • Halcyon, GONZO is not the Microsoft of anime. GAINAX IS THE MICROSOFT OF ANIME.tjhan you know, an article like this only provokes discussion, which is great. Keep it up.

  • kwok: GAINAX IS THE MICROSOFT OF ANIME
    Was about to say that but you beat me to it. I can’t think of any studio as big a goliath as GAINAX nowadays. They are depending too much on their success of EVA like how Square Enix is gnawing away at the stable foundation FF brought them. If either of them don’t produce something as ground-breaking as their previous works soon, they’ll most probably be screwed in no time. Square Enix’s FF have different storylinesso it might just not be a problem and they have produced Code Age Commanders in hope that it will replace the FF series. Which didn’t really work out anyway.
    On the other hand GAINAX only has ONE story: EVA. And they are producing too much spin-offs and merchandise based on it. Once our generation (the bunch who watched EVA at a young age) stop buying their products, they have no incentive to lure the newer generation, which is getting more and more superficial. Soon we’ll hear, "Huh? What’s EVA? Oh the one with shit art? Nah don’t wanna watch." They’ll never know how well the art and animation was during the 1990s.
    Good luck to GAINAX. GONZO has produced a few great works but none can compare to the size of EVA. Once they do, they’ll overthrow GAINAX. At least I think so.

  • Well, Mahoromatic and Fooly Cooly were done by Gainax… Both are nothing alike each other, nor like Eva, but were incredible hits. I personally adored them both, much more so than Evangelion. Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai had a hint of Fooly Cooly style in it, but it was extremely original, and fun to watch. And eh, I guess you didn’t enjoy Honey and Clover, but I did, and they worked on that too. There may not be many exclusive Gainax titles nowadays, but there’s a whole bunch of places asking gainax for help in production, animation, in-between animations, 2nd key animation and all sorts of stuff. I don’t think Gainax is going to be leaving anytime soon. And for the record, I didn’t like Evangelion. The first few episodes were really cool, but then it just got way too dramatic and emotional for my taste. And then the ending just angered me, (although it started to make some sense oncfe I did some research on it.) BACK TO TOPIC, RANGE MURATA ROCKS!!! I hope he helps Gonzo make a comeback, I love there quality stuff.

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