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.
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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|
|05/1999||GONZO Inc. changed its company name to GONZO K.K.|
|05/1996||Digimation K.K. established|
|09/1992||GONZO Inc. established|
For those not interested in the actual company, let’s move along and check out the works.
- Afro Samurai
- Mardock Scramble (15th Anniversary Special)
- Miina (the Densha Otoko mascot is set to get her own series)
- Brave Story
- Glass no Kantai
- Giniro no Kami no Agito
- Solty Rei
- Black Cat
- Densha Otoko Opening animation.
- G.I. Joe: Sigma 6
- Transformers: Cybertron
- Trinity Blood
- Speed Grapher
- Kaleido Star Aratanaru Tsubasa Extra Stage
- Sunabouzu (Desert Punk)
- Samurai 7
- Burst Angel
- Gravion Zwei
- Chrono Crusade
- Peacemaker Kurogane
- Kaleido Star
- Last Exile
- Gad Guard
- Digigirl Pop! STRAWBERRY&POP MIX FLAVOR
- Kiddy Grade
- Gatekeepers 21
- Full Metal Panic!
- i -wish you were here-
- Final Fantasy: Unlimited
- Vandread the Second Stage
- Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School
- Gate Keepers
- 2002-2005 Sentou Yousei Yukikaze
- 1999-2000 Melty Lancer THE ANIMATION
- 1998-2000 Blue Submarine No. 6
- 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.