Thursday, 27 February 2020

Map of Anime Studios

If you pay attention to the settings of your anime, I'm sure you will be aware that many shows are set in tried and tested real-world locations, there is a modern trend of making the show's world match onto a tangible setting. This is often done as a bonus to dedicated fans, or as a homage to locations that are important to whatever the show is about. For instance Yuru Camp's camping locations are all real-world places (mostly around Yamanashi) and as you can imagine, this will bring in customers to these places so really it's of mutual benefit of both artist and landowner. While this trend is exciting, many anime are set in set locations for a more concrete reason: proximity. Just as the majority of Hollywood films are shot within a days trip from Los Angeles, many anime are based on the area around where the production is happening. Why invent something new when you can use the real world around you for inspiration?

Here is my map of anime studio locations (ignore the dodgy formatting):

This utilitarian fact has lead many an anime to be set around the major hubs of anime studios. The most prominent and important of these hubs are the neighbouring Western-Tokyo cities of Suginami and Musashino. Suginami being one of the special wards of Tokyo proper and Musashino being just outside (but still within Tokyo prefecture). These two areas house the vast majority of modern (and historical) anime studios, and as such are by far the most common location for anime to be set (bar Akihabara/Sotokanda).

Even in the beginning, the first Tokyo animation studios were primarily located in Western Tokyo, with the three titans of the 60s/70s: Mushi Pro, Tatsunoko Pro and Toei, being located in Suginami, Musashino and nearby Nakano respectively. And when a tree spreads its seeds, the concentration will be highest just under its boughs, so every new studio that sprung up saw fit to set up shop in these areas too, generally studios were formed by older staff, and they would build their company nearby their parent, so the trend is for Mushi/Tezuka descended studios are built in Suginami (Sunrise, Madhouse, Shaft), while Tatsunoko descended studios are in Musashino (Production IG, JC Staff, Pierrot).

But there's something even more functional than that: and it's about taxes. Corporate taxes obviously function differently depending on where you are located, and the difference between being locating within the Tokyo special wards and without them includes a special prefectural municipal tax on top of the cities municipal tax. This pushes smaller companies out of the special area, while the larger companies can remain inside. But to leave Tokyo is to leave the forest, and so companies are pushed specifically to West of the city. This is because while the city of Tokyo may end, the prefecture extends West another 50 miles (but not any other direction).

Map of Tokyo prefecture. Special wards in purple. Suginami is 杉並区 and Musashino is 武蔵野市.

This factor means the animation divisions of super-companies will be often in Suginami (A-1 Pictures, AIC, Ultra Super Pictures), while smaller start-ups will be outside (Gainax, Actas, Science Saru).

Another, often mindblowing, realisation is that many studios are located literally within the same building as one another. Studio WIT and Tatsunoko Production are two of these, and are a mere 80m from a restaurant named "Kamavaki pizza". And the offices above Kamavaki are the HQ for Production IG. The most impressive of these is the imposing tower block of "Integral Tower" in Ogikubo, Suginami. It holds a total of four studios within its walls (Trigger, Ordet, Sanzigen and Liden Films). The building itself even played a central role in Trigger's Luluco.

There are of course outliers. As you can see from the map, there are a few studios located around the country, but these are few and far between. The two biggest are Kyoto Animation (Kyoto) and PA Works (Toyama). It is clear that these studios' strong individual styles, come from there relative isolation. The other out-of-Tokyo studios are GoHands (Osaka) and Gaina (Fukushima).

Gainax has recently been in the news for their fraudulent practises. Central for this was their use of facading holding companies to protect their assets. Looking at my map, these stick out almost comically. We love you Yamaga.

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