From Cowboy Bebop to Vanitas, How Studio BONES Set the Bar for Anime Excellency

Some anime studios have a reputation that precedes them. They may be known for creating one or more popular franchises or crafting beautiful environments or memorable sequences. However, whenever people argue about what anime studio is the best, Studio BONES must be mentioned, as this is the studio behind some of the most popular and beloved anime of all time. However, Studio BONES is not a one-hit-wonder. In fact, the most impressive thing about the studio is its sheer variety of titles.

In October 1998, Masahiko Minami, a producer in Sunrise's Studio 2, decided to step out on his own. In interviews, he has said that he wanted more creative freedom and the chance to work on new projects and thought that the only way he could do this was by forming his own studio. He convinced Hiroshi Ōsaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto, two other members of the Studio 2 team, to come with him. Minami believed that with their versatility and talent, they could make anything together. As the trio had worked on Cowboy Bebop and other projects, both Ōsaka and Kawamoto agreed to join this new studio. As part of this move, Minami also recruited many of Sunrise's animators, offering them more control and better pay. With this core team, Studio BONES was born. The company hit the ground running, releasing its first projects, Hiwou War Chronicles and the movie Escaflowne, in 2000. However, in 2001, BONES put itself on the map with its first big project when it worked with Sunrise to make Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

Part of Studio BONES' success is attributed to its studio system, something that Sunrise also used. Studio BONES is split into several smaller studios, each identified by a letter. Currently, there are five different studios within Studio BONES, the newest of which is Studio E, which was formed in 2017. Each of these studios focuses on its own projects and is run by its own animation producer who plans the studio's projects and manages the staff. This means that the studio can have a small and close-knit team while also leveraging the power and budget that only a big corporation can have. However, the system Studio BONES uses differs from that used by Sunrise in one significant way: its approach to artistic freedom. Many staff at Studio BONES talk about how open the studio is to working on projects pitched by its creators. They also say that there isn't a boundary between animators, writers and producers, with all three groups attending meetings and pitching ideas.

This openness is clearly visible in Studio BONES' back catalog. The studio has worked on a wide variety of titles spanning many different genres and visual styles. If you showed someone with no knowledge of anime Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran High School Host Club and Carole & Tuesday, they would likely never guess that all three were made by the same studio. However, over the years, Studio BONES has turned its hand to everything, producing several unexpected hits along the way.

In the early days, you can see the founder's love of high-concept sci-fi shining through as it created shows like 2002's RahXephon and 2004's Mars Daybreak. As the studio grew and found its footing, it slowly pushed out into other areas, including the disaster movie-inspired Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 in 2009 and 2014's over-the-top meta-comedy Space Dandy. Studio BONES has also been making adaptations of very popular manga and light novels, from its current big-hitter My Hero Academia to 2014's Chaika - The Coffin Princess and the currently running The Case Study of Vanitas. Manga adaptations helped keep the studio afloat in its early years while helping it develop a reputation for high-quality adaptations that turned excellent manga into fantastic anime that made full use of the medium.

Studio BONES is the hallmark of anime excellence and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as studios like Studio Ghibli. From its foundation to the present day, Studio BONES has pushed the limits of anime as a medium and created a slew of popular shows and adaptations that have become anime classics in their own right. Studio BONES' ability to adapt to any style and genre is astounding, showing just how talented the studio's creatives are. Hopefully, we'll see many more excellent and boundary-pushing anime from Studio BONES in the future, as well as continued success for its currently running franchises.

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