Ode to Anime Studios – Toei Animation

Due to other commitments, I’ve been holding on to the same library books for a few months now, including the same anime reference books I keep using for this segment…Thank goodness for loan renewals.

Toei is one of the biggest companies in the history of anime – to start, it’s one of the oldest anime companies. To be precise, Toei was founded on July 31st 1956 as “Toei Douga” (with Douga meaning “moving pictures”) and only became “Toei Animation” in 1998 (Richmond 2009, Toei Animation 2006). Their aim back then was to take on Disney (Richmond 2009), but with the rise of Netflix and Amazon teaming up with anime companies plus 3D CGI companies like Polygon Pictures getting into the fray between Toei and its goals between 1956 and 2018, the competition can only get fiercer from here.

Furthermore, Toei is also notable in that it was critical in cementing the idea of “anime studios” as they stand now, as well as being the training ground for some big names – Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki and the not-too-long-gone Isao Takahata (Richmond 2009). So don’t go underestimating Toei at all.

With that somewhat-scary pitch out of the way, what have they made that’s so great? Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball and One Piece are only some of the names under their beck and call. Notably, those are all long-runners due to franchise longevity, but they’re also in command of the more on-off Digimon franchise and they still have the occasional outlier entry, like Seikaisuru Kado, in the running for some seasons. A lot of their recent business seems to involve reboots, from Digimon Adventure Tri to the currently-airing Gegege no Kitaro (2018) (AniList n.d.). If you think about it, a “throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks” plus “rehash existing properties” business model does have its risks, but it must sure work well enough to keep Toei going for 62 years.

As for a Toei work I like, it would be easy to pick Sailor Moon, the one franchise I blame for getting me here in the first place. However, that’s way too predictable, so I’m going to go for a little-known Toei shoujo title known as Ashita no Nadja. It’s so unknown that I only discovered it through a Cantonese dub and some not-so-very-legal means when I was less of a legal streaming advocate, but I’ll try to pitch it nonetheless…

Sure, some of you probably went “So what?” at the shoujo designation since it doesn’t disguise its romantic plot at all (one of its main love interests is basically a blonde Tuxedo Mask, up to and including the name “Black Rose”!), but it has surprisingly complex characters for this genre space and the titular protagonist is a competent part of a circus troupe, which is certainly something you don’t see every day in anime…unless, of course, you’re watching the somewhat similar Kaleido Star, but that’s a topic for another time. Furthermore, its international cast, despite the setting being 20th-century Europe, is something you didn’t see a lot in anime back when it was first airing in 2003(!) (Anime News Network n.d.). In retrospect, Ashita no Nadja makes me feel appreciative of how diverse characters have gotten in anime over the past 15 years, even though it’s something we take for granted in this internet-connected world.

So, what do you think about Toei Animation and their works? Do they run too long? Alternatively, did I manage to pitch Ashita no Nadja properly?


AniList n.d. Toei Animation. Available from: https://anilist.co/studio/18 [28th April 2018.]

Anime News Network n.d. Ashita no Nadja. Available from:  https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=2084 [22nd April 2018.]

Richmond, S 2009. The Rough Guide to Anime. London, England.

Toei Animation 2006. This year is the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Toei Animation Co., Ltd. Available from:  http://corp.toei-anim.co.jp/en/press/detail.php?id=96 %5B22nd April 2018.]


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