I’m no authority on Shaft since I haven’t seen a lot of their integral work or the works Shinbo did before he became Shaft’s mainstay, but I’ll give this a shot…
Shaft are known for 4 things – Akiyuki Shinbo, the dude who sits in the (chief) director’s chair for pretty much every Shaft project, Shinbo visuals, the Shaft headtilt and a steady stream of references (TV Tropes n.d.).
…Okay, the words “Shinbo visuals” probably don’t tell much. “Shinbo visuals” isn’t the real term for them, but it’s the thin outlines and striking colours that comprise a Shaft work, if not the limited animation and usage of real items amidst the fictional (Morrissy 2018). Most of those signatures are his, which have been taken on as studio hallmarks just as much as the headtilt (Creamer 2017), although there are instances where other staff’s influence bleeds through, such as the more avant garde Yukihiro Miyamoto, who was responsible for surreal parts of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei and Madoka (Wave Motion Cannon 2016). Also, apparently most works under Shaft are from a male perspective – the only two exceptions being Hidamari Sketch and “Chidamari” Madoka, which share a (female) character designer in Ume Aoki (Morrissy 2018).
Sidebar: If you were a latecomer to the Madoka scene, you might not know “Chidamari” is Hidamari + chi (blood), translating to “puddle of blood”. I was a latecomer myself, but enough reading around the Madoka wiki and inurement to spoilers for the show long before I’d finished it led me to discover this fact…
As for more banal facts, Shaft is currently under its second president Mitsutoshi Kubota (Creamer 2017), even though it was opened in 1975 (Shaft Animation Studio n.d.). Shaft staff tend to be distinctive no matter where they move to in the industry post-Shaft (if they ever move on, of course), from Silver Link to Deen (Creamer 2017). Specifically, the link between Shaft and Studio Deen is the guy I watched Grancrest Senki for after his work on Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – that would be Shinichi Omata, also known as Mamoru Hatakeyama. In fact, the aforementioned Miyamoto mentored Omata (Wave Motion Cannon 2016)!
It would be more characteristic of me to pick Puella Magi Madoka Magica to highlight here and cap things off and that would be handy for a few reasons. Personally though, I’m more partial to Mekakucity Actors due to how one of my friendships was strengthened through a few of the Kagerou Project songs, not to mention the first and only light novel I own is from that series. Even though that show is known for being a low point in the Shaft catalogue and I could easily pick something that’s got a better reputation, the crappy CGI and idiosyncratic ways of Shaft, melded together with the story, original visuals and songs from Jin, Wannyanpu and Shidu, makes for something completely unforgettable, provided you have previous knowledge of the series from the other media in the mixed media project that is KagePro.
Well, that’s just one of a few titanic studios I just took on…and I think that went pretty well! So what’s your favourite Shaft work? Do you like the reputation they have, or are all the headtilts and crazy colours too much for you?
Creamer, N 2017, The Secret of Studio SHAFT. Available from: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2017-01-18/the-secret-of-studio-shaft/.110526. [26th August 2018].
Morrissy, K 2018, The Making of a SHAFT Heroine. Available from: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2018-02-07/the-making-of-a-shaft-heroine/.127457 [26th August 2018].
Shaft Animation Studio n.d. Company. Available from: http://www.shaft-web.co.jp/company/ [26th August 2018].
TV Tropes n.d. Studio Shaft. Available from: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/StudioShaft [26th August 2018].
Wave Motion Cannon 2016, Shinbo is Dead: a New Generation of Shaft. Available from: https://wavemotioncannon.com/2016/03/21/shinbo-is-dead-a-new-generation-of-shaft/ [26th August 2018].