Exactly twenty years ago, on 28th October 1998, one of the current biggest players in the anime industry was founded: studio BONES. What once was a small company featuring Cowboy Bebop’s ambitious production staff eventually grew into an entity with worldwide reach, a large fanbase, and many popular titles under its belt. During these two decades, they’ve carved their mark into the history of animation, but what can we expect from BONES moving forward?
There’s no doubt that a studio as beloved as BONES reaching its 20th anniversary deserves some celebration. On the one hand we’ve got initiatives like the exhibition of their works at the Tokyo Anime Center spanning from October 26 to November 25, which will feature production materials of selected titles from their repertoire, stage events with staff, and other bonuses for the attendees. Physical events aren’t the only way to commemorate the occasion, though, so this has also served as an opportunity for journalists and the studio members themselves to go in-depth on the company’s inner workings – look no further than the neat BONES Chronicle Book they’re releasing with conversations with their staff and messages from people from all over the industry, plus all the comprehensive (Japanese) interviews with the president and CEO Masahiko Minami that have been getting published recently. Maybe that doesn’t sound quite as extravagant as the fancy exhibits, but it does give us precious insight!
One of the major points detailed in those, as well as in any piece that deals with studio BONES’ production methods, is the fact that the company is divided into several sub-studios. Each one of those branches is led by an animation producer of its own who’s responsible for planning the projects, assembling staff, and then overseeing the manufacturing of all titles. While the sub-studios collaborate in case of need, each of them generally works independently as a company-within-a-company. The road that led the studio to adopt this model is interesting, so have no doubt that in due time we’ll be paying honor to that 20th anniversary by giving a comprehensive look at the history of BONES. But for now, we’d like to tackle a topic’s that relevant even for fans who aren’t interested in anime industry history lessons: what should we expect from the studio in the future? To answer that question, let’s do a rundown of all sub-studios so that we can talk about their most recent and upcoming projects.
Currently there are five sub-studios within BONES, named in alphabetical order. Studios A to D are located in the headquarters while Studio E inhabits another building.
- Studio A is at the moment led by animation producer Naoki Amano, who’s been with the company since their first TV anime Hiwou War Chronicles in 2000 and was promoted to his important role in 2011 with Gosick. For those of you unacquainted with their repertoire, their recent works include original titles as varied as A.I.C.O. Incarnation and Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan. Even though Amano was in charge of overseeing the production process for both of them, the latter was a project specially planned and brought up by president Minami. I bring this up because that’s also the case for the sub-studio’s next work: the 20th anniversary celebration original anime Carole & Tuesday, slated to premiere in April 2019. It’s no coincidence the studio which came into existence as a consequence of Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop will celebrate the anniversary with a new anime by the same director!
- Studio B is an interesting case as it has changed animation producers multiple times over the years. Those changes are frequent enough that it hasn’t even been publicly disclosed who’s currently heading it, though we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Having recently put out big hits like Mob Psycho 100 and Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, many fans keep an eye on their every move. As you can probably guess though, they’re currently focusing their efforts on Mob Psycho 100 II, due January 2019. It’s no secret that the sequel’s production is proceeding extremely smoothly; it was officially noted by Minami himself during his talk event at MachiAsobi three weeks ago, teased by staff members even in theoretically unrelated interviews (that’s how proud they are of their upcoming work), and even been sort of leaked just how ahead they are. It’s satisfying to hear that an anime with some of the finest talent in the industry is getting the treatment it deserves and won’t struggle with the schedule.
- Popular as Studio B and their works may be, at the center of international attention we find Studio C at the moment – led by the acclaimed producer Yoshihiro Oyabu, who joined the company in 2003 with the original Fullmetal Alchemist and was promoted to his current role in 2007 with Darker than Black. The reason behind Studio C’s outrageous popularity is simple to understand: they’re now solely dedicated to the production of My Hero Academia, both the TV series and this year’s movie. So as you can imagine, their staff are currently working on the animation for HeroAca season four which is slated to premiere next year. If you’re ever wondering just how big this series is, keep in mind that it’s become the single focus for an entire branch of a studio as major as BONES, with no perspectives of change anytime soon.
- Although the scale is quite different, Studio D is in a similar situation as they’ve also been focused on a single franchise for the past few years. Their current leader Mari Suzuki was promoted to animation producer in 2016 with her debut project Bungo Stray Dogs and has since then produced its sequel series and a movie. That brings to attention what’s perhaps the most important change regarding this sub-studio’s fate: after mostly working for Studio C, glamorous director Takuya Igarashi’s been almost exclusively committed to D’s titles. This includes the new work they’ve currently got in pre-production stages – Bungo season three, which was announced earlier this year and should premiere sometime in 2019.
- Last but not least, though the poor little thing feels like a bit of an outcast since it’s the only sub-studio located in a different building as opposed to the headquarters, we find Studio E. It was established for the long-term production of the Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution movie trilogy, which immediately answers the question as to what you should expect from them moving forward. Creating a new sub-studio with a single project in mind wasn’t a new move for BONES, but it did make fans wonder whether it would be a temporary thing or a truly new production line. As it turns out, the answer is the latter! These efforts will be overseen by producer Makoto Watanabe, who’s been with the company since the very founding. After his promotion to animation producer, he used to lead Studio B from 2007 to 2012 and then Studio D until Suzuki took over. The second entry in the trilogy – ANEMONE – Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution – is set to premiere on November 10 in Japanese cinemas, so they’re already switching gears to tackle the final installment. After that, no one knows what will come, but that’s what makes their existence so fascinating right now!
As you can see, a wide variety of anime are planned for the studio’s next year, including both adaptations and original projects across multiple genres and formats. As they celebrate this special anniversary with all those projects, we’ll be offering a more in-depth look at the studio’s history as we promised. But since their first reaction was to look forward and talk about the potential the studio’s future holds, it only felt right to start this celebration by putting in precise terms what each branch of the studio will be making in the near future. President Masahiko Minami has expressed his wishes to reach even more fans with their anime, collaborate with more foreign talents, improve working conditions for the staff, and continue to push the boundaries of what the craft of hand-drawn can achieve with its freedom of expression. Here’s hoping we will be able to enjoy BONES’ art for the next 20 years!