Gainax was founded in the 1980s (as Daicon Film) by a group of university students, most notable among them was Hideaki Anno. The studio’s first work as “Gainax” was the movie Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, which didn’t garner much of a critical reaction. With the release of Gunbuster however, Gainax cemented itself as a studio which would produce some of the best known works of anime in the future!
This article lists and ranks the top 10 Gainax productions (it only includes those which were made by Gainax or prime contractors). Let’s dive in with number 10!
10. Medaka Box
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2012 - Jun 21 2012
So at number 10 is Medaka Box! Medaka Kurokami is elected to the Student Council with a 98% majority, and one of her first acts is to implement a suggestion box. Expecting mundane requests, Medaka and her childhood friend Zenkichi discover a terrible secret at the heart of their high school! Along with Kouki, Mogana and the rest of the student council, the protagonists are pitted against supernatural threats beyond their imagining!
One of Gainax’s more recent productions, Medaka Box is on the surface a typical high school anime, with a lot of twists and a lot of humour. It’s also known for its fan service, and the general insanity which defines a lot of Gainax productions.
9. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (Abenobashi Maho Shoutengai)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2002 - Jun 2002
Sasshi is just an ordinary boy, whose life happens to be crashing down around him; his family’s bath house has been demolished, and his childhood friend Arumi is moving all the way to Hokkaido! Suddenly, after an accident, the two are transported to a weird world, where at first everything seems the same - until they encounter dragons and other mythical creatures! The series follows the adventures of the two children as they try to escape back to reality.
Hot on the heels of FLCL, Magical Shopping Arcade is told in a similar style, with lots of craziness and humour to add to an interesting plot. One of Gainax’s lesser known series, it was popular enough to inspire a manga adaptation later on.
8. Otaku no Video
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: Sep 1991 - Dec 1991
Half-anime, half-otaku-interview, Otaku no Video is based on the story of Gainax’s founding. It follows the misadventures of Ken Kubo, a run-of-the-mill average Joe. That is, until he meets his high-school friend Tanaka and his otaku friends. Soon Ken is dragged into the otaku world, and begins a quest to become the king of all otaku!
Otaku no Video is an often underrated offering from Gainax. The series is told through parodies of popular anime, and interviews of otaku entitled “Portrait of an Otaku”. Though it isn’t long at all, and isn’t shot as a classical anime, it gives an important look into the otaku lifestyle in Japan, and also as a cultural perspective of the early 90s.
7. Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: Apr 1990 - Apr 1991
Nadia is a girl with a mysterious past. Jean is a young inventor. The two of them, with the help of the legendary Captain Nemo face the sinister Gargoyle, who plans to take over the world. Set in the universe created by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Secret of Blue Water is an epic adventure with some brilliant characters and a gripping story.
Secret of Blue Water was a controversial series for Gainax, as it ultimately caused the studio to lose money. However, the initial production caused Hideaki Anno to be appointed as director instead of Hiroaki Inoue. Nadia has similar elements to Anno’s later masterpiece, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and can almost be seen as flexing of his directorial muscles, although it is a brilliant series in its own right.
6. Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2010 - Dec 2010
Brace yourself for total insanity! It’s hard to describe this anime in polite terms, but basically Panty and Stocking are two “angels” who are kicked out of heaven for their bad behaviour. Supposedly, with mentor Garterbelt’s help, they are meant to earn their way back into heaven by killing ghosts and cleaning up the mean streets of Daten City. However, with the antics of the two sex-charged angels, this looks increasingly unlikely!
A complete departure from anything Japanese anime has ever seen, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt was born from the drunken musings of Gainax’s staff while on holiday. The anime takes a poke at everything considered to be “Otaku”, and with its more American style of hyperactivity, hypersexuality and insanity, Panty and Stocking went on to be incredibly popular. It was important for the studio as it carried the studios success further after the acclaim Tengen Toppa had received.
5. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Mar 1987
Set in an alternate timeline, Royal Space Force follows Shirotsugh Lhadatt, a drifter caught up in the machinations of the rulers of the Kingdom of Honnêamise. After meeting Riquinni, he is inspired to become the first man in space. The film is a beautiful example of how anime can make a relevant commentary on difficult themes like war, and ultimately chronicles Lhadatt’s coming of age.
Despite not making a big impact upon its release, The Wings of Honnêamise has gone on to be a popular cult favourite. Since the first commercial release by Gainax, it has stood the test of time as it tackled issues which are still relevant today. And, if you’re a fan, Aoki Uru is the long-awaited, almost-sequel, set for release in 2018!
4. FLCL (Fooly Cooly)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Apr 2000 - Mar 2001
Naota Nandaba is just a normal 12-year old boy, until he is run over by the insane Haruko Haruhara on her Vespa scooter. But that’s not all, after reviving him, Haruko hits Naoto with her bass guitar, which causes robots to spring forth from his head! Actually an intergalactic detective, Haruko has inadvertently drawn Naota into an intergalactic conflict!
FLCL’s director tried to “break the rules”, and the result is the insanity of the series. Hyper-active and relying heavily on comedy, FLCL is placed at number 4 because it’s one of Gainax’s most popular anime (and has a cult following), but lacks the following of its more
3. Gunbuster (Toppu wo Nerae! Gunbuster)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Oct 1988 - Jul 1989
In the year 2023 a race of insect-like aliens are headed towards earth, apparently bent on the destruction of the human race! Noriko Takaya is the daughter of a famous admiral who was killed early in the fight against the aliens, and enters a training school in order to become a pilot. Inspired by ace pilot Kazumi Amano, Noriko is determined to be chosen so she can avenge her father; Gunbuster is Noriko’s story, and follows her journey from zero to hero!
Gunbuster was Gainax’s first commercial success, and is considered one of the top mecha anime of all time. It’s the debut of director Hideaki Anno and is inspired heavily by the plot of Top Gun, albeit reinterpreted in a futuristic sci-fi setting. This anime is a showcase of brilliant character development from a brilliant director, and is a must see for fans of cult anime!
2. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- Episodes: 27
- Aired: Apr 2007 - Sep 2007
Deep underground in a huge cave, Simon hates his life. Digging every day to expand the underground cave in which his tribe lives, he has no idea what life is like “above the ground”. He finds a kindred spirit in Kamina, who also dreams of seeing the surface. However, one day a huge robot (and Yoko, the girl with the big… gun) smashes into the cave from the surface, and it’s up to Simon, Kamina and Yoko to defeat it, with the help of the robot Lagann. Meeting a host of other characters (and a whole load of enemies), thus begin the adventures of Simon the digger!
Weighing in at number 2, Tengen Toppa marked a slightly fresher take for Gainax. With its punchy animation and its crazy parody style, Tengen Toppa went on to be one of the most popular recent anime.
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shin Seiki Evangelion)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 1995 - Mar 1996
Neon Genesis Evangelion (or just Evangelion) takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth, and follows the pilots of the mysterious NERV as they battle equally mysterious monsters, called Angels. The plot centres on Shinji Ikari after he is plucked from high school by his father, the head scientist at NERV. He is joined by Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley as they struggle to fend off the Angels, and protect what’s left of civilization on earth.
So why is Evangelion at number one? It is arguably the most important anime for Gainax, and also one of the most popular and well known anime of all time. Evangelion has a plethora of spin-offs, movies and video games, and as a franchise has grossed over 1 billion dollars! However, from a critic’s perspective, the anime has fantastic classic animation, brilliant character development, and an iconic soundtrack. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen this series, go and watch it!
So there you have it! Personally, it was hard to rank 4th, 3rd and 2nd place, but Evangelion will always belong at number 1. It’s such a brilliant anime, and has cemented Hideaki Anno as a master of anime, in my opinion. Let’s not forget too that Evangelion’s 4th rebuild is due in cinemas this year!