- Directors of hit anime Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man start their own studios, causing excitement in the industry.
- Sunghoo Park's E&H Productions aims to create engaging animation for the whole world, with their first major project releasing this month.
- Ryu Nakayama's Andraft emphasizes a creative environment without existing concepts, with no immediate projects announced yet. Speculation arises about their departure from Studio MAPPA.
The rise and fall of anime studios is nothing new in an industry where a lot of the big studios began as subsidiaries/offshoots of other big names, yet a new one still feels like a cause for hype. So imagine the excitement when the directors behind two of the most talked-about anime in years, Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man, decided to each start their own studios.
In March 2021, nine months before the release of Jujutsu Kaisen 0, the film's director Sunghoo Park, who also directed Season 1, began recruiting for his new studio, E&H Productions. Then, just recently, on January 6, Chainsaw Man director Ryu Nakayama announced his new studio, Andraft, along with its first complete work, a promo for Bushiroad's Cardfight!! Vanguard.
Sunghoo Park and E&H Productions
As is common with a lot of Japanese studio names, there is always a deeper meaning behind it, or at least in the case of Ufotable, a funny story. Park's new studio derives its name from the words "Entertainment" and "Human." On their official website, their stated aim is to bring together artists from across the globe to create "engaging animation for the whole world."
Most studios take time before they've produced their first major film or TV series. Not every new production house can come out of the gate swinging as Studio Bind did with Mushoku Tensei, as that was a particularly unique instance. Thankfully, with the few years that have passed since its founding, E&H has not only announced a few things, but their first major project is coming just later this month, and they're coming out swinging.
Monsters 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation is set to release on Netflix on January 21, with Park set to direct. For those unaware, Monsters was a one-shot written by Eiichiro Oda before he wrote One Piece, and the protagonist, Ryuma, is a canon character within One Piece. Park is joined by character designer Takashi Kojima (Flip Flappers, Heike Monogatari) and art director Fuminao Akai (Parasyte: The Maxim, Tatami Time Machine Blues).
Given the heightened buzz around One Piece as of late, and Netflix capitalizing on said buzz to an almost troubling degree, Monsters will be a good barometer for what E&H is capable of. Before this announcement, they had already revealed Ninja Kamui, an Adult Swim production airing February 10. They also announced Project Bullet/Bullet, a Disney+ Original, and an adaptation of Red Cat Ramen - the only one not directed by Park - for July 2024.
Ryu Nakayama and Andraft
Since the announcement was so recent, naturally, there are no immediate projects lined up for Andraft, save for the aforementioned collaboration with Cardfight!! Vanguard. On their website, they describe the studio as an environment for its staff to create animation "without being bound by existing concepts." The full statement is as follows.
Andraft Inc. is a creative unit founded in 2023 by director, producer and animator Ryu Nakayama. We want to establish an environment where we can continue to take on various challenges without being bound by existing concepts and maintain that impetus for as long as possible.
To bring even freer expression to more people in the time to come, so that we can enjoy it together.
As a place where you can truly face your creativity.
Why The Departure?
What makes the founding of these new studios so fascinating is the common variable preceding them: their founders' work on high-profile Studio MAPPA projects. Jujutsu Kaisen and its prequel film were hugely successful to the degree that one might think MAPPA would be keen on retaining Park and his vision. Of course, in hindsight, Shota Goshozono turned out to be an excellent replacement, but it was still a major change that had some fans initially worried.
As for Nakayama, while the staff has not yet been confirmed for Chainsaw Man's new movie, it's a safe bet to assume that he will not be directing it. This is not solely based on the precedent set by Park's departure, but also on the somewhat unsuccessful first season (relative to home video sales, at least). Additionally, some fans have been critical of Nakayama's direction of Chainsaw Man regarding the tone and visual presentation compared to the manga.
Absent anything concrete, there will surely be lots of speculation about why exactly these two decided to break off from their respective series. In light of recent trends, many will theorize that it was in response to the working conditions at MAPPA. On the other hand, it could just as well be a case of two directors capitalizing on the popularity of their work to make something they are more passionate about.
Even if Chainsaw Man wasn't technically the success that MAPPA hoped it would be, Nakayama is still in a very advantageous position. He made his directorial debut with an adaptation of one of the most popular manga in years, and save for some divisive creative choices, it was a critical slam dunk. Park has a few more directorial credits under his belt, but it's safe to say that Jujutsu Kaisen and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 are the biggest.
Given MAPPA's production volume, it wouldn't be a stretch to suppose that the changing of creative teams between seasons is a mix of necessity and conscious effort. Even so, assuming these two directors had a choice in the matter and weren't just shuffled out, it certainly seems like they picked the right time to forge something of their own. One wonders if this will be remembered as a strange coincidence of the start of a larger trend with MAPPA's directors.
Source: Anime News Network [Link 1][Link 2] [Link 3], E&H Production's official website, Andraft's official website