GAINAX Co., Ltd. (Japanese: 株式会社ガイナックス Hepburn: Kabushiki-gaisha Gainakkusu) is a Japanese anime studio famous for productions such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Royal Space Force, Gunbuster, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Kare Kano, FLCL, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, and Gurren Lagann, which have garnered critical acclaim and been commercially successful. Evangelion has reportedly grossed over 150 billion yen, or approximately US$1.2 billion. In a discussion at the 2006 Tekkoshocon, Matt Greenfield claimed Evangelion had grossed over US$2 billion; Takeda reiterated in 2002 that “It sold record numbers of laserdiscs in Japan, and the DVD is still selling well today,”, as well as for their association with award-winning anime director and studio co-founder Hideaki Anno. The company is headquartered in Koganei, Tokyo.
Until Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gainax typically worked on stories created in-house, but the studio has increasingly developed anime adaptations of existing manga like Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou and Mahoromatic. Series produced by Gainax are often known for their controversial twist endings.
The Animage Anime Grand Prix has been awarded to Gainax for Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water in 1991, Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1995 and 1996, and The End of Evangelion in 1997.
The studio was formed in the early 1980s as Daicon Film by university students Hideaki Anno, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Hiroyuki Yamaga, Takami Akai, Toshio Okada, Yasuhiro Takeda and Shinji Higuchi. Their first project was an animated short for the 20th Annual Japan National SF Convention, also known as Daicon III, held in 1981 in Osaka, Japan. The short film is about a girl who fights monsters, robots, and spaceships from early science fiction TV shows and films (including Ultraman, Gundam, Space Runaway Ideon, Space Battleship Yamato, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Godzilla) until she finally reaches a desert plain and pours a glass of water on a dried-out daikon radish, which immediately resurrects itself, grows into a huge spaceship, and beams her aboard. Though the short had an ambitious scope, the animation was rough and low-quality.
The group made a much bigger splash with the short they produced for the 22nd Annual Japan National SF Convention, Daicon IV, in 1983. Starting with a better animated recap of their original 1981 short, the short then moves to the girl as a grown woman, wearing a bunny suit and fighting an even wider range of science fiction creatures (including various Mobile Suits from the Gundam series, Darth Vader, an Alien, a Macross Valkyrie, a Pern dragon, Aslan, a Klingon battle cruiser, Spider-Man, and a pan across a vast array of hundreds of other characters) while surfing through the sky on the sword Stormbringer. The action was all set to the Electric Light Orchestra song “Twilight”, though the group’s failure to properly license the song would prevent the short’s official release on DVD (and make the limited laserdisc release of the Daicon shorts very rare and highly sought after items).
The Daicon IV short firmly established Daicon Film as a talented new anime studio (albeit small and with only 20 million yen or about US$200,000). The studio changed its name to Gainax in 1985, basing the term “Gainax” on an obscure Tottori Prefecture term for “giant”, with the English suffix -x added because it sounded “good and was international”.
Gainax’s first work as a commercial entity was Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, released in 1987. Honneamise was (and still is) critically acclaimed and a classic anime movie; however, it had a tepid commercial reaction (Gainax did attempt to develop a sequel later in March 1992, before abandoning it for lack of funds).
The next release, the 1988 OVA Gunbuster, was a commercial success and put Gainax on a stabler footing to produce works like Nadia and Otaku no Video. During this period, Gainax also produced a number of items such as garage kit and adult video games (a major earner which kept Gainax afloat on occasion, though they were sometimes banned).