Gainax, Japanese Anime Firm Behind ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion,’ Files for Bankruptcy

Gainax, the iconic but latterly tarnished, Japanese animation producer behind anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” has filed for bankruptcy

Published Time: 09.06.2024 - 13:31:19 Modified Time: 09.06.2024 - 13:31:19

Gainax, the iconic but latterly tarnished, Japanese animation producer behind anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” has filed for bankruptcy. It had been in operation for nearly 40 years.

The company made the announcement on Friday, via its own website, and said that it had filed its petition with the courts on May 29. The problem of the heavy debt burden that it had been carrying for several years had been made worse by the tangles of mismanagement.

The news emerged at a moment when the Japanese government, sensing growing international interest in Japanese pop culture, has pledged to help manga (comic) and anime (animated series and films) exporters. It also comes just a day before the beginning of the world’s biggest annual animation festival, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival (June 9-15).

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The company, then called Daicon Film, was founded in 1984 by a team including Anno Hideaki, Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, Yamaga Hiroyuki, Akai Takami, Takeda Yasuhiro and Higuchi Shinji. Many have since left and launched their own companies.

Anno’s “Evangelion” launched in 1995 was its biggest commercial hit, with global revenues of over $2 billion, according to one industry source. Two executives were arrested in 1998, and later jailed, after being found guilty of under-declaring revenues and tax liabilities. Anno left to set up his Khara venture in 2006.

Gainax’s statement explained a succession of other management-related problems, starting in 2012. Under the leadership of Maki Tomohiro, who joined in 1992, the company diversified into a struggling restaurant business, established an unsuccessful CG operation and provided -

large unsecured loans to its executives.

The mounting debts meant that it failed to pay royalties that were due and, as a consequence, was no longer able to participate in production committees. Other executives and talent quit.

In 2019, Maki was arrested on charges of a sexual assault against a minor. That caused Gainax to “completely lose its ability to operate while still being saddled with a large amount of debt,” the statement said. (Maki was sentenced to 30 months in prison in December 2020.)

New management discovered further debts and murky transactions without the permission of rights owners. It sought to cooperate with Khara and other outside firms including Kadokawa, King Records and Trigger, on the IP issues and borrowed from Khara. But in May this year, Gainax was sued by a debt collection company and, calculating that it could not continue, filed for bankruptcy instead. The scale of liabilities is currently undisclosed.

Khara has acquired the Gainax trademark. It issued its own statement and said that it and expects to be involved in sorting out the tangle of IP claims to “ensure that creators, original authors, and writers can continue to manage and produce their works.”

Other key Gainax titles include “Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water,” “Gunbuster” and “Gurren Lagann.”

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