Gainax, the Japanese anime company behind ‘Evangelion’, is filing for bankruptcy

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Gainax, the iconic but now tarnished Japanese animation producer behind the anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” has filed for bankruptcy. It was in operation for almost 40 years.

The company announced this on its website on Friday and said it had filed a petition with the court on May 29. The problem of the heavy debt burden it had been carrying for years was exacerbated by the tangle of mismanagement.

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

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

Anno’s “Evangelion,” launched in 1995, was his biggest commercial hit, with worldwide sales of more than $2 billion, according to an industry source. Two executives were arrested in 1998 and later jailed after being found guilty of under-declaring income and tax debts. Anno left in 2006 to set up his Khara business.

Gainax’s statement explained a cascade of other management-related issues, which began in 2012. Under the leadership of Maki Tomohiro, who joined in 1992, the company diversified into a struggling restaurant business, created an unsuccessful CG operation and made large unsecured loans to its executives. .

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Due to mounting debts, the company was unable to pay the royalties owed and, as a result, could no longer participate in production committees. Other executives and talent quit.

In 2019, Maki was arrested on charges of sexual assault of 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 shady transactions without permission from rights holders. It sought to collaborate with Khara and other third-party companies, including Kadokawa, King Records and Trigger, on IP issues and borrowed from Khara. But in May this year, Gainax was sued by a debt collection agency and, thinking things couldn’t go any further, filed for bankruptcy instead. The extent of the obligations has not been disclosed at this time.

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

Other major Gainax titles include ‘Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water’, ‘Gunbuster’ and ‘Gurren Lagann’.

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