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Shaft was founded by Wakao Hiroshi from 'Mushi Production', in purpose of colouring and painting of animation. With 'Studio DEEN', which was established also at the same year, they helped the production of various animations, including those from Sunrise.
'Junni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger' was the first animation produced by Shaft, distributed by NHK.
NitroPlus makes visual novel called 'Phantom of Inferno', which remains as a legend now-a-days. The main script writer was 'Urobuchi Gen', who becomes popular along with this work.
Shaft started working with 'Gainax', and produced collaborative works such as 'Mahoromatic (2001)' and 'The Ugly Yet Beautiful World (2004)'. This continues untill 2005.
At the same time, Shinbo Akiyuki gets directional work for 'The Soul Taker' from Tatsunoko Production. Even though it was failure financially, people started to recognise him more, for his distinct, abstract and creative directions. It is also important to note that the character designer of this series was 'Watanabe Akio', who is possibly, one of the primary reason why Bakemonogatari was so successful.
NitroPlus produces visual novel called 'Saya No Uta', writen by Urobuchi Gen, which cause so many controversies and sensational boom. It is well-known for dark, gruesome plot with excessive goer, nudity and psychological terrors. With this work, Urobuchi Gen becomes very famous
Shinbo directed his first original animation, 'Le Portrait de Petit Cossette', which remains as his signature work before the post-shaft era. it's also famous for its phenomenal music track by Kajiura Yuki. He also produced 'Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha' the first season with Seven Arc, which is now the biggest Mahou Shoujo franchise existing currently.
Wakao Hiroshi retires, and 'Kubota Mitsutoshi' becomes the chief director, and it is a most important period of Shaft. Kubota changed system more focused on digital groups and improved the filming/composing department so that they can undergo 2-cour projects. Since 'Moon Phrase' anime, Kubota scouted Shinbo Akiyuki on purpose of training and educating their staff members and supervising overall directional elements. Oishi Tatsuya; the expert in typography, most of the OP ED sequences, live-action usage and typesets have strong influences from him (Eg. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Bakemonogatari OP1); and Oonuma Shin; Pani Poni Dash, Ef series and Bakemonogatari directions; was also scouted at the same period.
Shaft produces 'Pani Poni Dash', with the direction of Shinbo Akiyuki. This is THE most important work they ever did. This can be called as 'signature series of Shaft', 'compilation of Shaft-ness'. Constantly changing OP and ED sequences came as a shock to the viewers and use of ending card drawn by various doujin/manga etc. artists now became tradition of Shaft, which is being copied by other studio recently. (eg. Ore no Imouto, Kami Nomi) It sold average 8000 copies per volume, which can be described as success, and it still remains as a work that marked as 'must-watch' for any fan of Shaft. Also, since this series, Shinbo has got paired with Kameyama Toshiki -sound director- a lot, thus many of Shaft works have common seiyuu castings, including Kamiya Hiroshi, Saito Chiwa, Shintani Ryoko, and recently Aoi Yuuki
Urobuchi Gen starts to write 'Fate/Zero', with the collaboration of Type moon Mushroom guy. This becomes his signature work as a writer. His name value and NitroPlus is now equivalent to that of Typemoon Mushroom and Ryukushi07 (When they cry series).
Shaft and Shinbo directs 'Hidamari Sketch', manga drawn by 'Aoki Ume'. Actually, this work is the start of 'moe slice-of-life series cliche', which continues until huge success of 'K-On'.
The second season of Hidamari Sketch (Hidamari Sketch x365) was produced, and does much better in terms of quality and finance. However, it was also a moment that the problems in production scheduling came to surface, with infamous 'Mt. Fuji Incident', where they entirely failed to draw certain background of the episode, thus they had to replace it with the typeset of 'Fuji'.
Nevertheless, this second season proves how much Shinbo and their young staff members (aka. 'Team Shinbo') improved in terms of quality production and directions. Shinbo also said that he has special attachment to this series and it provides him an opportunity to show all unique directions he craves.
Iwakami Atsuhiro, the major producer of aniplex who is famous for his project design for Kara no Kyokai and various others, plans the animation 'Bakemonogatari', by Nisioisin, one of the leading, most influential light novel writer with huge amount of fans. Iwakami decides to involve Shaft, Supercell into this and foresees its success. He also teamed up 'Watanabe Akio' and 'Shinbo' from 'The Soul Taker' again, and that alone was actually enough to produce huge anticipation.There were professional and organised marketing plans by aniplex. All these elements catalyse in one series; popularity of NisioisiN, the trust that Shaft built up with their uniqueness and quality, Ryo and Nagi's first collaboration and organised marketing plan by Iwakami; and it becomes, the most selling TV series per volume ever made of 21s century. Its sales was not just impressive, but godly. This should not happen unless world is going mad or something. With this sales alone, Shaft is the third studio with the highest average sales per DVD/BD volume, right behind Kyoto Animation and Sunrise.
Iwakami decides make this catalysis again, knowing Shinbo's experience on directing the first season of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, and how Shaft and Shinbo combination never did the original work. He suggests script and story board by infamous S-writer Urobuchi Gen and original character design by Aoki Ume of Hidamari. Like he did with Watanabe Akio, He decides to bring back 'Kujiura Yuki' from Cossette, pairing her with Shinbo again. There are many similarities in circumstance with Bakemonogatari, not only staffs but also marketing methods; showing releasing week by week. Even opening theme will be done by another 'Nico Nico Douga' debut singer duo, ClariS, who's building their fame through Ore no Imouto Opening, which was also produced by Iwakami.
Also, it's manga version is confirmed, the first volume will be released in February.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica will be aired in MBS, January 6th, late night 1:25 AM.
I can say without hesitation, that the reason behind this chaotic list of expert staffs is, entirely due to one person, Iwakami Atsuhiro. However, there was 10 years of history built up from different places; development of Shaft, Team Shinbo, Urobuchi's fame, animation of Hidamari Sketch, Success of bakemonogatari and involvement of Aniplex. Being the most anticipated series of next year, I can't help but excited.
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