Bee Train

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BEE TRAIN Production Inc. (Jap. ビィートレイン株式会社 Biītorein Kabushikigaisha), commonly referred simply as Bee Train, is a Japanese animation studio founded by Kōichi Mashimo in 1997. Since their involvement with Noir, .hack//SIGN, and Madlax (among other series) they have a strong following in the yuri fandom for being involved in series portraying strong female leads with speculatively ambiguous relationships.[1]



The studio Bee Train was founded on June 5, 1997 by Mashimo Kōichi, who was previously a director at Tatsunoko Productions and the founder of Mashimo Jimusho, a small freelance staff working for other studios. Originally, Bee Train was a subsidiary of Production I.G. along with XEBEC but in February 2006 the studio became independent.

Mashimo Kōichi's goal when he founded Bee Train was to create a "hospital for animators", an animation studio interested in nurturing young talents and artistic quality of production rather than in corporate strategies and profit. This studio-as-hospital approach was allegedly invented by Mashimo during his prolonged stay in an intensive care unit (after he has had a severe skiing accident) and has been Bee Train's official strategy ever since.

The first projects published by the studio in 1999 were anime adaptations of video game franchises popular in Japan: PoPoLoCrois, Arc the Lad, Wild ARMs, and Medabots. This played an important role later, when Bandai asked Bee Train to produce an anime OVA based on the famous .hack video game series. Simultaneously, they decided to promote the games with an anime television series, that has been published in 2002 as .hack//SIGN and is arguably Bee Train's most famous work. The OVA became known as .hack//Liminality and its four episodes were added as bonus material to each of the original four games of the franchise.

The first entirely independent Bee Train's project was Noir. Aired in 2001, it was produced at the same time as SIGN and became the first series in Bee Train's "girls-with-guns" row. Mashimo Kōichi mentioned on multiple occasions that he has always had a vision of a trilogy, of which Noir was the first part. After Noir has become widely successful in Japan, USA, Germany, and several other Western countries, the second series in the row has been produced in 2004, Madlax, featuring similar set of ideas and concepts.

It should be noted that although Noir and Madlax are often considered Bee Train's and, particularly, Mashimo's signature works, the original idea belonged to the series' producer Kitayama Shigeru. The animation director Ohsawa Satoshi commented that his goal when designing the characters of both series was to present the contrast between "the frailness of a woman and the gun - the symbol of power" [2], which is now considered the canonical definition of the genre among fans. Another anime series possibly influenced by Noir is, for example, Gunslinger Girl (2003).

One typical technique that Mashimo often uses as part of his studio-as-hospital strategy is brainstorming new anime concepts with his colleagues in the state of alcohol intoxication. For example, according to him, that is how the unprecedented (at least, in the anime genre) idea of the connection between the two female leads of Madlax was born. [2]

Another typical Bee Train gesture is to invite seiyūs who have already worked on some of their projects to voice the characters similar to the ones they voiced before. For example, this list includes Kuwashima Hōko (Yuumura Kirika in Noir, Margaret Burton in Madlax), Hisakawa Aya (Chloe, Limelda Jorg) and Nazuka Kaori (Subaru in .hack//SIGN, Shino in .hack//Roots). Nazuka's role in Roots caused a great confusion among the fans, who thought that both her characters are, in fact, played by one player in real life.

The famous Japanese composer and music producer Kajiura Yuki has created musical scores for multiple projects by Bee Train since Noir, whose appeal, as many critics stated, lied to a large degree in its soundtrack. Kajiura has composed music for SIGN, Liminality, Madlax (as part of FictionJunction YUUKA) and Tsubasa Chronicle, and Mashimo once commented that "she's a storyteller who just happens to know how to write music" when explaining such preference for Kajiura's works. [2]

In July 2006, Bee Train is produced .hack//Roots, a spiritual successor to .hack//SIGN Spider Riders anime adaptation, and the second season of CLAMP's Tsubasa Chronicle. The studio's headquarters are located in Kokubunji, Tokyo.

Through 2009-2010 two new studio divisions were added onto the company grouping. The C-Station Department created to handle animation and designs works and The D-Station Department to handle digital photography and production tasks. The two studio divisions actively assist in other anime series.


Anime series and OVAs with which this company was involved. Bolded Italic are most notable series Bolded are other major productions and regular font face are for hire work:















See also


  1. Friedman, Erica (28 June 2004). Yuri Anime: Bee Train does it again. Retrieved on 6 October 2007.
  2. a b c Wong, A. "Bee Train", Newtype USA, March 2005

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