Studio Behind Sword Art Online Spinoff Merges With One of Anime’s Biggest Studios

Studio Behind Sword Art Online Spinoff Merges With One of Anime’s Biggest Studios


  • Anime studio 3Hz will transfer animation production to A-1 Pictures.
  • The future of their original IPs is unclear as A-1 takes creative control.
  • 3Hz’s transition signals shift to support studio role after decade.

In a sudden announcement, anime studio 3Hz announced on both X and its website that it would be transferring its animation planning and production to A-1 Pictures. This comes as a shock, as 3Hz was currently in the middle of creating the highly anticipated second season for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online.

While 3Hz’s message assures that Gun Gale Online’s staff has not changed, the studio has given no explanation or prior announcement for its transfer of creative control to the long-running veteran business. While not framed as a merger or a closure, having A-1 take the reins is all but an admission that 3Hz’s future will be as a support studio after over a decade of independence.

Princess Principal Ange and Charlotte looking towards the camera in the night

The sobering news is a reminder that even though anime is more prolific than ever, the industry itself is still facing immense pressure that can force studios to buckle at a moment’s notice.


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Surprise Transfer Marks An End Of An Era

Gun Gale Online Remains On Schedule, But Marks 3Hz’s Last Project

3Hz’s current situation can only be gleaned from its website message, which, among other things, says its business will be continued by A-1, and that it looks forward to “continued patronage and support”. This leaves it unclear how its staff will be organized in relation to A-1: whether it will remain a separate entity, or if reorganization will lead to official dissolution. What isn’t in question, is that A-1 has absorbed 3Hz to some degree, and will be the leading force of this fusion. Gun Gale Online’s second season may be credited to A-1 when it airs later this year.

3Hz was founded in 2013 by former staff from Studio Kinema Citrus. While its portfolio isn’t as prolific as others, it was still responsible for several popular anime, including The Devil is a Part-Timer!! from season two onwards, one of the best spy anime seriesPrincess Principal, and Gun Gale Online. The announcement so far has not made clear what will become of its original IPs, though it seems likely A-1 will own them by proxy. A-1 has been in charge of the mainline Sword Art Online adaptations – its command over 3Hz, therefore, now puts every part of the franchise under its massive umbrella.

LLENN lies on the rocky ground, with swirls in her eye indicating confusion.

The anime industry has already been met by problems plaguing other prominent studios, such as the venerable Gainax and its declaration of bankruptcy. But while the writing had been on the wall for the older studio, 3Hz seemed free of issues that would require it to join hands with A-1. Nonetheless, the industry is more volatile than ever, perhaps making it inevitable that studios will start consolidating to survive, even those with successful adaptations. 3Hz’s time has come to an end, though with any luck the creative minds that were within it can still pursue projects with A-1 Pictures instead.

Source: Anime News Network, 3Hz (X account, website)