Technology changes everything, and technology changes all the time. While this has a positive side, it also has the tragic aspect that technological preservation is not only a necessity but a need that is rarely fully understood. Throughout human history, much of our culture has been lost due to the inability to preserve our outdated technology. It appears that we are on the verge of experiencing another one of these catastrophic transitions.
Tokyo Laboratory is set to close its doors next autumn. If you’re not familiar with the name of this company, that’s understandable, but it has actually played a crucial role in many anime series you adore.
Owned by TOHO, Tokyo Laboratory was founded in 1955 to edit, archive, and develop films. Thanks to its ample space, TOHO also began using it as an archive for original anime films and television series due to its vast storage capacity. For instance, franchises like Mobile Suit Gundam, Astro Boy, Naruto, and Detective Conan have relied on Tokyo Laboratory’s services to store their original materials and preserve them with maximum security.
However, Tokyo Laboratory’s primary function is film editing and development. Due to the shift in anime production to digital, which requires much less physical space, they no longer need these facilities to preserve the content they produce.
So, what’s going to happen to all the original materials they have stored there? Tokyo Laboratory is attempting to return them to their rightful owners. Unfortunately, many may not claim their materials. In those cases, they are legally obligated to destroy all originals for which they do not hold the rights. This will be a significant loss, not only for the anime industry but also for culture in general.
That’s why the closure of Tokyo Laboratory is doubly sad. On one hand, a legendary company in the industry is closing its doors. On the other hand, many original materials will disappear, and we will never know more about them. It’s a genuine tragedy for the medium.