Kyoto Animation (known to its fans as KyoAni ) is a Japanese animation studio known for being distinctive among its competition. The company is recognized for having characteristics that set it apart from the rest, particularly for paying its employees using salaries instead of hiring them as freelancers .
Because of this, the studio’s animators can focus more on the quality of each frame, rather than following the production quota. Another characteristic that distinguishes them from the competition is the fact that in an industry dominated by men, the studio usually hires more female animators and directors, who manage to make a name for themselves in such a competitive market as animation.
This study opens the doors to very young people, passionate about what they love to do, and gives them the opportunity to shine in a world where they might not have had other opportunities.
However, on the morning of July 18, 2019, an arson attack was reported in the company’s first studio, resulting in 34 deaths.
Due to this tragic event and the magnitude that it will have in the future of the productions of a studio so important and so loved by the fans, and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the fire, we want to praise the work that have done and bring you in this list their most important projects and our favorites.
1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was one of the projects that catapulted KyoAni from being a little-known studio with very few works, to an internationally famous studio. The series went viral in a very short time, mainly due to its unusual theme, out-of-order episodes and slight touch of mystery and science fiction. It tells the story of Kyon, a student at Nishinomiya’s school, who spends his time being forced to do things by the titular Haruhi Suzumiya, an eccentric girl who seeks thrills in the most remote places: aliens, time travelers and people with telekinetic abilities.
Together, they establish the SOS Brigade, to investigate mysterious events. Haruhi eventually recruits three additional members, book obsessive Yuki Nagato, shy Mikuru Asahina, and recent transfer student Itsuki Koizumi. Little by little, these characters will reveal to Kyon that not everything is what it seems, and they are exactly what Haruhi was looking for.
K-On! is another of the pioneering series in a genre that KyoAni began experimenting with early on with his previous installment, Lucky Star . The genre would become a mix of slice of life with moe , roughly “pretty girls doing things”, and would go on to be one of the most used genres in the studio to create new content.
The plot of this series is about four high school students who join the light music club, in order to prevent said club from disappearing. At first, the protagonist Yui Hirasawa has no experience playing instruments, but little by little she discovers her skill with the guitar until she evolves into an excellent guitarist. The rest of the cast is made up of Mio Akiyama, Ritsu Tainaka, and Tsumugi Kotobuki.
K-On! It was so successful that it even had a movie and a second season to continue following the adventures of the little girls from the music club.
Clannand is, without a doubt, one of the most famous series of KyoAni . It was released in October 2007, and is an adaptation of the 2004 adult visual novel developed by KEY. The game was the 2004 best-seller in Japan. Also, the first season of the series received mixed reviews, but the second season ( Clannand: After Story ) was widely acclaimed by critics.
It tells the story of Tomoya Okazaki, who is a delinquent who believes that he will never achieve anything in life. Together with his friend Youhei Sunohara, he has decided not to dawdle at school and skip class. However, one day he bumps into an eccentric girl who won’t stop mumbling, randomly calling out the name of a typical Japanese dish. This catches Tomoya’s attention, and he finds out that the girl’s name is Nagisa Furukawa, and he yells things he likes to motivate himself.
After their relationship at school develops better, they become good friends, and she reveals to him that she wants to resume the drama club at school after missing a year of school due to illness. Tomoya tells her that she has nothing better to do, so she decides to help her restore her club.
Lucky☆Star is another of those exponents of the moe genre , which characterize both KyoAni and the studio. It is one of his original series, with slightly stereotypical protagonists, but extremely endearing and a very entertaining humor that is easy to relate to the daily life of otakus .
The series follows the daily lives of four lovable high school students, Konata Izumi, the otaku not dedicated to school, the Hiiragi twins, Tsukasa and Kagami, and the highly educated and intelligent Miyuki Takara. The girls in each episode are faced with situations that make them reflect on the world around them, be it Japanese culture, their academic performance, or the life of an anime fan.
Lucky☆Star debuted very shortly after the studio released Haruhi Suzumiya, and its lead voice actress, Aya Hirano, reprized as the lead, giving the series credence and reputation as a kind of spiritual successor to the studio’s previous hit. . Both series enjoyed great fame, but Lucky☆Star never went viral like Haruhi Suzumiya did.
5. A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice , or Koe No Katachi , is one of the first original feature films produced entirely by Kyoto Animation. The film is based on Yoshitoki Ooima’s manga of the same name, and won an Ozamu Tezuka Cultural Award for new writer. The film was released on September 17, 2016. It is one of the most successful animated films in recent years, receiving hail from Makoto Shinkai, the acclaimed director of Your Name .
The protagonist of the story is Shouya Ishida, a boy who found everything boring when he was a child, and to entertain himself, he was capable of doing very cruel things, such as making fun of his classmates. One of her victims was Shouko Nishimiya, a girl with deafness, and the rest of her class, buoyed by Shouya’s popularity, torment her to the point of transferring schools.
Once Shouko’s mother defends her and notifies the school of her daughter’s bullying, the class blames Shouya, and they begin to turn their bullying against him. With his popularity drained of him and now being the victim of the same cruelty he inflicted, Shouya grows up a depressed young man, filled with guilt for what he did when he was younger. To redeem himself, he decides to go on a journey of redemption to find Shouko again and make amends for what he had done.
The story of A Silent Voice goes far beyond the typical teen romance, dealing harshly with more adult themes such as regret, depression, and loneliness. It is an excellent example of how deep the Japanese animation medium can be and the wide variety of stories it can touch.
6. Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club was one of the pioneers in making a series that consisted of the competitive sports genre, but was made particularly as an eyewash for female audiences. Obviously, competitive swimming goes hand in hand with attractive men, and KyoAni realized that a series of this style would be a gold mine when she demonstrated a demo of the animation they had in mind and it ended up being an undisputed success. Shortly after, the series premiered in July 2013.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club revolves around the protagonist, Haruka Nanase, a young man whose innate talent for swimming goes hand in hand with indecision about what to do in his adult life. No one has ever questioned him for the decisions he has made and he has always enjoyed the sport he loves so much, but at one point he realizes that he is up against a rock and a hard place when he runs into his childhood rival and sees that he he is taking steps to advance his career as an athlete, while Haruka has only depended on talent… and not much else.
Free! It is a series that is very loved by fans since it shows that friendships between men can be as deep or even deeper than those that we usually see in other animations from the same studio that only show friendships between girls. In addition, animation is its strong point, since Free! It doesn’t have a single frame wasted, and it shows the dedication and time invested in making the series shine.
Air is one of the first projects made by the animation studio, premiering in 2005, based on the visual novel by the Key development studio, originating from an eroge game released on September 8, 2000 for PC. The anime adaptation debuted in January 2005.
It tells the story of Yukito, a young traveler who makes a living performing magic and puppet shows, as well as going through different towns in search of a girl with wings who lives in the sky. This mythical character belongs to a story that his deceased mother told him during his childhood. One day, Yukito arrives at a seaside town where he meets Misuzu, a young woman he soon befriends and takes him into her home.
As one of the studio’s first projects based on such a successful video game, Air was well received by the Japanese public. It was so well received that a mini-sequel of sorts was made adapting the second arc of the video game, Summer .
8. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is KyoAni’s latest and most ambitious project . Its release date was in January 2018, and its international distribution was in charge of the Netflix streaming chain. The series is based on a series of light novels written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase. The novels won the grand prize at the fifth Kyoto Animation Awards in 2014, being the first to win awards in three categories, novel, scenario, and manga.
The story unfolds around the Auto Memory Dolls , people who had initially been hired by the scientist named Dr. Orland to assist his wife Mollie, who is blind, in the work of writing novels. Later, they could be hired by other people who needed their services. Our protagonist is Violet Evergarden, who undertakes a journey of reintegration into society after the end of the war, and seeks her purpose in life.
In July 2019, it was announced that a film with original content based on the series would be released in January 2020, in addition to a spin-off that would be released on September 6, 2019.
9. Kyoukai no Kanata
Kyoukai no Kanata , or Beyond the Boundary , is a supernatural-themed series produced by Kyoto Animation that premiered in October 2013, based on a series of light novels written by Nagomu Torii and illustrated by Tomoyo Kamoi.
The plot of the series is as follows: One day, the student Akihito Kanbara discovers one of his classmates, Mirai Kuriyama, about to jump from the roof of the school. After Akihito convinces her to get off her, Mirai stabs him with a sword made from her own blood, but she is shocked to find that Akihito is nothing but a hybrid of human and yomu , a race of supernatural creatures. After discovering that Mirai is a warrior from the spirit world and the last survivor of her clan, their lives are forever intertwined.
This series would be Kyoto Animation’s first experiment with a genre outside of the moe and slice of life they’re so used to, so it’s worth mentioning to vary this list a bit.
Finally, we close with Hyouka . This adaptation of the award-winning light novel Koten-bun was released in April 2012, and features mystery elements and director Yasuhiro Takemoto, the man behind Suzumiya Haruhi No Shoushitsu , the feature film in Haruhi Suzumiya’s acclaimed saga.
Hotaru Oreki, at the request of her sister, joins the Kamiyama School Classic Literature Club, to prevent its disbandment due to lack of members. He is joined by his classmates Eru Chitanda, Satoshi Fukube, and Mayaka Ibara. United by the club, Chitanda discovers that Hotaru has an ability to solve mysteries and uses it for this purpose with unknown intentions.
Like the entry mentioned above, Hyouka also falls into a slightly different genre, mystery, which isn’t often KyoAni ‘s forte , but is worth exploring. With interesting characters and a plot arc that gradually leads you to the motivations of the characters, Hyouka is an interesting story that will undoubtedly catch many.
To close this article, we also want to comment that after the tragedy that occurred recently in the studio, several ways to help and support Kyoto Animation have been established. Firstly, the company Sentai Filmworks established a GoFundMe page called “Help KyoAni Heal,” which translates to “Let ‘s help KyoAni heal.” Sentai Filmworks assured that the funds would go directly to the families of those affected by the fire.
On the other hand, there is the KyoAni online store , where you can buy digital art and download it, without causing stress or extra work for the studio, since the entire transaction is virtual. This is a step-by-step guide on how to make the purchase, and here is the link to the online store.
Finally, the president of Kyoto Animation announced that he would accept direct donations to an international bank account. All data can be found here.
What we can conclude from this tragic moment for the industry is that united we are stronger, and the fact that the GoFundMe page of Sentai Filmworks has reached a cap of two million dollars in less than five days, says a lot about the fandom of the anime and manga. Kyoto Animation is that small studio that managed to establish itself among the big ones, it is a studio that is very different from the others, with an innocent and unique style among an industry that is already plagued with them, where few leave their mark. That of Kyoto Animation is indisputable, and we know that they will soon be able to get out of this situation with their heads held high, after taking the time they need to go through a very hard process of mourning and reflection.
We at SuperFans wish Kyoto Animation all the best, and send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.