What Makes Kyoto Animation So Special?

I wrote another big article for ANN! This one’s about KyoAni! I’m super excited about it! I am guessing that is obvious!

I took a lot of time on this one, and am very happy I was able to segue directly from watching all of K-On! into getting to work on it. Kyoto Animation do wonderful work, and it’s nice to be able to celebrate that so directly. I hope you enjoy the piece!

What Makes Kyoto Animation So Special?


12 thoughts on “What Makes Kyoto Animation So Special?

  1. Heh, ever the KyoAni fanboy. You must’ve been relieved when their 2013~2014 period ended, back when they focused on their own properties, and started picking up more interesting shows like Amagi Brilliant Park / Sound! Euphonium (with Koe no Katachi coming soon).

    They’re not my favorite studio but they do have a certain quality you won’t easily find in other studios. Hope they stay in business for a long time to come.

    • I mean, I certainly did enjoy Chuunibyou. And we’ll have to see how Violet Evergreen turns out, whenever that arrives. But yeah, I am very happy to see them picking up stuff like Euphonium or Koe no Katachi – good source material does a lot of work!

  2. I can absolutely see why you’d choose Kyoto Ani as your favorite studio, but I feel as though at least half of that comes from what you talked about: they’ve consolidated their production and focused their techniques, and this makes them extremely consistent in their strengths. Whenever there’s a new Kyoto Ani show I’ll pick it up, not because they’ve produced the greatest shows of all time but simply because they’re the most consistent studio in terms of putting out shows that are legitimately good. I would say my favorite studio is probably Madhouse because I feel they’ve created and continue to create the greatest number and most diverse set of masterpieces (Tatami Galaxy, Death Parade, Hunter X Hunter, etc.) but they also produce lots of crap, making it unlikely for me to pick up one of their shows unless I hear something good about it. Knowing your list pretty well (as yet another lurking fanboy) it seems that you feel pretty similarly: the only two Kyoto Ani shows on there are Chuunibyo and Hyouka, with Chuunibyo being the only one of their productions you’ve given a 10. Would you say that a good deal of what makes them your favorite is their consistency? And does their legitimately earnest and good-natured attitude factor in as well?

    • Madhouse is definitely a strong favorite studio choice – they’d probably be my second pick. They’ve got a huge catalog of classics built up over the years.

      I’d say it’s the individual shows more than consistency that I like about them. Consistency is nice, but their highlights are all very noteworthy for a variety of individual reasons.

  3. Beyond the Boundary keeps me from being a fan of KyoAni outright, but I’ll admit then when they get it right, as they did in Sound and Chuunibiyo’s first season, they create an animation experience that is hard to match.

    • I agree with your statements regarding Beyond the Boundary. The combination of dark urban fantasy and moe slice-of-life made for one of the worst anime of 2013. Mirai was an undiluted moe blob of whom little, aside from her blood sword, is notable. I’m not the biggest KyoAni fan, thought Chuunibyou’s blend of comedy and drama worked pretty well, Amagi was too unambitious to be that memorable, and Euphonium was only good about 10% of the time, and I avoid Key like the plague. Haven’t seen Hyouka or Haruhi, so they may tip the scales.

  4. I’m not as fond of KyoAni as many others (feel their choice of stories/genres is limited and always playing it safe) but must admit that their art and animation is absolutely superb. They deliver consistent quality and are careful about their product in a way many studios can only dream of.

  5. I think my favorite example of what you talk about here is the “stolen chocolate” episode of Hyouka. Where it’s almost immediately obvious to the audience who the actual culprit is just through their body language and how they’re framed throughout the episode. The episode goes through the motions of being the same old mystery setup, but it’s more like a big awkward countdown to the inevitable confrontation at the end.

    It’s a great emotional touchstone on the cast’s journeys, but it’s KyoAni precision and craftsmanship that really sells the episode as a piece of great character work.

    Though I probably wouldn’t say KyoAni is my favorite studio(for as meaningless a distinction that is). As much as I love their work, KyoAni never really makes shows “for me”. They sure are good at what they do, though.

    • I’m looking forward to rewatching Hyouka. I’m guessing I’ll get a lot more out of it this time, now that I’ve really learned to appreciate their style.

  6. After watching Sound! Euphonium, I consider KyoAni and their masterpiece the greatest things in existence. Euphonium has become a part of who I am now and I think I’ve come more to terms with what that show has done, but at first I had no idea why I was loving the show so much, as it was so ordinarily extraordinary and in that way unlike anything I had ever seen before. It’s just about cute girls in a band. And it took a while, but after reading your episode writeups and just putting a lot of thought into it, I realized that an incredible chunk of what made Euphonium so special was the strength of it’s execution, with the smallest (or not, Reina’s radiant smile) moments carrying more emotional weight than anything I’d seen before.
    There’s episode 8, which I don’t talk about :), and then episode 11, which is the point I stopped the show (although shit, I really need to force myself to finish sometime before season 2 starts airing).
    Episode 11 had an opposite conflict with Reina and Kaori, with Reina struggling for the first time with the concept of “being the villain”, and Kaori standing up for what she wanted for what seemed like the first time, both very personal conflicts for me. As the cap to that, during the re-audition sequence I still remember the feeling afterward, when I realized I hadn’t breathed (and my heart had stopped) during the entire sequence.

    Now that’s what I call execution of the smallest things on the hardest hitting emotional level.
    Thanks for the writeup, Nick!

  7. This was a very good writeup. Didn’t realize i’d been taking in those things you went over as you explained why some of KyoAni’s shows are so good, but I could immediately see what they were once you’d pointed it out.

  8. That’s a good write up. However, I can’t say that I’m fond of KyoAni. Of course every piece of art has effort put into it, but sometimes you just can’t connect with that piece. Even Michael Bay, movie critic’s number #1 enemy, put a lot of effort into his works. But he just want to fulfill a teenager’s fantasy, so I can’t like his stories.

    About K-On, it focused on things I hated and wanted to escape in real life: meaningless small talks and boring situations. I just can’t help but hate that series. Slice of life series that I loved, like YKK or Aria, have amazingly beautiful landscape, the feels of silence, and a sense of progression. K-On idealized its characters so much that they look like puppets to me. I can’t sympathize with charaters who has faced no real hardship, or done nothing. It just so artificial. If the charaters are cats, i might like K-On.

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