Studios: Kyoto Animation

kyo frontEstablished in the year 1981, Kyoto Animation is in the industry for quite some time. Kyoto Animation’s visuals are a feast for the eye and leave the viewer in awe. Let’s take a look at some off the series they have produced.

I won’t pay attention to all the shows in this post. This post should be considered as an introduction to what some studios have to offer. In no way do I try to review the shows that follow.

haruhi 1Following the happenings of Haruhi Suzumiya who can shape the world to her desire. The only problem is that she doesn’t know it, but her club members do. A club Haruhi started to find extra terrestrials and other worldly creatures.

Interestingly enough all the extraordinary people are already gathered in the club, except for Kyon. Kyon is the only ‘normal ‘ club member and encounters the world shifting creations of Haruhi. This is perfectly portrayed by the inner monologues Kyon has. His normal world is turned upside down by Haruhi.

This brings interesting situations with Kyon trying to minimize the damage Haruhi inflicts on her environment. The cast is diverse enough to fill multiple story arcs and explain the background stories. With the diverse cast, the story keeps shifting its focus and keeps up being fresh. Haruhi’s all over the place character makes the multiple story arcs interesting and the link between Haruhi isn’t faded despite Haruhi not being present all the time.

clannad s 1Slice of life with a touch. Clannad portrays a world with a supernatural feel. Without spoiling too much, the link between the worlds is explained later on. This brings quite interesting psychological dialogues or monologues that pull Clannad a little bit away from the slice of genre.

Clannad uses interesting story techniques such as game elements to make the story more entertaining. This works great as it delivers over the top moments that are really entertaining.

We cannot forget the cast. Our main character Tomoya is brilliantly fleshed out by its voice actor. Combined with the wonderful character Nagisa, resulting in interesting ‘discovering love’ scenes between Nagisa and Tomoya. Nagisa and Tomoya are such strong characters that you start to empathize with them along the way.

clannad 1Clannad: After Story continues were Clannad ended. After Story focuses more on the developing relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya, moving through different stages in life.

On a down note Clannad After Story needs some time to pick up. It tells some side arcs in the beginning. Emphasizing more on the back stories and happenings of the side characters. It drifts away from what made the first season strong, namely the relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya. Luckily the series retakes its pace and develops into one of the most emotional anime stories I’ve seen.

Because the story retook itself in the second half, the first few side stories can be forgiven. Clannad After Story turned into an emotional rollercoaster that defined KyoAni as one of the top studios out there. Being able to make beautiful and emotional stories depicted with crisp animation.

k-on 1K-ON! is a story about a group of girls who form a music band. They form a club to concentrate on improving their music skills. Of course this doesn’t happen and the music club turns into a tea club.

Shifting the focus from a music to club to a tea club, fits the show in the slice of life genre. A slice of life show that revolves around the day to day activities from cute girls. This may not please everybody and it is best to avoid the show if you’re not a fan of slice of life genre oriented anime.

For the ones who do, the show is the ultimate portrayal of cute girls doing cute stuff. The characters are diverse and result into entertaining interactions between them. Because many different characters are present, the studio is able to play around with the setting and create different atmospheres.  Still at its core it remains a slice of life show teling a story about a group of girls who start a band.

hyouka 1And I kick off this series with praising the animation. The color scheme, the character designs, the fluent movements , it was all next level. Not many series pull such an amazing display of visual excellence. But animation isn’t everything.

Hyouka turned daily school activities and seemingly insignificant happenings in school, into crime solving mysteries. The animation making the ‘crimes’ approachable and entertaining. The way crimes, like item theft were explained, were perfectly executed.

Despite this premise, the series coped with some pacing issues. Not all mysteries were wrapped up as fast as I hoped for. This made Hyouka a series with its up and downs. Luckily the characters gave the mysteries an extra touch to prevent them from spiraling into the boring. The voice actors did a great job in fleshing out the characters.

In all honesty it was mainly the animation that stuck with me. I was amazed by the visual effects a studio could create. Hyouka was an entertaining ride and it gave a new meaning to ‘school mysteries’, wrapping it all up in crisp visuals.

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7 thoughts on “Studios: Kyoto Animation

  1. infinitezenith says:

    If you’re willing to hear a personal anecdote, my first KyoAni show was, strangely enough, Lucky Star. Despite lacking a substantial plot, Konata’s unusual and oftentimes amusing antics led me to pick up The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, which I found to be enjoyable in its own right. However, the movie, The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, evoked in me the fullest respect for the entire Haruhi franchise, and I consider it to be one of the best anime movies around.

    As for the other noted series here, I’ve seen everything, save Hyouka. When first aired, I was too busy to watch, but I’ve recently picked up a copy and will be watching that as time permits…

    • ninetybeats says:

      Of course I’m willing to listen, anytime man:p
      I’ve tried to pick up lucky star many times, but it still doesn’t quite hit me with brilliance yet. The disappearance of Suzumiya was really beyond epic. I’ve enjoyed every second of that show.
      My first show from KyoAni was Clannad I believe, that is still one of the best series from KyoAni. I’ve also seen Chuunibyou, but I’ve dedicated a seperate post to that one a while back so mentioning it here felt somewhat useless:p

  2. milesvibritannia says:

    Kyoto Animation’s probably one of my favorite anime studios, namely because of Clannad. Clannad is one of my all-time favorites because of the character development and emotional moments, and of course the beautiful visuals (which seem to be common to all KyoAni series) help as well. Clannad, and especially After Story, is truly a beautiful tale. I would agree that the first half of After Story is probably one of the weakest parts of the series, but I do feel it was necessary because it gave a lot of development to a bunch of side characters who were largely one-dimensional before that point so I can hardly criticize those arcs.

    I also enjoyed Hyouka quite a bit, although far less than Clannad. I liked how the mysteries were relatively low-key as opposed to a lot of other murder mystery style stories. It was pretty entertaining but I do agree that some of the arcs did feel a bit slower than they should’ve and the ending wasn’t quite what I had wanted but still enjoyable all the same.

    Sadly I’ve never watched through Haruhi or K-On! as of yet. I’ve heard that Haruhi is an awesome series (in particular that Disappearance is a masterpiece) and I actually have seen a few episodes of K-On! and it does seem pretty amusing at least so I want to watch that as well. As for other ones though, I really enjoyed Kanon 06 and Chuunibyou as well. Definitely two more fantastic stories from KyoAni.

    • ninetybeats says:

      The disappearance of Haruhi is probably one of the best works from KyoAni. The rewatching value is lower than K-ON though, in my opinion that is. I like the lightweight story and funny characters in K-ON. Cute girls doing cute stuff is a good combination:p

      I don’t fully agree on Kanon 06 though. The story made less impact than it should have. The characters were rather shallow and gave the impression they were there only for the sake of being there. Chuunibyou was indeed very good. I’ve written a seperate post about that, maybe you’ve across that one already. I must thank you for your detailed comment and yes, the Clannad franchise is one of my favorite anime series:p

      • milesvibritannia says:

        Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been pretty busy for the last couple weeks.

        Yeah I’ve heard a lot of people say Disappearance is a masterpiece, I really hope it meets my expectations. Might take a while for me to get to it but I do intend on watching through the Haruhi series. And I’m not typically a big slice of life guy but K-On! at least seems entertaining so hopefully I can give that a try soon too. I enjoyed the few episodes I’ve actually seen so I’m sure I’d like the overall series in the end.

        Well I personally saw Clannad first so it’s pretty hard for much of anything to stack up to that, and of course Kanon being the series it is I couldn’t help but make comparisons. Kanon definitely isn’t Clannad level for me but I thought it was quite good all the same. I get what you mean about the characters, the development for a lot of the cast itself was far from Clannad level but more than anything I felt that the stories of all the characters were very touching and some of those themes were well expressed in my opinion. Even if the characters didn’t all “grow” per say, their roles in the story were very powerful on the whole, at least for me. And I’ll go give your post about Chuunibyou a look. Hopefully I can watch more awesome KyoAni series in the future, I know I’ve definitely liked what I’ve seen so far.

        On another note, have you seen the new anime Free? I myself haven’t given it a watch but I know it’s quite controversial and definitely far from the typical KyoAni work. I’ve heard that it’s similar to Kuroko no Basket (an anime I thoroughly enjoyed) but I’m still not sure if Free will be worth a watch.

      • ninetybeats says:

        No problem about the late reply. Thanks for actively participating in the comments. It’s always fun to have interaction with your readers!

        On Free!, I mentioned it in my first impressions post for this summer. But I’m giving it a go. I’m not the target market. I see Free as two things from kyoani’s perspective: ‘look what we can do and still make money’ and ‘we need to find new audiences’.
        I don’t mind they try it this way and the ladies deserve something too. They are in for a good run as it still has the KyoAni magic to it. Nice animation, decent story, it’s all there. You could give it a go if you aren’t afraid to see some manly flesh. But KyoAni is for the story, there are other shows out there that exploit our earthly desires, for guys that is:p

        To wrap up a reply for your comment: KyoAni has a lot of great shows out there. To some extent you know what to expect. You know there will be a lot of slice of life and cute characters. These are elements characteristic for KyoAni. If you are a fan of cute girls doing cute stuff, K-ON! and the likes are a must watch.

  3. milesvibritannia says:

    That makes sense, Free definitely seems like their opportunity to try out something new. Guess we’ll still have to find out how successful it ends up being. But that’s good to know, it sounds like it isn’t exclusively a “manservice” series so perhaps I might give it a watch myself to see how it is, eventually at least. Not sure what to expect but I suppose it can’t be the worst thing out there.

    KyoAni has a pretty distinct style, at least as far as some of their newer works go I can almost always point out which series are done by them. Even though I’m not typically big on the slice of life series, I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed just about all of the KyoAni series I’ve seen and I definitely wanna check out the rest. In particular I wanna get to Haruhi, K-On, and Nichijou, all of which I’ve heard a lot of good about.

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