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KyoAni: A Personal Look Back at the Last Decade

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On July 18th of 2019, a man walked into Kyoto Animation’s Studio 1, and used 40 liters of gasoline to set the building on fire, leading to the deaths of 36 people, and the injury of another 33 people, as well as the loss of much KyoAni material and work, current and historical. Those killed ran the gamut from young animators just starting their careers, to a man with many years of experience who was a mentor to many. They include animators, directors, men, and women.

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Many others have written more eloquent memorials and elegies for those lost, and what KyoAni has meant to the industry, so I won’t re-hash those here, other than to say that the many things I learned reading those other tributes made me appreciate the company, its position in the industry, and its place in anime history, even more, while at the same time, heightening the loss that this terrible attack represents, particularly of that wealth of talent, and the future promise that will now go sadly unfulfilled.

Instead, for today’s 12 Days of AniTAY I wanted to take a look at the Kyoto Animation shows from this past decade that I’ve seen. For shows prior to this decade, I’ve seen Haruhi, Lucky Star, and K-On! While not a guarantee that I’ll watch, seeing “Kyoto Animation” as the studio for a forthcoming anime is often a selling point for me, or at least an indication to take a closer look.

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K-On! Live House, K-On!! and K-On! The Movie

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Ahhh, K-On!, that promoter of moe and Cute Girls Doing Cute Things. While the first season just missed out on being part of this past decade, the Live House OVA, the second season, and finally The Movie (along with the Ura-On!! shorts) wrapped up the story of our original Light Music Club members, as they prepare to pass the mantle on to adorable kouhai Azusa, along with younger sister Ui, while Mio and Ritsu are roped into the class play as Romeo and Juliet, respectively.

The series ends with The Movie, in which Hokago Teatime fly to London, England to take part in a music festival. Fish out of water and traditional poor Engrish hijinks ensue before the Keions rock the socks off the crowd.

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Illustration for article titled KyoAni: A Personal Look Back at the Last Decade

While there are two additional shorter manga covering Azusa and Ui’s third year in high school, along with the keions’ first year in college, I felt the movie wrapped everything up nicely and left us at a great point.

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The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

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Dilkokoro’s traditional annual re-watch. (A very moving article btw, thanks for sharing with us Dil.) Based on the fourth light novel in the series, unlike K-On! above, while it serves as a “wrap” for the main timeline (not counting the spin-off The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki) onscreen, it’s nowhere near the end of the available material.

All that being said, it’s a good story. While I’ve only seen it twice, it definitely improved with a re-watch for me. I was worried originally in how the “only Kyon remembers the right timeline” thing would play out, and whether it would fall prey to certain tropes I hate. Mercifully, they were very few.

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Not technically KyoAni, I believe, but I still need to finally see Nagato Yuki, and get whatever additional closure on the series I can.

Nichijou

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Ahh, now we come to probably my most controversial of takes: I didn’t find Nichijou all that great. Parts of it are very funny, but a lot of it just kinda ‘misses’ for me. Too weirdly absurdist in some spots.

Except for Nano, Sakamoto-san, and Hakase. They were the best.
Except for Nano, Sakamoto-san, and Hakase. They were the best.
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Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

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Ahh, Chunibyo. To be fair, I haven’t finished the second season yet, although I just got the blu-rays for Christmas from a friend, so I don’t have an excuse (other than time). A seemingly typical goofy “guy wants to be popular in high school but is totally failing” story, but with some surprisingly deep moments. I definitely need to get back to seeing how the Dark Flame Master and Wicked Lord Shingan get on in their relationship.

Myriad Colors Phantom World

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A generally okay, but nothing special fantasy, high schoolers battle issues show. Sadly, not much else to say.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon

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A show where a programmer saves a dragon from another dimension, who becomes her live-in maid to repay her, and more dragon friends come along. There’s just something about this show that clicks for so many people. A wonderful return to KyoAni form.

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This is possibly the one that hurts the most. A wonderfully fun show, with a great voice cast and a goofy concept, helmed by an experienced director who’d also directed many of the other KyoAni works I’ve seen, including several in the list above. We’d had word that a season 2 was in the works, presumably to be directed by him again. Then, the fire. And eventually, the confirmation of his death. We can just hope that KyoAni will take this up again, and carry on in his honor.

The “To Watch” List

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So, there’s a few things from this decade still on my “plan to watch” list - Amagi Brilliant Park, Tamako Market/Love Story, and Violet Evergarden. (The latter being more complicated in that, while I have Netflix, I’ve heard that their subs aren’t very good.) In some magical future, I’ll have all the time to catch up on anime, and I’ll get there. But for now, we’ll see...

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