A devastating arson attack on Kyoto Animation on Thursday has left 33 people dead and has shocked the anime community to its core. We take a look back at Kyoto Animation and the projects that have made them a staple in the anime industry.
Established in 1981, the Kyoto Animation studio, often referred to as KyoAni or Kyoani, covers three major aspects of the anime and manga business: making digital anime features, designing, producing and retailing accompanying merchandise, and publishing novels, comics and visual books.
The studio gained many avid followers for several popular anime productions in the early 2000s. It’s these animations that have cemented them as a beloved production company in Japan and around the world.
‘Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu'
In 2003, Kyoto Animation hit the ground running with "Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu," part of the anime adaptation of “Full Metal Panic!” The series focused on a covert private military organization that was tasked with protecting Japanese schoolgirl Kaname Chidori.
The series was short-lived, however, spanning 12 episodes between August and November 2003. But Kyoto Animation and director Yasuhiro Takemoto would bring “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” to the small screen in 2005.
In 2007, Kyoto Animation was tapped to bring the emotional visual novel of “Clannad” to television. The story focused on high schooler Tomoya Okazaki as he deals with his troubling relationship with his father, and his eventual friendship and budding romance with classmate Nagisa Furukawa. Through the 23-episode run of “Clannad,” Tomoya and Nagisa attempt to reform the school’s drama club.
Not long after the conclusion of “Clannad” in March 2008, the studio announced they would be adapting “Clannad After Story,” a sequel to the original series. This time the story jumped seven years into the future where Tomoya and Nagisa are married and enduring several hardships. Nagisa dies while giving birth to their child, which sparks an emotional look at the trauma parents face in a time of great loss and the path forward with his daughter.
“Clannad After Story” received critical acclaim both in Japan and abroad.
In 2009, Kyoto Animation took on a project unlike anything else they’ve done before. They adapted the four-panel comic strip manga about a group of girls who are trying to save their school’s light music club. The 13-episode anime blended together humour and catchy music. The songs were so popular that by 2011 “K-On!” had gross revenues that reached more than $182 million.
The success of the series prompted the creation of a sequel called “K-On!!” and a movie titled “K-On! Movie.”
The studio would later take what they learned from their time working on “K-On!” and apply it to music anime “Sound! Euphonium.”
‘Free! Iwatobi Swim Club’
Arguably one of the studio's most successful projects came in 2013 with the release of “Free! Iwatobi Swim Club.” Instead of a music club, this time, Kyoto Animation focus on the story of Haruka Nanase and his high school’s swim club. The studio was praised both at home and abroad for the sleek animation director Hiroko Utsumi and her team were able to create.
The anime was so successful that it spawned two sequels and four movies.
Kyoto Animation’s more recent endeavours include an anime adaptation of a popular novel series called Violet Evergarden, which was picked up by streaming giant Netflix, and A Silent Voice, a film that follows a young girl who is hearing impaired. Both were well-received internationally.