With over 20 hit titles under their belt, a long history of light novel adaptations and a consistency that puts a lot of other studios to shame, Kyoto Animation is without a doubt one of the good ones. Although my heart still aches at the existence of Myriad Colours Phantom World, it doesn’t change the fact that it is my all-time favourite studio. And with more than 6 months left to wait for their next release, Violet Evergarden, there is no better time than now to take a fond trip down memory lane to what is, in my opinion, some of Kyoto Animation’s former best.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
This anime’s main character is a cynical guy named Kyon, who gets forced by his eccentric classmate Haruhi Suzumiya to join a club named the SOS Brigade, with no obvious purpose other than to satisfy Haruhi’s whimsical desires. Haruhi soon drags three other members into the club, and along with them, they bring an unexpected secret – could it be… Haruhi Suzumiya is actually a god?!
Fun fact: When TMoHS was first released in 2006, it wasn’t aired in chronological order. To this day I still have no idea why they would do something like that, but it definitely drew attention to this quirky series. The series was later re-released in 2009 with a couple of new episodes, leading up to what is considered one of Kyoto Animation’s best movies, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I think the level of popularity that warranted a sequel and a movie is enough to show you how good this series is. Bear in mind, though, it does have a slow start!
One of my more recent favourites, Hyouka just won’t leave my mind. Its story follows Hotaro Oreki, an energy-conserving teenage boy, who joins his school’s Classic Literature Club at the request of his sister to prevent it from closing down. There, he meets Eru Chitanda, a girl with an insatiable curiosity for mysteries. And unfortunately for Oreki, he’s got an analytical mind that matches all of Chitanda’s requirements. The series follows Oreki, Chitanda and their other club members as they attempt to find out the truth behind the mystery of their clubroom.
Anime about high school life tend to be pretty predictable, but this one shatters a lot of stereotypes; I’ll tell you that much. Hyouka is one of the most all-rounded anime I’ve ever watched, with stunning audio visuals, loveable characters yet intense character development, and a story that both draws you in with both its comedy and drama.
One of the most under-rated Kyoto Animation series out there, Tamako Market is a slice of life anime about Tamako Kitashirakawa, a mochi baker’s daughter, whose life and love revolves around the traditional sweet treat. A simple girl by nature, Tamako leads a relatively uneventful life until one day, she finds a talking bird who claims that he is royalty from a distant land. From then onward, her life begins to get a bit livelier.
A part of me finds a second coming of K-On! hidden within this light-hearted series, except this one features an overarching theme about love that gives it a slightly more heartwarming and mature edge. This comes to a peak during the series’ movie, Tamako Love Story, which I am certain is the best movie and love story this studio has ever produced. What makes it even better? This entire series is a Kyoto Animation original!
Originally aired in 2007, this anime tells the tale of a high school delinquent named Tomoya Okazaki and how he fell in love with Nagisa Furukawa. (I don’t even think this warrants a spoiler alert, considering how obviously it is set up.) A widely acclaimed tear-jerker, Clannad makes its way into anime history for a few different reasons.
On one hand, it is as typical a high school harem anime as you’d expect, with all the jokes and tropes that have long grown out of favour with most people. On the other hand, it is also one of the few shows to follow a cast of characters into adulthood. Its sequel, Clannad After Story, is where the tears really begin. From a shallow high school tale, it develops into a somewhat cliche yet unbearably touching story about a young married couple and their hardships. All I can say is, prepare the tissues.
Keeping the best for last, K-On! is undoubtedly my favourite Kyoto Animation series if not my favourite anime series of all time. For those who aren’t familiar, it is a slice of life gag manga adaptation following the hijinks of four Light Music Club members. Besides it being one of the funniest and most heartwarming series I’ve ever watched, it also boasts over 40 original songs including OPs, EDs, insert songs and character songs. If you’re a fan of anime music (or music anime… same difference), this is definitely one part of history you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
Comment below your favourites from Kyoto Animation and which you think I should’ve added into my list. Until next time!