As we wrote, not so long ago an unknown person broke into the Kyoto Animation studio and started a fire there, as a result of which 33 studio employees died, and 36 were seriously injured. We decided to recall why Kyoto Animation was so important to the anime industry, and what will happen next.
As Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted after the studio incident, "Kyoto Animation's artists helped spread joy around the world.
And they began to do this in 1981, when the studio was founded by Yoka Hatta with her husband Hideaki, after she married him and moved to Kyoto. Hideaki himself acted as president, and Yoko took over as vice president. Initially, the studio was called "Kyoto Anime Studio", and later it was renamed into the familiar Kyoto Animation [abbreviated as KyoAni].
She did not draw her own anime and for a long time only outsourced side projects such as Kiddy Grade, InuYasha, Tenchi Universe and others. However, by 1990, it could be said that it was different from most Japanese studios. Firstly, it was located far from Tokyo, where the main concentration of studios was. It was this distance from the epicenter of Japanese animation and detachment from the strict rules of the capital that helped her develop her own philosophy of work.
Oftentimes, many studios have hired animators on a freelance basis, which has resulted in traditionally low wages, overwork and even burnout, especially among young animators.
In turn, Kyoto Animation developed a culture that emphasized communication, education and full employment. KyoAni School spent a great deal of time training young recruits, a significant percentage of whom were women. But more on that later.
When, in the early 2000s, outsourcing began to bring in significant profits, the studio began to create its own products. And in an industry renowned for its fluctuations in workflow and perpetual production delays, Kyoto Animation excels at combining high quality animation and storytelling with responsiveness.
She began to develop a distinct, original style, and the studio became known for its “little things of life,” stories of camaraderie in school, fear and humor that resonated with audiences both at home and abroad. Their characters were praised for their detailed, expressive eyes and movements, and the studio's tradition of using real-world locations as the basis for backgrounds has led fans around the world to embark on a pilgrimage to find snippets from the studio's anime.
Early hits from KyoAni such as Steel Alert? Fumoffu "," The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya "," Lucky Star "and" K-On! " - were prepared by Naoko Yamada, who joined Kyoto Animation shortly after graduating from university and made her directorial debut at the age of 24.
In the early 2010s, the studio established the KyoAni Award for Young Authors. The studio was going to adapt the novels of the winners into anime. And just such projects as "Free!" And Violet Evergarden was a product of this system.
Their 2016 feature film, The Shape of the Voice, was voted Best Animation at the 2017 Japanese Film Critics Competition. It is unfortunate that this anime had to compete with Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, which overshadowed it at the time.
Despite the geographical and philosophical distance from Tokyo, Kyoto Animation has influenced the entire anime industry.
A number of post-Kyoto Animation studios, including PA Works. And many of the production cadres who trained at Kyoto Animation, including director Hiroko Utsumi and character designer Yukiko Horiguchi, have become independent, bringing the skills they learned in the studio to the industry as a whole.
Shortly before the incident, the studio was working on a sequel to "Free!" And "Violet Evergarden" as well as a new series based on the latest KyoAni Award romance. They all burned down in a tragic fire, according to Hideaki Hatta.
The site AnimeNewsNetwork spoke in more detail about the studio's invaluable contribution to the anime industry long before the fire, back in 2015. We have translated some of their material.
A huge part of my love for this studio is that Kyoto Animation doesn't try to sell their stories with twisted plot twists or action-dramatic action. Kyoto Animation does a great job with small things, making small moments feel real - and the results can feel as emotionally natural as any other element that louder projects have to offer.
Anime is a very complex product made by many people. Solitary, well-animated scenes can be the result of one or two truly dedicated animators as well as many freelance animators. When you talk about where anime is successful and where it is not, it is more appropriate to speak in terms of the overall merits of the finished product or individual creators than to blame it on a studio scale.
KyoAni is a bit of an exception to the rule for a number of reasons. On the one hand, KyoAni does almost all of its work on its own, pays its employees a salary; they are slow to work on new projects, producing fewer finished shows than competing studios. They even train their own animators, moving away from traditional freelance contracting entirely.
From a business point of view, KyoAni has a wonderful feature in anime production that interacts properly with their employees, which directly affects the exceptional quality of their work.
She has a studio culture where work is done with passion, a consistent team of animators and directors, and brings a holistic style and raises the quality of their films.
KyoAni actually works in a variety of genres. They have worked in drama, comedy, romance, fantasy, action, and everyday life, all with quite distinct differences in storytelling styles, but with varying degrees of success. But what these shows usually share is their emphasis on nuance - highlighting very small moments in order to create the right tangible emotions.
For "K-ON!" - these are small moments that create a feeling of warmth and atmosphere. The characters are not characterized by big speeches or dramatic "lessons learned" - they are made real by the small details, the coordinated language, body, and the three characters' reactions to the fourth.
"Atmosphere" does not only mean melancholy, nostalgia or other feelings. KyoAni's precision animation and timing define the mood of their show, from the greatest drama to the dumbest comedy.
My favorite example of expressing atmosphere and right feelings without words is a scene from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya." In the episode where the team is investigating a murder in the mansion, there is a moment when Ken and Haruhi fall from a cliff to the lower level of the mountain. They find a cave where they can hide from the raging storm and wring out their clothes. Despite the fact that Ken may be injured, their conversation remains limited to solving the mystery they are embroiled in.
However, the camera shows the true emotional meaning of the situation. By highlighting their awkward nude bodies while keeping the conversation focused on secrecy, the show is able to simultaneously showcase the strange sexual tension both characters are experiencing while making it clear that neither of them is capable of influencing him.
For all of these and many more reasons, Kyoto Animation is probably my favorite studio.
What's the future of Kyoto Animation? During a media briefing, the president of Kyoto Animation announced plans to demolish the burned-down building, which will replace a park with a memorial to the lost employees in its center. One of the reasons for the creation, he called not only respect for the memory of the victims, but also respect for people who live near the site of the tragedy and hardly like it.
The studio does not name the victims, since DNA analysis is required to identify the victims. The studio also plans to not disclose them until the investigation is over.
Whether the studio will continue to work is unknown. Hideaki Hatta is too old to start this business from scratch and also look for new young talent. In addition, we do not know whether the former employees of the studio will be able to return to duty, and most importantly, whether they will want to do this after the experience. And first of all, the studio takes care of them and the families of the victims.
The main materials of the work were destroyed, only small developments from subsidiary studios, such as Animation DO, remained. As a reminder, fundraising for the studio is still open.
The Topic of Article: The invaluable value of Kyoto Animation and what she did.