Whether it be at home or overseas, Kyoto Animation enjoys the sort of popularity that makes it almost a household name. The Kyoto-based anime studio is a prolific, long-time player in the industry, presenting at least one new title every year since their debut in 2003, and teaming up with other studios on numerous other projects in between. Its name is now practically synonymous with high quality anime, as filled with moe cuteness as they are with breathtakingly beautiful art and fluid animation. Here’s an introduction to a couple of works from their portfolio.
One of the most well-known and widely-loved anime in the west, Nichijou, takes the everyday events of its cast of characters and stretches them to hilarious extremes. Small moments like ordering coffee, losing your wallet, and getting bitten by a dog get pushed into the spotlight and don’t disappoint. With a style of comedy not unlike One, writer of Mob Psycho and One Punch Man, you’ll be in stitches before long.
Unique in its visual flair, Nichijou makes great use of flexible character models, ever-changing animation style, and solid colors with minimal shading; these are elements that don’t exactly come to mind when thinking of Kyoto Animation, the same studio who brought to us the beautiful and vibrant world of Violet Evergarden. Many forget that KyoAni is also responsible for the similarly comedic and wildly popular Lucky Star, as well as the more recent and similarly styled Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon.
Art aside, the real treasure when it comes to Nichijou are the characters and their interactions with one another. The studio’s choice at times to forego even the already simple backgrounds in order to bring 100% of your attention to the characters is pure gold. They are further supported by the short episodic/slice-of-life format of the show, bringing into focus characters and their surroundings for each vignette.
Finally, the series definitely owes a lot to the sound design and voice acting. Only adding to the already fantastic animation and characters, Nichijou is definitely a show that is greater than the sum of its parts. Some of the standout performances come from Mariko Honda as Yuuko, Mai Aizawa as Mio, and Hiromi Konno as Hakase.
The series’ popularity on YouTube as well as the incredulous amounts of reaction images stemming from the show speak for themselves, but if you haven’t already give Nichijou a watch, you won’t be disappointed.
Kyoukai no Kanata
In an unusual move for a studio known mostly for slice-of-life works with a relaxing pace, Kyoto Animation decided to tackle the dark fantasy genre with Kyoukai no Kanata, or “Beyond the Boundary”.
Mirai Kuriyama is a spirit world warrior, a human with supernatural talents whose work involves hunting down “youmu”, demons born from negative emotions. While she might have the appearance of a normal high school student, her real identity is far from commonplace―she’s the sole survivor of a clan of spirit world warriors gifted with the ability to fashion their own blood into weapons. While this ability made her powerful, it was also the source of misfortune for Mirai, as the other warriors considered her bloodline ‘cursed’, dooming her to a lonely life that didn’t do much to brighten her shy and clumsy personality. And to top it all off, despite being a spirit world warrior, she’s often reluctant to kill the youmu, often paralyzed with fear upon her encounters with them.
It was while she was struggling with her faith in her ability as a spirit world warrior that she found Akihito Kanbara, a senior at the school she’s attending, who happens to be an immortal half-human, half-youmu hybrid. Their early interactions are colored with comedy―Mirai, having decided that the immortal Akihito is the perfect training dummy for her (sharp and stabby) needs, would pursue him relentlessly in the name of youmu hunting practice. Akihito is obviously less than thrilled with their relationship, until their game of cat-and-mouse evolved into an odd kind of friendship that would deepen as they came to understand each other’s loneliness, both of them having lived through their lives often feeling like unwanted outcasts. This development is set against the background of ever-increasingly dangerous youmu attacks, and the addition of members to Mirai’s list of fellow spirit world warriors, all counting down to the moment the most powerful youmu of all, “Beyond the Boundary”, will appear.
While it’s a dark supernatural title with the appropriate aesthetic touches in its premise, KyoAni’s colors still show through very strongly through Kyoukai no Kanata. The trademark beautiful visuals the studio is known for can be found in abundance throughout the series, whether it be in the lighting of the background, the animation of the battle scenes, or the detail of the food that Mirai’s avaricious appetite craves so much. It’s also decidedly not as grim as its genre cousins tend to be, with quite a noticeable amount of comedy inserted in the form of banter between the main cast―the kind of slow, no-rush slice-of-life one may have come to expect from KyoAni. It’s probably not the right title for those who prefer their dark fantasy anime to be heavy and gloomy, but if you’re a fan of KyoAni’s usual offerings but would like to see them do something a little different, Kyoukai no Kanata is worth a look.