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What Makes Kyoto Animation So Special?

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Joined: 03 Jul 2013
Posts: 877
Location: Nashville, TN
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:43 am Reply with quote
Very nice analysis, Nick. I remember reading Stephen King's memoir On Writing way back in middle school, when I was absolutely sure I wanted to be the "Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived." Now, much older, I've realized that it is not about being famous, or attaining the title of that type of craft; experiencing the emotion that writing invokes, particularly through its characters, creates a sense of understanding unlike any other for both writer and reader. This practice is not so much effortless, but a very precise formula that yields a sense of effortlessness in mood and sense of purpose. KyoAni has figured this out as well, by a description Stephen King quoted as "show, don't tell." Through body language, change in breathing, or shuffling footfalls, we connect our understanding to the emotions of the character, and imprint it to our own sense of self. Who we are, where we are, and why we feel the way we do is mysterious and unique to each person, but much more impressionable than we might realize.

Anime comes in a storm of colors, flavors, and varieties, but is a wonderful medium to experiment with this knowledge and wisdom of craftmanship.

Last edited by Usagi-kun on Wed Dec 02, 2015 1:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Hiroki not Takuya

Joined: 17 Apr 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:56 am Reply with quote
I am glad to see someone finally and carefully explain some of the finer elements in animation craft that seem to get missed. I for one have appreciated these and get a little frustrated when I see others criticize a perfectly good show because it "was stupid" or some such. You try to explain why it was good from an artistic perspective and they respond as "who cares about that? still stupid". As it is in performance art, where it takes extraordinary skill and control to consistently and believably execute what looks or sounds like a really horrible performance, these details in execution show that the artists and directors understand to great depth what makes the art and story good and work together. Haven't watched K-on and won't watch Free! but I can "see" why these are good.

On a sour note, like a commentator on another recent column, my inner "grammar Nazi" got a little bothered by a number of examples like "KyoAni are a beautiful outlier" and "Kyoto Animation do not try" which got worse as the article went on. Getting tired or spent too much time with Japanese? Only a little detraction from a very good article.

Post Edit: bravo Usagi-kun on your own exposition of writing craft and some of what makes animation special!

Last edited by Hiroki not Takuya on Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 27 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:59 am Reply with quote
I think part of the draw to KyoAni shows are their attention to detail in regards to body language and shot composition, things fans of the shows don't necessarily realize and articulate. Also, I did not know KyoAni has its animators on a salary! Great analysis, Nick!
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Joined: 31 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:09 pm Reply with quote
I have Sound! Euphonium on my to-watch list already. Maybe I'll look into Chūnibyō too even though the premise doesn't really appeal to me. K-On! I already own; Haruhi I would too if only Funimation would hurry up the complete series on BD already Rolling Eyes

Are there other studios besides KyoAni and (former?) Ghibli who do most of their animation work in-house? What about Toei?

(Aside, @Hiroki, sentences like "KyoAni are a [..]" or "KyoAni do [..]" are perfectly good English when referring to a group of people.)

Last edited by Kimiko_0 on Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Collector ExtraordinaireCollector Extraordinaire

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:10 pm Reply with quote
I really enjoyed this piece. Though I've been a big fan of KyoAni stuff for a long time I never really put much thought into why it worked so well other than "it's pretty". It's amazing how so many subtle things in the animation can really set the mood. It's seriously art.

I have recently made it a goal to collect physical copies of all KyoAni's releases here whether I've seen the show or not. In some ways I was curious to see if their beautiful animation would make up for a bad plot and this was tested pretty much immediately with Beyond the Boundary. I found the plot to be terribly trite and the main character obnoxious, but the battle scenes were perfect and every scene with Mirai was captivating. I'm a straight woman but her smile made my heart skip a beat every time.

Heck, the K-ON! manga wasn't even particularly good. KyoAni is absolutely amazing at polishing a turd.
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Joined: 02 Dec 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:14 pm Reply with quote
There are a lot of things that KyoAni does that are mentioned in this article that I never really thought about. Haruhi and K-on are what got me into anime in the first place so KyoAni will always be the number one studio for me. I guess since it was the first anime I really watched (besides Dragonball, Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Samurai Pizza Cats which I watched when i was a kid) it set a standard that I held everything else to as opposed to noticing how much it stands out from others.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:17 pm Reply with quote
While I wouldn't call myself a hater of them, I also can't call myself a straight up fan either (barring the animation.) I think for me one of the most vexing things is when I can very clearly see some great animation directing and character acting and things I would LOVE to see in other shows but almost never do... only to have that be attached to something that means absolutely nothing to me emotionally such as a lot of scenes in Beyond the boundary.

I haven't seen EVERY work of theirs, I gave up on K-on a LONG time ago, Free's still on my backlog only being there because I hear it's actually good beyond being something so not aimed at me, and I have been extremely stubborn about watching chuunibyou's second season and Hibike (though I will cave in and watch it before the year ends). I WILL say that while I agree with the idea that their style choices don't make them any lesser than any other studio, it still doesn't change the fact that a lot of times I'm not emotionally charged by them. The most successful I've ever found them to be that is with Hyouka, a show damn near no one seems to care about, and the Haruhi movie, which I think went far more out of their way to be "dramatic", but eh. I like Nichijou but that's more animation candy than anything else.

I feel like it may be a while until I actually see another show of theirs that really connects with me (unless there happened to be a show that already aired and it's one that I missed), but that won't change how everyone else sees them, nor should it. We all have our tastes I just was Kyoto to release some of their brand in a flavor I actually like.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:25 pm Reply with quote
I really enjoyed this article. It is Informative and entertaining.

I have never been interested in analyzing anime or my reasons for enjoying what I like. This article actually showed me some things about why I like some shows and helped me to better understand my own tastes.

I think that the most significant thing for me was the mention of the feeling of intimacy that the many small touches and attention to detail evokes. That is something that I have been enjoying without actually realizing what it was that I liked about the scenes.
That definitely is a major reason why I get so much pleasure from watching K-On! and Haruhi, to name just two of many.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:30 pm Reply with quote
I'm really in love with the likes of Bones and SHAFT at the moment. I find the snappy pacing (with speed varying on content) the disfiguring, changing and forever fluid animation and art as well as unique stories really sell me on them.
Shaft's use of multiple types of animation, using animation to its advantage, not limiting themselves is really what excites me. it's what I love so much about them. Bones' use of crazy plots, unique directing and animating, different aesthetics but still having the "oh that's Bones" factor really sells for me.
to me creativity and presentation are everything in an anime. and I find its watching Shaft and Bones anime that I'm most engrossed and intrigued about just how they did that? why did Sensen fast pacing just work? how did the use of real life stop motion 2d digital and 3d just work so darn well in monogatari? and with each passing series I'm more and more interested. more and more excited. just overall more and more pleased by their works.

now the main reason for this may be that I'm a novice animator myself haha
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:31 pm Reply with quote
KyoAni I feel doesn't do an exceptional job on making shows but also on selecting what manga/light novels they want to adapt. With Haruhi Suzumiya I can't imagine another studio doing it with out adding or subtracting something that might make it cliché or bad. They put the right amount of touch in it to make it a great comedy with the sense of mystery. The movie is possibly one of the best animated I've seen, not counting Disney.

They are able to get the audience in many ways that captivates them wanting to continue watching. I hope they continue to produce good stuff recognizing that Anime isn't just a medium but can be a true story telling medium.

On a side note I'm surprised there was not even a blurb of Free! since thay show was popular. Went it was announced I thought it was good the females get some fanservice of some grade A beef. LoL.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:41 pm Reply with quote
I don't want to be that guy, but part of KyoAni's success is definitely their financial standing. I love many of their works and enjoy the different genre of shows they animate, but some of the amazing quality you get in their animation is due to their ability to "throw money at it."

You can have a star team of directors, producers and an efficient animation team, but there are some aspects in the actual animating itself that are tedious to deal with when attempting to achieve a standard, or can be performed faster through an increase in manpower.

I'd like to remind you that K-ON!! had EVERY GIRL in 3-2 animated and present at some point in the show with their own hairstyle, and sock style. It's not saying much about direction per say, but it is indicative that the team can afford to achieve that level of detail for something so minute compared to the rest of the actual show. I won't say they aren't constrained by budget, because every team is, but I'm pretty sure that you can expect a higher standard of quality and willingness to adhere/maintain that quality much better if you have a staff that doesn't have to worry about it as much.

...Because there are instances where studios either have to outsource (in their defense, I believe SHAFT was working on 3 shows that season) or can't afford to spend the time and money to properly composite CG into their work. (I was trying to find a better example. I think darker than black had a wheeless car?)

Yes, having an in house team who's comfortable with each other is important, and also yes, understanding the "show don't tell" concept through subtle detail, body language helps convey the strength of a scene, but if your team has to resort to still pans and general corner cutting because they simply don't have the time/manpower to fully bring out an idea to screen, the production is going to take a hit.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:41 pm Reply with quote
This is why, though it's not the highest priority in my anime-filled mind, whenever anyone asks me what's the best-looking anime film, I always am immediately reminded of Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. The level of intimacy the director and animators had with that film are stunning and probably even more explicit than most other stuff they usually do. Sure, the movie is mostly slow and "dull" (if you went in looking for action-like excitement), but there is so much to visually take in and they even include some big visual foreshadows in the beginning and throughout if you watch it more than once. Forget faces. Body language, lighting, atmosphere, and general silence tell us so much the longer that silence goes on. I'll definitely see things out there to stun me visually, with a few amazing action sequences and/or important events with important visuals, but that Haruhi film, much like what KyoAni does throughout all their series, shows us just how meaningful the in-between stuff is, too. Just because the audience is unwinding and relaxing doesn't mean you can't contribute great animation to replace talking heads or exposition with nothing happening.

And despite the number of people who complain, their popularity is no doubt due to this attention they give every single moment.

And what the frap is with so many people not liking Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary)'s plot or characters? Maybe plot, but characters? Those felt... loving. Beautiful. To me, at least. I hear "it feels generic" or "it's so bleh", but I hardly get anything beyond that to clue me in on peoples' disappointment. D:
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:47 pm Reply with quote
even though lately studio Lerche has been catching my eye. the way they change colours, how they do tone shifts, and overall presentation is getting me very interested. Rampo Kitan was very interesting
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:59 pm Reply with quote
CLANNAD/After Story, Kanon, Beyond the Boundary, Haruhi, K-On and Lucky Star.

All time faves right there, in particular After Story which still gets me emotional no matter how many times I watch the latter half of the season.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 1:27 pm Reply with quote
No nichijou? It has entire segment without a single word carried entirely by the animation.
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