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We have already introduced you to a couple of different animation studios on this site. Today, we want to highlight Kyoto Animation and their best anime.
Kyoto Animation, sometimes also called KyoAni, was established in 1981 and is now located in - you might have guessed it - Kyoto, Japan. What started out as a small company founded by a married couple soon became a well-established production studio. Some of their earliest production involvements include shows like InuYasha or Tenchi Universe. Today, Kyoto Animation has produced more than twenty different anime series as well as several films.
Our selection consists of anime where Kyoto Animation acts as the prime contractor without receiving help from any sub-contractors. This being said, lean back and enjoy our small trip into the dream factory of Kyoto Animation.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2007 - September 2007
Let’s start this list with a feel-good Slice of Life show to lighten up the mood. Lucky Star is an anime with lots of girl power and comedy.
Lucky Star is all about having fun at school as well as all the small events happening on school grounds. The viewers follow Izumi Konata and her friends on their adventures between homework, club activities and examinations. Since Lucky Star is a Slice of Life anime you should not expect lots of action, but rather a relaxed storyline that focuses on the interaction between the different characters and their personal development.
Lucky Star succeeds in getting laughs out of everyday situations that everyone can relate to. Kyoto Animation created a great show out of the original manga which was entertaining enough to create a big franchise. Several video games and OVAs followed and Lucky Star also gained a fanbase abroad. It is a show with lots of jokes, charming characters and an unusual view on current pop culture and that’s why it is the first pick for our Top 10 list.
9. Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 - December 2013
We are continuing with another show set in a school environment, but one that is much darker and more action-filled than Lucky Star.
Kyoukai no Kanata shows the fateful meeting of Kuriyama Mirai and Kanbara Akihito. Even though both of them look like normal students, they hide a dark secret. Akihito is half youmu, half human, whereas Mirai hunts monster-like youmu with her blood-manipulating abilities. In this fantasy universe the two of them have to work together in order to save their loved ones from the danger that comes from the other side.
The original light novel series won an honorable mention in the Kyoto Animation Award competition of 2011 and was adapted into an anime two years later. After a great response from fans and the release of an OVA episode in spring 2015, a two-part anime movie premiered in Tokyo which recaptured the events of Akihito’s and Mirai’s story.
Kyoto Animation not only realized the potential of the original light novel, but also managed to create a great adaptation. What really drew the fans in, however, was the outstanding top-of-the-art animation that really brought each action scene to life. Great job, Kyoto Animation!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2005 - April 2005
Let’s move back in time to the beginnings of Kyoto Animation and highlight one of their earliest successes: Air.
Hero Yukito Kunisaki is on a mission to find the Winged Maiden, a woman that according to the old tales of his childhood is bound to the sky. He has to change his plans when he stumbles across a small town as well as an usual girl named Misuzu. Yukito decides to stay and get closer to the towns people, always having the Winged Maiden at the back of his mind. Will he be able to fulfill his mission?
Similar to Kyoukai no Kanata, the story was adapted from a light novel series. It came a long way, starting out as a book, moving on to the production of a manga, several art books and audio dramas, an anime series and finally an anime film in 2005. What Kyoto Animation proved with this anime is their ability to understand the material that they are adapting.
The original story consists of multiple story arcs that the producers interpreted by splitting the series into three parts. The fans just couldn’t get enough of this masterpiece and several additional episodes in the form of mini-series followed.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2009 - June 2009
I think it’s time to move on to a more musical show with K-On!
This show follows Hirasawa Yui’s daily life as a first year student in high school. She soon decides to join a music club, despite having one big problem - she has yet to make any musical experiences. The viewers join her on her journey as she struggles to give her best and to find her place in high school.
When it comes to popular music-related anime, K-On! is almost certainly named. With this show Kyoto Animation has created a staple show in the genres of Slice of Life, School as well as Music of course. The fans seem to appreciate the quirky characters with their outstanding character design, since an OVA episode, a second season and even a movie followed soon after.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: April 2012 - September 2012
Are you ready for an anime that combines school and Slice of Life with mystery elements?
High school boy Oreki Houtarou just recently joined the Classical Literature Club of his school and would actually rather do something else. Soon enough, however, he gets to know the weird and unique members of the club that couldn’t be any more different from each other. Together, they investigate a case from over 40 years ago in order to uncover the truth.
You might have noticed that there are quite a lot school-related anime on this list so far. Yet, Kyoto Animation is able to constantly combine the common school genre with other genres and create completely new masterpieces. Hyouka is based on a mystery novel written by Honobu Yonezawa and Kyoto Animation truly did a great job at adapting the first volume of his Classic Literature Club series. Kyoto Animation outdid themselves when it comes to creating a dense storyline with a great atmosphere from beginning until the very end.
5. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2012 - December 2012
Next up on our list is Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, or Chuu-2 for short, a comedic drama with a more than unique girl.
It’s the story of high school freshman Yuuta Togashi who wants to move on with his life and leave his past self behind. In middle school, he thought of himself as the Dark Flame Master and lived a delusional dream. He thinks he can forget about his former identity, but soon enough he meets Rikka Takanashi - a former classmate who is still trapped in her own delusional world.
Similar to Kyoukai no Kanata, the original light novel series of Chuu-2 won an honorable mention in the Kyoto Animation Award competition of 2010. Again, Kyoto Animation did a great job at seeing the potential in an original story and creating a show that earned a great response from its viewers. This lead to the production of additional episodes, an animated film as well as a second season.
Kyoto Animation’s biggest success, however, is the creation of Rikka Takanashi - a character so lovable and unique that even people who didn’t watch the anime know her face; one of the biggest achievements possible for an animation house.
4. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: August 2003 - October 2003
It’s time to bring some action back onto this list and what anime would be more suited for that than Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu?
Fumoffu is a companion series to the Full Metal Panic! series and set between the first and second season. In this show it’s back-to-school season and Kaname Chidori and Sousuke Sagara have to deal with a fairly normal high school life on top of emotional struggles. With eccentric mascot Bonta-kun by their side their new high school life begins.
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is in fact the very first anime that Kyoto Animation was ever listed for as the main producer. Since then, their style and level of experience have changed of course, but what makes Kyoto Animation so unique is already noticeable in this anime. Even though it was their first production, the producer weren’t afraid to take the original material and change it completely.
In Fumoffu, they focus more on the high school rom-com aspects of the story while parodying anime stereotypes. It was a brave and successful way to put their name out there and to start their production career.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2013 - September 2013
Free! is a show that grants you an eternal summer filled with fun, action and lots of laughter.
It follows the journey of five boys who are connected through their passion for swimming. Protagonist Haruka Nanase has always enjoyed being in water and never stopped trying to push himself past his limits. After being challenged by his former classmate Rin, Haruka forms the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club. Will the members be able to defeat Rin?
Kyoto Animations is exploring new grounds with a sports-related show. It seems to work out for them since Free! became a huge success. Even if you are not interested in sports anime, chances are pretty high that you have at least stumbled across this anime or have one or two friends that cannot stop talking about it. The successful first season was followed by a second season and an animated film is already in production.
With Free!, Kyoto Animation shows that they clearly know what the viewers want and that they can produce high-quality anime even in genres they are not completely familiar with.
2. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: April 2006 - July 2006
We already talked about one infamous anime girl - Rikka from Chuu-2 -, but now it’s time to talk about Haruhi Suzumiya.
High school student Kyon has completely lost his interest in everything supernatural - until he meets Suzumiya Haruhi, a girl that is more than just interested in unnatural occurrences of all kinds. Together they form the SOS Brigade, a club dedicated to the supernatural. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya tells the story of the adventures of the club members.
Kyoto Animation clearly understands what they need to focus on. Here we have another great Slice of Life/School/Comedy combination. What could have ended as a boring and unspectacular anime gained great recognition by a big fanbase. The second season was hyped enough to get a full-page advertisement in the Asahi Shimbun - one of Japan’s most popular newspapers - in 2007. The producers outdid themselves when creating the unique characters of this show and combining them with great animation and fun jokes.
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 2007 - March 2008
Last but definitely not least we have a show that even several years after its production still belongs to one of the most famous anime shows in existence. Of course, we are talking about Clannad.
Tomoya Okazaki couldn’t be less interested in school life. He doesn’t really care about showing up to class nor socializing with his classmates. This changes when he meets five unique girls, all with their own stories and backgrounds. Soon enough he gets closer to them, helps them overcome their personal obstacles and realizes that school life isn’t as dull as he previously thought.
Do I even need to explain why Clannad definitely belongs on this list? It is an anime legend showing one of the greatest love stories in anime history. It is one of those shows that have the whole package: you will see lots of drama, romance, school life and comedy. Only a couple of years after their first production, Kyoto Animation really established themselves with this gem.
The franchise of Clannad reaches from an original game and light novel to OVAs, a second season and even an animated movie. If you had to watch just one of Kyoto Animation’s creations, I dare to say that Clannad is the one you should be going for.
Amagi Brilliant Park
This concludes our list for today. As always, it’s really hard to narrow down all the creations of a production studio to just ten choices. We tried to cover Kyoto Animation’s most popular creations as well as the shows that either made an impact on the company itself or shaped the anime industry as a whole.
Your personal Top 10 list might look different from the one we presented today, so feel free to share your own recommendations down below. Which shows did we miss out on and why do they belong to your favorites? Your opinions and thoughts are more than welcome.