We’ve traversed the streets of Tokyo time and time again throughout the various outstanding anime that have made it to our TV screens. But Japan is a vast and colorful landscape filled with a never-ending supply of entertainment, life, and culture. Thus, as we weave through ancient temples, and trek over numerous mountain tops throughout our journey through the land of the rising sun, there is always one place that will never go unnoticed. Kyoto. With its rich history, and beautiful scenery, it was inevitable that some of the greatest anime would find Kyoto as its home. Hence, for those of you looking to tag along in this cultural extravaganza, we at Honey’s Anime bring to you our Top 7 Anime Set in Kyoto.
7. Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Apr. 2015 – Jul. 2015
She swore to never go down the path of music ever again, now she can’t avoid it. After a terrible incident during her middle school regional brass band competition, Kumiko Oumae entered High School ready for a new start in life, without any intentions of ever picking up the euphonium again. However, as the days passed by, being surrounded by friends that all share an interest in joining the brass band, Kumiko soon found herself jumping aboard as well. But they’ll have a long way to go if Kumiko wishes to avoid another disaster, as this group is nowhere near ready to qualify for the national band competition.
Associating music with Kyoto may not be the first thing to come to mind, but with an astounding piece like Sound! Euphonium, you will be astonished by how naturally the flow of music blends within the atmosphere. Its attention to detail, ranging from the artwork, characters; and of course, sound, echo what it is that makes Japanese culture stand out in the world. The way the episodes maneuver through each scene feel as graceful as the brush strokes of an old scroll painting. Again, something that is closely related with Japanese culture. Sound Euphonium is without a doubt, one of the best executed anime to come from studio Kyoto Animation, and should not go unnoticed.
6. Detective Conan Movie 07: Crossroad in the Ancient Capital (Meitantei Konan: Meikyū no Kurosurōdo)
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: Apr. 2003
Brought to the Kyoto prefecture to uptake a special case, Mouri Kogoro, Conan, and Heiji team up as they are thrown into mystery, work to recover the Healing Buddha Statue, and dig into Heiji’s past love life. With an unusual joining of forces, Detective Conan opens up its viewers to a new and daring experience.
With the good ol’ Detective Conan pizazz that we’ve come to love, this installment into the long-running series only works to make something already great even better. From Kendo to Kabuki, with its well-placed cultural elements, Detective Conan can be your gateway into the vast world of Japanese culture. Aside from that, a story that brings us a bit of a twist from the usual mystery-only focused Conan films; as well as a great collaboration that swings in a breath of fresh air, will make this a new experience for everyone.
5. The Eccentric Family (Uchouten Kazoku)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Jun. 2013 – Sep. 2013
Kyoto, Japan; a city where humans thrive and live in harmony; whilst unknowingly, sharing the world alongside the likes of tengu and tanuki. Young Yasaburou Shimogamo, son of an influential tanuki family, takes joy in observing the humans and their society. However, the calm rift between the two species may soon begin to boil, as the lingering memory of Yasaburou’s father, and head of the tanuki community, being slain and eaten by a group of humans pains the tanuki community. Now, the Shimogamo brothers finally set out to discover the meaning behind their father’s murder.
What better way to express Kyoto than with the likes of tengu and tanuki. Right off the bat, we get a handful of aspects that are ripe for a Kyoto setting. Both tengu and tanuki alike are creatures that have long since been spoken about throughout the history of Japan; and are promising choices for bringing forth a unique approach to Japanese folklore. Especially for an international audience who may not be acquainted with these historical beings. Speaking of unique, the portrayal of these mythical beasts amongst the human society provides a great dynamic between characters and their development. Not to mention, the protagonist; Yasaburou Shimogamo, shares the same name as a popular Kyoto shrine, Shimogamo Shrine. What more could you ask for?
4. Inari Kon Kon (Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha)
- Episodes: 10
- Air Date: Jan. 2014 – Mar. 2014
Inari Fushimi, a girl whose only attention grabbing aspect is her acute clumsiness, is safe to consider a person who hopes for a brighter moment in life. Although she is a very considerate person when it comes to others, her shyness ails her, and wipes away any chances of her ever grabbing the attention of her crush, Kouji Tanabashi. However, it pays to be a kind-hearted person, and after saving a fox pup on her way home from school, Inari will get to experience what that means first hand. As thanks for saving the young fox, god of the Unari Shrine; Uka-no-Mitama-no-Kami, bestows upon Inari a portion of her divine power. But the power of a god may bring forth more attention than Inari could have ever imagined.
It goes without question that Inari Kon Kon would find its way onto our list. Not only is it set within Kyoto, but it makes great use of what lies at the heart of the Kyoto culture. Inari is a deity that has been the subject of a multitude of Japanese folklore; and when in search of old beliefs and teachings, Kyoto is your prime target. Therefore, choosing Kyoto as a location was right on the money. Of course, with the nature of its story and its setting, we get a good look at the beauty of Kyoto’s feudal architecture. However, this time it isn’t all about being a sight for sore eyes; but instead, being an active listener, as Inari Kon Kon offers a lot to teach about life and morals. All of which, double down on its elegant choice of animation.
3. The Tatami Galaxy (Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei)
- Episodes: 11
- Air Date: Apr. 2010 – Jul. 2010
A second chance for someone looking to make good on their past mistakes is a dream that seems impossible to fulfill. But when a college student comes across a man with an eggplant shaped head behind the Shimogamo Shrine, it turns out that that wish may not be so far-fetched after all. Spending his years in college breaking up couples alongside his friend Ozu, the student now realizes the fault in his ways, and wishes to make things right again. And just like that, he is hurled through time, blessed with the chance to relive his college years. But will he make the right decisions?
Tatami Galaxy is a very interesting piece in that it explores how detrimental even the smallest decisions are towards the outcome of our lives. The premise of the story takes a snippet from old Japanese culture; taking us on a trip to visit Kyoto’s Shimogamo Shrine, and introducing us to some of the spiritual elements that have characterized Japan since feudal times. But what makes this anime so great is the message that it conveys to its viewers. How every little thing we do shouldn’t be taken for granted. How our lives consist of the decisions that we make; and with those decisions, how we can shape our futures in whichever way we choose to. Although we may not have the luxury of a god that can rewind time for us, the idea of a second chance isn’t too implausible, and should be utilized to its full advantage when possible.
2. Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga (Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan. 2017 – Mar. 2017
With the revelation that one of their own, Rin Okumura, is the son of Satan, the ExWire of True Cross Academy is thrown aghast. But that may turn out to be the least of their worries. Throughout all the chaos regarding Rin, a thief managed to get their hands on the left eye of the Impure King straight from the academy’s own Deep Keep. With the right eye stored in Kyoto, Rin and other ExWires are sent out to investigate the motive behind what this mysterious thief would want with these artifacts. However, with Rin more distant from his teammates than ever before, it doesn’t help that there may be a traitor amongst them as well.
In a city known for its rich history and deep connections with the spiritual philosophy residing throughout Japan, an anime filled to the brim with spirits, demons, and otherworldly deities alike, is like a match made in heaven. The underlying myths and legends that act as a backbone to the story development seem right at home in the old capital of Japan. The surrounding scenery help to reverberate that mythical aspect that brings a series like Blue Exorcist to life. Not to mention, the artwork is stunning, and the animation without fault. With a series that knows how to get right to the point, there’s not a moment wasted; and it’s well worth your time.
1. Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc (Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan - Shin Kyoto-hen)
- Episodes: 2
- Air Date: Dec. 2011 – Jun. 2012
Himura Kenshin roams the countryside of Meiji era Japan, looking to offer his protection to anyone in need. He is an assassin; and the guilt from the murders he’s committed weigh down on him with each passing day. His attempt to atone for his sins has taken him on a long journey. Eventually making his way to Tokyo, and later Kyoto. We’ve stood by the infamous assassin for a long time coming, but with the New Kyoto Arc, we get a chance to see the world through the eyes of another. Retold through the point of view of Misao Makimachi, we witness the Kyoto arc chronicles in a new light as Kenshin continues the fight to stop Shishio Makoto’s plot to control Japan.
Rurouni Kenshin meets Kyoto; mixing an ancient capital, with mystery that speaks to the folklore enthusiast, and action that pays homage to the ancient techniques of the various warriors born on the Japanese land. Rurouni Kenshin is a series built for this city, and provides an experience that is nothing short of immersive, unexpected, and exciting. Due to the period in which the anime takes place, it is one of the few series that can truly bring to life the appeal of Kyoto. Pushing its defining history right up front so that you feel as though you’re a part of the era and not just a spectator. Amongst all the clashing blades, there is a voice that urges you to seek more. More about the classic series of Rurouni Kenshin, and more about the history behind the wonderful city of Kyoto.
Through the ancient capital, we’ve seen the remnants of a beautiful past, the lovely essence of music in the air, the godly beings that protect the mortal, and the exorcism of the demons that wish to harm them; amongst many more. But with a city as intricate as Kyoto, there’s bound to be more to discover, and we will love to find out what those are. Thus, we look forward to seeing you down in the comments below as we dig even further into the Kyoto prefecture.
Nonstop to excellence!