Two years ago a tragedy happened at Kyoto Animation. It robbed families of their loved ones and all of us of talented artists that bring our dreams to life. It broke the hearts of millions around the world. I can’t properly wrap my mind around it. Yet, I still feel compelled to talk about it every year. It’s the type of event you want to forget all about but also think you should always remember.

At the time, some of my fellow bloggers privately hypothesized that Kyoto animation would never bounce back. That we would have to cherish what we got from the studio as there would be no more.

I disagreed, but I have to admit, it was mostly out of wishful thinking. For a long time, Kyoto Animation had been one of my favourite studios and I wasn’t ready to think of it as gone. I told myself I would wait for as long as I would take to watch a new Kyoto Animation series and that was that.

A year ago I talked about it again. I felt much more confident in Kyoto’s return. There had already been whispers of a new season of Dragon Maid. In the months that followed the arson attack, support for the studio poured in from everywhere and donations large and small had been amassed. It seems I was not the only one that wanted to hold on to Kyoto.

None of that could erase the pain of the families that lost someone and of course, the studio will likely never be the same. But it was not gone. Not yet. One horrific event had not destroyed all the dreams.

I write this as the new season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragoon Maid is airing. I haven’t started watching it yet. I want to wait until the season is over and give it a good binge. I really love Kobayashi and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve tried to avoid reviews but I couldn’t resist skimming a few first impressions. Most people seem to like it. It’s currently better rated than the first season so I’m really excited. In any case, it looks really good.

Instead, I am currently making my way through Hyouka. For several reasons, I had never managed to watch the series so I figured now was a good time. And it has reminded me of a lot of things. But to boil it down to just one, I really like Kyoto Animation. At their best, they create stories that respect the audience and tell complex tales with a depth and subtle hand. And boy do their shows look beautiful. It’s a treat for the eyes. You don’t need revolutionary visuals when they are that gorgeous! I say that but Hyouka has some really good camera angles so it’s not like the directing is flat…

After two of these posts, this one is my most hopeful one yet. And I’m not sure how to tell you how happy it makes me.

And it’s not just because a studio I really like is releasing more anime. That’s great! But it’s more than that. It’s because they didn’t give up. Because one potentially unwell person didn’t manage to destroy something that meant a lot to so many, no matter how hard they tried. It’s because this time, it was ok to hold out hope.

And I do hope you guys are enjoying Dragon Maid. If it’s not your thing, or maybe you were never that big a Kyoto Animation fan, I hope they put out something in the future that will captivate you. I’ll be watching right along!

18 thoughts

  1. As someone who was a union official in a past lifetime, and for whom occupational health and safety is an important touchstone, I think the tragedy of Kyoto Studios raised two important issues. The first arises from the fact that many of the deaths at Kyoto occurred because people were trapped on floors or in parts of the workspace that were shut off from the available exits. In other words, the workspace was poorly and unsafely designed, and even if this was a “normal” fire and not an act of criminal violence, I suspect the body count would still have been high. Thus, the first issue that arises is the issue of the working conditions that exist in the industry, in Japan generally, and, of course, throughout the world. Kyoto were hardly a fly-by-night operation who couldn’t afford decent accommodation – yet the fact that such a premier studio was housed in such obviously inadequate workspace raises serious – and disturbing – questions.

    The second issue is that of security. I suspect the Kyoto tragedy highlights an assumption many make about anime, namely, that it isn’t “like” other parts of the entertainment industry, because the fact that it’s not “live” means that there is a level of anonymity for actors, writers, producers, animators, etc. And yet, as you know from your own experience with blogging about anime, “dedicated” fans can be both relentless and even occasionally threatening when it comes to “defending” their favourites from what they see as unwarranted attack. In other words, the anime industry is as liable to obsessive personalities as any other part of the entertainment industry. And the fact that one such individual (who apparently believed the studio had plagiarised their work) was able to carry out their violent intent by literally walking in the front door with 40 gallons of petroleum indicates a serious lack of both security and awareness about public dynamics as a whole.

    That said, I am a huge fan of many of Kyoto’s productions, Hyouka being among my absolute favourites.

    1. The implications of leaving this comment on this particular post are probably not what you were going for.

  2. I was actually watching a slient voice a few months ago and when I saw it was made by KyoAni, I almost cried. I’m so glad they were able to come back.

  3. Violet Evergarden made me cry so much, and after learning about what happened to KyoAni, I cried even more. It’s almost three dimensional layers of crying whenever I reminisce about Violet Evergarden and how good it was. I’m excited to try more of KyoAni’s works soon and it’s admirable that they were able to bounce back after the tragedy.

  4. It is extremely uplifting to see a legendary studio like KyoAni recover from the tragedy two years ago. I hope you’re enjoying Hyouka, it used to be a big hidden gem type anime back in the day, especially since it was a rarer novel to anime adaptation rather than a manga to anime or light novel to anime.

    1. I did enjoy Hyouka. I find it difficult to imagine in novel form. I should see if I can find it

  5. It’s great that they’ve come back. I usually passed on their stuff, but I saw Chunibyo recently and liked it pretty well. Hoping to get to more of their stuff at some point.

  6. I adore KyoAni and they’ve done a lot of my favorite series (K-On, Violet and Sound Euphonium in particular). I was devastated when their building was destroyed but it’s great to see them back. They also pay their animators better wages than most, and hire more female animators and directors. I think the rest of the industry should follow their lead in this regard, because it’s part of the reason KyoAni animation is so consistently stunning.

    1. KyoAni was at the time one of the only studios to offer maternity leave at all. Which explains the prominence of women employees.

  7. I’d actually forgotten that Dragon Maid is an important comeback for KyoAni until I read it somewhere. I’m not a huge fan of KyoAni in-house franchises, but when they’re great, they’re really great. I’m glad you finally get to watch Hyouka. It’s probably my favourite KyoAni show, and it didn’t start out that way. It aired during a anime mystery boom, and I initally dismissed it. Sure it was pretty, but we’ve seen the character types before, and there’s really not much to it, is there. Chitanda is mildly annoying, and Houtaro’s the typical brooding guy. Partly relatable, partly not. I did love the two minor characters from the start, though. It took a while for the show to break through my preconceptions. It’s probably one of the highest rising anime I’ve ever watched, starting out in good mid-tier and shooting straight into favourite.

    Hyouka and Dragonmaid share the same dirctor. I wish Takemoto could still be directing season 2, but alas… Ishihara is doing a very good job, though. It can’t have been easy taking over the project under these circumstances. Huge respect, and all the good wishes I can muster.

    1. I also didn’t really expect to like Hyouka and share your assessment of the characters. But somehow I ended up really enjoying it.

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