Anime You Might Not Have Tried/Heard of #2: Kyoto Animation Edition

Yesterday, I was out with my friends all night and dead tired when I got home, and even so for some reason I thought it's a good idea to finish a playthrough of Shadow of the Colossus at once, which resulted me waking up at 3 PM this morning afternoon (still, no regret). So, I thought to myself that I won't be doing anything productive today at this rate, maybe I should write this thread, since it has been months since the first one. And here I am, typing about anime on Sunday like a loser. Don't hang out with your friends at Saturday night if you value your Sunday, kids!

So as you can tell from the title, I am doing something a little bit different and experimental this time. Instead of just randomly picking whatever I feel like writing, I will be specifically talking about the works from a certain director or studio that's worth mentioning, and today, I will be talking about a studio called Kyoto Animation, which should be a familiar name to those who are more familiar with modern time anime. Noted that I am just a human being and I can't possibly watch every single anime in the world, so I will pick what I want to talk about instead of listing every single anime here. Those of you who had watched the titled that I haven't mentioned, please feel free to give me and others your thought about it.

I won't be talking about Hyouka either, since I had already write about it last time, so if you are interested:

http://www.polygon.com/forums/off-topic/2012/11/20/3673334/anime-you-might-not-have-tried-heard-of-1

Kyoto Animation

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If you watched more modern anime than old anime and gives a damn about the industry other than just the anime itself, 70% of the chances is that you have heard of Kyoto Animation (KyoAni). First started of as a small studio in Kyoto in 1981, and became a real company in 1985, Kyoto Animation is considered as the anime studio with THE best quality and details in their animations among the others. Their first independent work is Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu in 2005, a sequel to first anime adaption of Full Metal Panic! originally by Gonzo. Their debut did made them some recognition, considered they were still new yet the their animation quality was so much better than others around the same time.

They haven't made any independent works until 2 years later. In 2005, the anime adaption of the visual novel Air, which was considered as one of the biggest "crying game" at that time, made them a bigger name in the industry. Of course, they didn't just stop there this time, as they proceed to make the sequel to FMP! called titled Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. Both of these anime have helped the company to set up their future: while Air was considered to have a very touching story, Kyoto Animation did a fantastic job to translate the story in the game into anime form, which made Air not only a "crying game", but also considered as a "crying anime" by the audiences. Full Metal Panic! in the other hand, also allowed them to show to the industry and audiences that not only can they do comedy and touching story, but also amazingly animated mecha action scenes with many details and efforts put into it. At that time, they really gave the impression to the audiences that not only they can literally do anything, but they can also do it in high quality.

2006, the year they adapted The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, also revolutionized the industry in a sense (Think I'm exaggerating? Try to count how many anime revolve around a club before Haruhi, now try to count how many anime revolve around a club after Haruhi). There are still lots titles worth mentioning, but let's skip ahead to 2012 (otherwise I won't have anything to talk about when I'm actually talking about the titles themselves). In 2012, KyoAni made an anime adaption of the light novel Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!. Now, what so interesting about this title is the publisher of the light novel, which is KyoAni themselves; Chuunibyou marked the company's expansions into other territory outside of animations, as well as the fact that they are starting to provide themselves materials for adaptions.

However, what KyoAni is most famous for is not really innovations, but the quality of their animations and details of their background. Each of their works show extremely high production value. According to frequent KyoAni voice actor like Sugita Tomokazu and Ono Daisuke, the animations they showed during the recordings are always in full color and almost in final compare to other studio, which are mostly still rough sketches or story boards during the recording process.

Personally, I divided KyoAni into two different time period: the commercial period (Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu ~ Clannad -After Story-) and the aesthetic period (Sora o Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai ~). Why so? Well, from FMP to Clannad, their anime focus more on translating originals into anime while keep the story perfectly intact and avoid changes to the story. But after Sora o Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai, their first original anime (which truth to be told, is also a rather underwhelming anime), they started to make their anime more in the way they want rather the way the audiences want. They had also became more picky while come to choosing which anime to adapt, as usually they will go for something more flexible and easy to change without changing too much.

For example, according to the director, K-ON!, other than a slice of life anime, is actually anime where she wants to put her own joy and experiences as a highschool student into the it and share them to the audiences, Nichijou is pretty much a giant WTF where they can do whatever they want, Hyouka is a novel with no illustrations at all, which gave them a lot of freedom and flexibility in the art department, and they pretty much destroy and rewrite the whole story of Chuunibyou in the anime adaption. Their next anime Tamako Market, which is coming out this season right now, will be their second attempt at original anime. Let's us sit back and watch how much the company grow after their first fail attempt.

Now, after I bored you with a whole history lesson of an anime studio, or you just skipped ahead because tl;dr, here are the anime:

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

(This is a sequel to the anime Full Metal Panic!, and it's highly recommended to watch it before this.)

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Year: 2005

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Episodes: 12

Director: Takemoto Yasuhiro (Lucky Star, Hare+Guu, The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya, Hyouka)

Adapted From: Light novel by Gatoh Shoji (Full Metal Panic! Another, Infinite Undiscovery)

Localized By: Madman Entertainment (AUS), Funimation (NA)

Cast:

Seki Tomokazu/Chris Patton as Sagara Sousuke

Yukino Satsuki/Luci Christian as Chidori Kaname

Yukana/Hilary Haag as Teletha Testerossa

Story:

The story revolve around Sagara Sousuke, a soldier from an international private military organization Mithril, and a high school girl Chidori Kaname, who Sousuke was assigned to protect in secret while disguising himself as student in the same school. But being raised in the military since he was a little boy, Sousuke has no knowledge and common sense about how to live a normal life as a high school student, which resulted in countless ridiculous comedy.

Impression:

Well, it's hard to write an impression about a comedy, but hands down, one of the funniest anime I have ever watched. Leave it to Gatoh to turn a serious military sci-fi story into a straight ridiculous comedy, and works in the same time. There are also countless parodies of other anime(with my most memorable being Gundam Seed), as well as the most badass mech you will ever seen in your life (no, really). For anyone who wants a comedy that can give you a six pack, you will NOT want to miss this.

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid

(This is also the sequel to Full Metal Panic!. While it's not necessary to watched Fumoffu to understand the story, the first season is definitely required.)

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Year: 2005

Genre: Mecha, Military, Romance, Comedy

Episodes: 13+1 OVA

Director: Takemoto Yasuhiro

Adapted From: Light novel by Gatoh Shoji

Localized By: Madman Entertainment (AUS), Funimation (NA)

Cast:

Seki Tomokazu/Chris Patton as Sagara Sousuke

Yukino Satsuki/Luci Christian as Chidori Kaname

Yukana/Hilary Haag as Teletha Testerossa

Story:
Takes place in alternative history, where a mech weapon known as Arm Slave was invented in 1900s. The story follows Sagara Sousuke, a soldier and an AS pilot from Mithril, a private military organization which focus on eliminating terrorism. A mysterious technology known as the Black Technology is implanted into a high school girl Chidori Kaname, and in order to protect her from potential terrorist who try to obtain the technology, Sousuke and his teammate was assigned to secretly protect her in the shadow. In the other hand, the terrorist group Amalgam has already got their hands on a bit of the Black Technology. To counter Amalgam, Mithril utilized what they know about the Black Technology and create the Lambda Drive, and the AS ARX-7 Arbalest with Sousuke as it's pilot.

Impression:

Usually, when I need to tell what kind of show FMP is, I will tell them is a realistic mech military show with a surreal twist to it. The mech all has very military-ish designs, with normal firearms with real bullets and real tactical strategies in battles. But in the same time, there are also some unrealistic elements such as the Black Technology and Lambda Drive, which allows the pilot to transform their will into physical form, such as blocking bullets with telekinesis, or just magically enhancing their weapons and bullets out of no where. The two together was blended together pretty well too, so I will say there are always something for people who are looking for either realistic actions and surreal actions.

For the characters, if you have watched the the first season, then you have know what to expect. The stupid Sousuke, and Chidori always there to slap him whenever he do something stupid, and then another new psychotic villain. While there are comedies, it did not forget about itself being a military mech story. While serious, there are lots of scenes with heavy atmosphere and lots of violence (lots of them!) in contrast with the first season. The animation quality might not look too impressive if you compare it to other KyoAni anime, but keep in mind this is from 2005, and it still looks a lot better than other anime that came out just last year. I especially love how ARX-7 is drawn in here, it looks 3D, but in the same time 2D as well, I assume they did combine the two together?

And yes, if you have played Sleeping Dogs and find the background in the opening seems familiar, the second half of the story and the last battle does indeed takes place in Hong Kong (yay for me).

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya

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Year: 2009

Genre: Comedy

Episodes: 25

Director: Takemoto Yasuhiro

Adapted From: Manga by Puyo

Localized By: Bandai Entertainment

Cast:

Hirano Aya/Wendee Lee as Suzumiya Haruhi

Sugita Tomokazu/Crispin Freeman as Kyon

Chihara Minori/Michelle Ruff as Nagato Yuki

Goto Yuko/Stephanie Sheh as Asahina Mikuru

Ono Daisuke/Johnny Young Bosch as Koizumi Itsuki

Impression:

For those of you who doesn't know, it's a spinoff gag manga of the Suzumiya Haruhi series. For those of you who had watched it, you might be thinking why this, but not the main series. Well, let's be honest, I'm not saying the main series is not good, but you were having a lot more fun watching this too (plus I have my reason for not writing about it for now). Why will I recommend this to you? Isn't there something that's worth mentioning more in a post about KyoAni? Well, yes, but no sarcasm, I highly recommend this. You know sometimes, you are just too busy to watch anything, and you only have like 10 minutes of free time and don't know what to do with it? Well, you can watch this. It's short and funny, and it just makes you wanna laugh out loud without worrying about anything. It's not necessary to watch the main series to enjoy this, but if you had, you will like it more due to all the out of characters moment. So here is my reason of recommending this, because sometimes we just want to take a break and be happy.

Clannad

Clannad -After Story-

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Year: 2007(Clannad), 2008(Clannad -After Story-)

Genre: Romance, Drama

Episode: 23+24

Director: Ishihara Tatsuya (Air, Kanon, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nichijou)

Adapted From: Visual Novel from Key (Kanon, Air, Little Busters!, Re;write)

Localized By: Siren Visual (AUS), Sentai Filmworks (NA), Manga Entertainment (UK)

Cast:

Nakamura Yuichi/David Mantranga as Okazaki Tomoya

Nakahara Mai/Luci Christian as Furukawa Nagisa

Hirohashi Ryou/Shelly Calene-Black as Fujibayashi Kyou

Noto Mamiko/Emily Neves as Ichinose Kotomi

Kuwashima Houko/Kayth Coker as Sakagami Tomoyo

Nonaka Ai/Hilary Haag as Ibuki Fuko

Story:

Okazaki Tomoya is a high school senior who dislike the town he is living in now because of all the bad memories with his father in the town, and think that there is nothing interesting in the town, until one day, he met a girl, Furukawa Nagisa, a girl who loved her family and the town, on his way to school on the foot of a small hill. Without realizing it, his life has started to change slowly as he started climbing up that hill with her, and slowly learn the true meaning of living together as family.

Impression:

Well, it's supposed to be a super famous anime that kick Gurren Lagann out of the first place and became the Anime of 2007, but for some reason I found that not a lot of people had actually watched it. To tell the truth, as a Gurren Lagann fan, I fully agree with the majority. The first season is a little more generic story with five different heroines. But what made it different is they made it clear from the beginning that Nagisa is the official main heroine, and the stories with the other four heroines reinforces with Nagisa's character more. Despite the generic setting, I found the story to be rather enjoyable and entertaining. There are also lots of comedy and repeated gag in between to spice things up a little bit more (and they are pretty damned hilarious). Other than the main cast, there are also lots of interesting side characters through the story, and non of them are forgettable, especially Akio and Yusuke.

The second season, especially the later part, is definitely the highlight of the series, as the story progress and actually went beyond the high school setting, which is something you won't see very often in anime. The second season mainly deals with hardship and responsibility of being an adult, and they are pretty spot on too. By the end of the series, you probably won't be looking at your parents the same way anymore. The one complain will be the ending, which is something doesn't make sense in an anime, as it's supposed to be something implemented into the gameplay of the original visual novel. But overall, it's very nice conclusion to the series, and it's in no way disappointing at all. It's also kinda cool that how they put the ending of the series in the opening of the first season, and you did't even know it until you finished the whole series.

Animation is definitely something amazing when we are talking about KyoAni, but the animation in a few scenes take place in the "dream world" has some extreme high quality, even for KyoAni standard. The music is also very memorable, which is something rare to see in a KyoAni anime (usually, they are not bad, just not memorable). But the time you finish the series, you will be able and willing to remember a few of them by heart (Dango!). Though they are actually musics came straight from the original game, so I guess the credits don't really go to KyoAni.

Overall, this is one of the anime in my "highly recommend list", along with other things like Madoka Magica and Gurren Lagann.

Nichijou

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Year: 2011

Genre: Comedy, WTF

Episodes: 26

Director: Ishihara Tatsuya

Adapted From: Manga by Arawi Keiichi

Localized By: Currently none.

Cast:

Honda Mariko as Aioi Yuuko

Aizawa Mai as Naganohara Mio

Togashi Misuzu as Minakami Mai

Furuya Shizuka as Shinonome Nano

Konno Hiromi as Professor

Story:

The story revolve around a bunch of ordinary high school students and many others other around them. You have 10 year old genius who can make a robot right away at will, a girl with a screw on her back who's actually a robot made by her, a student who rides a goat to school and immune to any lethal fire arms, a girl carry various fire arms with her so she can shooter at the guy at anytime to hide her embarrassment, a guy with a natural blonde mohawk, etc. Despite all these "ordinary"characters, they all live an ordinary life.

Impression:

Hello Polynauts, look at your anime collection, now look at Nichijou. Now back to your collection, now back to Nichijou. Sadly, your anime collection is not Nichijou. But if you can find an anime where the school principal wrestle a deer while wearing a bullet proof vest, it COULD be Nichijou. Look down, back up, where are you? You are in a cafe where you can easily get humiliated by simply ordering your coffee. What's in your hand? I have it, it's submachine gun carried by a tsundere. Look again, the gun is now a rocket launcher. Anything is possible if you watch Nichijou instead of other sh*tty anime. I'm on a goat.

Warning, if you are a logical human being who loves to stick with logic and common sense, and believe that everything have to be logical and make sense, with all respect, get out (or just skip ahead to the next one), because this anime will most likely to cause your head to explode. By now, you should know that anything with the word "ordinary life/nichijou" in the title, it's usually the complete opposite. It's not for everyone, it's a show that picks it's own audiences. But if you are the right audience, then you will love it. If you want an explanation of the show that's easier to understand, it's a show where it takes the smallest things in our everyday lives and exaggerate it into an extreme surreal form. If that sounds like you thing, go for it.

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai/Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions

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Year: 2012

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama

Episodes: 12+1

Director: Ishihara Tatsuya

Adapted From: Light novel by Torako

Localized By: Madman Entertainment (AUS), Sentai Filmworks (NA)

Cast:

Fukuyama Jun as Togashi Yuuta

Uchida Maaya as Takanashi Rikka

Akasaki Chinatsu as Nibutani Shinka

Asakura Azumi as Tsuyuri Kumin

Uesaka Sumire as Dekomori Sanae

Hoshi Souichirou as Ishiki Makoto

Lelouch Vi Britannia as Dark Flame Master

Story:

Chuunibyou, Eighth Grade Syndrome, a "disease" that can be easily found among the young folks, especially from eighth grade, and caused them to have various delusion. Sometimes, they think that they have supernatural power, or maybe sometimes, they think they belonged to an organization that is destined to save the world, or maybe sometimes, they think they have the power of darkness and capable of ruling the world as a demon lord.

Our protagonist, Togashi Yuuta, was a former Chuunibyou, who called himself the Dark Flame Master and believe that one day he will rule the world, which made his life in middle school a lonely and embarrassing one. In order to forget about his delusional past and start his life anew as nothing but an ordinary boy, he decided to go to a high school that is far away from his middle school. Unfortunately for him, there is Takanashi Rikka is his class, an extremely delusional Chuunibyou who called herself the Tyrant's Eye, the strongest mage ever existed. On the first day of school, Rikka accidentally found out and fascinated by Yuuta's past in middle school, what made it worse is that she lives one floor right above Yuuta. Ever since that day, she has been around Yuuta everyday, and in order to prevent Rikka accidentally reveal his past to anybody, he decided to stick around with her too.

Impression:

Yes, I just finished it recently, and I freaking love it. To describe in an easier way, it's a story with some cute romance and funny light-hearted comedy, but in a same time there is also a more serious side to the plot with a little bit of a lesson about life. The story start off as your ordinary anime, a girl comes to the protagonist's life, a secondary love interest, a club and a friend who collect info about the girls in class, until you realized that it is nothing like what you have seen. The second half of the story focus more on the comedy and the light-hearted side of the stories, while the second half deal with a more serious plot, and to me, both of them are equally amazing. I also love how they handled the second part; either you stayed for the comedy or the plot, the second half does not disappointed, there is a story, but there is also comedy here and there to prevent it gets too serious. Overall, I found it to be a top notch title and one of the best this year along with titles like Hyouka and Fate/Zero.

If you have the time, do try to appreciate the opening too. The lyrics are actually pretty fitting to the story, and visual wise, while it seems confusing and non-sensual, the left side is actually always correspond with the right side in some way. The most obvious one will be the heart-shpae formed by the MP3 player's wire. The other one I like it's the part where Yuuta is riding a bike on the left, with Rikka sitting still on the right. While it obvious that she is not sitting behind his bike, the pose and the way she sits make it seems to suggest so. If you paid attention to the last part where they are holding hands, you will realized that they might or might not be actually holding hands, especially after you have seen the bike scene, which kinda make you question are the left sides and the right sides really happening in the same time. Both of those part portrayed their "less than lovers, but more than friends" relationship really well in my opinion.

I also found it funny that how they actually spend the effort and budget to animate the delusional action scenes in every episode, and it actually looks a lot better than other real action anime.

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You spin me right round baby right round

And since it's a post about KyoAni, to give you more idea of what kind of animation quality they have, here are some scenes with high quality animation to enjoy.

The first time Chitanda activate her Geass, one of the most famous and memorable scene from Hyouka.

The very beginning of Clannad, which used some simple technique on the color to aid the presentation along with the most iconic soundtrack of the series in the background.

Nichijou, from 2D to 3D, there goes the budget. Another example of how they like to spend their budget on the most useless way possible (but in a good way!). KICK OFF!

And for some action scenes:

Not all works from KyoAni are introduced in here. I didn't write about Suzumiya Haruhi due to the fact that I have not watched the second season yet (yes, that's the reason), Air, Kanon ad Lucky Star due to lack of interest to write about them (not saying they are bad, in fact I think they are quite the opposite, but I don't think I want to write about them now as I have already write about Clannad and Nichijou) and K-On! due the fact that I have never watched it. However, if you have watch these shows, please do feel free to share your thoughts about them.

Also, let me know that if you like this thread about KyoAni, or you just want to see the anime and don't care about things like studios and directors behind them, or you just hate me and want me to go to hell because it sucks balls.

4120 words, new record.

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