In April 2006, as an American living in Osaka, I had only worked here at Kotaku for a few months when a new anime took the internet by storm. At that time, cosplayers at otaku events across Japan were dressed up as the leading character in Kyoto Animation's latest show, Melancholy by Haruhi Suzumiya and copying of the dance routine found in their closing credits.
As reported yesterday, a humiliating fire ruled Kyoto Animation's studio in the Fushimi district. As written, thirty-three people are confirmed dead and the suspect arsonist is in police custody. This is really tragedy.
Kyoto Animation is one of Japan's most popular studios and has helped make Kyoto more synonymous with anime, even setting up its 2015 show Sound Euphonium in the city. But for many fans it was Haruhi who put the studio on the map. Originally a bright novel illustrated by Noizi Ito, Melancholy by Haruhi Suzumiya was a breakout anime 2006. Meanwhile, YouTube just blew up and was flooded with videos by fans performing Haruhi Dances.
Cosplay was also about to go global on a major road, and again Haruhi was at the heart of a cultural explosion with people from all over Japan (and the West) beginning to dress up as the schoolgirl star. It quickly became that time's iconic anime. Kyoto Animation had created a cultural force.
Kyoto Animation not only made Haruhi massively popular but also put its own stamp on the show. The studio showed its panache to produce appealing, fun shows with widespread appeal, and at the end of the year wrote New Type magazine Melancholy by Haruhi Suzumiya the country's most popular anime. In 2007, Kyoto Animation followed up with Lucky Star another series in a school, another series with a super-catchy credit sequence. Move adjustments of visual novels from the Osaka-based Key featured studio range.
Kyoto Animation's style really began to come to its own during the mid-late 2000s, with its big-eyed stars leading the way. Just like Disney and Studio Ghibli have their own signatures, so does the Kyoto animation.
But it also became remarkable for things that it did away from the screen, such as promoting women to director roles (a rarity in anime, even today)
The Kyoto animation was carefully identified with moe style, which differs from paying their employees over average wages and for showing a large number of people. kawaii or "cute". Moe (萌 え) literally means "budding" or "budding" but its hose usage has a much more nuanced meaning. Back in 2009, when I was working on my book Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential I interviewed Haruhi's original illustrator Noizi Ito about the word meaningfully and remember that she told me how it is a warm, fuzzy feeling that people get against characters . Ito designed that character, but it was Kyoto Animation that made her world famous.
It is also remarkable for what it did not. As many companies based in the area leave the Kansai region as they become more successful and flee Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto to Tokyo. But Kyoto Animation, despite its success, stayed in Kansai, where it continued to create anime loved by people all over the world. Kyoto was more than just geishas and scenic views, but some of Japan's most beloved anime were made.
I've spent a fair time in Kyoto's historic Fushimi district. I have seen how buildings are removed between narrow roads and reasonably breweries. This is a region that is home to famous temples and shrines, many of the centuries old or older, but for anime fans, the Kyoto animation has become equally important.
Sentai Works has created a fundraiser for Kyoto Animation. You can donate here.