Founded in 1981 by a married couple, Hideki and Yoko Hata, Kyoto Animation studio is often referred to as “KyoAni”. Once the Studio started off producing anime shows, within no time, it became one of the top producers that got every Otaku’s attention. Their first raid of successful anime involved a few titles such as ‘Full Metal Panic Fumoffu’ but the Studio became massively popular with ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘ in 2006. Anyone who was an Otaku back in the early 2000s will know all about the hype that was around ‘Haruhi Suzumiya’ and how it even led to the start of the new so-called religion named “Haruhiism”. Not to mention, even the anime’s closing theme ‘Hare Hare Yukai‘ was a major hit. Since then, Kyoto Animation has built a strong fanbase across the globe.
The world is still reeling from the recent tragic events at the Studio and as a tribute to this unique gem in the industry, we have decided to create a list of some of their best works. The style of storytelling along with the beautiful visuals that these shows present will surely take your breath away. So let’s count down some of their best titles that explore several themes such as, PTSD, bullying and even homosexual relationships. All of this is, of course, presented with a whole lot of fun, adventure, and drama. Most of the anime shows mentioned below can be streamed on Funimation, Crunchyroll and Hulu.
13. Hyouka (2012)
Kyoto Animation has been involved in a lot of high-school centric anime shows but even then, they somehow manage to differentiate these anime from each other by incorporating other elements such as mystery and slice-of-life to create some incredible shows. ‘Hyouka‘ is another one of these high school anime that revolves around a teenager named Oreki Houtarou, who joins the Literature Club of his school. Although extremely bored by the club events initially, he starts to notice that the club members have something really weird going on. Soon, he blends in with them and joins them on their venture to solve a 40-year-old mystery that has been lurking around in their own school. The Studio has done a great job here by creating a dense mystery story that has the right amount of plot twists to keep you engaged throughout.
12. K-On!! (2009)
‘K-On!!‘ again is a high school anime but its main focus goes on its elements of music as its story is all about a teenage girl band. It follows the journey of this band by mainly focusing on the new recruit Hirasawa Yui, who initially does not even know how to properly play a single musical instrument. One thing that most viewers will be able to appreciate about this anime is its quirky “moe” characters who do all kinds of cute things all the time. To put it simply, ‘K-On!!’ is the kind of anime that will bring out the silly little girl in you even if you’re a 30-year-old woman. It is funny, uplifting and most of all, it has some amazing K-pop music.
11. Free! Iwatobi Swim Club (2013)
‘Free!’ premiered in the year 2013 and during this time, the Studio was exploring new ground by creating sports anime shows. This clearly worked in their favor as ‘Free!‘ was well received by most fans. Again, this anime’s focus may be on the sport of swimming but it also dwells into other genres and themes like youth, slice-of-life and high school friendships. Its story centers around a character named Haruka Nanase who has always loved being in the water and since he was a child, he has tried to test the limits of his speed and endurance in the sport of swimming. After his former classmate Rin challenges him, he decides to form a swimming club of his own. What follows is a motivational story of five young swimmers who try to make their way to the top.
10. Beyond the Boundary (2013)
‘Beyond the Boundary‘ is another anime that has a school setup but it is much darker compared to almost all the other entries on this list. Two high school students named Kuriyama Mirai and Kanbara Akihito cross paths and soon become friends. But as normal as they may seem, the two hide some deep dark secrets of their own. While Akihito is a half-demon half-human, Kuriyama is a supernatural being who uses her blood manipulation skills to hunt down Youmu, like Akihito. But as certain events of the story start to unfold, they find themselves on the same side battling against darker forces that threaten their loved ones. There’s no doubt that the story of this anime itself is quite compelling but what really sells is its stunning animation that brings life to every scene of the show.
9. Sound! Euphonium (2015)
‘Sound! Euphonium‘ is another musical anime that revolves around a girl named Kumiko Oumae who is the member of a high school brass band. She is a euphonist who had once decided to leave her passion for music behind her. But her friends at high school encourage her to get back to it and that’s when she enrolls herself to the school band. Meanwhile, the school band sets its eyes on the prefectural competition that is coming up and they hope that they will be able to win this competition to qualify for the grand nationals. Though she is really quiet and reserved, she observes everyone around her and we get to see her perspective on every other member of the band. The animation of this show is simply breathtaking and its emphasis on detail when it comes to the playing of instruments is quite impressive. The art in this show is a clear testament to how talented the artists and directors of Kyoto Animation truly are.
8. Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions! (2012)
Being overly imaginative as a child is fine but if it remains the same even after you’ve grown up, it can often get you into some very embarrassing situations. Chunibyo, also known as second-year syndrome, is a condition where even after going to high-school, teenagers act like they possess supernatural powers or believe that they belong to a certain fantasy realm that does not actually exist.
Yuuta Togashi was a Chunibyo once and he knows exactly what it’s like to be bullied all the time because of the condition. But he somehow manages to grow out of it and even decides to join a new school in the hope that he’ll get a fresh start. But when he meets another Chunibyo named Rikka Yakanashi in his new school, he tries to help her out as he knows what she might be going through. But this again puts him in several embarrassing situations along with Rikka. ‘Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions’ is one adorable anime that creatively blends fantasy, science fiction and romance. It is more or less of a reminder that all the amazing minds involved in the creation of anime like these have some Chunibyo still left in them. If this has gotten you interested, then you should definitely watch the entire series on Crunchyroll.
7. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006)
‘Haruhi Suzumiya‘ is one series that can go completely over your head in the beginning. It starts off with a series of non-chronological events that make absolutely no sense. Then what is the hype all about and why are people still worshipping the main character of this anime? Well, if you’re patient enough, then all these episodes that you couldn’t quite comprehend initially will gradually make sense to you as the story unfolds.
The creativity with which the story of this anime has been executed is simply brilliant and I’m sure that once you’re done watching it, you’ll be more than willing to become a “Haruhiism” devotee yourself. ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’ follows the exciting adventures of a high school group called the S.O.S Brigade that tries to hunt down time travelers, aliens and esters. But the closer they get to hunting down these fantasy beings, the crazier their adventure becomes.
6. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (2017)
What would you do if a dragon came knocking on your front door one in the hope that it could stay with you? Miss Kobayashi experiences something similar after she invites a mountain dragon to stay with her at her place. The only problem is that she does not actually remember inviting the dragon because it was during one of her weekend drunk ventures. A dragon named Tohru shows up on her door the next day and offers to be her live-in maid.
Miss Kobayashi, being the kind-hearted lady that she is, allows Tohru to stay with her but little does she know that her monotonous life will never be the same again. On the outside, ‘Miss Kobayashi’ seems nothing more than a slice-of-life anime but if you pay close attention to it, the interspecies relationship between the two characters might teach you a lesson or two about acceptance and the importance of family. You can watch all the episodes of this anime on Crunchyroll.
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5. Nichijou: My Ordinary Life (2011)
‘Nichijou’ is about a group of friends who have been together since their childhood. It has a lighthearted story that follows the daily lives of these friends and is filled with absurd events and occurrences. KyoAni has taken a very simplistic approach with this anime which is not really expected from them at all. But surprisingly, this simplistic approach works out really well for ‘Nichijou’. If you’re feeling lonely or bored on a given day, then this anime right here is enough to uplift you from that mood.
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4. Clannad (2007-2008)
It has been almost a decade now since ‘Clannad‘ first premiered but even then, it remains one of the best shoujo anime we’ve ever seen. In fact, I don’t even have to go ahead and explain why it deserves to be on this list. It is a legendary show that has the best elements of romance, high school, drama and also a bit of comedy. The Clannad franchise has grown quite big now and it consists of a video game, an entire light novel series, a second season and even a few OVAs. If you had to just watch one of Kyoto Animation’s works, then undoubtedly this is the anime you should be going for.
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3. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003)
Even before the Kyoto Animation Studio took over, the ‘Full Metal Panic‘ universe was very well established and most anime fans were already talking about its original version. But the studio added a lot more color and life to the entire series by adding some never-seen-before detailed action scenes to this chaotic high school adventure. ‘FUMOFFU‘ proves how even after taking over an already famous franchise like this one, KyoAni can still take it to a whole new level by using its high-quality animation and its unique narration styles.
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2. Violet Evergarden (2018)
‘Violet Evergarden‘ is a deeply moving story of a girl’s journey towards self-discovery, who suffers from survivor’s guilt and PTSD as the aftermath of a war. The entire anime is a complex piece of art that no other Studio would have been able to pull off better than KyoAni. The artwork in every single frame is just so beautiful that it is worthy of being hung up on a wall with frame. Right from the first episode, you’re somehow able to put yourself in the shoes of the characters of the anime and feel exactly what they’re going through. This creates an impactful, cathartic response that makes this anime truly special.
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1. A Silent Voice (2016)
‘A Silent Voice‘ is adapted from a very well known seven-volume manga; and initially when the Studio had announced that they will be making an anime movie out of it instead of a whole series, most fans were seriously worried about how it would turn out. To everyone’s surprise, the anime movie manages to preserve the beauty of the manga by carefully bringing out the true meaningful message of the original story.
With its strong narrative, the film shows how one’s disability can have a negative impact on one’s self-esteem. It does this by exploring various different themes such as depression, bullying, suicide and acceptance and presents these themes in such a way that makes it appealing to the younger audience. ‘A Silent Voice’ is a gem of an anime that not only has a heart-touching story but also compliments it with some of the most sensational musical tracks you’ll ever hear.
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