As an American in Osaka, I had been working here in Kotaku for only a few months in April 2006, when a new anime took the Internet by storm. At this time, cosplayers starred in Otaku events all over Japan, starring in Kyoto Animations' latest show The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and copying the dance routine that was included in the credits.
As A devastating fire devastated the studio of Kyoto Animation in Fushimi district yesterday. So far, 33 people have been declared dead and the alleged arsonist is in police custody. That's really tragic.
Kyoto Animation is one of Japan's most popular studios and has helped make Kyoto synonymous with Anime, and even staged its show of 2015 Sound Euphonium in the city. But for many fans it was Haruhi who put the studio on the map. Originally a light novel illustrated by Noizi Ito, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was the breakout anime of 2006. At the same time, YouTube blew up and was flooded with videos of fans who Haruhi Dances.
Cosplay was also about to become global, and Haruhi was once again at the center of a cultural explosion with people from all over Japan (and the West) starting to disguise themselves as a schoolgirl star. It quickly became the icon of the times. Kyoto Animation had created a cultural power.
Kyoto animation not only made Haruhi massively popular, but also shaped his own show. The studio showed its passion for producing engaging, entertaining shows with great appeal, and by the end of the year New Type magazine (19459019) declared the melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (19459020) the country's most popular anime. In 2007 Kyoto Animation followed with Lucky Star another series in a school, another series with a very catchy credit sequence. Moving adaptations of picture novels from the Osaka-based key showed the bandwidth of the studio.
The style of Kyoto Animation developed properly in the mid to late 2000s, and its big eyes were groundbreaking. Just like Disney and Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation has its own distinctive look.
But it also became notable for things that happened off-screen, such as the promotion of women to directing roles (a rarity in the anime scene, even today).
Kyoto's animation was closely identified with the kawaii or "sweet" style deviating from moe . Moe (萌 萌) literally means "budding" or "sprouting," but its vernacular has a much more nuanced meaning. When I was working on my book Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential in 2009, I asked Haruhi's original illustrator Noizi Ito about the meaning of the word and reminded me what it's like when people feel warm. Ito designed this character, but it was Kyoto animation that made her world famous.
It's also notable for what it did not do. So many companies established in the region leave the Kansai region as soon as they become more successful and flee from Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto to Tokyo. Despite his success, however, Kyoto Animation remained in Kansai, where it continues to create an anime beloved of people around the world. Kyoto was more than just geisha and scenic vistas, but it has produced some of Japan's most popular anime sites.
I spent a lot of time in the historical Fushimi district in Kyoto. I've seen buildings overcrowded between narrow streets and sake breweries. There are famous temples and shrines in the area, many of them centuries old or older, but for anime fans, Kyoto animation has become just as important.
Sentai Works has launched a fundraiser for Kyoto Animation. Here you can donate.