Kyoto Animation (京都アニメーション)

Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd. is a Japanese corporation engaged in the design and production of animation as well as technical guidance related to animation production. It is called 'Kyo-ani' for short.

Summary

Kyoto Animation was founded in 1981 and incorporated as a limited private company on July 12, 1985. It was reorganized into a stock company in 1999.

The company has an office in Minato Ward, Tokyo, away from its head office in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture because some of post-production processes need to be handled outside of the company. In addition, it is said that some main staff including producers frequently travel back and forth between Kyoto and Tokyo. Kyoto Animation offers company housing as part of a benefits package, and operates its own animation school.

The company received much attention in 2000s, and has been highly praised for the quality of its work, producing a wide variety of prime production works including those of the bishojo (beautiful young girl) genre such as "Air" and "Clannad", full-scale robot animation works such as the "Full Metal Panic!" series, school comedies such as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and gag stories such as "Lucky Star."

Founding

In 1981, Yoko HATTA, who had experience of color setting at the former Mushi Production studio, began to undertake finishing work at the Tatsunoko Production and Sunrise animation studios with local housewives. HATTA called her business 'Kyoto Anime Studio' due to her move to Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture after getting married, but later she renamed it 'Kyoto Animation' and incorporated it as a limited private company, appointing her husband Hideaki as president. The company originally specialized in the finishing process but it established a drawing department in 1986 and began to undertake production of animation for other companies.

It is thought that the company performed the actual production of the TV animation "Red Photon Zillion" produced by Tatsunoko Production in 1987, and that this production financed the establishment of I.G. Tatsunoko (which later became Production I.G) by Mitsuhisa ISHIKAWA, who had been the producer of "Red Photon Zillion."

After Establishment

The company established a framework for in-house staging, drawing, finishing, backgrounds and filming after mid-1990s and started to perform the gross subcontracting work of TV animations. It had four studios at one point, and was engaged in the packaging design for game software and the production of comics derived from these games.

Following an order from Shin-ei animation, Kyoto Animation produced the TV animation "Noroi-no-one-piece" based on the comic by Shungiku UCHIDA, and this was to be the first animation produced using entirely the company's own staff from staging to finishing. By this time, the company had gained a reputation for its high-quality work. Following this, the company did subcontract work for Shin-ei animation, Sunrise (animation production company) and Piero Production which were its main clients. According to Gisaburo SUGII, an animation director, the company accepted a constant flow of orders because of its good reputation, and production companies which were prime contractors sometimes had to adjust their schedule only for the purpose of making a request to Kyoto Animation.

After Prime Production

The company produced the TV animation "Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu," its first prime production in 2003, and produced "Air" in 2005. "Air" was much talked about within the animation industry at the time because of its unsurpassed level of elaboration and sophisticated staging, and the name Kyoto Animation became a brand among animation.

The company went on to dedicate itself to its own prime productions and, after the production of "Air," adapted created animated TV adaptations of romantic adventure games produced by the Key game brand including "Kanon," "Clannad" and "Clannad After Story" at a rate of one animation per year.

Also in 2005, the company produced "Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid," a sequel to the Full Metal Panic series, which also became a hit. Furthermore, the 2006 animation "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" became the most popular work of the first half of year, and "Lucky Star," which was broadcast in 2007, was as great a hit as "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya."

The company planned to produce "Tonari no 801-chan" in 2009, but the plan was cancelled due to various factors.

Production Environment

Production System

Being a local studio with no production companies nearby to outsource to, Kyoto Animation has established systems capable of in-house production processes including staging, drawing, finishing, art, filming and digital effects, so that one of its characteristics is the close communication among its staff compared with studios which establish division of labor through outsourcing.

It occasionally subcontracts the processes of drawing, finishing and art to several domestic companies (the process of drawing is sometimes subcontracted to a production company in the Kansai region, and during production of "Clannad" the process of art was subcontracted to Basara animation studio to which Seiki TAMURA, the art director of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "Lucky Star," belongs) and some processes other than editing and audio are handled by its subsidiary Animation Do and its cooperative animation studio 'Studio Blue' (formerly, Ani Village) in the Republic of Korea. At present, it has never subcontracts gross to other companies except in the case of "Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu."

Staff

Before the company adapts a game (produced by Key) into an animation, all of the staff to be engaged in its production play the original game, although they are not forced to do so.

The staff responsible for the establishment of production and production management are called the 'Establishment Manager' and 'Production Manager' respectively.

Premises

The headquarters building has a digital imaging development section in charge of the scanning and inspection of moving pictures. Digital painting and drawing are handled in studios located in another building.

When the main characters of "Lucky Star" visited Kyoto Animation in its twenty-first episode, they said 'This company only needs a headquarters the size of regular building because it limits how much it produces.'

In February 2008, a new studio (the first studio), which had been under construction in Momoyama Town, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City (near the boundary with Rokujizo, Uji City), was completed. Since the 2008 fiscal year, animation has been produced in a new studio located one station away from the headquarters, as well as at the headquarters which had been completed in Uji City in 2005 and a studio (the second studio) accessible on foot from the head office.

High-definition

"The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and older works were non-HD-compliant at the time of mastering, and they were produced in 16:9 SD (Standard Definition). Therefore "Air," which used high definition video formats for its broadcast on BS-TBS in 2005 and release on Blu-ray Disc in 2006, were produced in SD video and converted into HD video.

Kyoto Animation began producing HD video after "Kanon" in 2006, but BS-I converted HD video into SD video and reconverted them into HD video again before broadcasting them. It is said that they do not broadcast in HD video in an attempt to increase DVD sales, or because they are planning to release the HD remastered versions again after the widespread adoption of next-generation DVD, and the broadcasting of videos which have been intentionally degraded is a method frequently used by TBS (and its subsidiary, BS-i) (on the other hand, works produced by Mainichi Broadcasting System, Inc. (MBS) and Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting Co., Ltd. (CBC), which are affiliates of TBS, have been broadcast in the HD master versions in recent years).

Reproduction of Original Works

All of Kyoto Animation's own prime productions (except for "Sora wo Miageru Shojo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai" (The World Reflected in the Eyes of a Girl Looking Up at the Heavens)) are based on adventure games (produced by Key), light novels and comics, and they were basically true to the original storylines with some surprise elements added (in "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" even the text of the original novel was reproduced). Although "Air," "Kanon" and "Clannad" were also adapted into animations by Toei Animation, the Kyoto Animation versions are true to the original and more highly praised than the Toei Animation versions, which featured original elements based on Toei's own interpretations.

In addition to storylines, Kyoto Animation produces drawings very similar to the CG and illustrations of original works, and with regard to Key adaptations, uses a large number of the theme songs and background music used in the original games.

Animation Do

Animation Do' (trade name: Animation Do Ltd.) is a newly-established subsidiary of Kyoto Animation formed by incorporating its Osaka studio on April 7, 2000. The company has an office in Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture.

The main activity of this company was to cooperate in creating drawings for works undertaken by Kyoto Animation in addition to works independently subcontracted by Shin-ei animation such as "Atashin'chi" and "Jungle wa itsumo Hale nochi Guu." As Kyoto Animation has dedicated itself to its own prime productions, Animation Do has been devoted to the gross subcontract of Kyoto Animation. Its position has become that of an office of Kyoto Animation. It is for this reason that Animation Do staff were credited as members of Kyoto Animation in the theatrical film "Crayon Shinchan" (in the TV animation series, Animation Do is treated as part of Kyoto Animation even after its incorporation.).

External Staff

Kyoto Animation animations are essentially alternately adapted from games produced by the game studio Key and light novels and comics published by Kadokawa Group Publishing Co., Ltd. When a Key game is adapted into an animation, Fumihiko SHIMO, a fan of Key and the animation scriptwriter who proposed making an animated adaptation of "AIR," writes the script, and Tatsuya ISHIHARA, who is also a fan of Key and the main director at Kyo-ani, teams up with Shimo and takes charge of production.

Kyoto Animation has close ties with Shoji GATO, the original author of "Full Metal Panic!," and he wrote scripts for "The Day of Sagittarius," eleventh episode (in the order of airing) of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" (animation), 'A Good Archer' (the fifth episode), 'Let's Go to the Festival' (twelfth episode) and 'Kokoni aru Kanata' the twenty-second episode) of "Lucky Star."

In 'Someday in the Rain,' the ninth episode (in the order of airing) of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya," the original author Nagaru TANIGAWA created a new story especially for the animation and wrote the script as well.