*The animation featured other than the condolence artwork is from Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd. for educational purposes.
*Despite the tragic topic, we make sure to keep everything family friendly, so please leave a comment if there is anything you felt uncomfortable reading, other than the obvious sadness over the tragedy. We hope we never have to talk about another tragedy, but we want to make sure we treat every topic as delicately as possible.
Hello from Kiki and Koko. This is a much more serious topic than we usually ever cover here in the Culture Corner, and whilst we like to keep things light here, we felt it absolutely necessary to properly pay our respects in light of recent news. Whilst we do not usually post about current events, this is something that is definitely culturally significant the likes of which we hope will never occur again.
Smoke billowed and explosions were heard amongst the bystanders as a tragedy befell the team at Kyoto Animation Studios as a
n alleged, now self-admitted, arsonist took the lives of 33 individuals and injured at least 36 others. The suspected arsonist claimed the studio stole his work. We would rather not relay any of the horrific scenes described by onlookers as to keep this family appropriate for our general readership. That being said, we have to mention that this was the deadliest act of mass violence in the past 20 years in Japan. Japan has a generally low crime rate, therefore tragedies such as these truly are painful to absorb as a current reality. For us, even though this is an isolated event, it creates a sense of unease which adds to the overall empathy of this.
Hashtags trended worldwide showing their condolences during this sad event such as #PrayforKyoani, 京アニ (Kyo Ani) being the shortened version of Kyoto Animation.
— Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! (@kikikokoNihonGO) 2019年
This translates as: The news of arson at Kyoto Animation Studio is painfully sad. From everyone at SpeRaToBo, we wish for peace for those who have passed from this disaster, and we express our deepest condolences to the bereaved. #PrayForKyoani ♯京アニ #English #Japanese #translation
After a tragedy such as this, Kyoto Animation will never be the same again just as the world of animation itself. Their contribution to the gorgeous visual aesthetics and their constant innovation to strive for the work was the staple. We do hope that they will be able to recover as a company, but it’s the individuals and the circumstances that create such a company. Their practises were admirable as they chose top talent and made sure to actually provide them a living salary rather than a project-by-project freelancing basis. This allowed creativity to flourish. They breathed life into stories with animation that is beyond compare. Their backgrounds illustrated from real life, the characters flowing and dynamic. There is always so much care put into every frame of animation.
They’ve made us laugh, they’ve made cry, and even inspired us. We remember watching 日常 (Nichijou, Everyday Life) for the first time. Nichijou focuses on the everyday life of three school girls, a child professor and her android, and a talking cat. Needless to say, we connected with this series on a spiritual level. It was a hilarious experience with bizarre humour and cultural references with which we could really connect. The style of animation fit perfectly with the type of comedy written by Keiichi Arawi (あらゐ けいいち). We have re-watched the series several times over and it never fails to give us a laugh, everything from the angles to the movement, it creates an environment where anything can happen, faithfully bringing the 漫画, manga, to life.
Then, there were anime such as K-On! K-On! also focuses on a group of schoolgirls who are part of the light music club where they all play music in a band. When the characters did something as simple as having their tea, it was somehow magical. It all fell within the depictions and attention to the smallest details.
Extra motion that simply added to the aesthetic or the comedy. When the characters played their instruments, you truly felt the weight and flow. No corners were cut which made it enjoyable even for musicians watching. Whether it was an episodic anime or a film, it stands breathtaking. Oddly enough, showing how prolific the studio is, just the day before, we were watching 映画けいおん, (eiga keion, Film Keion, or K-ON The Movie). In this, the band travels to London, England, another concept we connected with which made our worlds collide in a big way, via aeroplane whilst adventure and misadventure ensues during their trip. In this, they apply their same beautiful depictions of the area that truly transport you there. The movement and colours are absolutely gorgeous and kept us mesmerised.
When they venture into the sci-fi realm in series such as 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, The Meloncholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), their style brings the concepts into what feels like the real world. This series is geared towards an audience in their teens, but everyone can appreciate even stills and clips from the gorgeous feature film. Everything was so emotionally driven and this wouldn’t have been possible without such expressive animation. And, again, it’s not only about the high tension moments, it’s the small everyday focuses of objects or actions that one would take for granted but were somehow translated into art.
There are too many wonderful pieces of animation to cover and no way to properly give a preview into their range. In its depiction of slice of life series, Kyoto Animation has been one of the anime catalysts that has spread Japanese cultural appreciation to the world. Whilst of course, these are stylised worlds, it still brings an appreciation for the surroundings and grains of culture seeded throughout
And, in the end, whilst we also mourn the possible loss of the cultural icon that is Kyoto Animation, we still want to scale things down. Thirty-three people lost their lives because of an unnecessary and despicable crime, and there is really nothing positive to take away from that. The only thing we can recommend for those who appreciated the studio and their work is just to enjoy what they created and appreciate it. Whilst the sky was the limit to what could have been achieved, human life is fleeting, but their work and their impact can live on.