originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/652996...
It’s been almost a year since we last visited the wonderful Kyoto Animation - last seen on Animation Night 13. I ran down the history of the studio in the last post, so I’ll keep things short here: Kyoto Animation are an anime studio based out in (surprise surprise) Uji, Kyoto, forming a kind of self-contained anime ecosystem with their own school and in-house inbetweeners.
If you don’t know them? On the film side, they are known for meticulous and charming character animation, strong cinematography, and many long running moe series like K-on! and Hibike! Euphonium, emotional character dramas like Violet Evergarden, 4koma adaptations like Lucky Star and Nichijou, and yaoi-adjacent sports anime like Free!. They’re also, as we saw last time, the home of renowned directors like Naoko Yamada, whose subtle, film-influenced directing style has proven very influential.
In the anime industry, they have a different kind of glowing reputation, as one of the best places to work in an otherwise extremely life-hostile industry. (Costs of living being much less in Kyoto than Tokyo helps, but they seem to have a great culture of valuing their douga artists, avoiding overwork, and generally treating their people well.) This along with their origins has meant that while anime has been steadily getting less dreadfully male-skewed over the years, KyoAni is way ahead of the curve, especially in senior positions like direction.
tl;dr? kyoani based!
So what’s the plan for tonight? Watching KyoAni works on Animation Night is a bit of a tricky puzzle, since the majority of their films are side stories or sequels to one of their one- or two-cour series. Watching them without that context is generally said to be viable - they’re not totally opaque - but lacking the emotional depth you get when you taken five or six hours to get to really know the characters. So what do you do?
I’m going to throw those fan cautions to the wind and try to jump in anyway. So tonight I’m essentially going to try and give us a taster of some KyoAni series: a sampling of episodes from their TV shows, and then the corresponding movies. The series in question are going to be K-On! and Violet Evergarden. So what are these about?
K-on! we saw a couple episodes of last year, but since it’s been a while, let’s quickly recap. It is perhaps the quintessential ‘cute girls doing cute things’ anime, and also (iirc) where Naoko Yamada got her start as a director, making a mark with distinctive storyboards in her episodes. The premise is pretty standard ‘club anime’: our protagonist joins a struggling music club, which unexpectedly leads to them forming quite a successful band. Mostly it’s slice of life in a school setting; a kind of nostalgia for a somewhat idealised childhood.
The K-on movie sees the girls come to… where I live, actually! They go to London, and it seems KyoAni’s animators really went to some extremes to research the setting, with uncannily accurate depictions of the London Underground and other landmarks. (Apparently it heavily features a café, which has since become very popular with fans of the show). It probably won’t land quite as well if, like me, you don’t really know the K-on girls from having seen the show, but I imagine it will nevertheless prove deeply charming.
Violet Evergarden is a slightly tricker one to explain; I’m going to do my best but be aware I may get some details substantially wrong. Set in a world recovering from a brutal WWI-like war, it tells the story of an ex-soldier named Violet, who is employed as an ‘auto memory doll’, which is to say, a ghostwriter. Over the course of the series, as Violet gradually learns to return to society and face her massive amounts of PTSD, she meets a series of characters and learns about their own equally tragic stories. By all accounts, it is extremely moving. Keep tissues to hand!
The movie I plan to watch tonight is called Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, and it is a side story taking place about halfway through the series. Generally speaking, fans of the show recommend watching the full series to the end first, but since we do not really have time to do that, I’m going to try and squeeze in just enough episodes to cover the major character turn prior to the events of the film. Perhaps in a future Animation Night we could then deliver the second half and the sequel movie? Rather depends how this night goes. If we end up watching just part of Evergarden, and not having time for the film, so be it!
If that sounds fun, we’ll be starting pretty much immediately because damn I’m running late today. We’ll be at the usual place, twitch.tv/canmom - leading with K-on! Hope to see you there!