Every morning I wake up and check the replies in J-List’s Twitter feed on my phone, which is a good way to spin up my brain slowly while my body still wants to stay anchored in bed. In one of my recent tweets, I asked my followers what their top works from our beloved friends at Kyoto Animation were, and got a lot of interesting responses. One follower asked me what my own personal best Kyoto Animation anime ranking was, which made me realize I should write a post on this!
Of course, any such list will be subjective, and each of us might have our own list that’s totally different. Both as a personal fan and longtime observer of the anime industry, I love all the works by Kyoto Animation and have the deepest respect for the huge effort they always put in for their fans. I’ve tried to base my ranking on the following criteria:
- how much fun fans had to watch the show while it aired, dancing and making memes online
- how deep an impression it left on me personally, and on fandom at large
- the visual quality of the animation, and how well the overall execution of the work was
Peter’s 11 Best Kyoto Animation Works, Ranked!
11. Lucky Star
Although it wasn’t the first anime to popularize the 4-koma-manga adaption formula, Lucky Star was done so well that no one could avoid loving the characters. It was a great gateway into anime for many young fans.
Writing about my personal ranking of Kyoani shows today.
No such list could be complete without including Air TV, the breakout anime that started the golden of Key + Kyoani visual novel to anime adaptions…and gave us what is still my single favorite anime OP, Tori no Uta. pic.twitter.com/KtssHMqpbt
— Peter Payne (@JListPeter) July 31, 2020
A fantastic anime that began the relationship between visual novel maker Key and Kyoani, Air was one of the most moving shows I’d seen up to this point. It was only the second anime created entirely by the studio, and I still remember how riveted Mrs. J-List — who insists she’s not an otaku, yet watches 80% of the shows I watch with me — was to the time-spanning story of two lovers doomed to be reincarnated again and again yet never be together.
9. Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions
A beautiful story of two middle-schoolers who suffer from chuunibyo, or 8th grader’s disease, which describes the in-between time when young people have trouble letting go of their childish inner fantasies and face the responsibilities of adulthood. Watching the love between Yuuta and Rikka grow was a wonderful thing.
A bold new direction for the studio, Nichijou is a slice-of-life comedy based on a manga Keiichi Arawi, with incredibly deep humor. In the tradition of Haruhi novel author Nagaru Tanigawa and AnoHana creator Mari Okada, he set the story in his home town, including the high school he graduated from, which was Isesaki Commercial High School…which by freakish coincidence is where my wife went to high school, just a few kilometers from J-List.
7. Koe no Katachi
Have you ever been unkind to someone at an earlier point in your life, and spent years regretting it? Have you wished you could make it up to them? That’s the basic concept behind A Silent Voice, and it’s one of the most moving and beautiful films I’ve ever watched.
6. Violet Evergarden
Although some of their recent works haven’t shined as brightly, Netflix’s entry into funding anime for its streaming platform started with Violet Evergarden, the story of a former soldier who tries to move on from the war by becoming an “auto memory doll,” a person who writes letters on behalf of people who can’t write, so they can express the feelings they have inside to others. It’s a very moving series, with Clannad-level feels, and I highly recommend it.
Speaking of Clannad…
5. Clannad and Clannad After Story
Clannad starts out as a somewhat predictable harem anime in which the main character Tomoya is surrounded by a group of cute girls, though in the end he only has eyes for Nagisa. After Story is…an anime that makes us appreciate electricians. Yeah, that’s it!
Another candidate for the best Kyoto Animation work, K-On! is about four girls (and later one more) who form a light music club. Although the whole show is a calming slice-of-life experience, I’ll never forget the drama of the crying porn scene from episode 20.
3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
With a bizarre “episode 0” and episodes originally broadcast out of order on purpose, I’m sure a lot of fans will have initially been confused by the story of a high school girl who’s only interested in meeting “aliens, espers and time travelers” — so naturally all three promptly pop into existence. Haruhi was a fantastic anime, loads of fun to geek out over then and today. It also gave us the best anime song of the 21st century, so far (God Knows).
2. Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon
Since writing about anime is my job, I love it when a show comes along that provides plenty of neta (the top part of a piece of sushi, or material for writers) for these blog posts. And I remember writing many posts about this show, the story of an immortal dragon who becomes friends with a programmer named Kobayashi.
There were several other outstanding works suitable for inclusion in this list of best Kyoto Animation works. Amagi Brilliant Park was, well, brilliant. Hyouka was a technical masterpiece, with even some episodes I wasn’t emotionally invested in watching because of the visual beauty to be seen in every frame. I appreciated the
yuri bait sweet moments of friendship that Hibike! Euphonium brought us. And while Tamako Market wasn’t to my taste, the film that resolved the story, Tamako Love Story, was amazing, something I consider the gold standard for story resolution, which every anime should receive.
1. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Finally, my pick for the #1 best Kyoto Animation works ever, which naturally is The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya film, which I re-watch every Christmas. It’s such a deliciously complex story, wrapping up the story elements of the series, and the overall execution of the film is so flawless, it’s my favorite Kyoani work of all time.
Thanks for reading! What did you think of my list of best Kyoto Animation works? Tell us in the comments below, or on Twitter!
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