I want to start this piece with a small apology. One of the biggest difficulties I’ve ever had as a person with an interest in media has been my combination of Asperger’s and ADD, which can be a particularly brutal combination when it comes to reflecting and thinking about my own emotions. The one can make processing emotion hard, the other interfering with the remembrance of emotion.
So instead, let me start with a story.
Growing up in the early 2000s, my taste in anime was very much what you might expect of a young boy: Pokemon, Digimon, Dragonball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, etc. . Occasionally you had your Cardcaptor Sakura or Hamtaro that broke through, but I was a pretty consistent shonen kid. Parallel to this was also my first forays into fanfiction and roleplay. Again, being that early 2000s young teen, that often-meant Gaia Online, plus a few tepid steps into Proboards. As a hobby, it was a perfect mixture of letting me play with the settings I liked and the social interaction I was kind of missing out on in the real world.
One day, I end up in a Cardcaptor Sakura themed roleplay, where someone was using a brown-haired girl in a tannish-brown uniform as what we call a “face-claim” (basically an image of a character used to represent your OC, if you can’t do arts). Eventually that RP died, like many Gaia Online forum RPs do, but the character always stuck in my mind. In fact, she stuck in my mind so much that when I spotted my brother watching her on Anime Network I had to stop and ask “Hey, what anime is this?”
That answer was Clannad.
Now, I’ll admit I’ve never been good at the whole industry thing, so I think technically my first Kyoto Animation was probably like Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. In terms of impact, however, Clannad is probably one of the most important anime I have ever watched. It probably helps that my family situation is…complicated (parents separated when I was 2, and that’s been a balancing act ever since), and so stories about family absolutely kill me. What family means, the complicated relationship with a parent you think has failed you, what it means to be a parent. An anime that tackles these subjects seriously is pretty much guaranteed to get me crying (related: Violet Evergarden episode 10 absolutely destroyed me, in a good way).
But like I said, I’m not great at talking emotions, so back to the story. Because after seeing Clannad, I started a roleplay site. Now, I’ve run a lot of sites in my days, most of them die within a few months from boredom on my part or the players. That Clannad RP, however, was something special. I wanted that to succeed, and if I had to roleplay by myself for an entire month, going back and forth with an original character (basically self-insert cause hey, I was young) and my attempts at Fuko Ibuki, I was going to do it.
That site, by the way, is still going. I left it about five years ago and returned to it just in time for it’s 10th anniversary, which was just earlier this month. It says something about the impact that show has when a small handful of people stubbornly refuse to let a site die like that in a hobby where even the bests sites often last a year, at best.
But, Clannad had much more of an impact on me than just good roleplay fodder. Somewhere in the bowels of Livejournal, which I have recovered just for this essay, is my first attempts at anime review and analysis. Like, we’re talking short essay long character spotlights detailing character arcs. Admittedly a little summary heavy (and probably some comments here and there that are a little “eh” in retrospect) but hey, I was new.
The point is, I had always liked anime, in the same way anyone likes a TV show. What Clannad ultimately did was make me care about anime and, by extension, media in a way that recognized the impact it can have on us, and on me.
At this point, though, I’ll admit it’s a little weird to have focused so much on Clannad on what is supposed to be about Kyoto Animation. As I noted earlier, however, I’ve never been really big on keeping an eye on what studios did what. Unlike more dedicated anime reviewers, I’m basically ignorant about the industry. It is only in the last few years I’ve tried to be better about that, and it is in that extent that I began to realize just how much of my tastes and feelings about anime have been driven by Kyoto Animation. If anything, it is sad that is only in the face of this recent tragedy that I’m getting so much information on their broader impact and realizing just how important they were (and will hopefully continue to be). In particular, their dedication to good working conditions and the uplifting of women in an industry that is heavily male-dominated and plagued by crunch and poor worker treatment is to be commended, and makes the loss that much harder.
Like I said, I wasn’t planning on some poetic remembrance of Kyoto Animation: never been good at that. Still, with the impact that their work has had on my life I thought it would be good to write a little something of appreciation for a studio that has contributed so much to the lives of so many people, a recognition of the talent lost or that never had a chance to shine, and a statement of hope that, someday, Kyoto Animation will continue.
PS: For anyone who is reading this, a reminder that there are several ways to provide a little help to the studio. The first ways has been to go to Kyoto Animation’s website where you can purchase digital download of art (guide here). The second has been through a GoFundMe set up by Sentai Filmworks.