Last week, Kyoto Animation — the animation studio behind some of anime’s best-acclaimed products like Violet Evergarden — announced that it is absorbing its subsidiary Animation Do. Via this move, KyoAni will inherit the rights and associated properties of its affiliate and will assume all operations. Animation Do’s staff, which have often been shared between the two companies, are to remain onboard.
Established in 2000, Animation Do became a corporation in 2010 and has assisted KyoAni with, most notably, the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club franchise. Up to now, KyoAni president Hideaki Hatta runs Animation Do alongside its parent company in a joint fashion, which has resulted in Animation Do assisting KyoAni with most of its projects.
Ever since its founding in 1981 by Hideaki Hatta and his wife Yoko, KyoAni has been responsible for numerous popular anime series including The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, K-On!, Beyond the Boundary, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, along with movies and OVAs like A Silent Voice. Renowned for its progressive work culture and talented animators, the company made a name for itself in the anime community both in Japan and overseas in the United States. In particular, 2016’s A Silent Voice won Best Animation of the Year in the 26th Japan Movie Critics Awards and was featured at the 2017 Annecy International Animated Film Festival.
On July 18, 2019, tragedy struck when a fire tore through the company’s Studio 1 building and claimed thirty-six lives. The fire was reportedly caused by a man who had a history of crime and mental illness, and who claimed that the company stole his novel. The arson attack sent shockwaves throughout the anime community, prompting many to voice their condolences and express sympathies. On Twitter, the hashtag #PrayforKyoAni trended on which people both shared their sorrows and communicated how much KyoAni’s artistry meant to them.
This outpouring of support included donations totaling over ¥3.3 billion in Japan alone and over US$2.3 million internationally. Japanese musician Yoshiki donated 10 million yen, as did the game studio Key (of Clannad fame). Even with this amount in donations, recovery costs were estimated to be “several times” higher — as much as 10 billion yen.
KyoAni resumed work one month after the arson attack, with a number of its injured employees taking extended leaves of absence. The Studio 1 building, however, was demolished and the grounds left undeveloped; Hideaki Hatta has suggested filling the area with a memorial park, but no plans are certain as of now. Due to the emotional, production, and financial toll of the arson attack, KyoAni has also had to cancel or amend various events and projects. The 11th Kyoto Animation Awards were canceled while the Free! movie slated for 2020 was pushed back to 2021. An episode for Animation x Paralympic was canceled as well. Only Violet Evergarden Gaiden premiered on its original date on August 3, 2019. In its end credits, it included a memorial to the victims of the fire.
The studio looks to rise from the tragedy. As it consolidates its production line by absorbing Animation Do, KyoAni continues to make art for the world. Plus, it still runs its training program for aspiring animators. In the words of its company president Hatta, Kyoto Animation “will not go quietly into the night.”