So a while ago, I wrote the “Can a Fandom destroy an Anime Experience” Article. Part of it explained the “KyoAni-Circlejerk”, which can be summed roughly in: “An fan-overreaction to KyoAni Stuff”. Of course my viewpoint here was not the only one, a lot out there also experienced the “ufotable-Circlejerk” negatively, same goes for a “SHAFT-Circlejerk”… But outside of these 3, things seem to get rather silent. In a conversation I came up with the theory that these 3 studios cause these experience due to their strong identities…
Take a look at the following scene
If you’ve seen anime by this studio, you should recognize immediately which studio this scene came from.
Presumably by Go Kimura, this scene was produced at Studio ufotable. This can be told through the digital effects used throghout the scene: Sparks, Lighting (especially the trails of weapon swings) and Blurring effects throughout the fight can be quickly identified as “ufotable’s work”.
Now I want you to take a look at this scene
This is also by ufotable.
If you stare at this sentence now and think “there is no way this could be from ufotable”, then you’ve just proven to be a perfect example on what I want to tell you with this article. I agree on that, this is not the kind of scene ufotable would produce, and it is misinformation to tell anyone that this scene would be from ufotable. This scene is from Kyoto Animation’s “Hibike! Euphonium”.
This entire post is about exactly this: Both Ufotable and Kyoto Animation are probably the highest praised in terms of animation alongside Studio BONES, but unlike for Studio Bones, a stand out scene from Ufotable or Kyoto Animation can be quickly identified as work of said studio. In other words: “This is from Ufotable/KyoAni” is a more likely statement to come than “This is from Studio BONES”. I want to now go into details a bit as I look into the 3 studios which have in my opinion currently the strongest Identity and Presence in the anime community: Kyoto Animation, ufotable and SHAFT.
Kyoto Animation, which anime come to your mind? For me, it’s K-On! and Hibike Euphonium which come to my mind quickly, for others it’s Tamako Market or Hyouka… Unfortunately I have not seen that much by KyoAni, but I believe that I know their animation well enough to recognize their stuff even when not knowing the name of the anime, who animated it etc. Moe and Slice-of-Life is what the studio is indeed most known for, but with a certain negative reputation of not being able to stay serious in shows when they try to adapt a more serious story (Kyoukai no Kanata).
But there is much more on the positive side: Great animation, gorgeous scenes, auperb Character Acting and a great sense of bringing emotions on the screen are Kyoto Animation’s probably biggest trademark. You just can’t say their shows look bad, like… really, barely, especially at the current situation. The upcoming Violet Evergarden Anime is seen as one of the best animated series the world is about to see (but the negative reputation I mentioned is already a bit striking into the hype), Koe No Katachi is already celebrated before it even comes out, Hibike Euphonium amazes through goergous and… you get the point. KyoAni’s presence and identity, especially among the Sakuga fans is really strong.
What’s helping a lot to retain this identity is that Kyoto Animation doesn’t rely as much on freelancers as other studios do, most of their anime nowadays are produced by their own in-house Staff, in other words there is a certain consistency among everything they produce nowadays, a consistency which leads to anime fans immediately recognized KyoAni’s work as just theirs which is quite impressive.
As you noticed, a studios identity is composed of both positive and negative aspects, tho for KyoAni the negative aspect seem exceptionally weak… Let’s move on to the next Studio
Studio SHAFT, let’s get directly to what people think of the most when they here this Studio’s name:
The “SHAFT headtilt” has at this point already become a meme in the internet and is SHAFT’s biggest trademark at this point.
When it comes to SHAFT’s visuals, they’re quite known for Visual Storytelling. In Madoka Magica, a lot of narrative happens through showing them through pictures, Visual Metaphors, without words etc. Something which is present till today through for example the Monogatari Series, even further, an article called “The Sexuality is the Narrative” shows that even the sexual Fanservice of the series is used for the cause of the Narrative (I should really watch Monogatari at some point).
In the Fate/Extra CCC Opening, a lot of people directly noticed how “shaft-like” it is, and I expect something similar from the upcoming “Fate/Extra Last Encore”. If they pull through with that, the anime will certainly be interesting…
There is once again, the consistency throughout their products, mainly coming from Akiyuki Shinbo who supervises pretty much everything SHAFT makes.
However, SHAFT is also notorious for messed up production, most infamously the following scene from episode 9 of Mekaku City Actors
I don’t think I need to point out just how much different the Blu-Ray Version looks, right?
What exactly happened here? It seems that the entirety of this scene was outsourced to a different company, because SHAFT themselves couldn’t finish the scene in time. There are always differences between TV-Releases and Blu-Ray releases, but the difference in SHAFT’s productions are the ones that stick out the most here. The scene above was the worst it could get when it comes to SHAFT’s TV-Airings and there is no scene which looks worse in the TV-Version of the show.
Whether SHAFT can animate better (which they certainly can) or not, that barely matters here, because the damage is done. This scene is infamous and will stick to the anime community for a very long time…. Let’s move on.
And on we go Studio ufotable. I believe that this Studio has a very strong identity which is on the same level as SHAFT or KyoAni, but it’s an unstable identity, I will explain later what I mean.
ufotable was founded in the year 2000, which makes it the youngest out of the 3 studios mentioned so far… it’s age is actually less than half of the age of the other 2 studios currently, KyoAni was founded in 1981, SHAFT in 1975. You can do the math yourself.
This studio was not really present or massively outstanding in their early years, but then 2007 happened: The Type-Moon x ufotable era started.
Or in different words: Kara no Kyoukai – Overlooking View happened
Lightning, Animation and the Effects are what made the entirety of the movie stand out and what marks today’s trademarks of ufotable’s animation.
Combined with a Yuuki Kaijura Soundtrack and a really interesting plot by Kinoko Nasu, this movie marked the first of the many collaborations between Type-Moon and ufotable which would make ufotables presence among the anime community rise in an enormous speed.
In 2011 Fate/Zero aired on japanese TV. The Fate-Franchise in itself has already an enormous Fanbase in Japan and seeing it being animated like was just the perfect gift for these fans. A statistic on someanithing shows that Fate/Zero is one of the most succesful anime in Japan since 2000 and this is saying something.
The Sequel: “Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works” produced in 2014 as an TV-Anime once again convinced the general viewership of their digital animation work.
This is what makes ufotable stand out in comparison to other studios nowadays: Digital Animation.
This scene shows pretty well typical traits of ufotables animation. Particle effects during the explosions and when the weapons are dissolving into air. Detailed smoke around the character and the general lighting of this scene, these are all made per digital animation and add to ufotables identity in their animation.
However… I said this identity is, while strong, very unstable. Reason on why I think that is due to what I said earlier: the sudden rise of ufotable’s name is thanks to Type-Moon, but they need to keep their identity up without them. Ufotable’s Identity stands on only one leg currently, with Type-Moon being a temporary second leg. However, ufotable without Type-Moon isn’t making a good figure right now…
The God Eater TV-Anime Show in 2015 had constant delays and had overall really messed up production, which ended with the last 4 episodes airing in another season. This already affected Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works 2nd half, where towards the end, the animation quality noticeably went down…
Tales of Zestiria which is currently airing already has very nice visuals and unlike for God Eater, there doesn’t seem to be any production delays. This show has some really nice fight scenes, here is one scene from episode 2, presumably animated by Masayuki Kunihiro
However, a lot of fans don’t seem to like the mere fact, that Tales of Zestiria is getting an animation. A lot of comments I hear on this anime can be summed up in the following sentence: “We want another Tales of Anime Adaptation, not Zestiria”
This means, Tales of Fans already disapprove of this anime, which doesn’t exactly help…
Upcoming is ufotable’s take on the Touken Ranbu mobile game, which is basically Kantai Kollection with Swordboys…. I personally, as a ufotable fan, am of course looking forward to what the studio can achieve with this setting.
I hope I was able to get my point across, these 3 studios: Kyoto Animation, SHAFT and ufotable have a strong, easily recognizable identity within their productions which makes it stand out from other studios. I believe the presence and identity of these 3 studios are currently the strongest, but what about other studios?
Studio Madhouse currently has trouble upholding its own image, with a lot of regular in-house staff members leaving for other studios, Madhouse has to rely more and more on Freelancers. One Punch Man was a very unfortunate production, because while it impressed especially on the visual side, Madhouse themselves didn’t do a lot here… it was mainly Shingo Natsume’s work as he used a lot of connections from a previous production at Studio BONES, Space Dandy, to make OPM the anime it is.
More on that by Canipa Show:
Studio BONES has actually quite the strong identity at the moment. With Concrete Revolutio becoming a Show for Yutaka Nakamura and other great animators to show off (while Nakamura sneaked into Studio Madhouse for a scene in the last OPM episode) and Mob Psycho 100 becoming Yoshimichi Kameda’s Stage, it looks good for this Studio right now. It just isn’t able to bring across the same presence as the 3 studios I had in spotlight here, I can’t really explain myself why…
A-1 Pictures… I see the identity of this studio everyday when going home from Uni. Entering the trainstation, I go to the right, enter the “identity” of A-1 Pictures, wait till it’s my turn to order some food, then I go forward, ordering 9 Chicken McNuggets, Coke and Fries… You get the point. Yeah, when it comes to A-1 Pictures the most I hear is “A-1 Pictures is McDonalds?” which is kinda hilarious. A Studio that put out 2 of the most hyped anime of all time, Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail to have this kind of image nowadays is funny and as well as a bit sad. Thing is, with their heavy reliance on Freelancers, there is close to no way that A-1 Pictures could build an identity through their products, because they lack consistency, not in quality, but when it comes to style and narrative…
Studio Pierrot became a meme for bad animation
And the list goes on, but at this point I want to finish this article. Last, I want to make something clear: This is my viewpoint of things and the Impressions I have among the community, the chance is that you’re standing on a completely different position here. If you do, tell me, are there other studios with a stronger Identity or Presence currently from your personal perspective? I would love to hear your answers
See-ya, Bye Bye then~