20 Best Anime By Kyoto Animation (Series + Movies)

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I’ve been a fan of Kyoto Animation ever since I watched The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya back in 2006.

Since then, I’ve made sure to keep up with their releases – and I’ve grown to love them like the average Westerner loves Disney or Pixar.

It’s a studio that shines for making beautiful anime with incredibly high production values. Everything – from the visual direction to the soundtrack – must be perfect, and they rarely miss the mark.

Kyoto Animation’s shows are a pleasure to watch from start to finish. Even if there’s nothing exciting happening on the screen, the sheer visual appeal of the characters is more than enough to enjoy each frame.

Let’s take a look at their best work.


20. Baja no Studio

Baja no Studio anime screenshot

Released: 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 21 Min.

Baja no Studio is one of the least-known entries on the list.

It’s a one-shot OVA about an adorable itsy-bitsy hamster that lives in an animation studio, with fantastic animation quality and great voice acting from some pretty young actors.

If you’ve ever had a small pet or just love cute furry critters, you’ll enjoy watching Baja save his duckling friend from a cat with the help of a fairy.


19. Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu Kyoto Animation anime

Released: 2003
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life
Length: 12 Eps.

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu was released as a companion series to the original Full Metal Panic, and FMP: The Second Raid – which was also handled by KyoAni.

I choose to include this companion series over The Second Raid simply because I find it more creative.

All the jokes about Sousuke completely militarizing seemingly normal situations are hilarious, and Bonta-kun, the miniature mecha, is a great mascot.

You don’t even need to watch the original FMP to understand Fumoffu, so don’t let that keep you from this great comedy.


18. Beyond the Boundary

Beyond the Boundary screenshot

Released: 2013
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural
Length: 12 Eps. + OVA

My favorite part about Beyond the Boundary has to be the main female protagonist – Mirai.

She has the glasses, the pastel color palette, the fluffy bed hair – and those red-framed glasses are the icing on the cake.

Her reserved and clumsy personality is also endearing – and you can’t help but want to see more of her.

Regrettably, the narrative and the rest of the characters can’t really compare. The animation quality is good enough to warrant taking a look at it, but I can’t really say much for the story.


17. Amagi Brilliant Park

Amagi Brilliant Park by Kyoto Animation

Released: 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Comedy
Length: 13 Eps. + OVA

One of KyoAni’s most unusual projects was Amagi Brilliant Park – a really off-beat comedy taking place in a theme park similar to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

The twist?

It’s a real magic kingdom!

The staff and showmen in the park are actually magical creatures ruled by a petite blonde girl – Queen Latifa. That’s not a typo.

Everyone in this show is named after a famous American rapper for some reason.

The show’s characters are as unique and off-kilter as their names, and it’s a pleasure watching them interact every day at the park. The animation is as good as ever, too.


16. Clannad

Clannad anime screenshot

Released: 2007
Genre: Romance, Slice-of-Life, Tragedy
Length: 47 Eps.

Clannad is a bit of a personal pick for me.

I admit it hasn’t aged too well, and the art-style is questionable (giant eyes and wide faces?), but it’s probably the most emotional story in KyoAni’s repertoire.

Much care was put into crafting lovable and intriguing characters, only to make them suffer one after the other.

There’s a lot of drama in this show, though each arc usually ends on a positive note.

Then you watch the second part, Clannad: After Story, and you’re shown the depths of despair.

I still get teary-eyed whenever this comes up in my shuffle playlist.


15. Free!

Free! anime by Kyoto Animation

Released: 2013
Genre: Sports
Length: 37 Eps. + OVA

I love all KyoAni shows about cute girls making friends and having fun.

So when the exact same show came out starring boys, I had to give it a chance.

While the chiseled abs and bulging triceps are one of the show’s main appeals for sure, what I really love about it is the comfy atmosphere and wholesome story about a group of friends supporting each other as they grow as swimmers.

This is the kind of show you’d like to watch on a rainy day, drinking hot cocoa.


14. Tamako Market

Tamako Market screenshot

Released: 2014
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Length: 12 Eps.

Tamako Market was a pretty unique undertaking on the part of KyoAni.

It’s a straight-to-anime show with no source material – and frankly, it shows.

For the most part, the show never feels like it’s going anywhere – and the main cast is remarkably forgettable, except for fat bird extraordinaire Dera Mochimazzi.

So, why is it in this ranking?

Because the show has perfect art direction.

Everything the dialogue doesn’t manage to convey, the beautiful art and animation do.

The characters and the show’s general art-style are a bit like freshly-made mochi – soft, rounded, warm, and squishy.

It’s the epitome of comfy and relaxing anime.


13. Tamako Love Story

Tamako Love Story Kyoto Animation anime

Released: 2014
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life
Length: 83 Min.

The gorgeous aesthetic of Tamako Market returns in Tamako Love Story, a story about young love and how hard it can be to choose a direction for your life right after graduating high school.

The human drama of teens maturing and going out into the world is timeless.

KyoAni found a lovely and touching way of handling the subject aided by their gorgeous, fluffy animation.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less about Mochizou or his romance with Tamako while watching the original series – but this movie is still cute and entertaining on its own.


12. Tsurune

Tsurune anime screenshot

Released: 2018
Genre: Sports
Length: 13 Eps.+ OVA

I recently picked up archery at a local range. I fell in love with the sport pretty quickly (it makes me feel like Fate/Stay Night’s Archer) and wondered whether there was a good show to accompany this new endeavor.

I eventually found Tsurune – a gravely overlooked sports anime about the members of a Japanese high school’s archery club.

Their archery experience is definitely more traditional than mine.

But it’s still amazing to see them grow in the same sport I’m practicing – and the animation whenever they shoot an important arrow is absolutely gorgeous.


11. Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions anime

Released: 2011
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Length: 24 Eps. + OVAs

At one point, we all wanted to act like our favorite fiction characters.

We wished we had our own special abilities and dark backstories… and then we grew up.

Well, most of us.

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is a story about what happens when you cling too hard to your past self – exemplified wonderfully by Rika Takanashi stubbornly clinging to her cringe-worthy chunibyo persona.

Maybe we don’t all go around talking about our “cursed eye” and occult powers. But we can all relate to the growing pains of life, and how hard it can be to learn a new way of interacting with the world.

Also, the girls in this anime are just too adorable to be true.

KyoAni really knows how to do “cute”.


10. Hyouka

Hyouka anime by Kyoto Animation

Released: 2012
Genre: Mystery, Slice of Life
Length: 22 Eps. + OVA

Hyouka may not be the most exciting show.

But it’s definitely well-written, and an aesthetic pleasure from every angle.

Under the guise of mystery-infused Slice of Life, Hyouka is an in-depth exploration of its main character – Hotarou Oreki – and a showcase of his character development as he interacts with the rest of the cast.

With a main character as calm and detached as Hotarou, and a tranquil setting like the Classic Literature Club, the show’s melancholic aesthetic is the perfect fit.

The main heroine Eru Chitanda is also painfully cute.


9. Sound! Euphonium

Sound! Euphonium anime

Released: 2013
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life
Length: 26 Eps. + OVA

After the massive success of K-On!, nobody was surprised to see KyoAni come up with a new musical anime project.

But Sound! Euphonium is a completely different beast.

While both anime focus on a high school band, Euphonium chooses a more serious, dramatic narrative.

Rather than sharing tea and cake, these characters get together to perform music as if their lives depended on it.

This serves as a great backdrop for the show’s characters to develop in wonderful ways. The dialogue can also be pretty clever, and the detail on the music instruments totally blew me away.


8. Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden screenshot

Released: 2018
Genre: Coming-of-Age
Length: 13 Eps. + OVA

One of KyoAni’s most widely appealing anime is Violet Evergarden, a show about a gorgeous cyborg learning about human emotion and love, all through her job ghostwriting letters for other people.

This show’s animation is some of the best KyoAni has ever done.

It’s refined, and more anatomically realistic than most of their projects (if that’s something you care about).

Violet Evergarden is listed as a Netflix Original, meaning virtually anyone anywhere in the world can boot up Netflix and watch this in as little as five minutes.

It’s a very accessible show in more ways than one.


7. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid anime

Released: 2017
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Length: 13 Eps. + OVA

Miss Kobyashi’s Dragon Maid is one of the most well-rounded KyoAni shows.

The animation is fantastic, the comedy is top-notch, and the characters are very relatable.

The various struggles that these dragon girls face just feels fascinating.

It’ll definitely strike an emotional chord with many viewers to watch these girls try to fit into a society where they’re a minority.

Main-dragon protagonist Tohru is among the most lovable characters I’ve ever seen in anime. And Kobayashi-san’s quiet and hard-working nature just makes me want to give her a hug.


6. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Kyoto Animation anime

Released: 2006
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life
Length: 28 Eps.

It’s hard to count the things that make Haruhi such a fantastic anime.

Main character Kyon’s perspective is relatable, the characters in Haruhi’s S.O.S. Brigade are incredibly well-defined and interesting, and the overarching plot about Haruhi’s divinity and the nature of reality is delightfully surreal.

It also had probably the most well-known anime dance of all time, the Hare Hare Yukai.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya defined a generation of anime-watchers and changed the industry forever.


5. Lucky Star

Lucky Star anime screenshot

Released: 2007
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Length: 24 Eps. + OVA

Lucky Star made me who I am – which, considering it’s a show with no plot about cute girls doing cute things, probably isn’t what you’d expect to read.

Still, I’m sure I’m not alone in my sentiment.

Lucky Star is the triple-distilled essence of the mid-2000s anime fan experience.

It’s full of references to famous shows, constantly makes fun of common anime tropes, and even pokes fun at the Otaku community surrounding anime like Lucky Star.

And main character Hinata Izumi is a total icon. The youngsters should be required to study her life and work at anime school if they want to call themselves true anime fans.


4. K-On!

K-On! anime screenshot

Released: 2009
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Musical
Length: 39 Eps. + 2 OVAs

I extended my enjoyment of Lucky Star for months by watching and rewatching the anime, the dub, reading transcripts of the audio drama, and learning the character CD songs to heart – but everything in life needs to end.

Luckily for me, K-On! was there to pick me up with a brand new group of cute girls doing cute things – and this time, it actually had a plot!

Well, kind of.

K-On! has an overarching coming-of-age plot with the girls maturing as performers and people. But it’s more about you falling in love with the Sakuragaoka Light Music Club and their friends.

The best part about K-On! is that it actually gets better season to season.

KyoAni was clearly putting everything they had into this show, and the results speak for themselves.


3. A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice anime

Released: 2016
Genre: Drama
Length: 130 Min.

KyoAni does well with relaxing anime like Tamako Market.

And KyoAni also excels at tugging at your heartstrings with dramatic storylines too.

A Silent Voice may strike a chord with viewers who’ve dealt with depression or even suicidal thoughts – and it reminds us that getting better is always possible.

Other than the emotional impact and surprisingly realistic perspective of its masterfully written story, A Silent Voice also draws us in with incredibly high-quality animation. The level of detail in each character’s face, clothes, and even hands is just staggering.


2. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya anime

Released: 2010
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi
Length: 162 Min.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was one of the most important anime shows of the mid-2000s, and the hype surrounding the 2010 film since the first trailer’s launch was something else.

KyoAni really stepped-up to the challenge and delivered a beautifully-animated and perfectly paced movie.

It uses its fantastic soundtrack to reproduce the mysterious feeling of trepidation you’d get reading the original light novel.

The switch in focus from Haruhi to the fan-favorite Yuki Nagato was also refreshing. This adorable alien is about 50% of why I like Haruhi so much, and this gorgeous movie does her justice.


1. Nichijou

Nichijou anime screenshot

Released: 2011
Genre: Surreal Comedy, Slice-of-Life
Length: 26 Eps. + OVA

As a Lucky Star fan, it was impossible for me not to love Nichijou – a hilarious comedy about nothing.

This light-hearted anime follows a group of middle-school girls’ very normal lives, but turns even the most mundane situations into hilarious sketches.

These incredibly common situations are profoundly relatable.

Which helps the humor hit even harder.

Along with top-notch visual gags, the show has some incredibly fluid action scenes that rival the best battle shounen scenes.

Such high-quality animation applied to normal situations almost constitutes a joke in and of itself.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.