Kyoto Animation and SHAFT are kind of similar
Posted On May 10, 2010
While this may come as a surprise, along with being a fan of the constantly-in-the-red SHAFT, I am also rather fond of the constantly-in-the-black Kyoto Animation. I will admit to liking SHAFT a smidge better–mostly due to them getting the better crop of source material–but as far as their attitudes towards production goes, I like them more or less equally despite being worlds apart as far as their approach to making animation goes.
To put it simply–they’re both extremes. SHAFT makes the most out of nothing, and Kyoto Animation makes the most out of everything. Studios that get too little or too much are a dime a dozen, but what separates SHAFT and Kyoto Animation from those other studios is the flair they bestow upon their work. SHAFT (I assume by way of animation veteran Shinbo Akiyuki) finds ways to stretch their limited budget in ways that don’t result in yashigani (well, usually), but instead in very visually interesting minimalist pieces unlike what one usually sees in TV anime. Kyoto Animation lavishes their work with lots of character and life, rather than simply making something that’s well animated, but devoid of much life (Gonzo’s Gin-iro no Kami no Agito kind of felt like that to me.) Both studios also constantly wink and nudge at their otaku audience–and while that has become commonplace nowadays–there’s an unquantifiable authenticity to it, not unlike what Gainax does.
But it’s not as if these two don’t have a few misfires. I think that while SHAFT has a lot of good shows to their name, they also have far less inspired productions, such as Negima!? and Maria†Holic. I think all of Kyoto Animation’s Key adaptations (especially Clannad) lack a degree of spirit and creativity in their execution when compared to Haruhi, Keion! and Lucky☆Star.
What really ties these two together is that they both started in the same place. Both SHAFT and Kyoto Animation were, at one point, outsourcing houses. Off the top of my head, after a few shows in the 80s and 90s, SHAFT didn’t really start making their own works in a big way until after the turn of the century. The same goes for Kyoto Animation. Before the year 2000 these studios were more or less unknown, so it’s kind of funny how they diverged–one taking the path of obscurity and experimentation, with the other taking the path of the tried and true. I know that SHAFT became the way they are now entirely due to Shinbo joining in the early-to-mid ’00s, but I can’t pin Kyoto Animation’s shift on anybody since I don’t know the studio well. I’m just going to guess Yamakan, even though that’s probably completely wrong.