I have no idea if I’ll do Kyoto Animation justice after all that happened this year, so here goes nothing.
The moment I hear of a friend or family members’ death I unwittingly commit it to memory. The first time came when I was in elementary school. I remember staring at the side of a Rice Krispies box at the kitchen table as my mother hung up the phone and turned to tell us the news.
I can’t tell you how I felt because I don’t remember that.
When it comes to major deaths of celebrities, I’m rarely affected. Perhaps this is because I don’t watch many movies or pay much attention beyond social media with the exception of the professional gaming sphere. Recently a friend rightfully called me out for seeing The Rise of Skywalker of all films after not having gone to a movie theatre since The Last Jedi. He was right.
Not-so-coincidentally, I remember the moment that I found out that Carrie Fisher had died.
Anime is the type of media I watch the most outside of esports competitions — and the hours spent watching this year’s LoL Pro League alone dwarf any amount of time I put into anime — but it doesn’t translate well into your average social situation. When Carrie Fisher died, everyone I knew talked about it.
When I tell people about the Kyoto Animation fire, I have to start with “Do you know about that arson attack that happened this summer in Japan?” It requires explanation and buildup.
On July 18, 2019, I had my window open because it was hot in my apartment. I was leaning up with my back against the window, laptop in my lap. I saw the news of the Kyoto Animation fire on Twitter. Soon my timeline was flooded with news and speculation. The information slowly grew worse and worse throughout the night and in the coming weeks. A total of 36 people died. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know this. Maybe you too have that number burned into your brain along with the names of some of your favorite animators and directors.
I didn’t blog for months. The only post I put up was a repost of a Hyouka editorial I wrote years ago. I still don’t know how to say “the right thing” about this, with the proper weight and gravity.
Of Kyoto Animation’s 29 television series, I have seen 24. I didn’t start watching airing or more current anime (anything that wasn’t on television) until 2008. One of the first series I saw was Clannad, animated by Kyoto Animation, which in hindsight can seem almost as egregious as the fact that I recently went to the movies to see The Rise of Skywalker, but at the time was visually-stunning. It captured my attention and to this day, Clannad has a special place in my heart despite how awful Kotomi’s arc was and I cried at several points during the series. This led me to all three of their KEY/Visual Arts adaptations, which led me to Haruhi, which led me to Lucky Star and at this point I was a Kyoto Animation lifer. It’s rare that a studio has such personality, technical prowess, and treats its employees so well. This fire was devastating.