The Japanese animation studio that police say was targeted by an arsonist in Kyoto on Thursday has long been a fixture in the anime world, known for its “slice of life” stories and detailed scenery that entices fans to visit the actual locations depicted onscreen.
Kyoto Animation, known by fans as “KyoAni,” was founded by Yoko Hatta and her husband, Hideaki Hatta, in 1981. Most of the studio’s production has taken place in the building that was the site of Thursday’s fire, which killed 33 people and injured dozens more. The Kyoto police said a 41-year-old man was believed to have set the fire by igniting a flammable liquid around the studio.
Stevie Suan, a professor at Hosei University in Tokyo who has a doctorate in Manga Studies, said in a phone interview that Kyoto Animation is known for high quality, meticulously detailed works — some of which have become hits among anime fans. From their artful scenery to the precise design of characters’ eyes and hair, Kyoto Animation is considered a standout studio with international appeal.
In an industry that often relies on contractors and freelancers to execute projects, Kyoto Animation has been lauded for hiring much of its staff full-time, Dr. Suan said. It is often cited as an example of a company that offers its employees a dependable work environment to develop their artistry.
“It’s a horrendous shame how much talent is being lost,” he said, “These are the top of the top in their industry.”
Some of the series created by Kyoto Animation can be streamed on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Funimation, a major distributor of anime. Here are four of the studio’s most popular works:
“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” (2006)
One of Kyoto Animation’s early hits was a series called “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” a high school drama that turns into an elaborate science fiction story. The series is based off a Japanese light novel, a genre similar to young adult fiction in the United States.
As it rose in prominence, Kyoto Animation became known for its intimate storytelling and character interactions, said Patrick Macias, the editor in chief of Otaku USA Magazine, a bimonthly title about anime.
“They’re really stories about people and the relationships between people,” Mr. Macias said in a phone interview. “It’s everyday life through the filter of anime.”
“Lucky Star” (2007)
The “Lucky Star” series follows a group of girls attending high school outside Tokyo, including an intelligent female protagonist who is distracted from her studies by anime and video games. It’s a classic example of the “slice of life” genre, Dr. Suan said, which centers on everyday scenarios, lighthearted humor and lovable characters, in contrast to heavier and darker anime dramas.
“Lucky Star” became an early example of an anime series that inspired “sacred pilgrimages,” a trend in which fans travel to landmarks depicted in the series, Dr. Suan said. One popular site is the Washinomiya Shrine, a Shinto landmark that was reproduced in “Lucky Star.” A more recent series by Kyoto Animation, called “Tamako Market,” galvanized fan pilgrimages to a shopping street in Kyoto, where they could imagine walking the same paths as their favorite fictional characters.
Certain scenes in Kyoto Animation shows are so treasured by fans that the studio publishes books with detailed drawings of the frames, according to its website.
A more recent Kyoto Animation phenomenon is “Free!,” a series that has also spawned films, one of which was released this month. The initial anime series, released in 2013, centers on a group of boys who swam together in elementary school and reunite in their high school years to form a swimming club. The plot follows the ups and downs of the boys’ friendships and sports careers.
Ian Condry, a professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a phone interview that “Free!” stood out in the anime world because of its visual focus on the male body rather than the female body. Criticism is sometimes directed at anime studios for their focus on sultry poses by female characters that are shot with the “male gaze” in mind, Professor Condry said, but “Free!” sparked a discussion about male bodies being the focus of the lens.
“A Silent Voice” (2016)
The recent Kyoto Animation film “A Silent Voice,” showed that the studio was skilled not only at telling lighthearted “slice of life” stories, but ones that deal with heavy human emotions as well, Dr. Suan said. The film centers on a deaf girl and a boy who bullied her when they were younger. The boy, Shoya Ishida, now in high school, wishes to make amends with the girl, Shoko Nishimiya, who was once his victim.
“A Silent Voice,” showcased the storytelling range of a studio beloved for its skill in animation, Dr. Suan said.
“They’re generally known for animation that is quite intricate, and usually on female characters,” he said. “But they have a range.”
Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London.