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10 Best Kyoto Animation Anime Series To Watch, From Clannad To Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Kyoto Animation anime

Without a doubt, Kyoto Animation is a big name in the anime industry. They have since solidified their position as the purveyor of the slice of life genre, with their unique art direction and stunning visuals.

With consistently amazing animation and storylines, it’s no wonder that most of their series are big hits amongst fans. From classics that propelled them to fame to underrated series, here’s your starter pack to the 10 best anime series Kyoto Animation has to offer.

1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Image credit: IMDb

Haruhi Suzumiya is bored. And so the eccentric, adventure-loving protagonist decides to relieve her boredom by seeking out aliens, time travellers, and espers (humans with ESP, or the sixth sense). With the reluctant help of her schoolmate Kyon, Haruhi manages to set up a school club and recruits Nagato, Asahina, and Koizumi – all of whom have secret supernatural powers unbeknownst to their club leader.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

At its core, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a school comedy with some supernatural elements, mixing genres such as romance, slice of life, science fiction, and mystery convincingly. The club goes around having fun, with Kyon and the group of supernatural beings trying to keep Haruhi entertained lest she wreak havoc on the world.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

As Kyoto Animation was one of the first studios to adapt light novels, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was considered groundbreaking at its time fo release. In particular, its infamous episode, Endless Eight, has become quite an unspoken rite of passage for fans of anime and the series alike. 

The sequel movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is hailed as a masterpiece by many, so be sure to catch it once you’re done watching the series.

Length: 28 episodes, 1 movie
Available on: Netflix, Funimation, Crunchyroll

2. Tamako Market

Image credit: Tamako Market Official Website

Tamako Market tells the story of Tamako, daughter of a family-owned mochi shop located in a shopping district, and her encounter with Dera, a pompous bird who is on a mission to find a bride for his country’s prince.

After he binge eats mochi and is unable to fly back home, Dera stays behind at Tamako’s house. The series follows the heroine’s everyday life with Dera, her friends, and mochi.   

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

As the purveyor of the slice of life genre, Kyoto Animation does what it does best – setting a believable setting and accurately depicting the liveliness of a typical Japanese shopping district. The animation is bubbly and bright, and gets its details down to a T, allowing viewers to live a peaceful, ordinary life through the adorable characters vicariously. 

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

But don’t expect it to cover any significant plot, as the short series has no strong themes or plot. For those who are in the mood for relaxing shows, Tamako Market, with its comedy and romance elements, is the slow-paced, slice of life anime for you.  

Length: 12 episodes, 1 movie
Available on: Amazon Prime

3. Hyouka

Image credit: Kyoto Animation

When Kyoto Animation is mentioned, Hyouka does not immediately spring to mind as their representative work. But it is certainly the pinnacle of the slice of life genre, and an outstanding series that is a testament to the studio’s prowess in gorgeous animation and mood-setting.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Adapted from a 2001 Japanese mystery novel with the same title, Hyouka is about a group of high school students who solve inconsequential, ostensibly underwhelming everyday mysteries. Oreki, the sharp-witted protagonist, is often hailed as the Sherlock of the group – much to his chagrin, as all the boy wants to do is to lead a dull life and not stand out.   

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Though the series is rather episodic and nothing earth-shattering happens, not a moment feels repetitive – thanks to the well-written and nuanced characters who have flaws and desires, and the idealistic portrayal of friendship blossoming into romance. 

Besides the characters’ development, Kyoto Animation’s attention to details and breathtaking art style make this a must-watch. 

Length: 22 episodes, 1 OVA
Available on: Muse Asia (YouTube)

4. Hibike! Euphonium

Image credit:
Amazon Japan

Hibike! Euphonium is a harmonious coming-of-age story that centres on Kumiko, a newly minted high schooler who decided to quit playing the euphonium after a setback in middle school.

Despite her determination to stay away from the instrument, she is unwillingly dragged into the school’s band club. Together with their strict club advisor and her new bandmates, Kumiko works hard to overcome her insecurities and aims for the national championships.   

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the series as your average high school club drama story, as the portrayal of the euphonium is incredibly accurate, from chord fingerings and sounds, to even instrument maintenance. If you enjoy slice of life anime series with no big drama, just plenty of solid music performances and relatable characters, give Hibike! Euphonium a go. 

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Season 3, which will focus on Kumiko’s third year in high school, was announced in 2019. But due to the arson attack at the studio in the same year, the series has been postponed and is set to be released in 2024.

Until then, catch up on the series and movies. The first two movies are film adaptations of the series, followed by the third movie Our Promise: A Brand New Day, which is meant to be a sequel after the second season. Liz and the Blue Bird, the final movie in the franchise, is a standalone film focusing on the friendship between Mizore and Nozomi, 2 side characters who were first introduced in season 2.

Length: 2 seasons, 26 episodes, 1 OVA
Available on: Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime

5. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Image adapted from: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Official Website

A cute moe comedy series with a ridiculous premise, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is exactly what the title suggests. Tohru, an anthropomorphic dragon in a maid costume shows up one day at Kobayashi’s doorstep, as she offered the homeless dragon a place to stay in her drunken state the previous night.

Season two’s key visual.
Image credit: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Official Website

With no choice but to take the dragon girl in, Kobayashi starts living with Tohru and subsequently Kanna, Tohru’s friend from the dragon world. Forming their own tight-knitted nuclear family, Tohru assumes the role of a maid and keeps the house in order, while Kobayashi acts as the breadwinner. 

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Notwithstanding the outrageous proportions and bust sizes of the characters, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a pretty wholesome show about familial ties you make on your own. Though nonsensical at times, it’s a light-hearted watch to breeze through.

Length: 2 seasons, 25 episodes, 2 OVAs
Available on: Crunchyroll, Netflix

6. Nichijou: My Ordinary Life

Image credit: IMDb

The premise of Nichijou: My Ordinary Life might sound as bland as it can get – it follows a group of high school friends leading a normal life in the town of Tokisadame. But the comedic slice of life series is essentially a compilation of random and hilarious anecdotes.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Although their lives are seemingly mundane, the characters often find themselves in absurd and over-the-top comedic situations, making the series an entertaining watch. Happenings range from assaulting a policeman to retrieve their NSFW manga to wondering about the expiry date of a melon bread.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

The series’s offbeat humour might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the short episodic stories are easy to digest and perfect to watch over lunch breaks. 

Length: 26 episodes
Available on: Funimation

7. K-On!

Image credit: MyAnimeList

Widely recognised as the starter pack to the school girl slice of life genre, K-On! at its core, is basically a dopamine-inducing show featuring a bunch of cute girls goofing around after school and occasionally playing instruments.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Yui, a music novice, is roped in to joining her school’s Light Music Club in order to save it from disbandment. Though initially hesitant due to her lack of experience with musical instruments, Yui’s interest is piqued after witnessing the club’s live performance.  

With the Light Music Club revived from the brink of dissolution, the group spends their day hanging out and practising.  

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Critics of the show may see the lack of a narrative structure as a major flaw of K-On!. But for hardcore fans, what’s regarded as a weakness is also their strongest suit. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch characters laze around and host tea parties in their club room after school?

Length: 2 seasons, 39 episodes, 2 OVAs, 1 movie
Available on: Crunchyroll, Hulu

8. Clannad

Image credit: IMDb

For fans who prefer something with more emotional depth, Clannad is no doubt your go-to series. The story starts with third-year student Tomoya encountering Nagisa, a sickly girl who had to repeat a year of school due to her illness, by chance one day. 

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

When he learns that her dream is to revive and join the school’s dying drama club, Tomoya decides to lend Nagisa a hand. In doing so, he meets four other girls and after getting to know them better, he helps them with their personal problems and issues.  

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Compared to the first season which has more romcom elements that flesh out Tomoya’s relationship with the respective characters, its sequel, Clannad: After Story, is emotionally heavier as it follows Tomoya as he transitions into adulthood. 

Touching on themes of inevitability of change that comes with growing up and the sense of loss, along with other heartaches that the characters experience, it gets realistically dark at times, so prepare a box of tissues on the side. 

Length: 2 seasons, 47 episodes, 2 OVAs, 1 movie
Available on: Netflix, Hulu

9. Amagi Brilliant Park

Image credit: @amaburiANIME

How do you ask someone out on a date? We can think of an infinite number of ways, but holding the other person at gunpoint is definitely not one of them. Amagi Brilliant Park starts with Sento borderline threatening Seiya to accompany her to the titular theme park by doing just that.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

As it turns out, this is not a romantic first date Seiya envisioned it to be. Instead, he is being recruited to bring visitors back to the failing amusement park, where the mascots are actual living creatures from a magical realm known as Maple Land, instead of sweaty people in costumes.

If Seiya fails to attract more people and hit the quota of 250,000 visitors in three months, Amagi Brilliant Park will be forced to close down for good and have its land reclaimed by a greedy corporation.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

As expected of Kyoto Animation, the art and visuals of the anime are vibrant, fitting of an exciting amusement park. Besides the attention to details to create the perfect setting, the explosion of colours and backdrop make the world of Amagi Brilliant Park come alive too.

Length: 13 episodes
Available on: Crunchyroll

10. Violet Evergarden

Image credit: IMDb

An emotional tearjerker from start to finish, Violet Evergarden is a story about love and loss. Raised with the sole purpose to be a tool in the war, the robotic Violet knows nothing other than to strike down enemies when the situation calls for it.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

But when Gilbert, her major, imparts his dying message to her and confesses that he loves her, the once-unfeeling robot decides to embark on a journey to decipher the meaning of his words.

Landing a job as an Auto Memory Doll, Violet ghostwrites letters for customers who are unable to express themselves, and begins to learn about complex human emotions for the first time in her life.

Image adapted from: Kyoto Animation

Although all animated works that are produced by Kyoto Animation are excellent from an artistic and cinematographic point of view, the studio really outdid themselves with Violet Evergarden. The animation and art are stunning, a testament to Kyoto Animation’s dedication to their craft. 

Length: 13 episodes, 1 OVA, 2 movies
Available on: Netflix, Funimation

Best anime series by Kyoto Animation

Besides producing masterpiece after masterpiece, Kyoto Animation is also well-known for providing good working conditions and paying proper salary to their animators. Despite the arson attack in 2019, it seems that the studio is slowly but steadily getting back on its feet, with several projects announced.  

Let’s continue to support them by watching and appreciating the effort that goes into each series. 

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Cover image adapted from: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Official Website, IMDb, @amaburiANIME