Boasting some of the pre-eminent talents in the industry, some of anime’s most successful shows, and consistently impressive production values, it isn’t hard to see why Kyoto Animation, more commonly known as KyoAni, is one of the most acclaimed anime studios in the medium. Bringing a uniquely impressive level of craftsmanship to their work, KyoAni’s anime are often resonantly human stories that command significant fan followings.

While other major anime studios like Bones or Ufotable commit their talents towards impressive action sequences, KyoAni has a reputation for producing more laid-back material. However, even their more reserved shows feature characteristically excellent animation, and the studio produces a thematically diverse body of work despite their relatively low-key reputation.

10 K-On! (7.7)

K-On! is the directorial debut of one of the industry’s most prominent female anime directors, Naoko Yamada. Although it might appear at first to be a conventional slice-of-life affair, K-On! soars above its counterparts in the genre on account of its richly detailed world and endlessly endearing characters.

What K-On! has, above all is honesty and believability; the characters are presented with an earnest charm that makes them endearing, but what really keeps the show held together is their realism. The relationships between the characters feel incredibly organic and richly detailed, which gives the audience a palpable sense of realism that keeps them engaged.

9 Hyouka (7.8)

Hyouka is a mystery show, but not in the way that audiences would likely expect. While the industry has no shortage of detective shows, namely the exceptionally long-running Detective Conan, those stories typically focus on more traditional Holmes-like cases. Hyouka makes the interesting choice to drop murders and missing jewels in favor of more mundane, everyday capers.

The result is a low-key, chill anime that offers a break from the intensity of other shows in its genre. Watching the show’s cast solve these everyday mysteries proves just as exciting as seeing high-stakes cases unravel in other titles, and the exceptional animation and beautiful visual direction help to further sell the experience.


8 Hibike! Euphonium (7.8)

Hibike! Euphonium deploys tropes that will likely be familiar to fans of sports anime, except, instead of following athletes, Euphonium chooses to tell the story of a high school band ensemble preparing for their competitive season. Like any good sports story, the competitive ambition of the ensemble intertwines with the interpersonal drama of its members.

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Euphonium shines on account of its exceptionally well-drawn cast; across the show’s run, audiences will develop a deep understanding of the ensemble’s many members, as well as how they interact with one another. The above-average character writing is sure to keep viewers intrigued, and the musical scenes become visual treats through KyoAni’s typically fantastic animation work.

7 The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya (7.8)

In 2006, the supernatural slice-of-life classic The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya took the anime world by storm through its immediately engaging premise. Haruhi Suzumiya is a being with godlike powers capable of making and remaking reality itself on a whim. The only issue is that she’s taken the form of a high school girl, and she can’t be allowed to know the nature of her true identity. It’s up to a time traveler, an alien intelligence, a psychic, and the dazzlingly ordinary protagonist Kyon to keep Haruhi from realizing who she really is, lest the universe itself collapse.

Told in achronological order, each episode of Haruhi is inventive, funny, and intensely entertaining. Watching the show’s cast try to prevent Haruhi’s powers from bleeding into the world around them never gets tiresome, and the premise lends its self to drama and hilarity in equal parts.

6 Clannad (7.9)

Adapted from the acclaimed visual novel of the same name, Clannad is remembered as one of KyoAni’s first classics. Adaptations of visual novels are notoriously unsuccessful among anime fans, largely on account of their structure. A player in a visual novel can guide the story down any number of routes, so tying those disparate threads into a single cohesive narrative can be challenging and often leaves fans of the original work unsatisfied.

This is why, among other reasons, Clannad is still so fondly remembered. It’s a heartfelt character study with an endearing cast, but what really drives the plot is its underlying love story. Although its plot and tropes will likely be familiar to fans of the genre, it’s this work that cemented KyoAni’s reputation as masters of adaptation.

5 The Disappearance Of Haruhi Suzumiya (8.1)

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the climactic finale to the Haruhi Suzumiya series, and it’s hard to imagine another anime movie that’s as purely satisfying to watch as this. The second season of Haruhi was deeply controversial because of its “endless eight” arc, wherein the same episode was reproduced and aired eight times in a row, so expectations were mixed when Disappearance hit theatres the following year.

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Thankfully, nearly everyone’s expectations were exceeded. While it’s difficult to get into exactly what makes Disappearance so good without venturing into spoiler territory, viewers can be assured that the movie delivers perfectly on the plot threads established in the television series. More dramatic than its prequels, Disappearance is practically overflowing with unforgettable moments, making this a KyoAni work that isn’t to be missed.

4 A Silent Voice (8.2)

Far and away director Naoko Yamada’s most acclaimed anime, A Silent Voice is also her most dramatic. It’s a harrowing story of personal redemption and intense interpersonal drama. Seemingly unafraid to touch on subjects often considered taboo in the industry, A Silent Voice won widespread critical acclaim on account of its raw emotional resonance.

Its availability on Netflix has also allowed it to be exposed to broader audiences, earning it a devoted fan following, even among those unfamiliar with Yamada’s previous work. Although it can occasionally feel like it’s straining to fully adapt its source material, the movie’s core themes are presented with such intensity that it’s impossible not to become engrossed.

3 Nichijou (8.3)

Nichijou often has its title translated as “My Ordinary Life,” which is appropriate, as the show finds most of its humor by presenting the trivial frustrations of everyday life in increasingly outrageous ways. Ordinary life is anything but ordinary in Nichijou, and the absurdist presentation never ceases to be amusing.

Bolstering the show’s numerous slapstick gags is some incredibly inventive and high-quality animation. Anime sitcoms like Nichijou don’t often have much of a visual flair to them, so Nichijou stands out with its truly fantastic presentation. The show’s visual style helps keep it feeling high-energy and fun, which results in some unforgettably hilarious episodes.

2 Violet Evergarden (8.5)

Arguably one of the best anime available on Netflix, Violet Evergarden is a beautiful and affecting show about a girl named Violet struggling to overcome her dark past. Brought up during a destructive armed conflict, Violet knows little of life outside of the military. Traumatized by her wartime experiences, the anime follows her struggles to reintegrate into civilian society.

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Told in an episodic format, Violet’s travels introduce the audience to a diverse cast of supporting characters. Through these characters, the show’s world is given life, as the audience learns about how the conflict that lingers in the story’s history has impacted everyone involved. Many episodes are quite moving, and they do an excellent job of supporting the arc of Violet’s character, which arrives at a satisfying and uplifting conclusion at the show’s climax.

1 Clannad: After Story (8.6)

While the original Clannad was well-liked by its fans, it’s After Story that’s the real reason why the series is remembered as such a classic. Often described by its fans as one of those life-altering pieces of media, After Story is far more somber, mature, and emotionally intense than its comparatively light-hearted prequel.

Above all, After Story is infamously tragic. The intensity of its emotional blows can shatter the defenses of even the most stone-hearted of anime fans, inevitably reducing them to vulnerable, blubbering puddles by the end of its 24 episode run. While it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart and requires the backstory of the original Clannad, the impact After Story has had on anime fans speaks for itself and easily lands it at the top of this list.

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