Over two weekends in 2017 October, Kyoto Animation and subsidiary Animation Do held the third of what has become their once-every-two-years fan thanks event in Kyoto, following CTFK (Chūnibyō, Tamako, Free! and Kyōkai) in 2013 and Watashitachi wa, Ima!! (私たちは、いま！！ This Is What We Are Now!!) in 2015. I had attended the 2015 event, and built my 2017 fall trip schedule around this new one, traveling around Shikoku during the week between the two sections. This year was the first to grow from one to two weekends, allowing the inclusion of screenings and concerts in the large auditorium at ROHM Theatre Kyoto. The exhibition and events returned at Miyako Messe across the street, this time expanding to include all main spaces in the convention center.
Advance Screenings and Concerts
The first weekend was a bit wet on account of Typhoon Lan approaching. Fortunately the ROHM Theatre has plenty of public accessible plazas and indoor spaces that are great for hiding from the rain.
In the afternoon on Saturday, October 21 I attended one of the two advance screenings, getting to see the first three episodes of Violet Evergarden. Fans that won the other ticket lottery returned in the evening for a screening of Free! -Take Your Marks- a week before the film was released in theaters.
The absence of a Japan-based setting gives Violet Evergarden a markedly different feel from everything that precedes it in the Kyoto Animation catalog. I’ll be curious to see as the series progresses if the art staff can create as convincing of a world without the benefit of being grounded in their own culture and design patterns.
After the episodes, True (Karasawa Miho) performed the series opening theme, which was part of the published schedule. Then voice actor and singer Chihara Minori appeared to perform the ending theme, which was a surprise gift.
The following day, the Freshman Wind Ensemble from the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music performed afternoon and evening concerts featuring the original soundtrack and classical works that were used in Hibike! Euphonium. This is also the group that recorded all of the wind ensemble music used in the series. Voice actors from the series narrated between works, and True performed the opening themes from each season.
On October 28 and 29, fans converged on Kyoto for the main event, the two day exhibition at Miyako Messe.
I managed to hit the jackpot with stage events this year, ending up with tickets for the director and producer talk, Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon voice cast, Hibike! Euphonium voice cast, making of Violet Evergarden, and character designer talk. Though these were all a lot of fun, particularly the Meidoragon cast taking the stage in costume and in character, I felt there was less diversity among the talks compared with 2015. Despite the different titles, all seemed to converge on discussions of narrative choices and character designs. When the technical matters of animating a scene came up, they were presented briefly and in not too much detail, before moving on to a new topic. Background art was barely mentioned at all. While there is nothing wrong with this focus on the bigger picture and the most attention grabbing aspects of the works, two years ago it was actually the discussions with lower level staff and technicians that translate the directors’ wishes into a workflow to produce the end result that I found most interesting and engaging.
This year there was a substantial expansion of the exhibition space. In 2015 everything fit into one of the two large halls on the third level—the talk stage is setup in the other. In 2017 several sections were moved to the underground level, leaving the large third floor hall for wall-to-wall work products, including character designs, key frames, storyboards and background art. As with the stage events, up in the main hall it seemed as if emphasis on character related material often left little space for the balance of production elements. Every so often there would be a handful of painted backgrounds, but I didn’t come across any of the world mapping sketches or design models for places and objects that I saw in 2015. Nonetheless, what an amazing thing it is to get your face right up to an original sketch or run your finger (very gently) over the wrinkles and fingernail marks on a keyframe.
The underground level featured a bit of everything and I thought it was a good use of the extra space. Storyboards and keyframes for opening and ending sequences were given a dedicated room. The “Studio Zone”—staff working on material for works in production—also moved here and was able to accommodate a larger flow of people compared with 2015. There was also an area featuring works under KA Esuma (Kyoto Animation’s publishing imprint), a recurring showing of a short film featuring the studio’s badger mascot, and a greatly expanded photography zone that brought back the poster gallery and character panels, and included several new features.
Up in the main hall and in the smaller rooms on the underground level photography was not permitted, as was the case in the main exhibition areas in the past. The security need in the Studio Zone is apparent, but in 2015 I had wondered what the purpose of the restriction elsewhere might be. Having been through the drill twice, I get the sense that it’s done primarily to facilitate flow of the crowd through the hall and allow participants to get absorbed in the material without distractions, rather than a desire to restrict information dissemination. As one friend pointed out, it’s not often that you have the opportunity to see these things. Best to savor them with your full, undivided attention.
At the same time, there was a much appreciated acknowledgment of shutterbugs’ compulsive need to capture everything in a greatly expanded photography permitted area.
The KA Esuma area didn’t allow photography of the materials on display, though the Violet Evergarden panel was fair game.
The underground main hall featured only a fraction of the volume of materials in other areas, but everyone was free to shoot to his or her heart’s content.
New in 2017, a series of exhibits summarized the studio’s output and milestone events over the recent several years.
Special illustrations for this event
Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon and Koe no Katachi
Tamako Market and Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai!
Musaigen no Phantom World and Kyōkai no Kanata
Original sketch of the Violet Evergarden key visual
Also new, a group of staged work spaces featured more sketches, keyframes and storyboards.
Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai!
Life-sized background art panels also appeared for the first time, allowing visitors to pose inside their favorite scene.
Floor standing character panels returned, and this time all had backgrounds to go with them.
The poster gallery also returned. Though only the most recent works were new to me, I decided to re-shoot the entire chronology with the benefit of a more even light source. (In 2015, the posters were lit with spot lamps that had a different color temperature from the hall lighting.) This time the colors are much more accurate and toning is more even, though I still got some glare from the overhead lamps. Next time I’ll remember to bring a polarizing filter.
The wide advertising banners that are hung from the second floor balcony of the Kyoto Animation main office in Kohata lined the periphery of the hall. There were a handful of these on display in 2015, but this time they appear to include all from the past two years.
We likely won’t know for some time if and when there will be another event like this, but I wouldn’t mind seeing all of my 2D and 3D friends again in Kyoto in 2019.