Tamako Market is Kyoto Animation’s Next Step

In one of my earliest posts I ever wrote for Ogiue Maniax, I talked about my desire for Kyoto Animation to go beyond its own limits, to go from just adapting work to making their own original material. Though my opinion of Kyoto Animation isn’t quite as rosy as it was back in 2007, with their new original anime Tamako Market I actually feel like they’ve finally fulfilled those expectations to a fair degree.

Kyoani is known primarily for two things: really solid animation and cute girls. Together, the resulting product is a soft, delicate quality that is unmistakably Kyoto Animation (and which shows like Kokoro Connect and Sora no Woto have tried to mimic), and it affects different adaptations in different ways. For Haruhi and their Key game adaptations it lent weight and significance to characters’ movements, while in K-On! and Nichijou, two manga with sharp and abrupt humor, it caused the anime versions to slow down in terms of comic timing. In the end, it seems to all come down to the cute girls.

Tamako Market is the first Kyoto Animation show I’ve seen to really let the animators spread their wings. Tamako Market has allowed Kyoani to show personality through movement in a greater variety of character types of all shapes and sizes, from small children to geriatrics, to even a person of ambiguous gender and a silly talking bird. The show then places them in a deliberately slow-paced setting in the form of a small-town shopping area, which makes that Kyoani “slice of life” style feel appropriate. What’s more, even though there are indeed still cute girls in Tamako Market, all of the other characters are portrayed differently from them, giving the viewer not only Kyoani’s bread-and-butter but also something even more substantial.

Given the sheer amount of character variety in Tamako Market, I have to now wonder if it wasn’t just that their old shows didn’t allow them to “push their envelope,” but that having to adapt works limited them due to the contact of the original sources. Most of what Kyoto Animation has adapted has come from dating sims, light novels, which often times are all about cute girls, or manga which center around cute girls. While I think Kyoani isn’t ideal for making certain types of works, it’s clear to me from Tamako Market that their strengths, namely their ability to have characters move with almost a sense of tangible liveliness, go beyond what’s expected of them.

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8 thoughts on “Tamako Market is Kyoto Animation’s Next Step

    • I too wonder if you’ve watched Hyouka, and even Chuunibyou for that matter. I say this because while Tamako may be original, KyoAni really did an outstanding job with animating Hyouka. It was not only the solid animation quality that can be attributed to any of their works; it was stylistic and ambitious, it had its own flair. I appreciate that KyoAni is stepping out of their area of comfort by animating original works, but I can easily say Hyouka is one of the best things they’ve ever done.

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  1. Add me to the list of people wondering if you’ve seen Hyouka.
    Sure you can watch it for the cute girl,but there’s much more to it than that, it’s set in highschool but the genders are pretty evenly mixed and there’s plenty of adults as supporting characters. The cast is extremely wide so they got to animate all kinds of different characters.

    I’d say Tamako Market is a (more lighthearted) continuation of that though it being anime original does make it a “next step” of storts.

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  2. Tamako Market = Abenobashi Shoutengai (one of the few Gainax anime series I really didn’t like) plus a gay escaped bird from Angry Birds.

    I don’t often wish for anime series to be only 12 episodes long, but when I do it’s Tamako Market.

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  3. As much as I wish it didn’t, Munto is a thing that exists. It exists so much that it’s by far the KyoAni property with the most releases. And it’s an original show. So no, this is not KyoAni’s first. They ARE moving toward a less dependent model with their own LN line, which is understandable since being subjected to Kadokawa’s whims is less than desirable, but as I sad it’s not their first time. And it’s not really about taking more risks (KeyAni aside, they tend to adapt obscure source material they might not even follow closely so original series aren’t much more of a bet), but about the studio being capable of managing most of the production side of things now that they’ve grown a lot.
    Among the other things I don’t buy there’s the assumption that there’s a “KyoAni style” and attributing it to Horiguchi. Yes, Kokoro Connect and Sora no Woto tried to mimic something, but it was a certain person rather than a studio – and it barely counts in the former case, since Horiguchi did the original designs for those novels, they simply were adapted by someone else in the anime. Even assuming character designs are all there is to the visuals, we’re talking about someone who’s only responsible for 3 KyoAni series (one of which is never mentioned in those debates, funnily enough), neither of them being what is, arguably, still their flagship title.
    I can partially agree that Tamako Market allows them to pull a great cartoon-y animation that fits the colorful cast and setting, but I’d hardly say it “let the animators spread their wings” because that implies they were limited in their previous shows. As far as raw animation goes, Nichijou utterly destroys this project. The art direction, photography and attention to detail in Hyouka is infinitely better than Tamako Market’s. Even something like Chuu2Koi is miles better in certain aspects, like effects animation and CGi usage. And that’s fine. KyoAni tend to boost certain aspects of the visuals they deem important according to the kind of show they’re working on, which in this case seem to be lively character animation and colorful backgrounds. Lovely stuff, but not representative of a new step in their work.
    That said, I do agree that it’s good to have them evolve and try new things. Their growth lately has had me excited and I can’t wait to see what their future plans are. The studio’s had an usual degree of freedom to work only on what they enjoy for a long while already, but moving towards even greater self-management can only be seen as a positive thing. I think that’s why I like Tamako Market more for what it represents than for what it is.

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    • I should clarify that when I say that Tamako Market allows the animators to spread their wings, I’m not talking so much about creative use of camera angles or the level of detail of animation, in other words aspects of how they animate things, but WHAT it is they’re animating. In this case, it’s a more diverse cast of characters of varying body types that go well beyond the cute girl or young boy range that most of their work occupies. Yes, Chuu2 has all sorts of elaborate battle sequences and use of CGI, and Nichijou really goes all out in animating certain moments (sometimes to its detriment, IMO), but with Tamako Market you have the established subtle and almost tactile character animation of Kyoani without the seeming need to limit to the characters who are “supposed” to have that (cute girls).

      As for character designs not being the sole criteria for judging the style of a studio, I would agree, except that character designs can be associated with certain styles or certain trends, and there is the desire to capitalize on those trends. I don’t think the adaptation of Kokoro Connect’s decision to keep the Horiguchi character designs instead of modifying them more is a coincidence. Also, though they come from different character designers, I consider the Haruhi, Chuu2, and Hyouka anime designs to be in the same boat as K-On, Lucky Star, and Tamako Market, and it has a lot to do with the basic presentation of their characters in movement. It’s this style of animating characters but spread through a more diverse cast which is Tamako Market’s strength. Nichijou is a little different, but again the way in which they “cute up” the girls winds up making it feel more like Kyoani.

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      • I still would give the edge to Hyouka in regards to character animation since it goes beyong what I expect from anime, making rather subtle aspects like body language a factor to be considered. I was honestly surprised by how well crafted the show was in that level, since those easily appreciable personal quirks on the way characters move weren’t something the studio was known for. So what you’re enjoying here was already present there, albeit in a more limited environment. Tamako Market maintains that to a certain level, with the advantage of a much more varied cast. And I agree with you, there’s an undeniable appeal on having a bunch of eccentric side character that are partly defined by the way they move and act. In fact, giving the spotlight to them is the reason I’ve warmed up to the show more during the latest two episodes.
        All in all, I also think this is a nice evolution, just not a next step in and of itself. If nothing else, Tamako Market has convinced me that I still want to follow the growth of the studio, even if I’m torn on the show itself.

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  4. Pingback: Tamako Market, the Never-Ending 12-Episode Anime | OGIUE MANIAX

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