The Versatility of the Kyoani Face

Though a fair number of anime studios can be characterized to some extent by the types of shows they put out, the only current ones I can think of that have a house “look” on a character design level are P.A. Works (SHIROBAKO, Hanasaku Iroha) and Kyoto Animation (Suzumiya Haruhi, Tamako Market). I think this is especially noticeable with the latter studio, as the “Kyoani Face” is instantly recognizable, and is even sometimes imitated, such as with Sound of the Sky.

While watching the first episode of Kyoto Animation’s newest work, Sound! Euphonium, it occurred to me how versatile the Kyoani face is to a certain extent. It’s not so much that Sound! Euphonium alone that made me realize this, but rather that it was a slow culmination of watching their shows over the years. Namely, i find that their iconic face can be fitted, or perhaps was slowly adapted over the years, to match not only a variety of body types but also a range of character designs from cutesy caricature to more realistic proportions.


The most obvious example of this would probably be the Free! character designs, shown above, but I think you can see it in their more historical tendency to make stories about cute high school girls. All of these characters are supposed to be roughly the same age, and yet while they share that signature look in terms of their faces, their bodies are all noticeably different. I’ve even made all of the characters the same “height” in order to emphasize this.


From left to right: Ritsu from K-On!, Hazuki from Sound! Euphonium, and Gou from Free!

Of course, not every one of their shows uses the Kyoani face of course (Lucky Star being the notable exception), but I think it goes to show just how important that particular facial structure is to the identity of the studio. Otherwise why would they use it again and again? At the same time, I wonder if it also shows Kyoto Animation’s willingness to experiment, at least within their particular areas of specialty, in terms of both story and visuals.

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4 thoughts on “The Versatility of the Kyoani Face

  1. KyoAni just don’t have to try very hard to succeed, since they found a winning formula with Haruhi and K-On. That’s all there is to it. I wouldn’t deviate from that formula either if all people want is the same thing over and over. You can’t blame KyoAni for that, even if some of us tire of seeing the same thing over and over from them. After all, Shirobako taught us that even making mediocre, samey anime takes a lot of effort.


    • Interestingly enough they are one of the more “liberated” studios. They don’t work in or around Tokyo like most other studios, they don’t outsource any of their backgrounds, in-betweens, etc., and they keep their entire core staff at-home and well-cared for. The creative heads of this studio (notable for being female) really liked Hibike!’s source material, and decided to adapt it out of legitimate passion for it.


  2. I’d like to add how KyoAni faces also have such detailed KyoAni “eyes”. And they widely vary across the shows the studio has put out. The characters may look all the same at one glance, but seeing the ‘subtle’ differences, one could actually say they’re totally not the same. Perhaps this is all thanks to the same character designers doing their thing for years now.


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