The KyoAni Formula (And Why It Works)

Kyoto Animation is an industry giant, and for very good reason. Every single show that they make in a year is looked forward to by millions of anime fans, and even their shows with the most mediocre of writing are salvaged by the ungodly amounts of eye candy put into every episode.

However, I did notice something on my recent binge of KyoAni shows, and that’s the fact that they all start almost the exact same way. Today, we’ll be breaking down that formula!

The Formula


  •  A main character starts a club/joins a struggling club (usually reluctantly)
  • The reason they even continue the club is because of an energetic and/or determined member who refuses to let the club disappear.
  •  They have a hard time getting members at first because they’re weird or niche.


  •  They get JUST enough members to stay afloat
  •  They do club promotion shenanigans for a few episodes


  • They hit you in the feels out of nowhere with some serious club field trip and/or activity to make their bonds stronger.





• The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – SOS Brigade

• Clannad – Drama Club

• Hyouka – Classic Literature Club

• Beyond the Boundary – Literary Club

• K-ON! – Light Music Club

• Chuunibyou – Far Eastern Magic Society

• Free! – Swim Club

There’s a reason this formula works so well, and that’s because of the fact that people love tropes. Some critics may argue that being formulaic is a bad thing, but a formula works because it guarantees results, and the result is always a solid structure for a good story.

For starters, the member recruitment segments fulfill a number of narrative functions:

  • It allows the show to introduce each character in a neat fashion through recruitment.
  • It gives us an idea of how characters resolve problems.
  • It gives plenty of opportunities for us to know the motivations of characters in recruiting said members.

Not only that, but club activities as well do double duty as framing devices for fun gags or serious character talks somewhere far from the fun gags. You don’t have to write in weirdly convenient reasons to go to different places or do certain activities if they’re school sanctioned!

School Sanctioned Feels!

Lastly, by having the the number of members always at the bare minimum, it establishes the stakes of the club possibly disbanding if even ONE of them decides to quit or give up, making for an easy but reliable source of drama.



Of course, while this formula is not limited to Kyoto Animation, I specified them because they’re the ones who perfected it to a tee, hence the number of successful and influential titles under their belt using this exact formula. KyoAni picks to adapt these for that reason, but they don’t just follow it and call it a day.

K-ON! Is the best example of KyoAni taking a good series and turning it into a classic. It was but a simple gag SoL during its manga run, but it was KyoAni that decided to take the story in a much more nuanced and heartfelt direction by making it about leaving a mark on your highschool life for the next generation to see.

While still being about cute girls, of course.


So why do school clubs work? Simple.

If you’re following JoJo this season, you’ll get this soon enough.

16 thoughts on “The KyoAni Formula (And Why It Works)

  1. Tropes become tropes for a reason, and that doesn’t make them bad at all! A lot of KyoAni stuff is very good at providing a pleasant “comfiness” that is just enjoyable and relaxing to watch. Then they go and pulls something that hits you right in the feels, but who doesn’t love a good cry now and then?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spot on – it’s not tropes that are bad per se, but that they can lead to lazy writing and lazy execution. Sound Euphonium (also from KyoAni) follows a not dissimilar structure – yet is widely lauded for it’s characters and execution.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The formula definitely works and it is nice to see the different takes on it. Some of the shows you’ve used as examples I love, others I find okay, and a few I didn’t really click with. Usually that comes down to the characters themselves and the tone of the dialogue. Despite the plots being very similar, the shows manage their own kind of atmosphere and sometimes they are more appealing than others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, usually in all of these series, the characters make them stand apart from each other. I’d be hard-pressed to find much similarity with the Drama Club and the SOS Brigade (other than dealing with supernatural stuff).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My favorite Kyoani show is Kobayashi Dragon Maid, followed by the latter half of Clannad After Story…
    So I guess I can blame the formula for how boring their stuff is! The characters start bland, so bland that even when they change to be more interesting, it hardly fazes me! Such is the pain of being a character guy…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pretty sure you use complex math equations to find the formula KyoAni uses. I haven’t seen many of their anime other than Haruhi, and Beyond the Boundary, but surprise I didn’t pick up on a few of these details. I liked the characters in Haruhi, but didn’t in Beyond the Boundary. Both had animation though so they were at least easy on the eyes. If it ain’t broke, KyoAni won’t fix it hahah.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s