It has already been a year since that tragic day. Crazy how time flies.

I still remember where I was when the news broke: spending the evening in my parents’ room, listening to them watching TV while I minded my own business on my laptop and phone. I opened Reddit, went to /r/anime’s Casual Discussion Friday, and saw comments asking what was going on at Kyoto Animation Studio 1. Confused, I took to Twitter, and my heart sank.

I remember refreshing Twitter for updates, refreshing /r/anime’s stickied discussion thread, and messaging my friends, one of whom was vacationing in Kyoto at the time, on Discord. I remember struggling to go to sleep, laying in bed and continuing to check social media for news. I was filled with anger at the reprehensible actions of the perpetrator and sadness at the situation as a whole, so much so that I had to recollect my thoughts and eventually channeled them into a late-night Twitter thread and blog post.

Looking back a year later, a lot has happened for the studio, the anime industry, and the world in general. With all the chaos that has unfolded on a worldwide scale this year, we can always turn to anime as an escape from the turmoil of reality. The beauty of animation is its ability to bring people of different backgrounds and cultures together to enjoy a common form of entertainment. Regardless of where one comes from or what they believe in, we became a big family sharing a common love for our favorite shows because of companies like KyoAni. That’s why the attack especially hit hard for me and many other fans.

Although upset as I typed out my thread and blog post, I also poured my heart out with love for the masterpieces churned out by this wonderful studio and the messages conveyed that can be applied in life. K-On! is about cherishing the good times and treasuring those close to you; A Silent Voice is about forgiveness and redemption; Tamako Market focuses on family, while its Love Story sequel tackles the scary uncertainty of change.

If it wasn’t for KyoAni, I probably never would have pondered the impact that these relatable yet rather complex topics have had on my life. Could I have enjoyed a better high school experience if I had close friendships like in K-On!? I have long endorsed the mantra “Be You”, but how much has Chuunibyou helped shape that mindset?

If it wasn’t for KyoAni, I never would have befriended countless great people online and in person who share my love for its series. It was our mutual interest in K-On! that helped me meet my buddy Griffin, who I’m glad to now also call my coworker. If this show about cute girls eating sweets and playing music had never brought us together, The Checkered Flag probably wouldn’t have a rising IndyCar writer in its ranks like him today.

If it wasn’t for KyoAni, I might never have opened my eyes and become a happier person. I was never the optimist, but my mindset has improved for the better thanks to shows like K-On!, which taught me to love my friends, Hibike! Euphonium urging everyone to chase our goals, and Tamako Love Story, to not be afraid of the future. I am eternally grateful to KyoAni for helping me become who I am today.

And that’s just for me, some 21-year-old sportswriter pursuing a history degree who is nowhere near completing KyoAni’s library of shows. Imagine how much it has helped change the lives of many others in the world.

KyoAni has brought joy, excitement, tears, laughter, and many other emotions to our television screens and computer monitors. Even in the wake of such a tragedy, they still strive to bring happiness to the world. Although today is the anniversary of a sad and traumatic event, it is also a time for us to show our love and support for an amazing studio. True to K-On!!‘s iconic song “Tenshi ni Fureta yo!”, all of us have been touched by the angel that is Kyoto Animation.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

#KyoAniStrong