Although a second-tier player in Japan's animation industry, Kyoto Animation Co. has churned out a number of popular anime for TV and movie theaters, including “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” “Lucky Star” and “K-On!”

Currently, its “Free!--Road to the World--the Dream: the Movie,” about male high school swimmers, is showing in theaters nationwide.

“Violet Evergarden: the Movie,” featuring a girl who lost her arms due to war and uses her prosthetic limbs in her job for writing on behalf of others, was scheduled to start showing in January.

But in the aftermath of a deadly fire at the three-story Kyoto Animation studio in Kyoto on July 18, which killed 33 people and injured many others, industry experts expressed concern for the company.

As animation studios usually have a large staff, including animators and background artists, "the production process gets very difficult even when one of the staff is missing," said Toshiyuki Morii, a director of the animation studio Mushi Production in Tokyo.

He added worriedly, “The entire studio burned down. It might be difficult to continue the animation production as it is now.”

Kyoto Animation, founded in 1981, earned a good reputation in the industry in its early years as a subcontractor because its works were carefully crafted.

The company had its big break in the mid-2000s when it adapted light novels into visual works and produced anime based on four-frame comics.

“(Kyoto Animation) is literally unique in the industry," said Nobuyuki Tsugata, an instructor at the Department of Cinema of Nihon University College of Art and an animation historian.

"Their use of color is characteristic. The fans can determine whether the works were done by this studio once they see the subtle, neutral colors. It offers unrivaled expertise in delicately portraying the movements of characters such as the fingertips and eyes of young girls, gaining it a lot of female fans.”

According to a credit research firm, the studio has 200 employees.

An instructor at a vocational school producing animators in Kyoto Prefecture said that recent graduates found it difficult to land a job at Kyoto Animation because it attracts many talented creators.

“It is a group of artists that can be described as Japan's treasure. I don’t know where the Japanese animation industry will go from now (without the company),” the instructor lamented.