Naoka Yamada is a strong voice in anime

On the release date of K-On! The Movie, we’re celebrating its director and animator, Naoka Yamada. 

Naoka Yamada works with the well-known anime studio KyoAni as a director, having directed and animated for a huge number of television series and films. Her work often features female protagonists and showcases her strong ability to depict her characters’ mental states and emotions through animation. Naoka uses the signature “Moe” style of KyoAni studios: the look of her characters and the general aesthetic of her works are cute and colorful, playing well with her often youthful protagonists. Yet, the kawaii style does not go over the top; Naoka’s anime stays grounded in realism, allowing her to achieve emotional depth that goes beyond a cute aesthetic. 

Some favorite works of hers include the series Tamako Market (2013) and its film sequel, Tamako Love Story (2014), about a young girl who encounters and befriends a peculiar talking bird. Tamako Love Story earned her the New Face Award at the Japan Media Arts festival. 

Another favorite is A Silent Voice (2016), which features a male protagonist unlike her other films, and explores topics of bullying and physical disability. Of A Silent Voice, FF2 Contributor Beatrice Viri says, “A heart-wrenching tale about friendship and forgiveness, A Silent Voice was really popular when it came out, and KyoAni’s consistently beautiful animation along with its time-appropriate music made for a wonderful adaptation.”

Of course, Naoka also directed the widely-loved K-On! The Movie, a film sequel to the popular K-On! Anime series. The film is about a group of four friends who constitute all of the members of their school’s Light Music (ie. pop music in Japan) Club. In the movie, the girls take a trip to London for graduation. As FF2 Contributor Beatrice Viri states, “K-On! The Movie’s a classic, and all about a cast of girls having fun.”

As not many female filmmakers exist in the world of anime, Naoka Yamada is an important voice in her field, especially with her ability to portray female characters with affection and understanding.

© Julia Lasker (12/3/22) FF2 Media


Read Beatrice Viri’s celebration of Naoka Yamada here.

Watch K-On! The Movie here.


Featured & bottom photo: Credit to Kyoto Animation.

Tags: A Silent Voice, Anime, K-On! The Movie, kawaii, KyoAni Studios, Naoka Yamada, Tamako Love Story, Tamako Market

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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