So there's a gag in this week's Outbreak Company episode I thought you might enjoy:
Spoiler for Outbreak Company episode 7:
So the plot of this week's episode is that the main character takes a trip home to Japan to pick up otaku goods from Akiba because the JSDF keeps mixing up his anime orders. The last straw being that he asks for Minami-Ke and they send him Minami-Ke Okaeri instead.
(He also makes a point of blaming Okaeri's terribleness solely on the director - probably because Okaeri shares a director with Outbreak Company.)
Hmm.. I'm not sure if "painted look" is a good term for Kyoani backgrounds. Because like you said True Tears had a painted look and so did something like Uchouten Kazoku and I adored the visuals in both those series.
Most of the time, what Kyoani really lacks in their visuals is a sense of emotive expression. I don't ... really feel anything from Kyoto Animation visuals other than the fact from a technical point of view they are very impressive (and hoping that they could use this in other genres... and no Kyoukai no Kanata does not count since it's an epic failure).
PA Works visuals though.... melancholy, bittersweet, heartwarming, mono no aware, nostalgia... no other studio evokes those emotions more than PA Works for me and it's a combination of their really "alive" backgrounds in combination of the choice of music and visual direction they go for. It's poetic in a way much like Shinkai movies are poetic. Of course PA Works work in a different framework as they still try to cater to a latenight audience.
Hyouka was an exception in that it did have those emotions. I guess you can argue that the Key adaptations did too, but unfortunately I dislike Key's formula of slapstick silly nonsense at the beginning, theatrical melodrama later on. This is something I can give credit to something like Anohana which was relatively consistent throughout the whole series. After Story is my default favourite Key show because it didn't have this mood whiplash. Talking about After Story, that flower field episode in episode 18 was one of the most beautiful and emotion evoking scenes ever made both in the way the drama was developed and how the visuals were expressed.
Hyouka's backgrounds and lighting/photography didn't immediately stand out as better than Tari Tari's (both 2012 shows) to me and I considered that a best case scenario for KyoAni, so I said it was plausible that you were right about PA and KyoAni's respective strenghts. On review… Hyouka's lighting and photography is better, just really subtle.
Now that you've explained a bit more what you mean, I'll say that generally I think PA Works has a more nuanced visual vocabulary, whereas Kyoto tends to go for a bit more embellished look in terms of employing coloured lighting, heat hazes, more pronounced soft focuses, giving scenery a "painted" look*, etc.
*Yes, I'm aware True Tears had painted look backgrounds. Something like HSI not so much though. Main thing I recall about HSI's backgrounds was some impressive textures for materials like glass, hardwood, etc.
Apologies in advance for distracting you from you busy schedule
Didn't say PAW was better. I just personally like the look of PAW series more because of their focus on backgrounds and digital photography rather fluidity gives a more "poetic" feel to it. Similar to Makoto Shinkai actually, whose movies actually does not have anywhere near the best "animation" (frames, fluidity), but whose backgrounds, attention to detail, digital photography and processing are pretty much unmatched. Btw, to clear all doubt, I'm talking purely about visuals and aesthetics and not bringing into the equation story, premise, character depth or anything like that (because if we did, Kyoani gets absolutely crushed on)
I personally think Hyouka is Kyoani's best work in the visual department and I would even say if you put it head to head with any of PA Work's productions, it will beat it. Yes, it was that good to me. The attention to detail, the fluidity, the expressiveness and movement of the characters. And best of all it felt like they even borrowed elements from PA Works books with their melancholic mono-no-aware evoking backgrounds and digital photography. It's like they took the best elements of PA Works and combined it with the top notch animation and fluidity skills they already have.
In converse, I have to disagree with Tari Tari. Despite me loving the series, I thought for PAW standards, it was below average. Me and Archon Wing joke that Tari Tari had reject character designs and background art from Hanasaku Iroha... and to be honest I think it has an element of truth in it. There wasn't really a scene from a visual point of view where I was wow'd by and I can tell that from a production point of view it was fairly rushed. I'd say it's the second worst looking PAW series after Another.
Best looking shows for PA Works for me are Hanasaku Iroha, True Tears and Uchouten Kazoku. In that order too.
Hmmm... Air and Kanon. It's been way too long since I watched those so I can't exactly say. I'll take your word for it though since you take photography as a hobby.
On another note, despite K-on S2 and Nichijou being really fluid I did not like the visuals in that one bit. K-on character designs were way too generic and blobby, whilst Nichijou was essentially animating "cartoon figures", even if Nichijou is arguably Kyoani's most impressive demonstration when it comes to fluidity in animation. It's like akin to animating stick figures well... doesn't mean shit to me because they are stick figures and not appealing to look at.