Best Anime Movies

best anime movies

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Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away is a widely acclaimed crossover success that continues to captivate and enchant audiences across the country, introducing Studio Ghibli’s works to a broader Western audience. The fantastical and mythical story follows the adventures of Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl who, along with her parents, discovers a magical bathhouse filled with eccentric and enchanting creatures from folklore. This unique coming-of-age narrative stands out for its thematic complexity, boundless creativity, and exquisite execution that defines Ghibli’s distinctive style. Regarded not only as one of the animation studio’s top titles but also as one of the finest films of the 21st century.

Akira (1988)

Akira, alongside Ninja Scroll and Ghost In The Shell, is considered a landmark in the medium. It is known for its epic narrative, stunning art style, and atmospheric soundtrack. The story follows Kaneda and Tetsuo, two teenage biker gang members in Neo-Tokyo’s post-nuclear apocalypse society. Their Clockwork Orangration attitude towards life changes when Tetsuo gains immense telekinetic powers, attracting the attention of Colonel Shikishima and his government-backed secret organization. While Akira deviates significantly from its original manga source material, each version remains a significant presence in the cyberpunk genre.

Ghost In The Shell (1997)

With a philosophically-charged cyberpunk screenplay, iconic visuals, and ideas that have been widely borrowed by Hollywood ever since, Ghost In The Shell has become a monumental presence not only in anime but also in the sci-fi genre as a whole. The story is set in New Port City in 2029 and follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, an augmented police agent on a mission to track down the Puppet Master, a ghost-hacking terrorist who manipulates the minds of influential individuals through technology. From its movie sequel Ghost In The Shell: Innocence to the Stand Alone Complex TV series and even the controversial live-action adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson in 2017, the Ghost In The Shell universe has continued to expand. However, many still consider the original as the pinnacle of this franchise.

Ninja Scroll (1993)

For many anime enthusiasts from a specific era, Ninja Scroll served as their initial exposure to the medium. Originally released in the UK in 1995 and later in its fully uncensored version in 2004, this hyper-violent action-adventure film is considered a classic and a trailblazer for mature-audience anime. The story revolves around Kibagami Jubei, a mercenary swordsman living in feudal Edo-era Japan who reluctantly agrees to thwart the Shogun Of The Dark. His task involves confronting the Eight Devils of Kimon, an elite ninja group with supernatural powers, alongside Kagero, a stunning yet toxic ninja, and Dakuan, a cunning spymaster. While Ninja Scroll is renowned for its artistic value, certain scenes have faced criticism over time due to the objectification and brutal treatment of its female protagonist, Kagero.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is more than just visually stunning; it serves as a tribute to the significance of free will and the unpredictability of life. When 17-year-old Makoto Konno realizes her time-traveling ability, she initially focuses on improving her grades, correcting awkward moments, and shaping her life according to her desires. However, as she witnesses the negative impact of her time leaps on others, Makoto shifts gears and aims to utilize her remaining leaps for positive purposes.

Summer Wars (2009)

Mamoru Hosoda continued his success after The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with this delightful tale of adolescence. It follows a young man who agrees to pretend to be the boyfriend of the girl he fancies during a visit to her family. However, things take a turn for the worse when a rebellious military AI disrupts the virtual world of Oz, jeopardizing the reunion and potentially causing global chaos. This visually stunning narrative features an array of quirky and endearing characters, along with suspenseful and surreal twists, all interwoven with thought-provoking commentary on technology’s potential downfall. It’s a fantastic blend of wonder, eccentricity, foresight, and humor.

Perfect Blue (1999)

Satoshi Kon’s psychological thriller “Perfect Blue” is a masterful and disquieting exploration of obsession, fame, and perception. Mima Kirigoe, a member of the saccharine pop group ‘CHAM!’, flawlessly embodies the on-stage Lolita-esque character expected of her. Upon deciding to depart from the group to pursue an acting career and shed her pop-idol image, she faces backlash from some fans who struggle with her transformation. As the aspiring actress starts to doubt the authenticity of her existence, viewers are left pondering her mental state. A disturbing yet captivating viewing experience.

Your Name (2016)

It’s no coincidence that Your Name became the highest-grossing anime film of all time. It is a beautifully crafted work that combines elements of romantic melodrama, endearing characters, and cosmic connections in a captivating manner. The story revolves around a body-swap scenario between Tokyo boy Taki and high school girl Mitsuha from a rural village. As they navigate the complexities of living each other’s lives, the plot deepens with more intricate twists best experienced through viewing. Enhanced by the Radwimps soundtrack, this emotional journey is a must-watch for fans who may also enjoy Weathering With You, director Makoto Shinkai’s spiritual successor.

Weathering With You (2019)

Sixteen-year-old runaway Hodaka attempts to make a living on the streets of Tokyo amidst a torrentially rainy summer. This beautifully crafted fantasy delves into individuals with the ability to manipulate weather, addressing both social issues and personal challenges in an engaging narrative.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

“Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” is a film adaptation of the well-known anime series, bringing back the beloved space bounty hunters from the Bebop spaceship: Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Ed, and their corgi Ein. The story unfolds in 2071 on Mars where a man unleashes a hazardous pathogen in the capital city. This act triggers a high-value bounty for capturing this chemical terrorist. In response to this situation, the crew members each take different paths to locate their target while navigating through corporate conspiracies and exciting plot twists that are characteristic of Bebop’s narrative style. Although this standalone movie is chronologically set between episodes 22 and 23 of the series, it also serves as an excellent starting point for newcomers to immerse themselves in this unique blend of sci-fi jazzy-noir adventure that offers substantial emotional depth.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke, another masterpiece by Miyazaki, stands out for its darker tone compared to the usual Studio Ghibli films. This historical fantasy follows Ashitaka, a prince afflicted by a deadly curse, as he embarks on a journey to find a cure. Along the way, he becomes entangled in a conflict between the forest gods and a human mining settlement. The film delves into themes of environmentalism and mortality with depth and complexity beyond simple good versus evil narratives. It is an exquisitely crafted and imaginative epic fantasy tale.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Tokyo Godfathers is a touching and poignant anime film set during the holidays that effortlessly balances humor and emotion. Directed by Satoshi Kon, known for Perfect Blue, the story revolves around three homeless characters (a drunkard, a drag queen, and a runaway) who come across an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve. Determined to reunite the infant with its mother, they embark on a journey through the streets of Tokyo on Christmas Day. Along the way, they encounter different people who gradually unveil the somber and mysterious backstory of the child’s origins.

Vampire Hunter D (1985)

The 1985 film “Vampire Hunter D” is a beloved classic featuring a quintessential anime plotline. It takes place in a dark and surreal gothic fantasy world post an apocalyptic nuclear disaster. In this realm ruled by supernatural beings, Doris Lang gets bitten by an ancient aristocratic vampire, much to the dismay of her noble and honor-obsessed family. To prevent her transformation into a vampire, Doris enlists the mysterious hunter known as ‘D’ whom she encounters on the road. ‘D’ himself is part-vampire and possesses a talkative, sentient hand. The story unfolds into a thrilling and gory adventure filled with monstrous creatures and supernatural battles. While not particularly deep, it offers fantastic entertainment for viewers.

Paprika (2006)

Paprika, a science fiction thriller, explores the implications of technology penetrating the most intimate and private aspects of human cognition. The narrative revolves around the aftermath of a pilfered device designed to enable psychologists to access their patients’ dreams. However, its original therapeutic intent is distorted, resulting in dream-induced mind manipulation spilling into reality. Dr. Atsuko Chiba undertakes a quest to find the culprit by immersing herself in this dream world. This film was directed by Satoshi Kon and was his last before his untimely death. Paprika is renowned for its immense creativity and influence – it’s even acknowledged by some as having set the stage for Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Metropolis (2001)

No, Metropolis is not an anime remix of Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic, although the original manga has been influenced by it. It is a dieselpunk story that delves into retro-futurism and explores themes of the human soul. The screenplay was written by Katsuhiro Otomo, known for his work on Akira, and directed by Rintaro, an animator with previous experience on Ninja Scroll. The central plot revolves around Kenichi and his uncle as they seek to unravel the mystery surrounding a enigmatic girl named Tima. However, multiple narrative threads intertwine to reveal that the true star of the film is none other than the city of Metropolis itself. The city’s architecture is depicted as complex, grand, intricate, and expansive – serving as a backdrop for a not-so-subtle critique on social class dynamics. The affluent humans reside in luxurious areas above ground while the marginalized working-class robots inhabit the lower levels. Metropolis showcases some of the most impressive architectural designs ever seen in anime cinema.

Roujin Z (1991)

Roujin Z, directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo of Akira fame, is a distinctive fusion of political commentary, emotional depth, and technological musings. Set in a futuristic Japan where the government has developed a robotic hospital bed, the narrative follows 81-year-old Kiyuro Takazawa who becomes its inaugural patient. Initially, everything seems normal until the bed begins broadcasting his deepest thoughts. In an attempt to save him from this situation, his nurse enlists help from hackers which results in revealing the bed’s true capabilities as it breaks loose on Tokyo’s streets. With its blend of humor and skepticism, Roujin Z is indeed a worthy addition to any film collection.

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

Grave Of The Fireflies, a deeply moving narrative from Studio Ghibli, was directed by Isao Takahata. It tells the tale of two siblings, Seita and Satsuko, who are tragically separated from their parents during the US firebombing of Kobe in late 1945. After enduring difficult conditions living with an aunt, they choose to strike out on their own and confront the brutal reality of survival. Their journey is fraught with adversity and despair, mirroring the profound grief of a nation wrestling with a major historical tragedy and its accompanying sense of collective accountability. While it may not share the popularity of films like Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro, this film holds a unique place within the Ghibli collection due to its significant thematic depth.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987)

At the brink of conflict, a kingdom and a republic stand on the cusp of technological advancement. While some view the evolution of technology through a lens of warfare potential, others envision it as a catalyst for humanity’s exploration of space. Amidst personal conflicts and religious tensions, emerges a captivating narrative. Initially unsuccessful at the box office, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise has evolved into an artistic and innovative anime classic, despite its dated portrayal of gender dynamics. This film marked the debut for both Bandai and Gainax in the anime realm, solidifying their significance in the industry.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a unique story that blends kaiju-mech sci-fi elements with coming-of-age teen experiences, complex psychoanalytical themes, and deep biblical references. This influential franchise has attracted notable fans such as the late Robin Williams and directors Wes Anderson and Guillermo del Toro. However, the final episodes of the original series sparked controversy for their abstract nature and unresolved narrative threads. Dissatisfied followers in the nineties led to the creation of The End Of Evangelion in response to the public outcry.

The movie serves as an effective reinterpretation of the original story’s ending, providing a more comprehensive conclusion with substantial narrative depth. Fans of the show can easily transition into this film and keep up with the plot. Alternatively, they can revisit “Death and Rebirth,” a feature-length recapitulation of the series’ overall arc before “The End Of Evangelion.” Another option is “Revival Of Evangelion,” which combines both films. While this sequence of releases might seem complex for those unfamiliar with Evangelion – and even for some insiders – once viewers fully engage and understand it, they are likely to become lifelong fans.

Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

Tekkonkinkreet is a distinctive collaboration between Japan’s Studio 4C and first-time American director Michael Arias, known for his work on The Animatrix. Based on the manga of the same name, the story takes place in Treasure Town, where Black and White, two street-urchins with contrasting yet complementary personalities, resist the yakuza’s influence that is deteriorating their city. Arias and Studio 4C skillfully blend engaging storytelling with stunning visuals in this classic narrative of morality and conflict.

Patlabor: The Movie (1989)

Mechs, a staple in anime, offer an exciting blend of advanced technology and high-octane action. Occasionally, as seen in the 1989 film “Patlabor: The Movie,” they also serve as a setting for engaging political drama, intricate conspiracy narratives, and subtle Biblical allusions. The story is set in a fictional 1999 Tokyo where Labors – enormous mechs used for construction and defense – are integral to the city’s future. However, when pilots start losing control of their Labors, it threatens potential disaster and puts the anonymous manufacturer under investigation. After viewing this film, viewers will likely be eager to delve into the equally compelling and more atmospheric sequel.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

My Neighbour Totoro, released concurrently with Grave Of The Fireflies, is arguably one of Studio Ghibli’s most serene and wholesome productions. This film serves as a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of daily life. The narrative, though minimalistic, revolves around young sisters Satsuki and Mei who relocate to the rural countryside to be nearer their ailing mother – a somewhat melancholic premise. However, they soon find themselves immersed in an enchanting realm inhabited by lovable forest spirits. This movie features many of Miyazaki’s most emblematic characters including the colossal spirit Totoro who has since become Ghibli’s mascot. Overall, it is an absolute joy to watch.

Redline (2009)

Redline, a cult-favorite anime racer, is highly recommended for those who appreciate outstanding anime art. This film enthralls viewers with its bold audacity, escalated risks and impressive posturing. Set in a future where an underground elimination race is the only goal, Redline provides an adrenaline-filled experience enhanced by a captivating soundtrack. Its depiction of a vast and colorful futuristic world bears similarities to Cowboy Bebop, distinguishing it from other racing films.

The Animatrix (2003)

The Animatrix stands out as a distinctive piece. Conceived by the Wachowskis, this collection comprises nine short narratives, each helmed by a different renowned anime director. Utilizing their individual talents and creative prowess, these directors have crafted an array of stories that uniquely expand upon and delve into the events preceding and concurrent with the primary Matrix films. The Animatrix is an amalgamation of genres, defies expectations, and serves as a valuable extension to the Matrix lore.

The Wind Rises (2013)

If you’re interested in exploring beyond the popular Ghibli classics, Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises, is worth considering. This profound and intricate drama explores the filmmaker’s recurring themes such as the fascination with flight, the effects of war, and the nature of dreams. The story follows Jiro Horikoshi’s journey to become an aircraft designer. His commitment and intelligence lead him to become a respected engineer. However, as war looms ahead, Jiro faces a moral quandary: he must design a beautiful aircraft that will inevitably be used in conflict – specifically, the Mitsubishi A5M ‘Zero’ fighter plane. The Wind Rises is partially based on true events and offers thoughtful artistry for mature audiences seeking something different from typical Ghibli films.

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