Hmmmm. When I think about animation, it strikes me as something which is both technical and artistic. It is produced with technical skill and can be analyzed like a machine. Yet the styles can vary across a surprising spectrum, all at the choice of the animator, and we enjoy it on levels far deeper than that of conscious analyzing. It takes a great deal of time and effort, and shoddy workmanship can utterly destroy any given work’s appeal.
So the category of “anime with the best animation” is one which straddles the gap between logic and passion. Very difficult for me to find one single answer to, and one which I can actually argue in favor of. Particularly when so many anime share the exact same style of animation. It’s like trying to objectively argue which storm trooper is most handsome.
So, I am blithely throwing out all of the televised anime, because that’s a lot of anime that are practically identical to one another, no way I can choose between them.
I am choosing a movie.
Obviously, it’s a Studio Ghibli movie. I can think of only one non-Ghibli movie I have seen which gives them a run for their money, and that is Wolf Children.
While it’s not quite my top choice, Wolf Children certainly illustrates what, in my book, is quality animation. The vibrant coloring, the smooth movement, the dimensions we can see on a flat, colored screen, and how it hovers between stark reality and the fantasy of dreams. Ok, that last is less of a technical description, but certainly describes the artistic approach, and shows us what the main character is feeling as described by her daughter, where the years flow by like a dream.
That, I think, is the best summary of my criteria: it serves not just to look good, but to tell the story, and to drive home what the characters are feeling. Wolf Children and, another honorable mention, Patema Inverted, are both shining examples of such.
Not all of Ghibli’s work quite matches Wolf Children in that regard. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, for instance, loses some points for losing realism, when it treats the clouds as if they were the same as the seas (which they are not). Nausicaa also draws some things out, like that chase scene among the clouds, where the titular character is being fired at, gracefully evading the whole barrage, but her evasion doesn’t seem like it would really be so successful, and yet it just keeps going on and on. It’s only slight, and infrequent, but there are moments where they stop telling the story and start being flashy instead.
Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and particularly Porco Rosso and Tales From Earthsea all stand as proud accomplishments in animation, both realistic and fantastic, serving the story and the characters, entrancing and beautiful.
But there is one which stands above the rest.
(albeit with some pretty good competition)
My choice, for being made with the very best animation, beautiful, smooth, realistic, fantastic, showing us the characters, and telling the story, is, of course:
And that’s all I have to say. 😀