When I think of “anime,” I generally think of the television shows, which tell several hours, or several years, of story in increments of twenty minutes or so. But Japanese animation is not limited to the small screen any more than Western animation is. Indeed, the pros and cons hold true on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: shows can take their time and flesh things out and explore every last detail more fully, while movies are more streamlined, and uninterrupted by commercials or episode breaks.
So, in a medium which, by rights, is absolutely on par with any other, what are some good anime movies worth recommending?
Well, first restriction: I refused to fill all five slots with Ghibli movies. I mean, seriously, we all know how great Hayao Miyazaki’s work is, so there’s no need to drown everyone else out, ya know? 😉
Second restriction: as wonderful as they are, I refuse to pick any movies that are either “the anime in movie format,” or “this is how the anime really ends,” or anything else which is inherently attached to a show. I consider those to be part of the anime TV shows, and so they should be enjoyed alongside the anime itself, rather than as an independent movie. I am picking movies that stand alone as movies.
And, of course, these are movies that I actually like and would recommend to my friends. 😉
In no particular order:
1) Wolf Children
A young woman in college falls for a tall, dark, handsome man who happens to be a wolfman. By which, I mean a creature that can freely shift between being a man and being a wolf. They get married and have two children, before his tragic, untimely death. She is left to raise two children, children the world will never truly understand or accept if they ever learn the truth of them, on her own.
It’s a realistic depiction of a slightly-fantastical situation. It’s about a woman who is very out of her depth doing her best and raising two amazing children. It’s endearing, and heart-breaking, it makes you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It’s about the absolute love a mother has for her children, even as those children grow up.
It’s a masterpiece, I say. 😉
2) The Princess and the Pilot
In the midst of a great war, a princess is set to be married to a prince, thus solidifying an alliance between two nations at a critical moment. But, deprived of the resources to securely transport her with an entire royal entourage, the choice is made to entrust her person and passage to their very best pilot, flying alone through hostile territory. As it happens, though, said pilot is of mixed blood, a bestado, for which he is constantly sneered at and looked down on. Nevertheless, he will perform his duty to the utmost, no matter the personal hazards. The experience these two share may be the hinge on which swings the fate of nations and peoples.
It’s part love story, part war epic, part historical drama (albeit of a fictional history), part social commentary, and part tragedy. You can’t help but love both of the lead characters. Even when you’re screaming at them not to make a tremendous mistake, you still want them to somehow succeed, to find love and be happy. It has an ending that most Western audiences might not expect, wherein loss and triumph are intermingled.
I loved this movie. 🙂
3) Patema Inverted
A girl living a hard life with very little, and a boy living an easy, but very suppressed, life. They meet, and there is one particularly distinguishing factor: gravity. Up and down are inverted, as one people walk on the ceiling while the other walks on the floor. There are people who do not like having their perspective challenged so literally, as it defies the fabrication they’ve use to control society. These two new friends will have to put it all on the line to save each other.
The premise is a bit unique, though also a bit on the nose in its point: differing perspectives do not make people less human, and it does not make peace impossible. It was actually a bit absurd, the lengths to which the villain was willing to go just because his “up” was someone else’s “down.” But, that said, this is still an enjoyable drama about overcoming differences and making peace.
4) Sword of the Stranger
A stranger without a name, carrying a sword he’s tied shut, comes across a boy and his dog. The boy is hunted by both local authorities and foreign warriors, for he seems to be the key in an elaborate ritual which promises the gift of immortality. Very low on funding, and ridden with regrets, the stranger agrees to be hired by the boy, to protect him, an effort that drives him to his limits and makes him confront his past.
This is an excellent movie, easily among my favorites. The action, intrigue, drama… honestly, it felt nothing short of Shakespearean, a’la Japan. 🙂
5) Princess Mononoke
A young prince defends his village from an attacking demon, and is cursed as a result. He is foretold to die from it, but, nonetheless, he is sent away, to find where the demon came from and meet his fate on his own terms. He meets many people, sees many wondrous and terrible things, and stands as a bridge of peace, with eyes unclouded by hate. And he meets a fierce woman whom he falls in love with: Princess Mononoke.
Come on, you know I had to mention Ghibli somewhere in this list! And what better than my personal favorite? 😉
And that’s my five picks! What do you think? Any particular anime movies you would like to recommend? 🙂