Anime 101

reading time: ca. 2 min

(my top ten anime movies ranked from top left to bottom right)

an·i·me/ˈænɨmeɪ/ n 1 Japanese animated work (cf. manga, the Japanese equivalent to comics and graphic novels). 2 a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colourful graphics and vibrant characters in action-filled plots, often with fantastic or futuristic themes.

For today's post i have prepared a list of my favourite feature-length animes * of all time, an "Animarathon" so to speak (just in case i didn't stress enough how much of a nerd i am). This is quite a long list, so, without further ado, let's get to it -

One last thing: I apologize if this feels more like a top 10 Miyazaki list than a top 10 best anime movies list. I do adore Miyazaki's talent to tell modern fairytales, but while all his Studio Ghibli works are undoubtedly wonderful, i do realize there are lots of hidden gems from less popular artists that i have yet to discover. So please excuse the lack of underdog anime masterpieces in my list!

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

What would a list of animated Japanese films be without Spirited Away? As mainstream as this probably is, my favourite anime is indeed this one. Why? Because it is fanciful and still close to reality. We've got a lost little girl trying to find back to her old self, a mysterious boy who isn't who he seems to be, and a whole bunch of lovably grotesque characters. 
Some say, it's the Japanese version of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)

Even though i have only watched this once in my life, this piece of art is right at the top of my list. Grave of the Fireflies tells the heart-touching story of two children, brother and sister, during World War II. 
It is a humbling, terrible, beautiful thing to watch.

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)

This almost made my Number 1! On the one side we have a warrior prince, who sets out to find the evil spirits who ravage the country, on the other side the wild princess of the wolves, who fights against expanding industrialization. Beyond being an exciting adventure film, Princess Mononoke reminds us of the power of nature and how irresponsibly some of us treat our environment.
Also, i think i have a movie crush on the prince. He's not your usual roaring hero, but earnest, noble and pretty handsome :) 

Five Centimeters per Second (Makoto Shinkai, 2005)

Looking for a worthy successor to master Miyazaki? Here he is: Makoto Shinkai! I swear, when i first saw a movie by him, i felt certain the art was by Miyazaki. Anyway, that aside, Five Centimeters per Second does a fabulous job at portraying the development of friendship and love over a long lapse of time, without tripping into sob-stuff and cheesiness. 

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Mamoru Hosoda, 2006)

This is also a romance film, but more on the comedy side: An average teenage girl gains the ability to leap through time -who would've thought- but soon realizes that every intervention in turn comes with a consequence. Charming and witty movie that will make you think about your own responsibilities. 

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

Yet another Miyazaki film, and yet another modern fairytale. Two girls move to the country with their dad to be near their ailing mother, and make the acquaintance of a the wondrous forest spirit Totoro. Similar to Spirited Away and Mononoke, the film manages to incorporate magical creatures in a very natural way.

Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003)

Christmas in Tokyo, Japan. Three homeless people, a middle-aged bum, a girl and a transvestite, find an abandoned newborn among the trash and set out to find the parents.
As one of my more recent discoveries, Tokyo Godfathers made it straight into my Top 10 list because of its unconventional topics (homelessness, immigrants, homosexuality) and a good mix between comedy and sincerity.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)

This is one of Miyazaki's earliest works and a landmark for Japanese animated films. The story centres around an inquisitive young woman, princess to a kingdom in a post-apocalyptic world some time in the future. I love that - contrary to most princess characters - her position as the daughter of the king actually holds power and responsibilities, which she has to deal with. Also, i'm a sucker for dystopias.

Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)

I promise, this is the last Miyazaki film! Not as awe-inspiring as Spirited Away or action-packed as Mononoke, this movie comes in with a 90-year-old protagonist, a chicken-legged castle and a steampunk world on the brink of war. Howl's Moving Castle teaches without preaching, and it does that using a beautiful artistic imagery, surreal characters and dynamic storytelling. All in all a colourful ride.

Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1997)

Some call it the "Hitchcock" of anime, but Perfect Blue is much more than that. This psychological thrillers focusses on society's obsession with idols and personality cult, twisting your mind and making you doubt your own sanity. Containing both physical and mental violence, this is certainly not a film for everyone, but it is definitely worth watching and reflecting upon.

As if a Top 10 list wasn't long enough already, i've got three other movies to include in my favourites roundup:

Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda, 2009)

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Makoto Shinkai, 2011)

Brave Story (Kôichi Chigira, 2006)

With all three of these movies i absolutely loved the idea and the beginning! but they didn't realize their full potential, much to my sadness.

*animes i did watch but did not include in this list: Akira, Kiki's Delivery Service, Pom Poko, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, Castle in the Sky, Whisper of the Heart, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, Neon Evangelion: The End of Evangelion, Tales from Earthsea, The Cat Returns, Appleseed, Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Summer Days with Coo, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Also, there are no TV shows listed here - because there is going to be a separate post on that some time later!

Planning to watch: Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata), Paprika (Satoshi Kon), Tekkonkinkreet (Michael Arias), The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki), Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda), Sword of the Stranger (Masahiro Andô)

What else should i watch? Any recommendations?

Much love ~



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