I first heard about Japanese animation when I was in college, back in the fall of 2000. A little late to the party, I know. But better late than never. The college had an anime club and I started going to their Saturday night events where they would show a couple of films or several TV series episodes. The first shows I watched were Battle Athletes, El Hazard and Initial D. I was hooked on Initial D!
I kept coming back and watching more and more anime. I made some friends and they let me borrow some DVDs, then I rented discs on Netflix and my interest has continued since then. If you can enjoy films like Shrek, The Incredibles or Monster’s Inc, then you’re sure to find something you like in anime as it covers all genres and interests.
What Is Anime?
Briefly, anime is simply Japanese cartoons and animated films/series. Some qualities define anime and separate from western animated work. According to Wikipedia, anime “often features colorful graphics, vibrant characters and action-filled plots with fantastic or futuristic themes.” From eye style to hair color, artistic details can carry almost as much significance as the story itself.
In any case, if you’ve heard about anime and didn’t know where to start or perhaps you’ve watched some and are intrigued, check out the list below and then go watch these films!
NOTE: This collection of amazing anime films does not include series, which will come in another post.
Here we go.
Top 10 Anime Movies
- – Easily one of the most well-known anime films, Akira is one of those classics you simply
- to see. It’s like the Wizard of Oz or Star Wars of anime, it’s that big. Akira is a cyberpunk action film. Set in 2019 Neo-Tokyo, a young biker gang member, Tetsuo, is turned into a psychic maniac. Akira has been kept in cryo-storage and is eventually awakened to help bring down Tetsuo. There are a lot of great visuals in this film.
- Created and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.
- – This psychological thriller follows Mima Kirigoe, lead singer in a popular pop group. She leaves to become an actress. Some fans become angry. Unfortunately, a creepy stalker is upset about the switch as well. Things start to spiral out of control for Mima as her work and reality become intertwined. Directed by Satoshi Kon. Written by Sadayuki Murai. Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.
- – This is a violent and gory tale of ancient Japan. Samurai, ninja and demons all fighting, all dying. It’s a wicked good action film. Jubei Kibagami is a ninja who gets pulled into a battle with an old enemy, Gemma, who is bent on destroying the government. Gemma is leader of an evil ninja clan known as the Devils of Kimon. Written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
Grave of Fireflies
- – GoF is an emotional war film about an orphaned boy and his sister as they struggle to survive in Japan during the end of World War II. Their father is in the military and likely dead, their mother dies of severe burns following a bombing raid by Americans. The two run out of food and turn to stealing to survive. The ending is rather sad but is a good portrayal of what actually happened. Written and directed by Isao Takahata. Produced by Studio Ghibli.
- – During her families move to the suburbs, Chihiro Ogino stumbles into a world of spirits, monsters, witches and gods. Chihiro meets Haku who warns her to leave. Chihiro ends up in a dilema and ends up being renamed Sen by a witch named Yubaba. Sen must help Haku before being freed and returning to her family. It’s a fun little tale which became the most successful film in Japanese history, even surpassing sales of Titanic. Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
- – This was one of the first anime feature-length films I watched and I love it. Defending his village against a demon attack, Ashitaka becomes cursed. To be cured he must travel west into the forest where the demon came from. Ashitaka becomes embroiled in a conflict between Lady Eboshi, who is destroying the forest, and San, also known as Princess Mononoke, who is fighting Eboshi. San rides a massive wolf and fights to protect the forest from the gun toting humans. Another film written and directed by the master Hayao Miyazaki.
Ghost in the Shell
- – In this science fiction police thriller, cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi is hunting down The Puppeteer, a cyber-criminal. In 2029, the world is even more connected than we are now and this poses a serious threat when the Puppeteer starts meddling with things. As it turns out, The Puppeteer is an autonomous artificial intelligence. Ghost in the Shell is anime’s The Matrix. So, if you liked The Matrix (who didn’t??) you’ll like Ghost in the Shell. Directed by Mamoru Oshii.
Vampire Hunter D
- – A dark, futuristic fantasy film, Vampire Hunter D is set in post-apocalyptic 12,090 AD. Vampires, mutants and demons roam the world give D plenty of targets to kill. D, a vampire hunter, is sent after the daughter of a werewolf hunter that has been kidnapped by Count Magnus Lee. D must defeat the Count and prevent the girl from becoming a vampire. The original film is a classic no doubt but my favorite was the sequel – Bloodlust. Directed by Toyoo Ashida.
- – Cowboy Bebop is best known for the anime series. But this film is definitely worth being in the Top 10. Mars is under attack by a pathogen and a huge bounty has been issued by the government. The bounty hunting crew of the spaceship Bebop hope to cash it in. In a race against other bounty hunters, the crew aim to capture Vincent Volaju. But it doesn’t just stop with Vincent. Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe.
Appleseed: Ex Machina
- – This is the sequel to Appleseed. Both are amazing but I liked Ex Machina a bit more. ESWAT Officers Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires infiltrate a massive cathedral to rescue some prisoners. Concerns are raised by the number of recent terrorist attacks that involve only cyborgs. It comes to light that a network hack and nanites are being used to take over cyborgs and control their actions. Directed by Shinji Aramaki. Produced by John Woo.
I hope you have a great time checking out these films.