Disney is forever synonymous with cartoons and animation, and while the recent Pixar films (Pixar is owned by Disney) have gathered critical acclaim, they’re still a far cry from some of the best Anime movies ever made. During the late 80s and the 90s, Anime went from a niche viewership that was rarely available in the Western world, to almost mainstream it is today, mainly because of a few films that changed the way the Western audience looked at animes. Here are ten anime movies that surpass virtually anything Disney has made, including the Pixar films.
10: 5CM Per Second (2007)
Probably one of the most visually stunning animated movies (not just animes) to be released this decade, 5CM Per Second is comprised of three stories, which deal with love between people with a great distance between them. It’s not for everyone, especially young kids who won’t understand much of it, but the sheer beauty of the animation of Makoto Shinkai is some of the most artful visions you’ll ever see — both in animation and live action movies. Just search the title on Google Images and indulge yourself in a few frames.
9. Cowboy Bebop (2001)
Based on the hit tv-series Cowboy Bebop, the movie continues the neo-noir, jazz infested action following the bounty hunters who get a job to track down a terrorists. Cowboy Bebop has had a cult following ever since it was first aired in Japan, then in the US, and the movie is a great introduction to newcomers to the franchise.
8. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is, more than anything, a social comment on Tokyo and the minorities of one of the largest cities in the world. The story follows three homeless friends, a young girl, a homeless man and a transvestite who find a baby in a dumpster and embark on a journey to return it to its parents. Pitch that to Pixar.
7. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Hayao Miyazaki, often referred to as the Walt Disney of Japan, has made plenty of genre defying anime movies (there are a few more on this list), and although he had done numerous movies before, Princess Mononoke was his breakthrough movie in the Western world. It was the highest earning movie at the Japanese box office before Titanic, which not only shows Japan’s love for anime, but just how popular the movie was in its home country.
6. Paprika (2006)
A visual feat for the eyes, Paprika shows just what a storyteller with a vivid imagination can do. A “dream machine” — which allows doctors to see a patient’s dreams — is stolen by a thief who uses it to enter people’s dreams, and it’s up to Paprika and her team to find the reclaim the machine. The movie shifts between reality and dreamworld continuously, and it welcomes a second viewing to get all the details.
5. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
The second Miyazaki film on the list, Howl’s Moving Castle, developed from the book by Diana Wynne Jones, centers around a girl who is cast with a spell that makes her look old, her only hope of becoming young again is with a wizard and his giant, walking castle. It features all the Miyazaki trademarks, from stunning artwork to graceful animation, and is widely considered one of his best films to date.
4. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
It was one of the first films to popularize Cyberpunk as an art style and vision of the future. The movie has not only been a visual inspiration to countless Hollywood action movies over the years, but a direct influence to The Matrix. The Watchowski brothers reportedly showed Ghost in The Shell to producer Joel Silver and told him, “We wanna do that live action”. There are countless references to Ghost in The Shell in the Matrix, from the way they’re plugged into the Matrix to the virtual world itself. It’s a must see for any sci-fi fan, whether you’re into anime or not.
3. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
It was a movie that one can never imagine being made by Western animators or storytellers, Grave of The Fireflies was the film that made everyone realize, including the Japanese, that anime can be used to tell serious, heart felt stories. It centers on a boy and his young sister who struggle to survive in WW2 Japan when their mother dies during US firebombs of their city. Roger Ebert called it “the most powerful anti-war movie of all time”. And it’s just that.
2. Akira (1988)
With Akira, the West finally woke up to the power of the Japanese animes. It’s the movie that defined the whole genre, from its art style, to its realistic portrayal of violence, to its ability to tell several stories at once. The world of Neo Tokyo and it’s lawlessness, the motorcycle gangs and the technology introduced all contribute to making Akira the hallmark of anime for the past 20 years.
1. Spirited Away (2001)
Miyazaki’s masterpiece, the story of a girl who ventures into the land where witches, Gods and spirits rule, where she has to fight to keep her spirit, and fight to release the spirits of the ones she loves. The film was hailed by critics all over the world, and won dozens of awards, including an Oscar for best animated feature. The movie even surpassed Titanic to become the highest grossing move of all time in Japan.
Few movies have moved me as much as Grave of the Fireflies has. ONTD, what's your favorite anime movie?