I did a list of my top 15 anime series that I love (linked here), but not the full-length films. So, since I am sick and bored, I decided to do a list of the films that I am in love with in this genre. Some of these you may see coming, since they are on my favorite films of all time lists, but there may be a few surprises for you. I’m doing this in honor of a film that is coming out at the end of March – Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo. So stoked. I hope you enjoy.
10. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
In the world of vampire fiction, this is one of those underrated classics of vampire cinema. The visuals in this film are gorgeous and the way it stays serious about its subject matter is very nice, never going into the campy subplots that most anime shows and films do. Plus, there is this nice sense of moral ambiguity about the thing. The Vampire Hunter, D, is hired to go after a wealthy man’s daughter who was taken by one of the few remaining vampires. However, the longer he is on this case, the more he realizes that she doesn’t want to be rescued. The vampire who took her is neither hero nor villain. You have to see it and choose for yourself what you believe. I like that. A film that nobody thinks about nowadays that you really should check out.
9. WXIII: Patlabor
A really trippy science-fiction mecha anime thriller (words you don’t think you’ll ever see together), this film tones down the mecha aspect and focuses on two detectives who are investigating a series of crimes involving the mechanical units, Labors. After a while, they come across a secret that they couldn’t believe, involving a lot of people, both close and far. The thing that separates this film from others is the beautiful music and the bittersweet nature of it. There is an aspect to the film of loss and pain that doesn’t go away. Right up to the REALLY bittersweet ending, this aspect shines through. Still, all of the elements work great, from the great dub-work, the interesting story and the awesome action sequences that make use of the mecha aspect of the film. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.
8. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
A film I recently fell in love with was Spike Jonze’s latest film, “Her.” In it, they have a science fiction element that is really downplayed, instead focusing on the character development, with the element in play being more of a plot device that keeps things realistic. This film does much the same, with a young girl finding a way for her to travel back through time by jumping into the air. The higher the jump, the farther back she goes. At first, her use of this talent is all fun and games, but she quickly sees a darker side, when she starts trying to correct mistakes and realizes just how much damage she has done in the process. This is an emotionally compelling film, which actually does a good job of capturing a realistic high school girl and her difficulties with romance and life. How a relationship that grows throughout the film plays out is just gorgeous, along with a little bittersweet. It treats love not just as something wonderful, but something real too. That is definitely something to respect.
7. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
No surprise that my favorite anime series makes one of my favorite movies. One of the things that I love about this film is how it doesn’t take place after the end of the series. Rather, it takes place towards the end, like a really long and really good episode. The crew of the Bebop arrives on Mars, only to get involved in a terrorist plot a man has to get revenge on the corporation that destroyed his past. It has all the same character charm that the series has, along with showing the same growth elements that the series has. The action scenes were totally awesome! The animation for the film is a Studio Bones highlight, with all of their talent pouring out onto the screen. It felt like a nice way to close out the series. A series film that does it all right. Nice work.
6. Ghost in the Shell
While the plot for this isn’t entirely original, it’s all the execution. And this film is nearly flawless in its execution. Telling the story of a murderer who the police are going after, they very quickly find out that the criminal isn’t who they expect. It all culminates in a REALLY neat crime thriller that has some sick action sequences. The animation in this is retro, but still gorgeous. The way they show technology is a reminder, to me, that despite digital animation, there are just some things that will always look better with 2D animation. The technological aspects in this film were incredible, mostly due to their attention to detail. The biggest selling-point of the film, to me, is the world it exists in. It feels lot like Blade Runner and the lower-world that they made, overpopulated and filled with vice. If one wants to see what the future might look like, this is a good place to start.
5. Summer Wars
Made by the same man who made “The Girl who Leapt Through Time,” he also happened to make the three Digimon films that America stupidly decided to make into one. The second of the two, which is the only part of the American film you remember, was one that he liked. He liked the concept, but wanted to make it outside of the Digimon franchise. So, that’s exactly what he did. Centered around a digital world called OZ, this is a two-pronged story about a brilliant young man and how a girl gets him roped into two different problems, each on drastically bigger than himself. The animation of OZ and that world is GLORIOUS! For real, how beautiful that world is will blow your mind. It makes the fight scenes that much better. But the other best part of the film is the female protagonist’s huge family and just how real that family feels. For real, there are a few that I guarantee you everyone will bond with, but everybody has different ones that they do. I’m so glad that the director decided to go this route. We should all be thanking him.
4. Princess Mononoke
Originally, Hayao Miyazaki intended for this to be his magnum opus. After all the time and money and passion he poured into it, he believed that he wouldn’t be able to make another film. The man half-expected Studio Ghibli to go out of business with this film. Instead, he created one of the greatest animated films ever made. Hell, one of the greatest films ever made. Telling the story of a young prince named Ashitaka, who is cursed by a giant demon boar, he travels to the west, seeking the Forest Spirit and a cure for his curse. He becomes involved in a world of humans and gods, along with the forest and the battle to save it from the industrialized city of Iron Town. The animation in this film is perfect. For real, there was nothing half-done. The dub is one of the best I have ever heard, thanks in large part to the ADR director, Neil Gaiman (yes, THAT Neil Gaiman). There is not a single aspect of this movie that I don’t love and it is, by far, Studio Ghibli’s best film.
3. Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
When FUNimation bought the rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion, they decided that, instead of doing a totally rebooted series, they instead decided to do a series of what is to be four films, the third of which comes out at the end of March here in the States. Such a wise decision. While the first film was beautiful and captured the feel of the series perfectly, it was this film that was truly a flawless work of art. Picking up where the previous film left off, Shinji has now accepted his role as the pilot of EVA Unit 01. He meets a new pilot, Asuka. They also introduce another character, the EVA junkie Mari, who has a mission all her own. The war against the Angels, in an effort to stop God himself, continues, with humanity gradually running out of options. I love everything about this film. The perfectly-captured dark aspects of Shinji’s war. His tragic relationship with his father. The sad reality that humanity has nearly been destroyed and is running out of places to run, along with all of the pilots trying to find humanity in their own way. It’s not a happy film. Far from it. But it isn’t completely tragic. They are all learning about themselves, and it’s beautiful to watch.
2. Five Centimeters Per Second
One of the biggest problems in film is that every film that has romance as a central plot point makes it into a very happy experience, giving it a happy ending, even when it isn’t called for. This film does NOT take that route. Following the growth of a young man, this is a film of three stories, each one in a different part of his life. It begins with him meeting up with a girl who he had feelings for, but had to move away from. The two reconnect, believing that they will be together one day. You see how the young man is unable to escape his feelings for her, with them eventually ruining his life. It’s a tragic reminder of just how hard love can be, along with how hard it can be to move on. Another thing to talk about is the eye-poppingly amazing animation! Oh my god, this film is incredible to look at. Using a softer, almost pastel approach, they are able to get colors to pop in a way that few other films on this list can.
And my favorite anime film is…
1. The Sky Crawlers
Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the same man who made “Ghost in the Shell,” this is, to me, his magnum opus. There will never be another film he makes that will come close to how much I enjoy watching this. Telling the story of a squadron of fighter pilots made up of children who are clones. They never age and only die when they are killed in battle. It is a miserable existence, and the film shows how they deal with it. Showing the slow and endless repetition of their tragic lives is almost a little cruel, but the film also has a plot going where the newest pilot is trying to figure out how his predecessor died. What he inevitably figures out is almost heart-wrenching, because it lets him in on a darker side of his commanding officer. The animation in this film is beautiful, but it isn’t as extravagant as the previous entry. It is more subdued, shining when it needs or wants to, to give us some incredible depth. Another dub that is among the best ever made, each character plays their roles perfectly, with the two leads bringing a lot of subdued passion to the film. While not a blatantly depressing movie, it still has the feels going, in a smaller way.
What anime films do you love? Let me know in the comments section.
Until next time, a quote,
“Would you like me to kill you? Or would you do me a favor, and kill me? If you don’t, then nothing will ever change for us.” -Suito Kusanagi, The Sky Crawlers