Hello there! Whether you consider yourself a casual fan of animation or a total Otaku, it's probably safe to assume you're at least a little bit interested in Japanese Animation, or Anime as it is casually known. That, or you saw a gif of an explosion and thought, "That's pretty freaking cool!". Either way, today you'll be spirited away to a land of mystery, romance, action, and talking swords. Without further ado, these are the 5 Anime films you CANNOT MISS!
#5: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
When it comes to the whimsical, there are few who can rival the creative genius of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli! In this heartwarming tale, a professor and his two daughters move into a house on the edge of a forest. Their mother is very ill and life seems fairly bleak until they begin to discover the presence of friendly spirits in the woods. The two girls are taken on adventures beyond their wildest dreams through the forest and beyond!
This movie was a massive success for Studio Ghibli, and it's easy to see why! Firstly, the sense of wonder in this film is incredible, and that effect is achieved through great animation. There's just something amazing about Miyazaki's storytelling style and animations that make you feel like a child in wonder, no matter how old you are. The story is enchanting, engrossing, and sometimes heartbreaking. My Neighbor Totoro is absolutely a joy to watch, and necessary viewing for anyone young and young at heart!
#4: Whisper Of The Heart (1995)
Don't be surprised if all my entries are from Studio Ghibli (Spoiler Alert: They aren't)! Miyazaki and his associates are essentially the overlords of amazing animation. This magical love story was actually created by Yoshifumi Kondo, and was the only film he directed before his untimely death. A young girl and her friend try to navigate the wild world of high school and romance, and somewhere along their journey they encounter a shopkeeper who has a very special statue named "Baron". As you may have guessed, whimsical things ensue.
This film is very jovial and, like the other Ghibli entries, has a healthy mixture of emotion, amusement, and amazing visuals. The film is also slightly more relevant for Western audiences, especially those who are or have been in high school. Whisper Of The Heart touches on a number of mature themes including romantic development and the meaning of friendship, and is a very touching experience. All in all, you won't want to overlook this triumphant entry!
#3: Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (1996)
There have been many incarnations of Mobile Suit Gundam, and so many of them are amazing, but if you're looking for a feature-length example, Endless Waltz is super cool! Endless Waltz serves as the epilogue to Gundam Wing, and as such, you probably want to watch the series before you watch this movie. The basic story (WITHOUT spoilers) involves a war between the people of Earth and the citizens of space colonies. One year before this movie, five pilots of hyper-advanced 'Gundam' mechs were sent to Earth to battle on behalf of the colonies. A year has passed in peace, and the Gundam Pilots have discarded their weapons. That is, until a megalomaniac invades Earth on Christmas Eve and the pilots are called back to action! (That makes this a Christmas movie, right?!)
Endless Waltz is a fantastic example of mecha anime done right. The battles are thrilling and well animated, with interesting dialogue and philosophical questions thrown into the fights. All the characters from the series are expanded upon, and some backstory is provided, which is great. Most importantly, the mechs look amazing and the action scenes will make you want to climb into the cockpit and take on the whole world yourself! Strap yourself in and prepare for battle with Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz!
#2: Spirited Away (2001)
I wasn't kidding when I said there would be a TON of Studio Ghibli on this list! Spirited Away is the most fantastical of the entries on this list. Although it is absolutely suitable for kids, there are some frightening moments and a few spots of blood sprinkled throughout. With all that being said, Spirited Away is one of the most frequently referenced anime films ever created, and for good reason! The movie revolves around young Chihiro, a girl who is traveling with her family when they accidentally enter a mystical realm. They explore, and her parents are turned into pigs! Chihiro must rise to the occasion and unlock the secrets of this magical place in order to save her parents and herself!
This film is one of the purest adventure films I've ever watched, taking an average girl and placing her in the most impossibly otherworldly situations imaginable. Spirited Away is packed with funny supporting characters and great comedic moments, but it also has some emotional and dire scenes as well. The movie has a great sense of urgency that nudges the main character through her unbelievable circumstances, and the sets she moves through are fantastic. From the first frame to the last, you will be entranced by Spirited Away.
#1: Akira (1988)
Of all the anime I've seen, my favorite has to be the classic sci-fi flick Akira! The film is an adaptation of a 2000-page manga, so the pacing is hyperactive and the story is somewhat disorienting on the first watch, but there is so much to love about this critically-acclaimed flick! The story revolves around Kaneda and Tetsuo, two friends who are also in a kick-ass biker gang! The film opens with the detonation of a massive bomb which destroys Tokyo in 1989. 30 years later, the story begins with a brutal battle between their gang and another called The Clowns. Things go horribly wrong when a kid stands in the middle of the highway and Tetsuo tries to avoid him, resulting in an explosive accident. The government flies in and kidnaps the kid and Tetsuo, and over the course of the movie, government scientists discover that Tetsuo has latent psychic abilities that awaken. Things get a little crazy from there.
Akira is a shining example of animation prowess, and even holds up 29 years after its original release! The sound engineering is great, the sets are amazing, and the character animation is top-notch. Everything in this movie looks and sound beautiful. The story is insane and enthralling, and the pacing really gets your blood pumping! Plus, for those who don't like subtitles, the English dubbing is actually good! (I can't believe I just said that!!!) This is definitely not family-friendly, as bloody battles and disturbing content is rampant, but Akira is absolutely one of the best movies ever made, even when compared to live-action flicks! PLEEEEEEEEEEASE don't skip this one, and also try to seek out the remastered Blu-Ray edition if you can, because it's simply breathtaking!
All five of these films are masterpieces, and they also all have great English dubs, so if your inclination is to avoid subtitles, you can't go wrong here! Thanks for reading, happy viewing, and as always, have a KILLER day!