10 Best Japanese Animation Films to Watch
by Kaylen Summers
Japan has a rich film culture especially when it comes to animation films. They excel at building a world within the film that mesmerizes as well as speaks to the warmest corners of our hearts. Here are a few amazing Japanese animation films you must watch:
The first animated film to win an Academy Award, this is the story of a young girl who encounters a strange world full of flying witched and spirits. Her family is turned into mysterious animals and she must go on a brave journey to set them free and return to the normal world. Written and directed by ace director Hayao Miyazaki, this is a film that represents the genre of animated cinema the world over. Miyazaki is known for his attention to detail and his enchant for telling tales with multiple layers through this medium.
Weathering with You
This is yet another exciting story of a young boy. He runs away from his home in Tokyo to experience the adventures of the world but soon runs out of money. He then joins an occult magazine where he befriends a girl with special powers. She can clear the skies and prevent it from raining in Tokyo. Together, they embark on a journey that unfolds beautifully on screen. The film is done with excellent skill in creating the effects it desires to create. The warm story with a dash of magic makes it a perfect watch for kids and adults alike.
My Neighbour Totoro
This is another gem from Hayao Miyazaki. The film is about a professor and his two young daughters who move to the village where the mother of the kids is ailing. The kids befriend spirits in the neighboring forest and go on adventures with them. The film is told from the perspective of these kids, giving it a vulnerable yet hopeful tone. Themes like separation, grief, and death are dealt with a rare childishness which is very comforting. This is a specialty of Miyazaki movies so to say. He deals with larger issues from the point of view of children, which makes difficult emotions more palpable for everyone.
This is a film about building a family. A young woman is left all alone to raise her children after her werewolf husband dies. The kids who are half-wolf are put to school with the other local children and what unfolds is a heart-warming tale of friendship, community building, and the struggle of a single mother. The film puts into perspective the value of having a family that loves and supports each other. It is animated with the utmost care to maintain the delicate yet striking theme of the film. Everything from visuals to voice-overs stands out in this wonderfully crafted movie that you must watch at least once.
A story of fantasy and love, this film is about two high school students who live in different parts of the city. They accidentally swap bodies and embark on the most random journey of bonding that blooms into something they had never expected to happen. This is a film that was very well received by critics and fans the world over. The film is a warm tale of young love, with all its magic, tenderness, adventure, and innocence.
Ponyo is a cute, fish-like creature who lives underwater. She desires to become a girl and uses magic to transform into a real girl and visits the dry land. There, she falls in love with a boy and the film follows her emotional journey of coming into the human realm. The film carefully brings out the themes of love, identity, and isolation in a fun way. The characters are so relatable that we often forget the film is an animation.
Castle in the Sky
This is again, a gem that came out of Miyazaki’s brilliant imagination. The film follows a young orphan girl who escapes prison with the help of a magic crystal. Together with a fellow orphan boy, she embarks on a journey to fight pirates and save a mystical, floating city. The film is again, told from the perspective of kids, rendering it a rare fragility and beauty. The details of the animation are stunning and nothing is out of place in this beautifully crafted tale of friendship, hope, adventure, and love.
This is a dystopian science fiction drama that is one of its kind. It revolves around Paprika, a therapist who uses a peculiar machine to enter the dreams of her patients. One day, the machine gets stolen and havoc is wrecked in the world. It is upon Paprika to find the machine and save the world from utter crumbling. The film is paced very well and attempts to bring an edge to the genre. The animation is spot on to create a world that is visually very believable though set in dystopian fantasy. Watch this film if you want a different take on animated films, removed from the soft themes that are generally narrated.
This is a hard-hitting film about the public and private life of a young member of a Japanese pop-idol group. The girl who is now pursuing a career in acting gets stalked by a fan. The obsession broadens into terror as her public life and fame come to haunt her in her private existence. The film deals with themes of obsession, passion, and violence on women in a very mature, palatable way. The animation and tone compliment the story well. It is a refreshing psychological thriller that has become a cult by now, influencing various other filmmakers across the world.
A movie for cyberpunk and racing fans, this is the story of a racer who is participating in the most popular race in the entire galaxy. Losing is not an option and to win, he must survive all those who have been trying to finish him off. Racy, fast, and extremely exciting, this is a film that has its thrill factors right on spot. The exhilaration of the racing and the adrenaline rush it brings to lovers of the sport is perhaps unmatched. All of these things coming together in an animated film is rare and therefore must not be missed!