Welcome to the final edition of my beginner’s edition to movies. It has been quite some time since I last wrote a BGA article, and the reasons for it varied from research for good beginner anime to real life issues. Many of you might say that “Movies” isn’t a genre, and I would agree but I didn’t want to create a separate guide for Movies so I decided to include them in this series. The problem with movies when recommending to beginners is that they are usually done in two hours or so, making it rather difficult to judge. So, this list might contain some anime that is not exactly beginner friendly, so I advise you to read the synopsis for it in the links I provide and see if it is something that you might be interested in.
You can read my other entries in the Beginners Guide here:
NOTE: This list only contains my preference and your preference might defer. If you have a recommendation that did not make the list, please add it in the comments for other to know about.
So, before I start the list I decided to divide it into anime studios as some studios have multiple movies that are fantastic. There will be a others tab, that will contain movies made by other studios that don’t have multiple good movies out. Let’s start then.
Ghibli is a rather famous name when it comes to anime movies, and almost every one of their releases is fantastic both in terms of art and in terms of story. But, I managed to narrow them down to a few as much as I could.
Grave of the Fireflies
This movie is my favourite of all the Ghibli movies. The most serious and sad movie ever released by Studio Ghibli, it begins with the main character, Seita talking about the day he died, what follows after is just how he and his sister ended up dying. The movie is set during the World War II in Japan and is definitely a tear-jerker movie which is not only realistic but also touching and manages to show that anime as a medium can be used to convey a beautiful story while making you feel sad for a character that doesn’t exist. Though many consider My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away as the best Ghibli movie, but for me, Grave of the Fireflies is the best release out there.
My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is the most famous anime made by Ghibli, so much so that it actually uses Totoro as the studio mascot. The movie follows two sisters, Mei and Satsuki, and their exploits with three mystical forest spirits called Totoro and the anime shows how they cope with their mother being in the hospital constantly with the help of the three spirits. A touching and a heart-warming anime, this one is probably Hayao Miyazaki’s best work.
Spirited Away is my second favourite anime created by Ghibli, the first being Grave of the Fireflies. The story follows a young girl as she battles her fear and overcomes adversity to escape the spirit world she and her parents unintentionally wander into. A pretty interesting watch which manages to tick all the boxes expected from a Ghibli movie.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
For a 1986 movie, the art direction is simply fantastic. The anime seems to be loosely based on the Gulliver’s Travels novel where there is a similar flying castle as the one in the movie. Written and directed by the maestro Hayao Miyazaki himself, the first movie by Studio Ghibli revolves around a young boy named Paz and a girl called Sheeta and how they save the world and Laputa from corrupted and greedy people.
The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises is the last movie made by Hayao Miyazaki and is more of a love story based on the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer behind two highly used Japanese fighter planes in WWII. The animation is fantastic but the interaction between Jiro and his wife is what makes the highlight of the movie, along with the other characters that act as support to the story. Though the movie is on a slower side, but the end pays off nicely.
Princess Mononoke can be basically summed up as Man’s conflict with the natural world. Similar to other anime made by Ghibli it contains beautiful animation paired with brilliant sounds that bring the anime alive. The anime follows Ashitaka and the Princess Mononoke who find themselves in the midst of a war going on between the sacred spirits of nature and the people of the industrial city called the Iron Town.
Mentions: As I said earlier, Ghibli has a lot of anime movies out there that are fantastic to watch and I dont want to add all of them in this list, as Ghibli might end up being the only studio in the Movie edition. So, if you like their work, give a look at others they have created too.
Though Madhouse doesn’t have a lot of movies out, they ones that were released by them have been fun to watch and at times really touching. They are responsible for tv series like No Game No Life and One Punch Man which has been fantastic to watch due to high animation quality.
Tokyo Godfathers is my favorite work among every Madhouse release, as rewatching this anime is still fun and the characterizations and animations are simply fantastic to watch. Satoshi Kon, the director behind anime like Paprika, Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress makes a comeback with this somewhat a simple story with an abundance of emotions. Tokyo Godfathers follows a hobo, Gin, a young runaway girl, Miyuki and a transvestite named Hana as they travel throughout the city of Tokyo to return a baby they find in a dumpster to its rightful mother. Though it is not as crazy as Kon’s other works it is nevertheless a damn good anime to watch.
Another one of Kon’s work, Paprika is basically the story of a woman called Paprika who has the power to enter other people’s dreams using a device called the “DC Mini”. The plot boils down to basically her trying to stop someone who is adamant on breaking the barrier between reality and the world of dreams. Paprika has stunning animation and the story might often have you confused as to what just happened.
Summer Wars most striking thing is the use of two different art styles. The story follows a 17-year-old math genius who manages to solve a challenge sent to him on his phone which he manages to crack but soon realises that in doing so might have put the entire world in danger. Though the movie synopsis might sound a bit serious, the anime thankfully is filled with comical reliefs and never takes itself too seriously expect two or three moments in its entire runtime.
Redline is a racing anime that features a really stylised art style and has content that is not fit for underage people. The story follows a racer called “Sweet JP” and his journey as he participates in the biggest racing events called the Yellowline and the Redline. The animation is fantastic and manages to fit in a decent enough storyline to keep you interested till the end.
Mention: Wolf Children is another good work from Madhouse, and Nasu: Summer in Andalusia along with Perfect Blue are a few others that are worth a mention.
Production I.G is probably one of my favourite studios, be it for TV series or movies. Production I.G stuff is usually pretty well written and is artistically amazing too. Also, their movies are somewhat aimed at Adults, so expect some kind of complexity at times.
Ghost in the Shell Movie Series
Ghost in the Shell Movie series consist of two movies called: Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence are two movies that are set in the future and follows Major Kusanagi and her teammates as they work in the background to keep the citizens safe from various harmful elements both from outside the country and from inside the country. For a 1995 movie, the first movie looks pretty fantastic and has aged really well but if you want to see a newer version, Production I.G. released a newer version with upgraded visuals and music too. But be warned, the movies contain random nudity, more in the first movie. The second movie is also a fantastic addition to GiTS lore and if you want to see more there is also the tv series that follow up on the movie nicely.
Link: MAL Movie 1 | MAL Movie 1 Remake | MAL Movie 2
Jin-Roh is a story about a constable named Kazuki Fuse who witnesses a suicide bombing by a young terrorist girl ends up being haunted by her image. To get him fit for duty he is sent for reconditioning to allow him to overcome his fear and then the story unfolds from there. The characters are what makes this anime interesting, the character development is really well done allowing you to understand what role do each character play.
Mention: Well, there arent many others that I could recommend, because I.G has more tv series than their movie list. Blood: The Last Vampire is an interesting one as it runs just for 48 minutes but is action packed and lore heavy. It also gave birth to spin-offs like Blood+ and is written by the guy behind Ghost in the Shell.
Oh, this anime is simply fantastic. Any amount of praise for this 1988 gem is less as the story and animation reaches new heights and the movie still holds its own today and is probably one of the most recommended anime movies and rightfully so. Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who would later go on to work with different studios, Akira manages to be his finest work to date, for me at least. The reason this anime finds itself in the Others column is because Otomo is not associated with a studio and has worked with multiple studios on various occasions.
Another one of Otomo’s work, this 2004 movie has a surprisingly well voice English dub too, if you are interested in it. Nevertheless, Otomo does a fine job with Steamboy in terms of animation and a story that might be easier to understand for newbies.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices
This anime has uncanny similarities with Studio Ghibli movies, as it has a setting that is reminiscent usually found in Ghibli movies. The movie is work of director Makoto Shinkai who does a fantastic job of telling a story of loss and the inevitably of death in a truly fascinating way.
Colorful tells the story of a spirit who is sent into a body of a 14-year old boy who had recently committed suicide as a second chance to live its life and thus the anime continues and shows the spirits emotions and the emotions of the ones surrounding him. This is more of a drama/slice of life movie with a somewhat depressing premise rather than an action packed story.
Sword of the Stranger
Sword of the Stranger is a samurai movie. It is filled with tons of action which are really well animated and the music accompanying it is also satisfactory, to say the least. Though the story is not amazing, it is decent enough and its shortcomings are covered by the visuals and the sounds which manage to keep the movie interesting and entertaining all the way till the end.
The Garden of Words
The Garden of Words is the most visually stunning anime anywhere in the entire BGA series. The visuals are so stunning, I found myself pausing every few minutes to simply look at the details that had been provided in the movie. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, the movie follows a 15-year-old high school boy, who skips school whenever it rains and instead goes to a park and sits and designs shoes where he meets a mysterious older woman who also loves the rain. Though admittedly the story is not overly deep and doesn’t contain any kinds of mind-boggling twists, but this simplicity mixed with the jaw-dropping visuals is what makes this movie brilliant. The visuals and the music are top-notch and the story is somewhat on the shorter end as the movie lasts simply for 46 minutes, so if you find yourself with 46 minutes to spare and want to look at a visual treat, The Garden of Words is your best bet.
So, this concludes my Movie Edition which took me quite some time to write as I had to get a list that wouldn’t overwhelm the list and also provide movies that were somewhat easier to understand and also the ones that have left a good mark in the anime world. So, thanks for reading this entire list, and do give your thoughts about what you agree and disagree with. Also, stay tuned for more anime-related post to this blog!