When you think of classic anime features, names like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle must come to mind. Over the years, Hollywood and the rest of the world has come to embrace Japan's whimsical anime films, but there is more to the medium than Studio Ghibli.
Yes, Hayao Miyazaki deserves every bit of the recognition he gets for his legendary work. The visionary worked diligently to raise the bar of what anime - and animation in general - could do as a storytelling medium. Millions of creators cite Miyazaki as an inspiration to them, and many of Japan's rising directors have done the same. So, if you want to see what those apprentices have done with the Studio Ghibli director's lessons, you only need to check out there films.
In the following slides, you can check out ComicBook's list of some wonderful anime films which did not hail from Studio Ghibli. The selection ranges in genres as sci-fi, romance, fantasy, and more all make an appearance. Each film proves there is more to anime features than what Miyazaki penned himself, and plenty of you may find that you prefer these iconic titles more so than movies like My Neighbor Totoro or Ponyo.
Did your favorite anime feature make our list? Hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB to let me know and talk all things comics, k-pop, and anime!
The Boy and The Beast is the perfect film to kick off any anime binge. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, and its colorful palate will make many think of Disney greatest animated feats. And, as you dive into its complex story, fans will realize this film is a masterpiece all on its own.
The film tells the story of Ren, a young boy who runs away from home after his mother passes. While living rough, the kid runs headfirst into a fantasy world filled with crazy creatures and corruption. Ren befriends an bear-like swordsman named Kumatetsu and becomes the surly elder’s apprentice. The two stumble through their newfound friendship slowly and learn how little each other fits in with the worlds they were born into.
Hotarubi no Mori e is an undeniably gorgeous film. Its pastel color schemes and soft animation make it easy on the eyes - that is, if you can watch the film through your tears. The surprisingly gut-wrenching film has its hopeful moments, and its mercurial tone makes those fleeting high points all the more meaningful.
The film, which is directed by Takahiro Omori, adapts a manga penned by Midorikawa Yukiko. It tells the story of a young girl named Hotaru who befriends a quiet forest spirit named Gin during a summer trip. The pair reunite once a year, but Hotaru learns her friend cannot be touched by any human lest he disappear. As their friendship grows, the film’s heroine learns more about her feelings towards Gin and their tragic limitations.
Tokyo Godfathers may come off as a holiday movie, but the touching feature can be watched any time of year and still make you teary. The Satoshi Kon film hits all the right emotional buttons while keeping plenty of levity, and you really need to watch it.
The film follows three homeless characters who stumble upon a newborn infant who was abandoned upon a garbage heap. The diverse protagonists include a teenage runaway, a wandering alcoholic, and a trans woman, but their differences mean nothing in the face of their intertwined fates. The group sets out to find the baby’s parents in hopes the family can be reunited, and Tokyo Godfather’s frank look into society’s most disenfranchised people will make you laugh and cry in turn.
If you haven’t heard of Summer Wars, you will want to school yourself on the ambitious film. The 2009 title was created by Mamoru Hosada whose since been heralded as a prodigal Japanese director. And, once you sample this movie of his, you will see why.
Summer Wars tells the story of Kenji Koiso, a genius high schooler who visits the city Ueda with a friend-come-crush to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. However, Kenji’s plans are upheaved when he is accused of hacking a popular virtual world called OZ by a rogue AI. The boy is forced to fix OZ as its infrastructure crumbles, and Summer Wars depicts the ensuing technological breakdown with plenty of breathtaking visuals.
It isn’t hard to find anime with time travel in it. The sci-fi storytelling device has become a commonly used on in every entertainment sector, but The Girl Who Leapt Through Time does something special with the trope.
The film, which put director Mamoru Hosoda on everyone’s radar, tells the story of Makoto Konno. The girl is an average high schooler who unwittingly stumbles across a device that allows her to leap through time. Makoto uses the leaper frivolously, but when one of her unfettered actions cannot be undone, the heroine’s coming-of-age tale is derailed in the worst way possible.
There are few films which are as gorgeous as A Silent Voice. The film’s aesthetic was brought to life by Kyoto Animation, a premiere studio in Japan, and its story is just as beautiful. It hits deep with its themes of forgiveness, and its gentle artwork is sure to lull any viewer into a raw state.
The film is an original one and tells the story of Shouya Ishida, a high school student who is haunted by the memory of a deaf girl he once bullied. Unable to live with his guilt, Shouya tracks down his former classmates Shouko Nishimiya in hopes of making amends. As the pair reconnect, the movie shows the devastating effects bullying has on every party involved, and A Silent Voice bares the heavy message with quiet poise.
Before Hollywood got its hands on Ghost in the Shell, the series was known best for its seminal anime. The 1995 feature, which was directed by Mamoru Oshii, introduced fans to a gritty world where mankind has been augmented with machines.
The genre-bending film tells the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi, a soldier who leads an anti-terrorist cell in a dystopian world filled with terrors. She is tasked with hunting down a criminal known as ‘The Puppetmaster’ who can hack into cybernetic bodies and commit crimes through those human hosts. Kusanagi digs deep into the disturbing case before it gets out of control, but she never saw her connection to the Public Sector’s most-wanted villain coming.
Wolf Children tells an impeccably beautiful story whose beauty is only overshadowed by its actual animation. The film, which is also directed by Mamoru Hosada, tells the tale of an unconventional family living under a stigma it never wished upon itself.
The film follows a woman named Hana, a single mother who moves to the quiet countryside with her two young children after their werewolf father is killed in a hunting accident. The kids, Ame and Yuki, are bright spots in the film’s melancholic moments, but their charming personalities dim ever so slightly when they must decide whether they wish to live amongst humanity or return to their ancestors' woods.
From the outside, Your Name looks like a simple romance with some body-switching tropes thrown in for good measure. But, once you have finished the film, you realize the anime is infinitely more resonant than it appeared at first glance.
Your Name comes from director Makoto Shinkai and tells the fantastical story of two time-crossed teenagers who long for new lives. When a high schooler named Mitsuha wishes she had been born as a chic boy from Tokyo, she gets her wish when she starts body-swapping with a student named Taki. However, the pair's lives become muddled when family, faith, and a freaking meteor get in their way.
You cannot talk about iconic anime films and not mention Akira. Yes, the feature is talked about often, but you don’t need to worry whether its hype has been played up. The film is as poignant in 2018 as it was back in 1988.
The sci-fi epic tells the story of a world living through the aftermath of World War III. Akira is set in Neo-Tokyo, a cyberpunk city plagued by violence and gangs. Kaneda, a motorcycle gang leader, finds himself going after government forces when his friend Tetsuo is kidnapped because of his latent psychic powers. But, when Kaneda is drawn into a deep web of terrorist cells and corruption, he finds himself uncertain if Tetsuo can be saved.