As streaming services like HBO Max have grown bigger and tried to appeal to more fans, they have tapped into the anime market.
As streaming services like HBO Max have grown bigger and tried to appeal to more fans, they have tapped into the anime market, making classic anime films readily available for fans to watch. Now that HBO Max has dramatically expanded the amount of content available, they know they cannot miss out on this key audience.
It was not so long ago that anime lovers had a difficult time finding their favorite shows and movies online, or even being taken seriously as there was a major stigma against animated content. Thankfully, that has changed, and HBO–a company that has always been ahead of the curve on most things–is providing anime fans with some amazing movies to enjoy.
10. My Neighbor Totoro Is A Gentle Exploration Of Childhood Magic (1988)
Director Hayao Miyazaki and the production company Studio Ghibli have become synonymous with all that is great about anime. Their films are timeless classics, each one with a sense of magic and wonder to them even as they depict realism in every facial expression, every background detail, and every piece of food.
No film better exemplifies the childhood magic of Ghibli than My Neighbor Totoro, the story of two little girls who befriend a magical woodland spirit. This is the sort of movie that nurtures the soul.
9. Spirited Away Explores The Spirit Realm (2001)
The other film that perhaps best exemplifies the legacy and influence of Studio Ghibli is Spirited Away. Like My Neighbor Totoro, the movie’s protagonist is a little girl who encounters magical spirits.
In this case, she becomes trapped in the spirit realm, encountering all sorts of kami as she works to try and save her parents, who have been transformed into pigs. She befriends a boy named Haku and encounters some truly terrifying kami, including a monstrous creature called No-Face. This film feels like a love letter to Shinto traditions, presenting nature and spirits on their own terms, even as it asks important questions about human nature.
8. The Animatrix Adapts A Classic Series (2003)
After the success of the first Matrix film, the Wachowskis expanded the franchise to include two sequels, a number of video games, and an anime set in the Matrix universe. This last one is quite appropriate, as one reason for the original film’s success was its ability to adapt anime styles and action sequences to live-action.
The Animatrix is comprised of a series of short vignettes, each a separate story that expands upon some element of the Matrix‘s larger grand narrative, including the war between humanity and the machines and the events that led up to The Matrix Reloaded. All of the different stories have a unique tone, both in their writing and their animation styles, ensuring that each will resonate with audiences in its own unique way.
7. Promare Covers Social Topics With Grace (2019)
This mecha anime is pure robot-fighting fun, but it is also one of the most surprisingly deep and moving movies released in 2019. With its amazing psychedelic color palette and blend of classic 2D animation with newer digital 3D animation, this film is visually stunning. It is also emotionally resonant and politically relevant.
Set in the far future, Promare follows Galo Thymos, an arrogant but idealistic young man who puts out fires raging through the city while fighting against a group of arsonists called the Mad Burnish. After he captures the Burnish leader Lio Fotia, he is forced to confront his assumptions about everything he believes in. This movie does a brilliant job addressing everything from climate change to the impotent rage people feel about living in a broken world they do not know how to change.
6. Kiki’s Delivery Service Is A Delightful Slice Of Life Film (1989)
For obvious reasons, witches have always been some of the most magical characters in fiction of all kinds, from ancient folk tales to modern TV dramas. Kiki’s Delivery Service follows the titular character, a witch who makes deliveries on her broomstick.
Accompanied by her adorable black cat Jiji, she operates out of the city of Koriko, interacting with various residents, including an aviation-obsessed boy named Tombo. Kiki’s anxiety, ambition, grief, and vulnerability make her a truly relatable character as she journeys not just through the city, but also into adulthood.
5. The Tale Of Princess Kaguya Is Based On A Folk Tale (2013)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the Japanese folk tale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a story that begins when a man cutting bamboo in the forest finds a baby girl concealed in one of the plants and adopts her.
It has a classic fairy tale feel, enhanced by the unique artistic style of the animation, which evokes brush-stroke Japanese paintings with its watercolor effects. As the little girl grows into a woman, she is driven by her depths of pain and yearning and spurred on by her moral convictions. Interestingly, this is the most expensive Japanese film ever made.
4. Howl’s Moving Castle Explores The Horrors Of War (2004)
A lot of the classic tropes of a great Ghibli film are present in Howl’s Moving Castle. A young female protagonist befriends an enigmatic young boy. There is a magic spirit being, in this case, an animated scarecrow called Turnip Head. The world of magic and old traditions come into conflict with the mechanization and sensibilities of modernity. And despite this, the film is unique and a departure in many ways from some of director Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier works as his focus transitions from nature and spirituality to themes of war and pacifism.
One of the biggest reasons this movie was made was Miyazaki’s opposition to the Iraq War, and he specifically created this movie to reach American audiences and make them reflect with discomfort upon the nature of the war.
3. The Wind Rises Brings The Early 20th Century To Life (2013)
Based on the life of the Japanese engineer Jiro Horikoshi who designed the fighter jets used in World War II, The Wind Rises is a tale of hope and failure. It is a beautifully animated masterwork of visual storytelling that brings the early 20th Century to life.
Hayao Miyazaki came out of retirement to make this film–a piece about how Horikoshi’s desire to build airplanes as beautiful machines was perverted by forces beyond his control. While Miyazaki has frequently depicted flying machines in his movies, The Wind Rises recontextualizes airborne vehicles within a historical framework where the magic and metaphor of them is torn down by ugly realities.
2. Princess Mononoke Is Miyazaki’s Best Film (1997)
Princess Mononoke was way ahead of its time. It has been called Hayao Miyazaki’s best film– which is no small feat, given the director’s incredible body of work, almost all of which are considered masterpieces. The story is about a conflict between a community of humans destroying the natural world to amass resources necessary for their survival and expansion and the violent pushback of nature.
This is not a kid’s movie. It has a violence and potency to it that shows the cruelty of human industrialization and the raw unrelenting force of nature. There are no heroes here. There are no villains. There are different sides with different needs, different people with their own perspectives. Princess Mononoke is a film about facing the inevitable and confronting real-world conflicts through magic and metaphor.
1. Seven Samurai Inspired Countless Films (1954)
This is not an anime film, but most anime fans will certainly love this classic. Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai is the source of inspiration for literally hundreds (if not thousands) of anime that came after.
One cannot overemphasize the impact this film has had. Its influences can be seen (directly or indirectly) in almost every samurai anime ever made, and indeed, everything from the team of seven warriors uniting around a cause to many of the famous battle scenes have been recreated time and again—by Japanese studios and Hollywood. The fight scenes stand the test of time, and the story even more so. Anyone who has not seen it should watch it immediately, and anyone who has seen it will no doubt want to rewatch it.