Anime encompasses every genre known to filmmakers and writers, so it’s not easy to choose the best of the bunch. There are a few movies, however, that stand out to fans both new and old. You can live stream your favourite movie today on tinyzone and make yourself an anime buff as well.
The most notable anime film in the minds of many is Akira, released in Japan in 1988. An immediate blockbuster due to its groundbreaking animation style, Akira introduced many of today’s hardcore anime fans to the art form that Japanese animation could be and helped make anime the best-selling craze that it is today. Its fluid and realistic animation pioneered the look that has contributed to anime’s popularity. Up to that point, the cartoons had generally relied on animation with a limited amount of motion in order to keep production costs down. But Akira proved that if a better anime were built, the fans would come.
Ghost in the Shell relies heavily on its own philosophy to propel both the main storyline and the development of its characters. This philosophy asks a question that has been posed by many live-action movies, although rarely as articulately. It asks, “What does it mean to be human?” Taking place in a world where the human mind can be downloaded and copied, Ghost in the Shell plays out like a university-level discussion on the essence of the human spirit. In the end, no real answers are attained, but the questions are well worth the time that it took to watch the movie.
Perhaps one of the most underrated anime movies is R.O.D. (Read or Die). It didn’t break any boundaries or ask any important questions, but R.O.D. is a prime example of one of the most important elements of an anime film: It’s entertaining. It also does something else that anime often does better than any other type of film, and that is that it plays with the history of the world. In R.O.D., Britain became the most powerful world leader in the 20th century and beyond. The characters are both memorable, particularly the clones of various historical figures, and sympathetic. R.O.D. proves that a film doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in order to be great.
A name that will come up in any discussion of great anime is that of Hayao Miyazaki, the head of Studio Ghibli, which has produced some of the most popular and highest-grossing anime films of all time. Miyazaki’s films aren’t dark and philosophical, but they do often ask questions about humanity and present stories of realistic people in situations that show their strengths and weaknesses. Castle in the Sky is one of these and was also one of the first Miyazaki films to show American audiences what this brilliant filmmaker was capable of. Much of the movie took place in the air, as flying is a common theme in many Miyazaki movies, and the plot was concerned mainly with tracking the castle of the title. Rather than sticking to either realism or fantasy, Castle in the Sky seamlessly combined both elements by creating a world that had steam engines as well as floating islands.
Once more combining the modern world with a bit of fantasy, Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service tells a simple story of a young girl learning to use both her powers as a witch and her abilities as a human being to make friends. This film is a favorite among younger anime fans. It doesn’t have the fantastic special effects of the flashier movies, but it tells a poignant and memorable tale and shows that sometimes a little child-like wonder can be good for the soul.
Child-like wonder runs rampant through the movie My Neighbor Totoro, another product of the Studio Ghibli powerhouse. Elements reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland keep the surprises coming, while the story continues at a pace that’s easy enough for the youngest anime fan to follow. Like Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro has no real villain. The only true evil in this movie is the possibility that the mother of the two main characters, girls even younger than Kiki, may die in her faraway hospital bed. One theme that is present in this movie is a deep respect for nature and the connection that it has with the human race. But this theme is dealt with so lightly and easily that its importance may only be felt rather than consciously noticed by the audience. This keeps the film from getting heavy-handed, while not taking anything away from the message it is trying to convey.
Spirited Away relies even more on Alice in Wonderland-style adventures. In fact, the two stories could be described as long-lost twins. The creatures created for Spirited Away seem to pop right out of the world of dreams, or nightmares in some cases. While the oddball characters are keeping the audience’s eyes wide open, though, a story is being told of a young girl finding the strength to win back everything she has lost and holds dear, and helping to set things right in a world full of wrongs while she’s at it. This film is unusual in that the main character is not immediately likable or sympathetic. Instead, she grows and changes in a way that is more realistic than most animated characters.
Before you start thinking that the majority of anime is children’s entertainment and feel-good drama, you should know that it has its share of horror and suspense films as well. One of the best is Vampire Hunter D, the tale of a wandering hybrid vampire who hunts vampires. To halt any comparisons to a more well-known vampire-hunting vampire, it should be noted that D was released in the U.S. in 1985. In fact, this movie ranks alongside Akira as a pioneer in the wave of anime popularity that reached the English-speaking world during the 1980s. It is now a cult favorite and has elements of both old-fashioned Westerns and science fiction films, but it falls most neatly into the horror category. Vampire Hunter D could be considered one of the first anime films to utilize the now-classic anime style of extreme blood and gore.
Another pioneer of animation was Blue Submarine No. 6. In 2000, this film was one of the first to use a combination of 3D computer graphics and traditional 2D animation to create a unique look that has changed the face of animation all over the world. The story was a fairly simple one about a post-apocalyptic future Earth at war with itself, but the visuals were a reminder of what made anime a true art form.
A more recent example of this hybrid animation technique is Kaku Ren Bo, a short independent film that won a couple of awards in 2005. It took this unique visual style to the next level and combined it with the creepiest storytelling since the Twilight Zone. The characters are easy to identify with if a bit oversimplified, as they search out the end of their deadly game of hide-and-seek. This film is a good choice to end a list with because it leaves you wanting more. In the end, questions are answered, but there is a strong sense of incompleteness because you know that there is more to the story. And that is another thing that makes anime movies so riveting.