2- The Best Anime Movies of All Time

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2- The Best Anime Movies of All Time

Anime, despite being one of the now-most ubiquitous cultural properties of the 21st century, is especially difficult to define, owed to over a century’s worth of the medium’s evolution and reinvention. From the five-minute shorts of Oten Shimokawa in 1917, to the feature-length animations produced during World War II, to the pioneering production cycles of Tezuka in the ’60s and the auteurist innovations of the likes of Miyazaki and many others towards the latter half of the last century. Anime has morphed through countless phases—from amateur efforts, to nationalist propaganda fodder

to niche cultural export turned eventual global phenomenon—each iteration conforming to the shape of the times in which it was produced. Television expanded the medium during the 1960s, birthing many of the essential genres and subgenres that we know today and forming the impetus for the anime industry’s inextricable relationship to advertising and merchandising from the 1970s onward. The arrival of home video catapulted anime to its commercial and aesthetic apex

fanning outward from the island nation of Nippon to the far shores of North America and back, before again being revolutionized by the unprecedented accessibility of the world wide web throughout the nineties and early aughts. Anime film owes much to the evolving means of production and distribution throughout the late 20th century, the breadth and audacity of the medium’s content widening and contracting along with its running time to cater to the emerging palettes of audiences both new and old, at home and abroad. But where does one begin to tackle the aesthetic and historical precedent that anime film has left on pop culture and global entertainment in the last century

This list of the top anime movies is an attempt to do just that: to create a primer of one hundred of the most influential and essential films that Japanese animation has produced offer a thorough aesthetic, technical and historical breakdown of why these films matter

To that end, Paste is proud to enlist the curatorial talents of Jason DeMarco, on-air creative director of Adult Swim and co-creator of Toonami, whose unique role in anime’s emerging popularity in the West has helped to hone this list to its best. Given the shared evolution between anime film and television and the aforementioned significance of the home video revolution

this list includes not only traditional features but also original video animations (OVAs) made for home video and anthology films—with the stipulation of each entry having at some point premiered in theaters. It is our hope that in curating this list we have created an entry point for both the expert and the layperson, the Otaku and the neophyte

to trace the rich and varied history of anime’s evolution across both film and popular culture, and to offer newcomers a comprehensive guide through which to learn, rediscover, explore and debate the full potential the genre of Japanese animation has to offer now and into the future

The Boy and the Beast (2015)

Mamoru Hosoda is championed as one of the greatest anime directors working today. That reputation is owed in no small part to him being touted as the heir apparent to the cinematic legacy of Hayao Miyazaki, who formally retired from directing following the release of his then-final film The Wind Rises in 2013. Despite this glowing association, few of Hosoda’s handful of films have managed to graze the same strata of cinematic accomplishment and canonical enshrinement that typifies the storied career of the Studio Ghibli luminary

Such is the case with The Boy and the Beast. The story follows that of Ren, an orphaned boy who, after stumbling through an Alice in Wonderland-style passageway into a world of mythical creatures, is adopted as a pupil by the brash and indolent swordmaster Kumatetsu, who vies to become the lord of all beasts. All of the surface components of a great film are there, with stunningly crisp animation

charged fight scenes, and a tasteful use of computer graphic imagery to accentuate these sequences. However, The Boy and the Beast is hamstrung by an over reliance on supporting characters narrating the emotional arcs of the protagonists instead of letting them speak for themselves, and a weak grasp of story structure and character motivations exemplified by a ponderously sporadic middle-half.

In spite of these shortcomings, The Boy and the Beast remains a visually impressive and entertaining film to watch that puts all of Hosoda’s abilities and indulgences as a director on display, for better or worse

Mobile Suit Gundam F-91 (1991)

Set 30 years after the events of Char’s Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam F-91 is a strange anomaly in the Gundam universe, yet not an unwelcome one. The story happened because Yoshiyuki Tomino had decided to begin a new Gundam story set a full generation after the hard-won peace achieved at the end of Char and Amaro’s final battle. Originally set up as a series

Tomino recruited a “greatest hits” of his former collaborators for the project, including Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Kunio Ookawara. It’s unclear exactly why, but somewhere in the early stages of the production, internal conflicts resulted in the series being shelved. Not wanting to abandon the project (approximately 13 episode scripts had been written), Tomino decided to condense the story he had been developing into a movie. The result, Mobile Suit Gundam F-91, is a messy but very worthy entry in the Gundam canon. The story revolves around an attack by a separatist group, the Crossbone Vanguard

against the unsuspecting earth colonies after years of peace. Amaro analogue Seabrook Arno and his Gundam, F-91, are the heroes around which the plot revolves. Of particular note here are the sleek Gundam designs—Tomino wanted much smaller Gundams for this entry that felt more like “Mobile suits” and less like giant robots—and some of the most brutal fight sequences in any Gundam project. Starting off like most Gundam tales, with clean divisions between factions and a clear focus on key characters on either side of the conflict, things get messy by the third act

coming to a somewhat clumsy and unearned happy ending. Yet like most of Tomino’s other work, the action sequences are thrilling, the characters are vibrant, and the Mobile Suits are … well … mobile. Mobile Suit Gundam is a somewhat underappreciated stab at a reboot, but one that’s worth checking out and one that doesn’t require any foreknowledge of the Universal Century timeline to enjoy. Suit up. —Jason DeMarco

On-Gaku: Our Sound (2021)

Being a teenager in a suburban town can be excruciatingly boring. With no variety in routine, everything feels useless. But then, sometimes, something appears that banishes that monotony and breathes excitement into an otherwise dull existence. That discovery can be revelatory; life can suddenly have purpose. In the case of the trio of delinquents in Kenji Iwaisawa’s incredible debut feature

On-Gaku: Our Sound, they discover the catharsis and power of music. On-Gaku: Our Sound is writer/director Iwaisawa’s love letter both to the power of music and to the manga of the same name by Hiroyuki Ohashi. As the DIY-feeling film progresses through its musical numbers, Iwaisawa experiments with form (like expressive rotoscoping) as certain songs evoke different emotions from his characters, whether it is a kindly folk song or a primitive-feeling rocker that reverberates in a listener’s chest. In contrast to the visual style

the phenomenal deadpan comedic delivery is reminiscent of American animated comedies of the ‘90s like Beavis and Butthead or King of the Hill. Kenji in particular embodies that tone, through both line delivery by Japanese rock legend Shintarô Sakamoto and a design that includes an unrelenting stare, thin mustache that zigzags across his upper lip and shiny

bald head. Despite being a high school student, Sakamoto’s grizzled voice gives Kenji the vibe of a tired old man who has seen everything, when really he’s just a bored teenager who smokes too many cigarettes and watches too much TV. Iwaisawa’s own passion fills the chilled-out slacker comedy with a lot of heart and a gorgeous variety of animation styles.—Mary Beth McAndrews

Ah! My Goddess: The Movie (2000)

A sequel to a five-part OVA from 1993, based on a popular manga, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is the very rare example of a film based on an existing anime/manga franchise that’s superior to the original source material. A self-contained story revolving around college student Morisato Keiichi and the Goddess Belldandy, the film finds ways to inject more drama and urgency into the typically light-hearted romance of the original story

while the longer run time allows more room for character development and deepened motivations for all of the main cast members. Putting Belldandy at the center of a plot to hack the Yggdrasil computer in the heavens (long story) and forcing Keiichi to grapple with what Belldandy has come to mean to him places the romance and sweetness that was always the heart of this series in the foreground. The animation quality is very high

with some well integrated CGI allowing Fujishima’s wilder concepts to finally reach fruition in a way the more limited OVA budget couldn’t. Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was well-received by both critics and audiences, and spawned two later TV series that were similarly well regarded. In the wake of today’s popular fantasy seinen/shonen titles, Ah! My Goddess now feels somewhat ahead of its time. Either way, this sweet, fun romance is worth checking out. —J.D

Dallos (1983)

Of the many films that Mamoru Oshii has directed, Dallos is inarguably his worst. With a subpar space opera plot that’s been described by anime historians such as Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements as “an unremarkable rip-off of Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” and an animation style that could only be charitably described as low budget

showing little to nothing of the mark of its director who later become known for the likes of Patlabor 2 and Ghost in the Shell, there’s a reason why Dallos occupies the darkest unknown corners of Oshii’s oeuvre. So why is it on this list? Because despite its overall lackluster production, that quality is all but eclipsed by the sheer magnitude of its historical significance

Simply put, Dallos was the first anime to be marketed and sold as a multi-part home video production, introducing a new format free of the restrictions of conventional theatrical and televised animation and opening anime up to the west That might ring as somewhat faint praise now in the year 2016, but were it not for the precedent of Dallos’ release, the means through which anime would have found its international audience during the 1980s would not have existed

To be continued

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