Well, here it is, my list of the best feature length anime that Japan has to offer. Be sure to check out any titles you haven’t seen if you’re an anime fan 😉
Ghost in the Shell
Well, the list starts off with a rather obvious title, Ghost in the Shell – it’s been hugely influential in the west, the Matrix probably wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for this!! Based on Masamune Shirow’s manga about a cyber punk future in which cyborgs are the norm, the movie was quite different in style to the original manga, partly due to Mamoru Oshii’s involvement in the project. I won’t ramble on, but I am quite an Oshii fan, and it’s also worth checking out Patlabor 1 and 2 because they’re awesome movies too. Anyway, GITS is an essential film to watch!
Macross Plus – Movie Edition
Ok, I’ve already explained a little bit about this one earlier. Macross Plus was originally an OVA, but it was supposed to be a movie in the planning stages of the project. After the OVA was released the production team made a movie using significant scenes from the original OVA and also introduced new footage which wasn’t in the OVA. As a result the feel of the movie is slightly different to that of the OVA – it’s really worth watching both in order to see the differences for yourself. Essentially the story revolves around 3 friends who went their seperate ways a long time ago, however their paths in life meet again in a rather bitter way!! 2 of them turn out to be rival test-pilots, each trying to prove that their representative mecha is the best for the military to use, and the last friend turns out to be the true ‘voice’ behind Sharon Apple, a digital ‘Madonna’ of the Macross world!! Shinichiro Watanabe worked on Macross Plus – he would eventually gain more success after working on Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. With one of the best soundtracks to be produced for any anime as well as top quality animation, Macross Plus is definitely worth watching!
My Neighbour Totoro
This one is a family friendly movie! My Neighbour Totoro was the first Ghibli film I saw and I must have been about 12 years old when I originally saw it… still the charm doesn’t wear off!! These days the cuddly dude has become a mascot for Studio Ghibli and for good reason too, out of all of Ghibli’s creations he’s definitely one of the most memorable! The story revolves around 2 sisters who move to the countryside with their father, whilst their mother is staying in hospital with an illness. Upon moving into the new house they soon discover the world of spirits and the supernatural (for example their primary discovery of ‘dustbunnies’) I love this film because it just goes to show that you don’t need action, violence or sex to sell a movie, ok sure, that stuff helps, but it’s not always necessary! Easily watchable by both adults and kids alike, My Neighbour Totoro, great film!
Royal Space Force (Wings of Honneamise)
Known as Wings of Honneamise in the west, this was the first film to be developed by studio Gainax. Unfortunately I think it’s hard to find in the west these days, however in Japan it was recently released on Blue Ray format. The storyline is based entirely in a fictitious world in which a space-force is plagued with slackers and no motivation, ironically no one has been to space before. However the main character Lhadatt gains inspiration after befriending a young religious woman and he decides to participate in the space-force’s new space exploration program. It should also be noted that Hideaki Anno worked on this film; he would eventually go on to bigger and better things when his creation, Evangelion, was released. Those who are expecting an action packed feature will be disappointed, however I found this film thoroughly entertaining. It’s a film about human endurance, about hope and about determination. The soundtrack is also fantastic, however I think it’s sadly harder to find than Macross Plus’s OST. Anyway, it’s a bit of an obscure title, but worth checking out!
Tokyo Godfathers is one film with some pretty unusual subject matter! The film is about 3 homeless friends in Tokyo, who discover an abandoned baby – although one of them wants to keep the baby they eventually set out to return the baby to it’s parents but run into a lot of trouble on the way. The film does a great job of conveying an insightful message on a very serious problem that exists today; the truth is that there is a significant level of homelessness in Tokyo. Satoshi Kon (of Perfect Blue fame) wrote and directed the film, and I have to say I am a BIG fan of his! The movie has a very different feel to Perfect Blue altogether – whilst Perfect Blue was a disturbing and claustrophobic thriller, Tokyo Godfathers has many lighthearted comedic moments. Without a doubt this is one of the most realistic anime movies you will ever see, it could have been made as a normal film, but I’m glad it was presented in the form of anime.
Yep, that’s right, Paprika is another one of Satoshi Kon’s works! Based on an early 90’s novel, the story focuses on a new invention called the DC Mini which allows the user to actually view another person’s dreams. I saw this film at a cinema in London and I’m glad I was able to have the big screen experience – the animation is quite simply out of this world. Satoshi Kon’s team did a fantastic job in creating vivid and lush dream sequences and luckily the film contains some of Kon’s good sense of humour. Paprika is one of the most refreshing, creative and entertaining anime films I have seen in a long time; it’s left me with a strong urge to read the novel… and I will eventually get myself a copy of it!
Project A-ko was actually one of the first anime I ever saw and it is still one of my all time favourites. The film is an action packed comedy about 3 girls, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko. One of the more wacky animes you’ll encounter, it turns out that A-ko has super strength, B-ko is a spoilt rich bitch and C-ko is actually an alien princess!! The film was originally planned to be a hentai title and some of the adult references stayed within the film, even though the project was changed to make Project A-ko more accessible in the mainstream market. As a result B-ko’s attitude toward C-ko is very… ok ok, I won’t try to explain it, you’ll have to see it for yourself to see what I mean!! 😛 The film was also famous for its parodies of other anime and cultural icons (for example there is an awesome parody of Fist of the North Star and the KFC’s Colonel even makes an appearance!) Overall, a very entertaining movie, it’s still hilarious as ever.
And now time for my all time favourite anime movie…
Hokuto no Ken – Fist of the North Star
Well, this is it… Fist of the North Star is my favourite anime film… hands down! The film is actually a very condensed version of the series and the manga. Whilst certain original characters are non existent, it was supposed to be more violent than the TV series. Based in a post apocalyptic future, humanity has not been wiped from existence, however only the strongest survive and people are hunted down and killed, not for their money, but for their food and water. Kenshiro is the main character, the successor of a martial art known as hokuto shin ken, he is the fist of the north star, however his brothers Jaggie and Raoh desire absolute power and control and wish to be the fist of the north star. The movie is only based on the beginning of the manga, whereby Kenshiro’s girlfriend, Julia, is taken by Shin, once Kenshiro’s best friend. Anyway, yeah, I’m rambling too much but this is one hell of an awesome film. Hokuto no ken does owe a lot to Mad Max, I don’t think it would have the same feel if it wasn’t for Mad Max, however the story and mythology behind Fist of the North Star is so detailed and is truly one of the most engrossing in the world of anime and manga. Fist of the North Star is definitely one of the most famous anime of all time, having been parodied on numerous occassions (already mentioned Project A-ko but there is also a hilarious parody in Excel Saga) and a new project 5 part anime project is underway (2 films and 1 OVA have already been released, an OVA about Toki will be released soon, and the last movie focusing on Kenshiro is due out next year). If you want to see what all the fuss is about, be sure to check out the film for yourself!