The 10 Best Anime Movies Of All Time

Sep 2, 2005 (Updated Dec 19, 2005)

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The Bottom Line These are what I feel to be the 10 Best Anime Movies of All Time.

Now I am no expert when it comes to Anime films, and I don't profess that I have seen as many as some movie fans, but I know what I like. Back when I started college, I had a friend who was big-time into the animated films coming out of Japan, and it slowly got my interested in ones that had strong stories. I mean without the stories, its just another cartoon right? Well to be sure, I know what I like, but it doesn't mean that everyone likes the same ones, and after all, this is my own personal list. Some of these choices may not even make a top 100 list of a die-hard Anime Fan. But, for me, they are what I think are the top 10 Anime Films of All Time.

(Listed only in Alphabetical Order)

Akira (1988) --

Written and Directed by Katsuhiro ďtomo, Akira is the story of Kaneda and his motorcycle gang, and some antics that they take part in that lead to a chain of events that could destroy Neo-Tokyo. Akira takes place in a future version of Tokyo which has been rebuilt from the original. World War III has already taken place, with the catalyst having been the destruction of Tokyo by a new kind of weapon. The plot is sometimes hard to follow, but I think that is what makes this movie great in the end. Tetsuo, one of the gang's members crashes into a boy at the beginning of the film, who suddenly vanishes as if never being there. Did he die? Is he inhabiting Tetsuo now? Tetsuo begins to develop powers that are greater than anyone around him has seen, including the Colonel who wants to use him as a weapon. The secret to his powers, and the discovery of a hidden chamber that houses the mysterious AKIRA, soon help the movie evolve into an action-packed feast for the eyes.

Ghost In The Shell (K˘kaku kid˘tai) (1995) --

Ghost In The Shell is the movie version of a famous comic written by Masamune Shirow. The movie of course takes place in Japan, but in a futuristic world that has been linked together by computers. The main characters work for what is called 'Section 9', which is a covert division of the Japanese police, which investigates cyber crime and crimes committed by runaway robots. Quite an interesting premise if you ask me. Ghost In The Shell follows Major Motoko Kusanagi and her partner Bateau in their investigation of a hacker known as the Puppet Master, who specializes in implanting people with false memories and manipulating them to do his bidding. The Puppet Master is not at all what they expected though, and it turns out that Kusanagi is going to have to use all of her training and intelligence to figure out just what is going on. Ghost in The Shell is a really dark story, but I think it works, because I hadn't seen a story like it before. With fluid animation, and a strong story to support its characters, it is easy to see why this one made my list.

The Grave of FireFlies (Hotaru no haka) (1988) --

An anime based entirely on flashbacks? Just how good could it possibly be? Well, I am here to tell you that it can be a great way to do things if the story and the characters are strong enough to pull it off. With Grave of FireFlies, we are able to see both aspects, as we follow the life of main character Seita through a series of flashbacks. The film actually starts with his death, so you aren't really sure what to expect, but by the end of the film you truly see how tragic his death was. The movie takes place in Japan near the end of WWII, and centers around Seita and his sister Setsuko. Orphaned in a flashback, we watch as the siblings must traverse through a war-torn country, doing anything they can to possibly survive. But, we know in the end that at least one of them won't. This is a beautifully crafter, character driven story, that is tough to watch, yet leaves a big impact when you have reached its conclusion. It's no surprise that it garnered many awards.

Ninja Scroll (Jűbei ninpűch˘) (1993) --

Jubei is a wandering ninja, who happens to come across a woman being attacked by the a monster with no name. Saving the woman (a poison taster named Kagero), he earns the scorn of the monster and the Eight Devils of Kimon. Much with a tip of the hat to the Lord of The Rings, the two main characters must escape the attacks of these 8 devils. All the while, a scheme is unfolding concocted by the man who controls the Devils; Lord Gemma. Gemma has wiped out a neighboring village, and is on the rampage killing everyone that tries to stop him. Thus the ultimate goal of Jubei and Kagero is to survive the onslaught of the Devils attacking them long enough to take down Gemma and his plot. Along the way are many, many bloody battles, and sexual encounters that drive this movie towards an X rating that it would get it issued to U.S. theaters. The story is strong, and the animation is great, but it is really about a ninja kicking butt, and saving the girl in the end.

Perfect Blue (1997) --

When it comes to anime films, you could say that Perfect Blue gets off to a slow start in terms of getting into the meat of the story. This is a psychological thriller, which tells the story of Kirigoe Mima, a Pop Star, who is announcing her retirement from singing so that she can pursue a career in acting. The transition is a tough one, and suddenly she starts receiving threatening letters. About the same time, she also comes across a web-site that seems to know too many personal details about her. It is tough for her, because she hasn't been an actor, and she must take on roles that are "beneath" her in order to get her start. When a close friend dies she starts to go inside herself, and question everything that she has become as a person. The story evolves as we learn more and more about her, and the life that someone in her line of work lives. This is a story about obsession, and there are times when the violence is a little over the top, but it ends up being necessary to the film as we are led on a story that has one amazing ending.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime) (1997) --

This is a film that may not make a lot of people's lists, because the plot can be down-right maddening to stick with, and at times you could feel that the film is too long, but I don't think that the length took away from what I felt was a very good film. Taking place during the Muromachi period Japan, it centers on the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who need to use its resources. This is all seen by the outsider by the name of Ash-itaka. Saving his village from total destruction, he becomes cursed himself in the process. His only task now, is to find a cure before the curse takes its course and kills him. He must now figure out the origin or the curse, where to locate help, and learn what to do to save himself before it is too late. With a lot of great 'fight' scenes centered around what I think was a very strong story, this film is quite enjoyable to watch. If you can be patient with it, and make it to the ending, I think that after a short amount of time you too can become a fan of this one.

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi)(2001) --

Spirited Away, is about a 10-year old girl named Chihiro, who goes on one fantastic adventure. Think of the film in terms of a RPG game, where Chihiro must go through a quest of her own to save her parents. Along the way she must find friends and allies who are willing to help her fight against the Gods and monsters of the Land of Spirits. Losing her name along the way, she must fight to not only save her parents, but regain her own identity in a world that at times doesn't make sense to her, and at others seems as far from home as someone could get. The character development, and the way that Miyazaki makes us care about the people in the film is what ended up making this a winner to me. Though it may seem like an easy, clear-cut Disney type plot, the story goes much deeper than what is on the surface. That is one of the reasons I felt the movie was so deserving of its best Animated Feature win in 2003, and is worth giving a chance to. The battle of good and evil is now in the hands of a young girl.

Street Fighter 2 (1994) --

This one could get me a little bit of flack, because it is one of those films that is just so much fun to watch, and if you were a fan of the video game you know exactly why. One of my favorite opening sequences for an anime film takes part as Street Fighter two starts with a fight between Ryu (a Japanese fighter) and Sagat (a monster of this world) at night in a field. The fighting is really done well for a cartoon, and we are sucked into the scene of these two going at it while being watched secretly by a cyborg measuring their strengths and attributes. M. Bison is the lead bad-guy here, trying to concoct a plan to take the entire world over, but he is amassing enemies along the way that are going to enter the fight of their lives to stop him. This involves Chun Li, and Interpol agent who lost her father to his hands. Friendships are tested, alliances are built, and a small group of men and women must use all of their fighting skills to take down Bison and his own force of fighters. The story itself isn't very deep, but I think it stands on its own by being fun to watch, by having characters that are all very interesting, and by putting together a lot of action-packed fight scenes that make you forget you are watching a cartoon.

The Transformers: The Movie (1986) --

By now, everyone knows who the Transformers are, and this 1986 release is where they got their big break into the mainstream consciousness of the entire world. The story is about a race of robots, some good (The Autobots) and some bad (The Decepticons) who have been at it for years in a fight of good vs really, really bad. They can all change from erect robots into vehicles ranging from cars to planes, and some can even change into guns or ambulances. Now, realize that this was a huge marketing ploy to get the 'Transformer' name out there, and I am sure that the newest version of the movie (coming in 2007) will be the same way. BUT, what that does is get all of the characters from the TV show, and from the toys, into the movie to show what they can do. When a new planet-eating Transformer comes along (Unicron), the Autobots must find a way to stop him, all the while dealing with the troublesome Decepticons. Though animation was really good in my opinion, and this is one of those films that is just fun to watch, no matter how old you are. Transformers will forever be one of my favorite childhood shows, and the movie gave me one of the biggest surprises surrounding the show.

Vampire Hunter D. (Kyűketsuki Hunter D) (1985) --

Pretty much as dark as an anime can get, Vampire Hunter D centers around a young woman named Doris who is living in a vampire-infested world. The daughter of a vampire hunter, she is of course one herself, but a 'good' one. Attacked while battling werewolves by the head of a vampire clan, he claims her as his bride by drinking her blood. The only way that Doris is going to save herself, is to slay the vampire. Thinking she is not capable of doing it herself, she enlists the aid of the mysterious Vampire Hunter D, whom she meets on the road after being attacked. While the story centers around Doris, the real story is the introduction of the Vampire Hunter who stops at nothing to accomplish what he wants to do. The movie is slightly older, but I think the animation is really done well, and as the story progresses you find yourself drawn deeply enough into the story that it becomes like you are watching a live-action vampire movie. Dark in its presentation, this is still one of the best anime films I have seen.

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