Where do I begin with anime? It’s a question we’ve all asked at one point or another. Despite being one of Japan’s chief cultural exports, the sheer breadth of its animation output can be intimidating to anyone. How in the world are you supposed to tell your family-friendlies from your hyper-violent exploitation flicks?
Studio Ghibli has, of course, been many people’s first port of call when it comes to the medium. Hailed as Japan’s answer to Disney, the studio’s breathtaking back catalogue has been, quite rightly, celebrated and lauded for close to forty years. However, one studio alone isn’t enough to do justice to a whole art form, and even the Disney comparison is a bit reductive. True, they make fables and fairy tales for all ages to enjoy, but nonetheless Ghibli’s style remains wholly unique.
With such a variety of styles and genres, each as unique as the last, anime is and has long been a hub of creative expression and wonder-inducing cinema, which is why in this Movie List we at The Film Magazine are looking at 10 Great Anime Films for Newcomers. This is not a top ten – there’s no ranking involved – rather this is a list of ten separate starting points from which you can launch into the wider world of anime with your own tastes and interests; there is truly something for everyone out there.
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1. Akira (1988)
Akira may seem like an obvious first choice for a list such as this, but for good reason. Originally chosen to exemplify Japan’s animated filmmaking capabilities to the world, Akira boasts one of the biggest budgets and largest animation teams ever produced, and the result is a mind-boggling spectacular of the form.
Following a group of bikers in a dystopian Neo-Tokyo who find themselves caught up in events far bigger than themselves, the film is a perfect example of anime’s genre-splicing power. This is a world where cyberpunk gunfights are placed against high school rebellion, and teenage angst manifests as telekinetic superpowers.
2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
In The Girl Who Leapt Throughout Time, Makoto is given the power to jump back in time by a couple of minutes, but given that this isn’t far enough back to make any drastic changes to the world, she instead uses it (as we all probably would) to fix any embarrassing mistakes she makes in her social life.
The film is undeniably charming, a slice of high school life which manages to pack so much energy into the most ordinary scenes.
An early offering from acclaimed director Mamoru Hosoda, an expert at blending intimately realistic settings with other-worldly plots, the film seems to be constantly trying to surprise you; just as the high school drama and romance starts to get a little old, a time-twisting mystery starts to reveal itself and evolves the film into something altogether different.