6. Pom Poko (1994)
From Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, comes a less well-known but no-less brilliant film.
Western animation often tries to tell stories for both children and adults, using a metaphor which helps blend the two perspectives into something equally appropriate. Anime often sees the perspectives of child and adult as coexisting within the same space, so rather than trying to blend the tones they instead aim for a juxtaposition, which is why in Pom Poko, a story about shape-shifting raccoons trying to protect their forest from urban development, you have sequences of magical adventure placed next to conversations about extinction and martyrdom.
There’s an argument to be made that a lot of Western animation is guilty of dumbing down its plots for kids who are capable of dealing with more. Pom Poko is a funny and exciting film from a master animator and a great example of why anime has such a broad appeal; it can see the wonder of a child’s imagination and the importance of understanding a brutal world at the same time, often within the same scene.
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7. A Silent Voice (2016)
High school drama and teenage angst are a bit like anime’s bread and butter. Occasionally these films can be a bit over the top or self-indulgent, but A Silent Voice is almost perfectly judged with a story that will rip out your heart, but which is ultimately one of the most emotionally cathartic films you will ever see.
Beginning in elementary school, the film follows Ishida, a boisterous but popular trouble-maker who starts to bully the new girl. Shoko is deaf, something which Ishida cannot seem to understand; his behaviour is relentless and Shoko eventually leaves school. Jumping forward to high school, Ishida is a shadow of his former self; he has been completely rejected by his friends for his bullying and finds himself completely alone, but he still remains determined to redeem himself with Shoko.
A Silent Voice is an amazingly powerful film with an excellent use of colour and sound to reflect the turmoil and respite of a teenage mind.
8. Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017)
Night is Short, Walk on Girl stands out immediately for its wild deviation from the typical anime style. Rather than simple character models with detailed backgrounds, Night is Short (directed by Masaaki Yuasa), has a pulsating, free-form style. People are caricatured and backgrounds are warped, often moving in tune to the jazzy soundtrack.
Masaaki, perhaps best known for his successful Netflix series ‘Devilman: Crybaby’ and ‘Japan Sinks: 2020’, has a strong, independent style which is put to great use here, presenting one of his most enjoyable and downright fun productions. Taking place over one night in a gorgeously animated Kyoto, the film follows two would-be lovers as they go out for a night of drinking and continually fail to bump into each other. With sequences of supernatural drinking games mixed with conversations about art and literature, the film is an often-psychedelic ode to romance and booze.
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