Japan is widely known for creating some of the best animated films in the world. Many anime movies appeal to young and old viewers alike. Here, I have listed some of my favorite Japanese animated movies. All of the movies here have been critically acclaimed and have been a big commercial success in Japan. The following may contain some spoilers.
The Boy and the Beast (2015)
Bakemono no Ko
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Boy_and_the_Beast_poster.jpgNine-year-old Ren has recently lost his mother, who died in an accident. His parents were long divorced, leaving Ren all alone. When his father fails to show up, his relatives come to retrieve him. Filled with anger and bitterness, he runs out of his apartment and walks aimlessly in Shibuya. There he encounters Kumatetsu, a brusque and bear-like beast. Unable to find a disciple for himself, he suggests Ren to become one. After he leaves, Ren follows him and finds his way to the Beast Kingdom by passing through an alley. He sees different creatures walking like humans. Ren gets scared and tries to go back, but the alley has mysteriously disappeared. He sees Kumatetsu, who battles with Iozen, a highly-respected beast and his rival to the lordship. Although Kumatetsu loses, Ren is impressed by his persistence and strength. Ren agrees to become a disciple of Kumatetsu, who calls him Kyuta when the boy refuses to reveal his name.
The two form a bond despite their constant bickering. As Kumatetsu trains Kyuta, the other beasts are amazed to see some positive change in Kumatetsu.
Eight years later, Kyuta accidentally finds the alley, leading him back to the human world.
The Boy and the Beast has won the Animation of the Year award in 2015 in Japan. The fight scenes are very fluid and smooth. I especially like the scenes in Shibuya. This action-filled movie may cater to the young male audience, but I think viewers from any age group would still appreciate it.
Doraemon: Stand by Me (2014)
Nobita Nobi is a good-hearted but lazy fourth-grader who always gets a zero in his exams. He is also bullied by his friends Takeshi and Suneo. As his great-great-grandson Sewashi watches over him in his futuristic TV, he decides to send his robot cat Doraemon to Nobita's time in order to help him. The two uses a time travel machine and emerges from Nobita's drawer, scaring the life out of the poor kid. Sewashi shows Nobita his future - he will end up marrying Takeshi's repulsive sister Jaiko instead of his crush Shizuka and his company will burn down, leaving Nobita deep in debt. But, with the help of Doraemon, he will have a chance to change his miserable future.
Doraemon is equipped with a front pocket where he keeps all of his futuristic gadgets. He uses his gadgets to help Nobita and sometimes, to fix his mess. Although Nobita usually takes advantage of Doraemon's gadgets, the two quickly form a strong friendship.
Thanks to Doraemon, Nobita's future seems to be improving, as revealed by one of Doraemon's gadgets that shows one's future. As Doraemon's mission is nearly complete, his time with Nobita is about to end.
Doraemon: Stand by Me is an award-winning movie and has become the second highest-grossing movie in 2014 in Japan. The movie is both cute and funny. Nobita's character is so annoyingly endearing, and as always, Doraemon is the most dependable friend that anyone wants to have. Stand by Me is a great movie for the entire family.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
Karigurashi no Arrietty
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Karigurashi_no_Arrietty_poster.pngArrietty is a borrower, a little person who "borrows" things from the humans. Her species is already endangered. Aside from her parents, she does not know anyone else of her kind. Most borrowers have already fled their area out of fear of being discovered by the humans.
As Arrietty turns 14, she embarks on her first "borrowing" with her father. Her father tells her that they can only borrow a small amount of food and supplies so humans will not know their existence. They walk through the dangerous path that Arrietty's father has prepared. They get inside a human kitchen where Arrietty takes a sugar cube. They proceed to a bedroom, which has been recently occupied by Sho. Sho is a sickly boy who has just moved into the old house. As Arrietty pulls a tissue, Sho wakes up and sees her. Arrietty panics and accidentally drops the sugar cube. She and her father quickly leave the room. They go home empty-handed.
Since the encounter, Arrietty has been curious about the teenage boy. Sho is also fascinated with Arrietty and has been waiting for her reappearance.
Based on Mary Norton's The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is the highest grossing movie in 2010 in Japan and has won the Animation of the Year award. The scenes are very colorful and are a feast for the eyes. The characters are very likable. It is one of the movies that I would never grow tired of watching.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Hotaru no Haka
Credit: AmazonSeita and his younger sister Setsuko are on their way to a bomb shelter when several bombs are dropped from the sky. Both have survived but their mother suffered serious burns. With a heart problem, their mother does not survive and is buried in a mass grave.
Seita and Setsuko find shelter with a distant relative. Their relative has grown resentful of having two more mouths to feed, forcing the siblings to leave. The siblings then find an abandoned bomb shelter where they settle.
Initially, they live a happy and carefree life in their makeshift home. But, as food and money are starting to run low, Seita has to find ways to keep themselves alive.
Grave of the Fireflies has gained a wide critical acclaim and is considered one of the greatest animated films of all time. It is one of the saddest and most powerful movies I have ever seen.
Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spirited_Away_poster.JPGTen-year-old Chihiro and her parents are on their way to their new home. When Chihiro's father takes the wrong path, they end up in front of a dark tunnel. Unable to pass, they get off the car to check out the tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they find themselves in an abandoned theme park. They find a food stall with mouth-watering foods. Although no one is around, Chihiro's parents decide to eat first and would pay later when the owner shows up. Chihiro is scared and wants to go back.
Chihiro leaves the stall and finds a bathhouse where she meets a mysterious boy named Haku. The boy tells her she cannot stay and should cross the river before sunset. She runs but is unable to cross as the river starts to flood. When she goes back to her parents, both have already turned into pigs.
As darkness falls, different creatures start to appear. Chihiro panics and runs. She is once again saved by Haku who tells her to find a job in the bathhouse. Chihiro meets Yubaba, the owner of the bathhouse. She agrees to give Chihiro a job in exchange for her name. Her name is now Sen. As her life in the strange world begins, she tries not to forget her name so she can one day return to her world with her parents.
Spirited Away has garnered many accolades and is one of the highest-grossing films in Japanese history. The creatures are very fascinating. This film is incredibly engrossing and can transport viewers to a magical world that I wish exists.
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© Rainy Kua 2016