There are hundreds of new anime that hit the market each year and a lot of attention is centered on the ongoing anime series that run year-round and accumulate hundreds, or even thousands, of episodes. These programs represent a crucial pillar of the anime industry, but there’s also a rich world of anime feature films to explore.
Anime movies can be connected to existing manga or anime series, but there are countless standalone stories that thrive through their focused narratives and dazzling visual designs. Anime movies can garner critical praise and win prestigious awards, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re universal hits that will connect with all audiences.
10/10 The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl Is Cute, Quirky Slice-Of-Life Bliss
Every single one of Masaaki Yuasa’s creations, whether they’re feature films or TV series, are expressive, unconventional works of art. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is technically an expansion of The Tatami Galaxy anime. The humble character study depicts one wild night out on the town.
The precocious protagonist lets down her guard, throws caution to the wind, and enjoys life’s many luxuries. Fluid character models, unconventional color palettes, and random musical interludes all add such personality to The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, but mainstream viewers may find it boring and fail to see what the fuss is about.
9/10 Millennium Actress Calculates The Cost Of A Legacy
Satoshi Kon passed away far too early in his prolific career, and his contributions to the anime industry, like Perfect Blue, Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paranoia Agent are still regarded as masterpieces. Kon frequently engages in psychological thrillers that break down questions of identity and blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
Millennium Actress still utilizes a surreal sense of storytelling, but in a relatively restrained manner that’s all in service of an acclaimed actress’ legacy. Millennium Actress uses the totality of someone’s career as a way to reflect back on life and consider society’s future. It’s a beautiful story, but the most “normal” of Kon’s films.
8/10 The Wind Rises Is Hayao Miyazaki At His Most Earnest And Melancholic
Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli contributions are among the most popular anime movies of all time. Many of Miyazaki’s stories indulge in playful fantasy, but there’s also a melancholic undertone to much of his work. The Wind Rises is full of Miyazaki’s stereotypical awe-inspiring beauty, but it’s by far the most adult of his movies and lacks the supernatural escape and youthful protagonists of his other works.
The Wind Rises explores the tragic story of an aircraft designer who struggles with the acceptance that his aviation marvels are being used as tools of destruction. The Wind Rises engages in a mature, important conversation, but it’s also quite dry and mechanical.
7/10 Metropolis Opens Audiences Up To A Brave New Sci-Fi World
Metropolis is a groundbreaking anime movie from Katsuhiro Otomo, Rintaro, and Madhouse, the same team behind Akira and Steamboy. Metropolis is likely the most challenging of Otomo’s features, and the optimistic sci-fi story borrows from both Osamu Tezuka’s original manga and Fritz Lang’s iconic black-and-white film.
The touching story about the coexistence of humans and robots is even more poignant two decades later and the detailed animation still astounds by modern standards. That being said, this sterile universe is easy to get lost in and focus on the technology instead of the humanity behind it.
6/10 Promare Delivers Explosive Action And Visuals At The Cost Of Character
Anime audiences have become increasingly aware of which studios are behind their favorite projects. This attitude has helped Studio TRIGGER become one of the most popular animation studios, and each of their series is guaranteed to look gorgeous. There were high expectations over what this team could do with a cinematic budget.
Aesthetically, Promare doesn’t disappoint, and every frame of animation is a dizzying delight. That being said, the story that deals with superhero-esque firefighters who take on combustible baddies leaves a little to be desired. Clichéd characters and plotting get in the way of Promare’s ambitious visuals.
5/10 Ghost In The Shell’s Cyberpunk Storytelling Is Too Cold For Some
Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell remains a high mark for subversive science fiction and dystopian cyberpunk anime storytelling. The original Ghost in the Shell has spun off into a myriad of TV series and a deeply philosophical sequel, none of which have been able to recapture the original’s artistry.
Ghost in the Shell explores fascinating questions about identity and humanity’s increased reliance on artificial intelligence. It’s a brilliant crime story that’s wrapped in hard sci-fi, but Motoko Kusanagi’s Terminator-like attitude doesn’t work for everyone. Others also get lost in the series’ copious fan service, which is a disservice to Ghost in the Shell.
4/10 Bubble Makes The Most Out Of A Magical Catastrophe
Bubble is a 2022 anime movie that made waves on Netflix through its colorful visuals and kinetic air-bound action sequences that defy gravity with parkour-like reflexes. Bubble is set in a fantastical dystopia where cheerful children try to make the most of their frayed world.
The emergence of a magical girl throws everyone’s existence off-kilter. Bubble has engaging characters and a serviceable story, but for many, it’s a case of style over substance. The film’s use of color, choreography, and music will appease many, but it won’t please everyone.
3/10 Redline Is One Big Race Through Space For Unimaginable Riches
2009’s Redline is Madhouse’s more mature and out-of-control version of Speed Racer that throws in outrageous aliens, hordes of creepy criminals, and a gigantic prize at the finish line. Takeshi Koike’s directorial feature film debut shows extreme creativity, and he makes sure that a movie-length race never drags or feels gratuitous.
Redline is a testament to characterization and inventive action sequences, but a suspenseful race isn’t going to get everyone excited. It’s the type of story more suited for a lengthy OVA or TV episode and not a movie.
2/10 Belle Tells A Coming Of Age Story For The Modern Tech-Heavy Era
Belle is Mamoru Hosoda’s latest fantasy-bending anime feature film, and it topped many anime fans’ lists for the best movie of 2021. Belle feels like the culmination of many of the ideas that fill Hosoda’s stories, like the power of virtual worlds and avatar alter egos, as it presents a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
Belle is a movie that’s undeniably beautiful to look at, and the movie’s many musical performances are a feat to behold. However, some may view Belle as Hosoda’s refusal to get out of his comfort zone. It’s a simplistic story of identity and empowerment. While touching, it won’t melt everyone’s icy hearts.
1/10 Rebuild Of Evangelion Goes Off The Script With Its Recreation Of An Anime Classic
While actually a collection of four feature films that were released over the span of 14 years, the Rebuild of Evangelion movies collectively tell a single story. Initially designed as a more efficient reconstruction of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion existential mecha series, the Rebuild movies gradually forge their own path.
It presents an alternative reality that allows Anno to exorcise many of his demons and say goodbye to the Evangelion universe on his own, happy terms. The Rebuild of Evangelion movies are going to be hard for those who don’t agree with some of the changes in the final two films to sit through.
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