With so much to choose from across a myriad of different genres, the wonderful world of anime can sometimes seem a little inaccessible to newcomers. The history of Japan’s lucrative animation industry can be traced back to the early 20th century, when a five-minute, chalk-drawn film was created by Shimokawa Oten. The medium grew steadily in the decades that followed (experiencing a boom during World War II, when the Japanese government used anime for propaganda purposes) and would come to be recognized as part of the country’s cultural identity, both at home and in the West.
The anime industry is bigger than ever nowadays, and, with the rise of streaming services, fans have never been more stuck for choice. Whether you’re a newbie looking for your perfect entry into anime, or an aficionado on a mission to see every unmissable anime film ever made, we’ve got you covered.
Updated on May 10, 2022: New anime films get released all the time. When they’re so good that you simply need to know about them, they will appear right here. We’re regularly updating this list to make sure it includes the latest masterpieces alongside the all-time classics.
Tokyo-based American Michael Arias became the first foreign director of a major anime film in 2006, when his adaptation of Taiyō Matsumoto’s manga “Tekkonkinkreet” hit cinemas. It follows orphaned street kids Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) as they attempt to drive the yakuza out of Treasure Town, a sprawling, gaudy metropolis inspired by real-life locations all across Asia. It takes place in “a parallel universe that is kind of like Japan, but it’s not Japan,” Arias told the Los Angeles Times, revealing that he considered the film’s memorable location a “central character of the film.”
One of the most memorable anime imports of the 1990s, Gothic horror “Vampire Hunter D” rapidly earned a cult status upon its arrival in America. The story begins when the eponymous vampire hunter gets hired by Doris Lang, a farm girl who wandered into the domain of 10,000-year-old vampire Count Magnus Lee and paid the ultimate price for it. The Count bit her, and the only way she won’t turn into a vampire is if D manages to kill Lee before her transformation is complete.
Considered one of the all-time great racing movies, “Redline” is an eye-popping sci-fi thrill ride that’s become a firm cult favorite. The title of the film (which took seven years to complete) refers to the most popular race in the galaxy, one that cocky but lovable driver Sweet J.P. longs to win. He manages to qualify for the all-important race, but he’ll need the help of fellow racer Sonoshee “Cherry Boy Hunter” McLaren if he’s going to make it to the finish line in one piece — J.P. is in trouble with both the authorities and the mafia.
Studio Ghibli film “The Cat Returns” features an appearance from Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, the living cat statue from “Whisper of the Heart.” The Cat Kingdom is thoroughly fleshed out during this delightful spinoff, in which Haru Yoshioka (a sheepish high schooler who hides the fact that she can communicate with felines) gets a marriage proposal from Lune, prince of the aforementioned kitty kingdom. She’s whisked away before she can answer, and it seems as though the Baron is her only hope of escape.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s ultra-violent period piece “Ninja Scroll” was among the first wave of anime films that made their way West in the 1990s, quickly becoming a cult favorite. Set in Japan’s feudal era, it’s the tale of mercenary Jubei Kibagami, a skilled swordsman hunted by a team of supernatural ninjas loyal to the treacherous Yamashiro clan. With the help of female ninja Kagero (who he meets during a particularly disturbing scene that justifies the film’s rating), Jubei faces off against the Eight Devils of Kimon in a series of unforgettable battles. If you have a strong stomach and love a good ninja fight, this one’s an absolute must-see.
They’re incorrectly referred to as raccoons in the English language dub, but the creatures that make up the cast of little-seen Studio Ghibli gem “Pom Poko” are in fact tanuki, important animals in Japanese folklore. The film begins in the 1960s, when Tokyo’s urban sprawl was consuming rural communities and green spaces alike. When a group of tanuki living in a forest south of the city discover that their home is to be flattened to make way for a new suburb, they form a resistance and fight back.
Before they brought us the hit Netflix series “Devilman Crybaby,” anime studio Science SARU and director Masaaki Yuasa combined on the award-winning “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl,” an adaptation of Tomihiko Morimi’s romantic comedy novel of the same name. It follows two Kyoto University students (credited simply as Senpai and Kohai, which roughly translates to Senior and Junior) on a wild night out in Japan’s former capital. The smitten guy plans on confessing his love to his female friend at the end of the evening, though fate keeps conspiring to keep them apart.
From “Ninja Scroll” director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” is an adaptation of the third installment in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series of “Vampire Hunter” novels. It pits D against the villainous Baron Meier Link, a high-ranking vampire accused of kidnapping beautiful brunette Charlotte Elbourne from her home. After being hired by her worried family for a tidy sum, the vampire hunter tracks the girl down and discovers that she left willingly — she’s fallen in love with the baron and doesn’t want to leave.
Even those with a mere passing interest in anime have heard of the “Dragon Ball” franchise. Akira Toriyama first adapted his own manga series in the ’80s, though fans in the West will be more familiar with the sequel series “Dragon Ball Z,” a huge crossover hit in the ’90s. Dozens of spinoff movies followed, but the best of the bunch by a considerable distance is 2018’s “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” which remolds the titular Saiyan warrior into a more sympathetic figure. This record-breaking box office hit follows Nagamine’s updated version of Broly from his exile in childhood to his inevitable showdown with his fellow Saiyans, Goku and Vegeta.
The directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki, crime caper “The Castle of Cagliostro” follows gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III as he attempts to trace the source of some counterfeit bills while aiding a runaway bride. After realizing that the money he just stole from a casino is fake, our suave anti-hero heads for the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro, hoping to find a lead. After saving a young woman from some local thugs, Lupin finds himself embroiled in a shady count’s plot to marry the princess, his way of gaining access to the fabled treasure of Cagliostro.
If you want to watch an anime movie about the Hiroshima bombing that opts for gut-wrenching storytelling over graphic imagery, Sunao Katabuchi’s “In This Corner of the World” is for you. The film begins in the run-up to WWII and spans an entire decade, focusing on a kind and hardworking Hiroshima native named Suzu Hojo. She moves to the port city of Kure with her Navy husband and does her best to maintain a positive outlook amid the conflict, even after losing a hand in an air raid. When news of her home city’s total annihilation reaches her, we’re left as devastated as she is.
Released in 2018, “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas” is an exquisitely animated film about a girl with a terminal illness. When high school student Haruki discovers that popular classmate Sakura is hiding her pancreatic condition from everyone at school so she can live out her final days in relative normality, he decides to help her tick off everything on her bucket list before it’s too late. One of the saddest anime storylines ever, you’ll need a steady supply of tissues for this one.
Studio Ghibli’s “The Secret World of Arrietty” (or “Arrietty the Borrower” in Japan) is the story of a little girl with a big heart. An adaptation of Mary Norton’s novel “The Borrowers,” the film follows a sick boy named Shō, who finds a family of tiny people living beneath the floorboards of his mother’s home. He befriends the curious Arrietty and hopes to win over the rest of her family before Haru, the suspicious housemaid, calls in pest control.
Written by “Akira” creator Katsuhiro Otomo and directed by mononymous anime veteran Rintaro, “Metropolis” is a tale of class, prejudice, and robots. The story begins with private detective Shusaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi, on the hunt for a wanted scientist. They get to him minutes too late: he’s been shot, and the killer has set his lab on fire. Kenichi manages to escape the blaze with a young girl named Tima. What neither of them know is that she’s actually a robot, created by the scientist at the behest of Metropolis’ crooked ruler, Duke Red.
“When Marnie Was There” is the last film that Hiromasa Yonebayashi directed for Studio Ghibli before leaving to found Studio Ponoc, and he went out on a real high. It’s the story of a loner girl named Anna, whose foster parents decide to take her away to the countryside for summer break. She begins to conquer her self-esteem issues with the help of Marnie, a mysterious but charming local girl who, as Anna comes to discover, is more than meets the eye. Yonebayashi’s adaptation of Joan G. Robinson’s novel changes the setting from the U.K. to Japan, but he insisted on Marnie remaining English.
Mamoru Hosoda’s Animation of the Year winner “Summer Wars” is part cyber-thriller, part family dramedy. It follows math genius Kenji Koiso, who works as a mod for the company behind a computer-simulated virtual reality world known as OZ. When his account gets hacked and an AI avatar begins terrorizing OZ, Kenji has to figure out how to stop it before the damage spills over into the real world. Aiding him are his friend (and crush) Natsuki Shinohara and her huge family, proud descendants of a samurai clan. The action takes place between OZ and Natsuki’s grandmother’s estate in the country.
Mamoru Hosoda’s Annie Award-winning fantasy film “Mirai” explores the complexities of family dynamics and how they can change over time. It’s the story of a naughty little boy named Kun, who runs away from home when his new baby sister, Mirai, starts stealing his limelight. The jealous four-year-old accidentally stumbles across a time portal while sulking in a nearby garden, which gives him a chance to get to know his sister — a future version of Mirai shows up, and she needs Kun’s help.
While it technically predates the company, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” is often viewed as an unofficial Ghibli film, as its success led to the formation of the famous anime studio. Based on Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, it takes place a thousand years into the future, in a toxic world largely destroyed by bioweapons. Humans do battle with giant, mutated insects, though Nausicaä (princess of the titular valley) hopes to find a way for them all to live in harmony. The environmental and anti-war themes explored here would go on to become a staple of Studio Ghibli’s films.
The first feature film from Studio Ponoc, founded by a group of former Studio Ghibli animators and producers, “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is a charming anime adaptation of Mary Stewart’s “The Littlest Broomstick.” Set in Northern England, it’s the magical tale of Mary Smith, who comes across a rare flower named fly-by-night. As she’ll soon discover, the flower is called fly-by-night because the powder held in its bulbs will transform you into a witch. After breaking one of the bulbs, Mary is transported to Endor College, a school for witches that’s hidden in the clouds.
Mamoru Hosoda burst onto the anime scene with “Digimon: The Movie” at the turn of the millennium, and he followed that up with “Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island,” consistently ranked among the best “One Piece” movies. His next film, sci-fi romance “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” led to him being dubbed the next Hayao Miyazaki. It follows Makoto Konno, a 17-year-old high schooler who discovers that she has the ability to time jump after she’s hit by a train and miraculously reappears right before the accident occurs.
She’s been a leading female voice among anime writers for years, and in 2018, Mari Okada made her directorial debut with the hit fantasy film “Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.” Okada’s award winner follows a girl called Maquia, who belongs to a race of near-immortal beings called Iorphians. When her people get attacked by the humans (who are desperate to learn the secrets of their longevity), she flees her home, rescuing a recently orphaned child along the way. She names the boy Ariel and decides to raise him as her own.
Anime films set in Tokyo tend to focus on the famous green spaces and neon-lit neighborhoods, but Satoshi Kon’s gritty Christmas classic “Tokyo Godfathers” shows us a different side of the city. It’s the story of three homeless people who discover an abandoned newborn on Christmas Eve. Transgender woman Hana, aging alcoholic Gin, and teenage runaway Miyuki (who names the newest member of their makeshift family Kiyoko, meaning “pure child”) set out on a quest to return the baby girl to her parents.
Hayao Miyazaki has always been fond of Italy (the word “Ghibli” is actually an Italian term that means “hot desert wind”), and the filmmaker reportedly visited the country in 1990 to do some location scouting for “Porco Rosso.” Set in a fictional version of Italy in the aftermath of the First World War, this vividly animated film follows a former fighter pilot who’s been turned into an anthropomorphic pig by an unidentified curse. Now a world-weary bounty hunter, he spends his days pursuing seaplane pirates over the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of the great Hayao Miyazaki, “From Up on Poppy Hill” takes place in Yokohama during the post-war period. It’s the story of Umi Matsuzaki, a 16-year-old girl who lives in a boarding house overlooking the city’s famous port. When a poem about the signal flags she raises every morning gets published in the local high school’s newspaper, Umi decides to help staffer Shun Kazama in his quest to save the school’s clubhouse from demolition. The teens develop feelings that become extremely complicated when they discover an old photograph that seems to suggest they’re long-lost siblings.
Isao Takahata’s “Only Yesterday” isn’t your typical Studio Ghibli film. The company co-founded by Takahata is known for its whimsical fantasies, but he decided to make a movie for a different audience here, creating a straight-up drama targeted at grown-ups. Based on Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone’s manga of the same name, it follows 27-year-old city dweller Taeko Okajima during a visit to the Japanese countryside. She’s dedicated years to her job in Tokyo, but the memories triggered by her trip (and the attentions of her brother-in-law’s second cousin, Toshio) lead to a reevaluation of her life choices.
Surfing is the focus of Masaaki Yuasa’s “Ride Your Wave,” the director’s most polished-looking feature to date. The wild, surreal style of animation he’s known for (inspired in part by the Beatles film “Yellow Submarine”) is toned down massively, making way for crisp blue skies and crystal clear waters. The film follows college student Hinako Mukaimizu, who falls in love with a firefighter after moving to a surf town on the coast. Sadly, the man of her dreams drowns while rescuing a stricken jet skier, though she soon discovers that he appears to her in water whenever she sings their favorite song.
Coronavirus-related complications meant that Netflix users had to wait a little longer than expected for the English language version of “A Whisker Away,” a beautifully animated romantic dramedy. By the time the highly anticipated dub dropped on the streaming platform in June 2020, the film was already on its way to becoming one of the summer’s big hits. It’s the story of Miyo Sasaki, a middle school girl who comes into possession of a mask that allows her to transform into a cat. She befriends her crush while in cat form and begins to consider making the change a permanent one.
Mamoru Hosoda’s “Wolf Children” is the tale of an unusual family forced to deal with some very normal issues. It follows a young woman named Hana, who falls head over heels for a man who’s half wolf. They start a family together, but he’s killed on a hunt when their two kids are still infants. Like their dad, Yuki and Ame can transform into anthropomorphic wolves, a fact they strive to keep hidden. Hana, now a single mother, decides to start over in the countryside, hoping her mischievous wolf children will somehow blend in.
It’s one of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s most child-friendly offerings, but there’s still plenty for adults to enjoy in “Ponyo,” the story of a goldfish girl who desperately wants to become human. Real name Brunhilde, Ponyo is the daughter of a sea-dwelling wizard and the goddess Granmamare, queen of the ocean. Against her father’s wishes, she escapes to land and forms a bond with a human boy named Sōsuke, using her magic to turn herself human. She’s promptly taken in by Sosuke’s hardworking mom, brilliantly voiced by Tina Fey in Disney’s English dub.
One of several anime masterpieces from genius director Satoshi Kon (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 46), “Millennium Actress” follows two TV journalists tasked with interviewing the former star of a bankrupted film studio for a documentary. The elderly Chiyoko Fujiwara is unwilling to cooperate at first, but when the pair present her with a key she hasn’t seen in three decades, the reclusive actor proceeds with her story, a tale of jealousy and lost love that takes them back to her youth.
Makoto Shinkai’s “Weathering With You” is a romantic fantasy about an impulsive country boy and a city girl with a huge secret. After arriving in Tokyo to start over, Hodaka Morishima lands a job at an occult magazine. This leads to him investigating the local legend of the Sunshine Girl, who they say has the ability to control the weather. It turns out the Sunshine Girl is Hina Amano, an orphan who works at McDonald’s. Hodaka befriends Hina after saving her from some shady types and she decides to reveal her incredible gift to him. The film features cameos by several characters from Shinkai’s 2016 hit “Your Name.”
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” was widely hailed as one of the most beautiful films of 2013, more than five decades after Isao Takahata first pushed the idea of a feature film about the 10th-century literary character. The girl that comes to be known as Princess Kaguya is discovered inside a bamboo shoot by a farmer, miniature and glowing. She grows into a normal child and becomes a popular figure in the village, but, eager to further her reputation as a divine being, her adoptive parents force her to abandon the countryside for a life in the big city.
Mamoru Hosoda’s “The Boy and the Beast” is a heartwarming tale of loyalty and friendship. It follows nine-year-old street kid Ren, who has been living rough in Tokyo since losing his mother. His fortunes change after an encounter with the equally down-and-out Kumatetsu, a grouchy talking bear who happens to be the potential heir to the hidden Beast Kingdom. After initially balking at the idea, Ren agrees to become Kumatetsu’s disciple. He grows up in the Beast Kingdom and becomes a highly trained kendo expert during that time, but he’s drawn back to the human world when his long-lost father suddenly resurfaces.
The fourth and final film from the late, great Satoshi Kon, “Paprika” is the story of a visionary scientist whose groundbreaking tech falls into the wrong hands. Doctor Atsuko Chiba and her team have perfected a device that allows the user to enter the dreams of others, and she takes it upon herself to use it for good. By night, the psychiatrist secretly uses the device to treat her patients, going inside their heads using her virtual avatar/alter ego, Paprika. When the dream technology gets stolen, a game of cat and mouse played out across the dream world — and the real one — ensues.
In 1995, Yoshifumi Kondō became the first person other than Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata to direct a Studio Ghibli film, taking the reins on “Whisper of the Heart.” This Tokyo-set love story begins when middle school student Shizuku Tsukishima notices that a boy has been checking out all the same library books she has. That boy, she’ll later discover, is Seiji Amasawa, who dreams of becoming a master violin maker. Unfortunately, that dream means leaving Japan — and Shizuku — behind for an apprenticeship in Italy.
Naoko Yamada’s “A Silent Voice” examines the relationship between bullies and their victims. The film opens with remorseful high school student Shoya Ishida going through a crisis. He became an outcast among his peers after relentlessly bullying deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya during sixth grade, and things have gotten so bad that he’s considering suicide. He decides to seek Shoko out and apologize as his final act, but ends up asking her to be friends instead. She agrees, though there’s plenty of ups and downs to come before their relationship gets truly repaired.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The first film from the world renowned Studio Ghibli, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” is the story of an orphan boy named Pazu, whose life in a small mining town is thrown into chaos when he decides to shelter a girl with a magical crystal. Sheeta’s amulet powers Laputa, the film’s floating island fortress, and shady government agent Muska will stop at nothing to get his hands on it. Directed by Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” is a seminal steampunk adventure that’s not to be missed.
It’s long been considered one of the best anime of the 1980s, and Hiroyuki Yamaga’s “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise” still more than holds its own against newer entries in the sci-fi genre. Humans have yet to venture into space in Yamaga’s film, set on an alternate version of Earth. Interest in space travel is practically nonexistent when failed fighter jet pilot Shiro Lhadatt joins the Royal Space Force, but that all changes when he volunteers to go into orbit. The flight sequences are stunning, and it’s impossible not to root for the world’s first astronaut.
Hollywood’s remake of “Ghost in the Shell” didn’t live up to the standard set by Mamoru Oshii’s anime of the same name, which James Cameron once called “the first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence.” Set in the now not-so-distant year of 2029, Oshii’s existential cyberpunk thriller is centered around Motoko Kusanagi (aka the Major), a cyborg agent on the hunt for a rogue hacker. In Oshii’s cybernetically advanced world, every part of the human body can be augmented, even the brain. Originally rated R in the States, the film has since been deemed suitable for younger viewers.
Hayao Miyazaki grew up with a love for aviation (his father’s company, Miyazaki Airplane, built aircraft for the Japanese military) and the thrill of flight has always been a theme in his work. His passion is at its most unrestrained in “The Wind Rises,” the director’s most personal film. It tells the (fictionalized) story of Jiro Horikoshi, the real-life engineer of numerous fighter jets used by Japan during WWII. In the film, Jiro turns his attention to engineering after he’s told that he’s too nearsighted to be a pilot, but his new dream of building beautiful aircraft is complicated by the fact they’ll be used for war.
A direct sequel to the hit anime series of the same name, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train” broke box office records in Japan, dethroning Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” as the country’s all-time top earner on its way to breaking the 40 billion yen barrier. It’s the continued story of Tanjiro Kamado, who vowed to kill the Demon King after he slaughtered his family and turned his sister, Nezuko, into a demon. Set in Japan’s Taisho era, the franchise revolves around Tanjiro’s efforts to preserve and restore Nezuko’s humanity. In this gloriously animated follow-up film, Tanjiro and his demon-hunting allies investigate a train upon which 40 people have mysteriously vanished.
Based on Eiko Kadono’s book of the same name, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” follows a trainee witch who leaves home to find work at the age of 13, as per witch tradition. In this world, witches are neither feared nor unusual, seen as helpful public servants rather than creepy conjurors. Kiki finds the perfect job in Koriko, using her broom to earn her keep in the big city: she delivers packages for a very friendly (and very pregnant) bakery owner. In the words of director Hayao Miyazaki, it’s a film for those “who do not deny the joy of youth, nor are carried away by it.”
Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” is the story of J-Pop star Mimi Kirigoe, who decides to quit her band and start over as an actor. The decision doesn’t go down well with one obsessive fan, who begins stalking Mimi. When murders start occurring around her, the idol’s already eroded grip on reality is lost entirely. It’s a psychological thriller very much in the vein of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” which, as fans of Kon’s film have been keen to point out, actually contains several near-identical shots.
In 1996, Studio Ghibli struck a deal with Disney that made the Mouse House the sole distributor of its films abroad. The first release under that deal was Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy epic “Princess Mononoke,” which Disney put out via Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax. The now-disgraced producer wanted Miyazaki to make a ton of cuts, but the director insisted that the film be released entirely unedited. Set during Japan’s Muromachi period, it follows a wolf-raised woman named San and an earnest prince named Ashitaka, whose cursed arm is slowly killing him. The unlikely pair join forces to stop an impending war between the industrial-minded humans and the angry forest gods.
One of the other great minds behind Studio Ghibli, the late Isao Takahata was best known for his haunting classic “Grave of the Fireflies.” The film follows Seita and Setsuko, orphaned siblings clinging to life in the last days of World War II. Routinely ranked among the best wartime movies ever made, “Grave of the Fireflies” is a difficult but ultimately rewarding watch. Veteran film critic Roger Ebert called it “an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.”
Loosley based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” is routinely ranked among the director’s top works. This mesmerizing steampunk adventure takes place in a war-torn kingdom where magic and machinery work hand in hand. It follows a hatmaker named Sophie who, after an encounter with the vindictive Witch of the Waste, is transformed into an old woman. The young milliner sets out on a quest to find the witch and lift the curse, which leads her to the titular castle. She becomes Howl’s cleaning lady and begins to care for the wanted wizard, who sees her for what she really is.
Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name” was Japan’s highest-grossing film of 2016, and it took the rest of the world by storm the following year. Shinkai’s exquisitely animated coming-of-age fantasy follows Tokyo boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha, a pair of high schoolers who inexplicably wake up in each other’s bodies one day. The phenomenon continues to occur throughout the film and the two teens begin to form a special bond, each embarking on a quest to learn the other’s name.
The distinctive silhouette of Studio Ghibli mascot Totoro is known the world over nowadays. Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” didn’t capture the imagination of audiences right away (largely down to the fact that it was released alongside “Grave of the Fireflies” as a double feature), but the film and its eponymous forest spirit went on to carve out a place in Japanese pop culture. It follows sisters Satsuki and Mei, who just moved to the countryside with their father. Their new house is old and drafty, but it’s near the hospital that’s treating their sick mother. Totoro becomes a guardian to the girls after they discover him in a nearby forest.
Hollywood has been trying to adapt “Akira” for years now, but Katsuhiro Otomo’s visually striking anime film (based on his manga of the same name) has proved a difficult act to follow. Otomo’s post-apocalyptic classic became a cult hit in the West when bootleg copies began to circulate, and it’s still considered a benchmark in anime to this day. It follows a young biker gang in Neo-Tokyo, the neon-lit metropolis that sprang up after the previous capital was destroyed in a devastating explosion. When gang member Tetsuo Shima starts developing powerful psychokinetic abilities following an accident, his friends have to stop him from causing another catastrophe.
The Oscar-winning jewel in Studio Ghibli’s crown, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” is the unforgettable tale of a girl named Chihiro, whose parents are transformed into pigs after they wander into what they believe is an abandoned theme park. It turns out to be a bathhouse for spirits, and if Chihiro wants her mom and dad restored to human form, she’ll have to work for the witch that runs it. With a host of colorful new friends helping her out, she formulates a plan to save her parents and get back to the human world.