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10 Great Anime That Are Not Miyazaki
Miyazaki isn't the only game in Anime town
By Chris Beveridge
October 19, 2009
10 Great Anime That Are Not Miyazaki
© Mania/ Robert Trate
When people are given recommendations for anime movies to find out if they’ve seen little or no anime, it's very common to reference films from Hayao Miyazaki. This is even more common during years when his movies are in the theaters or hitting video for the first time, such as Ponyo in 2009. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli movies are good films to get introduced to, but there's also the desire by many to expose new people to more than just these diverse general audience films for people of all ages. Just as varied as Hollywood, the world of anime has a lot to offer with theatrical releases, such as these in no particular order:
10. Perfect Blue
The first directorial work by Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue highlights the intense and powerful kinds of films that he would make over the next decade. Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller about a young idol singer who has decided a career change is in order by becoming an actress. This doesn't go over well with some fans, including one who essentially stalks her and causes her no end of problems. Where the real problem comes in is that because of what's happening, her view of reality begins to diverge and she can no longer tell what is real and what's in her mind. Comparisons were made early on to Hitchcock with this feature and Kon has borne that out over time with his body of work.
9. Wings of Honneamise
If any studio held promise after a first work, it was Gainax after launching Wings of Honneamise. With attention to detail that is still top class even today, this alternate world story of mankind’s first foray into space similar to the 1960s is riveting if you're a fan of the space race. Politics, religion and the reasons why we reach for the stars is in here, but the combination of stunningly detailed artwork and a rich layered soundtrack from Ryuichi Sakamoto has made this timeless. Controversial when it came out and still to this day with how the characters act at times, it's a feature that leaves you talking about it and what it means for years afterwards.
8. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies lets you know up front that this will not end well. The story of a brother and sister in Japan towards the end of the war, it recounts the tragedy of the innocents with stark detail about how they survived. With the villages and towns being firebombed, the siblings try to escape the barrage but lose their mother in the attack while never knowing what happens to their father who is serving in the navy. Intent on protecting his sister, the choices made here lead the characters through their own hell, but one with some beautiful moments. This is a movie that needs to be seen at least once, as most people are unable to watch it again after that.
7. Macross: Do You Remember Love
With a hugely popular TV series, doing a movie adaptation is a no-brainer. The Macross movie was intended to be an alternate retelling of the story about a race of alien invaders that came to earth to capture a ship that was lost but instead was transformed into a movie within the TV series universe as an explanation for the differences. It fits within the continuity in an unusual way but stands alone as it drops you into the middle of this war with a large cast of characters, slick animation from 1984 that surprises even today and a powerful message about love, hope and war alongside incredibly catchy pop music.
6. Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer
The influence of Mamoru Oshii was plainly evident from this second theatrical outing in the Urusei Yatsura franchise. After directing numerous TV episodes of the wacky space alien comedy, he showed that it could be done with straight while still retaining some cutting humor as it plays with dreams and reality. Concepts and ideas formed in here resurface in his later films, such as Ghost in the Shell, where he tackles the philosophical with characters that you'd never imagine would give a first thought to such things. The Groundhog Day-like nature of the storyline with its small subtle changes showcase a real sense of craftsmanship from the creative team and has helped to make this movie stand the test of time.
5. Patlabor Trilogy
If there was a property that dominated in the 1980s, it was Patlabor. When the movies began to arrive, they took the realistic approach of giant mecha and its practical application to the world to a logical direction and explored what police work would be in a special unit dedicated to it. The features take a different tact than the TV show by being more police procedural pieces that are thoughtful and introspective about the world they live in and what motivates people to do the things they do. The accents of the technology are what set it apart, but they don’t dominate with it. Each movie builds on the overall world and expands on the large and intriguing cast of characters.
4. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
What would you do if you could travel through time? The question when asked in movies tends to revolve around the big things in life, but for high school student Makoto, she uses the power she mysteriously gains to travel back in time to fix the little things that go wrong in her daily life. As it progresses, she finds she has a limited number of leaps she can make and has to use them to set things right or friends of hers will be killed in an accident. Each leap brings a new change to the world though, making the situation seem all the more impossible. The visual depiction of the time travel is intriguing and the sheer fun of seeing what a high school girl would really do with such powers feels just about right.
3. Millennium Actress
Movies about movies can walk a dangerous line depending on what kind you make and how you approach it. Millennium Actress takes a reverential approach but wraps it up just right as a fan of a popular actress in the 1930s who meets with her to interview her about her life as the studio she was a part of is about to be closed permanently. As the actress relates her life to the interviewer, she does it by weaving into it through the movies that she’s been in, which the interviewer can visualize so well. It follows the movie within a movie approach that cover a number of genres and makes it difficult to discern reality from fiction at times, but it’s a masterful piece that keeps you on edge with the tale of love, tragedy and life. There’s a love of cinema shown here that helps elevate the film to a different place, but it doesn’t completely glorify it either.
2. Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
Take Daft Punk, bring in Toei Animation and add the legendary name Leiji Matsumoto to it and you have the entire album of Discovery animated into story form. The feature tells the tale of an alien music group that’s abducted and taken to Earth where they’re re-manufactured into a pop band that dominates the charts under the guidance of an evil music executive. The band has lost their memories and run through the motions, but it’s an intergalactic fan who attempts to save them by coming to earth and trying to shake them out of it. The feature uses only the songs to tell the tale with very little added to it with sound effects as well. The visual design of the film and the entire creative staff, from Daft Punk to the animators and Daft Punk’s hero in Leiji Matsumoto makes this a unique feature that shows just how well music can be blended to animation to make a compelling story.
1. 5 Centimeters Per Second
The second full length feature from Makoto Shinkai exams the distances people feel between each other as it follows a pair of children who parted ways after their high school entrance exams. The two had grown up sickly and bonded well together, but never really tried towards a relationship. Over the course of three acts, their lives and paths are examined as they come back into each others orbits and wonder what could have been, what should have been and what they really wanted during past parts of their lives. The focus on the distance we all feel from each other, both those close to us and those who are not, makes up the mood and atmosphere here that provides for a captivating drama over a couple of decades of these two peoples lives. Set against a backdrop of a world where mankind is about to move into the stars at the start of the 21st century, the choices made and the real wants of the pair is examined as well, with the uncertainty people feel driving much of it.
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