For the past few weeks, I've been getting myself into an anime mood. Before this, I never loved or hated anime. There are some great anime movies out there, but not many. A lot of people seem to think that anime is silly, or cheesy, or a bad excuse for actual animation. I agree that not all anime movies are great. In fact, most of them are rather overdramatic and loud, but there are many times where I can safely say that the anime movies I’ve seen are better than most Disney and Pixar movies. I watched many anime movies during the winter break, but there are three that really stand out for me. These films are all incredible, and I believe everyone should watch them.
I’ll start off with a film that most people know, or at least have heard of, which is Your Name. Just like everyone says, this is an incredible film. I’ve had many friends who’ve had their whole perspective on anime changed because of this movie. I can understand what they mean. This is a breathtaking and emotional film.
The premise is simple. A boy and girl get their bodies swapped back and forth each day, and they are forced to live and communicate through messaging and calling each other. It sounds simple, but the film actually gets more complicated as the story goes on, and sometimes it becomes extremely difficult to understand.
I think the reason so many people love this film, including me, is the characters. The relationship between the boy and the girl is extremely natural and realistic. This is something I tend to notice in all anime movies. Most movies typically focus on an entertaining plot, with action sequences and moments to always keep you on the edge of your seat. Anime movies are more character driven. Nearly all of them I’ve seen focus a lot on the characters, their motivations, and their goals. I’m the kind of person to always prefer characters over world-building. It’s why I loved the Harry Potter books so much. Yes, there’s a lot of world-building in Harry Potter, but it focused a lot on the characters and their development throughout the series. It’s why I’ve never really gotten into the Wheel of Time or Way of Kings series'. They’re good books, but they’ve never really hooked me in.
Your Name is a simple story that has so many meanings. There are tons of messages that this film brings to the table, like love and youth. The dialogue is great and never gets boring. It always knows when it’s trying to be funny, and when it’s trying to be serious, and that’s one of the best parts of the film. The constant shifting tone combined with the witty dialogue makes this a very entertaining film. In most comedies, the film doesn’t really work so well when it’s trying to get emotional since the dialogue is still funny and light-hearted. However, this film has great dialogue that sticks to the mood. It never feels out of place. Both the subbed (which is the Japanese version with subtitles) and the dubbed (which is the English voices dubbed into the film) versions are great. While Your Name is fantastic, this is surprisingly my least favorite of the three films I’m going to be talking about.
A Silent Voice
This film takes the word emotional to a whole new level. It’s simply an amazing film, maybe even a masterpiece. It communicated with me so powerfully. It’s not just another film about how bad bullying is. It’s a film about self-esteem, self-confidence, and redemption, and it’s incredibly well done.
The story will literally cut your throat throughout. A young man named Shoya decides to make amends with a deaf girl named Shouko that he bullied years ago. It sounds boring, but it’s surprisingly great. It conveys messages and themes that are very relatable like depression and self-hatred, but never goes too over the top to where it feels fake. The characters are all very memorable, and I never really hated any of them. They all have personality and don’t feel like unnecessary substitutes to the main character. They’re integral to the relationship of Shoya and Shouko, and they constantly develop and change.
Part of what I love so much about this movie is the realism. It has zero supernatural or fictional elements, leading you to feel more immersed in the story. I’ve also felt that having the characters head into a magical world, or fighting a group of fictional monsters, lessens the themes of the story. It’s why I didn’t like Your Name as much. It’s a great film, but it has a lot of supernatural elements that we can’t really relate to as well, like body swapping and time travel.
The movie is always entertaining throughout its two hour runtime. The dialogue is well written and communicates to not only bullies, but people around the world who are worried or anxious about their lives. It speaks so well to introverts. Shoya learns to love himself as he tries to gain a friendship with Shouko. He always imagines an “X” on everyone since he can’t properly look anyone in the eye, but as the film goes on, he starts to take those “X”s off one by one.
A Silent Voice is realistic, emotional and brutal. It left a lot of my friends sobbing and sobbing, and almost left me doing the same. Every scene adds something new to the story that I can’t fully describe it all in one sitting. I loved this movie and I can recommend it to anyone. Be warned though: it tackles lots of depressing themes that can be a little saddening and frightening to some. But if you can deal with that, then you’re in for one of the best films ever made.
Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms
This is the type of film that I can’t describe in words. It’s so moving and sad and yet no one seems to talk about it. It’s on Tubi for free, and that feels like a scam. I would genuinely pay $100 for this movie and be perfectly fine with it.
Maquia is an amazing movie in every way possible. Set in a fantasy world, the lorphs, a race with the power of immortality, get attacked by the neighboring kingdom of Mezarte. A girl named Maquia, one of the few runaways of the brutal attack, finds a baby only hours old and decides to take care of him. As the story progresses, the film tells of the son (now named Ariel) and his relationship with Maquia, the mother.
This film makes me appreciate my parents more than any other film. The power of a mother is amazing, and that is clearly shown here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I always love characters more than world-building, and this film is all about that. Every character is incredible and they are all amazingly well developed. I never hated a single one, not even the villains. The story is so relatable despite being a fantasy story. Ariel ages and ages as Maquia can only watch him get older due to her immortality. The son learns so much along the way as he grows to love his caring mother. I felt every single emotion the characters felt. I felt Ariel’s love, I felt his trauma, I felt his sadness, I felt his willingness to persevere. This movie’s character development is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it has the greatest character development of all time (and I’ve seen a LOT of movies!). It’s fully realized, so funny, so charming and so, SO good. Maquia is one of my top 5 favorite movies—EVER—and that’s some high praise.
This film is incredible. It’s my favorite of the three movies because of how relatable and charming it is. Even as I’m writing this review, I’m struggling to find a single thing wrong with it. Every part of this movie is amazing, and it all leads up to this incredibly sad and beautiful ending. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated films of all time. Nobody seems to talk about it, and I feel it deserves so much more. I believe anyone of any age can see it. It’s the type of film that anyone should see at some point in their life. It’s THAT amazing.
These are the three films that stuck out the most during my huge anime binge. They are all spectacular films with breathtaking visuals and GORGEOUS soundtracks. I did leave a few films out that I thought were great, so I’m going to make a short list of some other films that I recommend as well:
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya - A beautiful and emotional film with a heartbreaking story and incredible visuals.
Spirited Away - A film that I’m sure everybody knows, with an engaging story that will keep you hooked throughout.
Whisper of The Heart - An awesome film with memorable characters and a beautiful soundtrack.
Howl's Moving Castle - A fun romance film with a great story and incredible world-building.
Penguin Highway - A fun (albeit funny) film about a boy’s research of something strange that happened in his hometown.
Okkos Inn - A funny, but heartfelt film for all ages that made me smile throughout.
My Neighbor Totoro - A great, charming movie if you want to relax and enjoy something soft and comforting
Princess Mononoke - A great war film with amazing characters, a great antagonist and awesome action sequences
Anime may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I still recommend that people try and watch anime movies. There are so many great films to check out. If you can think of a genre, chances are it might be there! I’ve noticed that everyone I meet in person has some anime movie that they adore (mine being Maquia). If you look deep enough, there might be a movie that you will love as well!