Anime is an art form that is relatively new, with only about half a century behind it. In that half century, Japanese animation has produced so many spectacular films that the genre developed it’s own legion of super fans.
In the 90s we had an impressive collection of VHS Anime films that we unloaded in an ill-advised purge after a move to a new Manhattan apartment.
Ghost in the Shell is a particular favorite — for its dark and moody depiction of the future and its kickass female half human/half cyborg Major.
With the Hollywood live action remake being released this weekend, we are highlighting some of our favorite anime films.
Rupert Saunders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directs this remake of the cult classic, starring Scarlett Johansson as Major. The casting of Scarlett created quite a whitewashing sensation which I don’t agree with.
The film is set in the year 2029 and follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a special ops human-cyborg hybrid who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.
The original film is prized as much for its story as it is for its breathtaking visuals and from what we have seen of the new film it looks set to deliver.
Directed by Mamoru Oshii and based on the manga by Masamune Shirow. Oshii gave us the archetype of the emotionally detached female cyborg. Many have tried but no one has been able to make a story as compelling as Major Motoko Kusanagi’s journey through cyber-hell.
It’s set in 2029, where a vast electronic network permeates every aspect of life. That network becomes a battlefield for Tokyo’s Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending the master hacker known only as the Puppet Master.
Motoko is the cyborg officer whose task is to apprehend Puppet Master. The film is about corruption – but at its core it is a story about a soldier who loses her identity and becomes a machine. Motoko begins to ponder the very nature of her existence: is she purely an artificial construct, or is there more?
This classic is one of our all time favorite anime films.
Directed by Katsuhiro Ohtomo based on the manga by Katsuhiro Ohtomo, this cyberpunk classic follows the heroic story of biker rebels Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima who contemplate the meaning of their existence as they fight governmental oppression.
Set in a dystopian Tokyo in 2019. Tetsuo Shima possesses psychic powers and his friend Kaneda is a bike gang leader. At the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as…Akira.
This beauty from the genius of Katsuhiro Otomo was released in 1988 and is still revered for its incredibly lush and attractive visuals. With its sci-fi brilliance, Akira impresses a great deal and so do its cyberpunk tones.
This culty anime psychological thriller was directed by Satoshi Kon whose kindred spirits are directors like David Lynch, Dario Argento, Alfred Hitchcock and Darren Aronofsky. PERFECT BLUE is both a psychological thriller and a scathing look at fame and its perils.
The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a successful pop singer who leaves her band to become an actress–a career move that angers her fans. When people around her start to get murdered, a weirdly accurate Mima diary/blog appears online (which Mima isn’t writing). The combined stresses of her new career and multiple stalkers push her to the brink of a breakdown until a string of murderous revelations shock her back to reality.
Directed by Shinji Aramaki and based on the manga by Masamune Shirow.
Appleseed is a combination of mecha anime (robot anime) and the cyborg-centric style from Ghost in the Shell. It is set in the year 2131, a year of turmoil between humans and the biodoids. The key character, Officer Deunan Knute, slowly gets pulled into the crossfire of warring factions in the false Utopia her father helped create. It is a fight to save the future of humanity.
With stunning CG animation and an entire franchise resulting from its success, this is a modern film that should not be missed.
Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru already had a long and successful career before he directed his seminal film. Patlabor 2 is one of the best anime films made to deal with the subtle politics of a nation grappling with the concept of war.
This animated feature is the sequel to Oshii Mamoru’s dark and thoughtful Patlabor film, based on video and television series of the same name. Captain Goto finds himself and his colleagues in the Mobile Police Patlabor division, caught in a web of political intrigue as a disgruntled veteran of the Japanese Self-Defense Force leads a militant terrorist group into a violent assault against Tokyo
This is an excellent political thriller, one that now holds a degree of relevance to the current state of the world.