This post is intended as a summary of the anime that I would use as initial reccomendations. It is intended as a quick reference for those who stumble across my site and find that they have tastes and preferences that are similar to mine. These do not represent what I consider to be the “best” of anime nor are they ranked in any particular order.
Mimi wo Sumaseba / Whisper of the Heart (Review Link)
Whisper of the Heart is a film by Studio Ghibli featuring the story of a young girl named Shizuku and a schoolmate, Seiji, and is among my favourite films. Whisper is essentially an ode to the minor joys of life – a wholesome celebration of friendship, family, love, kindness, and most importantly: dreams and curiosity. A quote from director Hayao Miyazaki sums up the motivation for the film: “It is easy to cynically declare that wholesomeness is a fragile concept…..Even so, it seems to me that it also ought to be possible to express….how wonderful the quality of wholesomeness is. ” And in pursuing that simple goal, they produced what I consider to be a timeless coming-of-age story.
Princess Mononoke (Review Link)
Princess Mononoke is a rich, mythological epic which tells the timeless story of a battle between man and nature. The film maintains a delicate balance between the large scale battle and the more personal story of the main characters, and also presents very beautiful images of nature and spirits which I find to be among the most unforgettable settings in animated filmmaking altogether. If there is ever an anime that I would suggest as an introduction to the potential of animation to tell unparalleled stories, this would be the one. It could simply not be done in live action with the same effect.
My Neighbor Totoro (Review Link)
My Neighbot Totoro is a gentle and heartfelt ode to childhood, imagination, and family. It is a film for both children and anyone who has ever been a child. At moments it is joyously imaginative, other times it possess a tempered tinge of sadness, but from beginning to end it is a truly poignant story about being a child – one of the rare few films that can make such claims in honesty.
Millennium Actress (Review Link)
A story across generations, where Satoshi Kon takes us through the entire life of an aged actress currently living in seclusion. Through his atypical approach to storytelling, we literally live through her experiences as a child in a prewar era through her entire life, driven at every turn by what seems at first to be an inner longing to find a dissident artist she had helped save in her youth but which gradually reveals itself to be something more complex and more bittersweet. It is a mature and poignant story with an emotionally challenging ending and fantastic direction.
Grave of the Fireflies (Review Link)
Grave of the Fireflies has opened the minds of countless viewers and critics alike as to the potential of animation to tell serious, dramatic stories. The film tells the story of a pair of orphaned children during World War 2, and the emotional toll it takes on the viewer will be extremely heavy. However, I firmly believe it is an important story that should be seen by everyone at least once.
Although I don’t tend to watch many televised anime series and don’t claim to be an authority on them, there are quite a few which I have a degree of fondness for. Among them are:
Maison Ikkoku (Review Link)
A classic series from the 80s, following university-bound Godai as he meets and develops what starts as an immature infatuation for, but gradually a reciprocated and genuine affection, his widowed landlord, Kyoko. The show ranges from light-hearted comedy to some very effective scenes of low-key drama. It is a series best watched over a long period of time, where the effect of growing attached to the characters works best.
Kemono no Souja Erin (Review Link)
A gently told fantasy story of a girl who attempts to discard society’s codes and forge a new relationship with beasts who have been treated as tools. Although the premise is idealistic, the series maintains an ambiguous view of this goal while at the same time delivering very satisfying character growth as well as a rewarding climax which pulls several plot threads together. It’s a story which can easily be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Planetes (Review Link)
Acompelling sci-fi show which presents a gripping and emotional character drama within a realistic vision of a space-bound (near) future for humanity. The first half is a little more slice-of-life oriented, allowing us to bond with the crew, while the second builds up to an dramatic and emotionally intensive climax, shaking the characters’ beliefs to their core and delivering some of the most satisfying character development I’ve seen.
Natsume Yuujinchou (Review Link)
Natsume Yuujinchou is about a teenage boy who can see and talk to spirits. Though the premise brings several generic ideas to mind, the show uses this starting point instead to explore some very touching themes of loneliness, friendship, and kindness. It is told in an episodic manner, with Natsume, the main character, discovering a new spirit and their background with each “arc”. Nearly every poignant episode manages to hit an emotional cord in the viewer and it is a wonderful show for family viewing.
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