Animated films generally get the butt of the stick compared to their series counterparts. People usually aren’t as excited for them as they are for a new season of their favorite animated series. But, every now and then fans get a taste of the sparkle they have to offer.
The past year has been an interesting one for the cinematic anime scene. With new titles pursuing iconic franchises and a slew of original films making up the list, there’s plenty to unbox for fans looking for the best animated films of 2021.
ten Earwig and the witch (30%)
Expectations for Studio Ghibli’s very first 3D CG animated film were a mixture of worry and cautious optimism. Earwig and the witch proved the fears to be true. With its abysmal 30% RT rating, one can probably guess what the film had to offer, or lack thereof. Directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, the film was sadly lifeless.
A plot without substance, a forgettable music, and a wooden animation far removed from the perfection expected of a Studio Ghibli title, the less we say about this failure, the better.
9 Shiny: Samurai Soul (40%)
For the uninitiated, Brilliant: samurai soul is a prequel to Netflix’s 2017 movie, critical but aired in hell Brilliant. The anime prequel takes the concept of the live-action movie and tries to flesh it out in 19th-century Japan. Does it really work? Not really. With a voice led by Shang Chi and the legend of the ten rings‘lead Simu Liu, the film had almost nothing else of note. While the story tried to describe the heartfelt journey of a ronin teaming up with an orc to save an elf, there just wasn’t much to worry about in the 1h20m span.
8 Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway (80%)
The 2021 cinematic entry into the long-running franchise was largely a solid thriller for fans of the hallowed mecha mobile suits. The keyword here is ‘for the fans’. The story is drawn from character arcs that have been unfolding for years, and viewers unfamiliar with their rich history are likely to find themselves clueless and perhaps also disappointed.
That said, the film does raise some thought-provoking questions about the larger universe of Mobile Suit Gundam. It’s also worth noting that the events of the film take place 12 years after those of another beloved franchise entry – Char counterattack. A Hathaway sequel is slated for release in 2024.
seven My Hero Academia: Mission of the Heroes of the World (85%)
My hero university is one of the most spirited and successful animated series of recent times. With the 2021 film adding what is essentially a filler arc to the larger story, Mission of the heroes of the world will undoubtedly satisfy die-hard fans of the series, but will likely leave everyone indifferent. For viewers new to the universe, the nearly 2-hour film might just be a fun watch with Japan’s greatest heroes trying to uncover the mastermind behind a horrific chemical attack. And for those looking forward to the show’s next season, that would prove to be a decent stop along the way.
6 Demon Slayer – The movie: Mugen Train (98%)
Holding the record for the highest grossing animated film ever in Japan, Mugen train exceeded all fan expectations of Demon slayer. Tanjiro and the group are tasked with their final assignment on the Mugen train to investigate the disappearance of more than 40 people. The group teams up with a powerful swordsman to take down the demon aboard the fateful train.
A feast for the eyes and full of emotion, Mugen train was filled to the brim with action-packed footage and managed to become one of the best films of the year, if not all time.
5 Words bubble like soda pop (100%)
Another Netflix title, Words bubble like soda is a great heartwarming story about a shy haiku-loving boy and a bubbly, shy girl who share an intimate connection during a brief summer together. With a perfect score of 100% RT, the Kyohei Ishiguro (from Your lie in April fame) mixes moving storytelling with watercolor illustrations to produce a memorable story of human connection. The evocative rhythms of Ishiguro’s tender romance embrace the viewer in an inviting cocoon, the release of which seems almost brutal.
4 Violet Evergarden: the movie (100%)
Violet Evergarden is widely hailed as one of the best animated series and the movie sequel to the fan-favorite show doesn’t disappoint either. The movie begins with the titular automatic memory doll called in by a terminally ill boy for his unique talents. She is then forced to face her past feelings of loss due to the death of Major Gilbert. Violet Evergarden: the movie does not shrink from his sentimental core. Rather, he composes it up to eleven and manages to deliver hard-hitting emotional rhythms.
3 Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal The Movie (100%)
Usagi Tsukino Returns With Magical Adventures In 2021 Movie, Expanding Expansion sailor moon universe. What started as a manga almost 30 years ago has later been adapted into one of the most beloved magical girl anime series. The impact of sailor moon about pop culture cannot be overstated.
Dozens of popular creators and animators have been influenced by the iconic themes and artistic style of the series’ original works. The first film in the franchise after 1995, Eternal Sailor Moon is a must-have watch for longtime fans.
2 Josée, the tiger and the fish (100%)
A story of young love and the contagious promise of dreams, Josée, the tiger and the fish invites the viewer to accompany Josée, a paraplegic artist, and Tsuneo, a marine biology student, on a journey of a lifetime. What begins as a caregiver for Tsuneo quickly turns into a budding love for Josée and her profession. The film’s relentless dose of melodrama tends to be a bit too much at times, but that doesn’t take away from the beautifully animated and heartfelt storyline.
1 Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Once upon a time (100%)
A film which had an unprecedented weight of expectations, Once upon a time does much more than conclude the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. Hideaki Anno didn’t deliver a perfect ending, he probably didn’t satisfy die-hard fans either. But what he managed to do is tell the story he wanted to be told. The final installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion arc was never going to meet all expectations, but like any Evangelion story, it was a flawed yet delicious concoction of deep, layered storytelling.
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