Many of anime’s biggest hits can rack up hundreds of TV episodes. However, the animated film industry also consistently produces awesome content that appeals to different audiences than the standard anime series.
It’s easy for these cinematic anime releases to garner plenty of critical acclaim and awards, but there are also plenty of projects that either go back to style over substance or are surprisingly empty. These are the animated movies that, while far from perfect, are still satisfying experiences that provide something worthwhile.
ten Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a chaotic clash of power, but not much more
It’s no surprise that Akira Toriyama dragonball franchise was able to find significant success in theaters. There are more than a dozen Dragon Ball Z films and the series that succeeds the franchise, Dragon Ball Super, has kept this tradition alive with its own feature films.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the first of those epic efforts, and this film is important in properly bringing fan-favorite character Broly the Legendary Super Saiyan into canon. Broly is a movie that looks gorgeous and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action franchise’s trademark battles, but it’s also not high-level cinema redefining the medium.
9 Pompo: the cinephile celebrates the ups and downs of the creative process
Pompo: the cinephile is a 2021 standalone anime film from Takayuki Hirao that beautifully deconstructs the process of making a movie. Pompo, a precocious film producer, struggles to go from being a B-movie savant to being the person behind mainstream blockbuster hits. Pompom has such respect for the creative process and how each element of a film contributes to the final product.
Pompom features impressive visuals and a touching story, but it occasionally stumbles with the film’s tone as well as mixed messages about nepotism. Pompom should create a real wonder in any movie fan, but it’s important to understand that it’s still an imperfect business.
8 Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba: The Movie: Mugen Train Is Empty Popcorn Fun
A common trajectory for breakout shonen anime series is to extend that success into larger-than-life cinematic adventures. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is one of the best series of recent years, but its first feature film, Mugen train, literally set new box office records in Japan.
Train Mugen is an undeniably beautiful piece of animation, but it suffers from its close connection to the animated series. It’s hard to just enjoy Train Mugen on its own, and the film has since become less essential after the demon slayer anime adapted the film into multiple season episodes.Train Mugen is a fun, if forgettable ride.
seven Lu Over The Wall is a moving story that’s sometimes too cute for its own good
Masaaki Yuasa enjoys reinventing visuals, challenging rigid designs, and engaging in incredible spectacles that make blinking a crime. read on the wall is one of Yuasa’s more straightforward stories, which makes it perfect for younger audiences, but may leave some older crowds less impressed. The film looks at a disenfranchised teenager, Kai, who learns to kiss after meeting a strange vampire mermaid with a passion for singing.
Lu Over the Wall doesn’t have the biggest emotional impact of Yuasa’s other cinematic endeavors, but the visuals here are uncompromising. Lu’s unpredictable movements and the tidal wave that fuels the film’s final act will turn audiences into lifelong Yuasa fans.
6 Lupine III: The First Triumphs With Its Visual Overhaul And Is The Perfect Lupin Primer
There are hundreds of Lupine III episodes of its various series, as well as a slew of feature films that even got anime writers like Hayao Miyazaki off the ground. Lupine III: The First is a recent 2019 cinematic release for the legendary gentleman thief that’s significant for how it gives the character his first CG makeover.
CG anime always gets a lot of derision, but Lupine III: The First is such a beautiful film that proves how effective this medium can be. Lupine III: The First is not the best Lupine movie, but it’s a great intro to the series and hopefully not the last CG Lupine effort.
5 Beautiful riffs on Mamoru Hosoda’s greatest hits and struggles to tell a new story
Mamoru Hosoda is one of the most prolific names in the anime industry. Hosoda’s films, like Summer Wars, The Boy and the Beastand Miraiare all consumed with relatable subject matter that involves questions of identity, the public versus the private, and the power of fantasy worlds.
Beautiful, Hosoda’s most recent work, is undoubtedly the filmmaker’s finest creation. However, the stunning visual The beauty and the Beast the allegory remixes Hosoda’s usual themes in an often reductive way. Beautiful works best if it’s the only Hosoda movie someone has seen, but even then it’s hard to feel the writing lives up to the visual aesthetic.
4 Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie Is An Emotional Prequel That Feels Non-Essential
Jujutsu Kaisen is currently one of the best shonen series of the decade. It is exploited in heightened storytelling that encompasses both action and horror elements. Yuji Itadori is the leader of Jujutsu Kaisenbut the anime’s first movie decides to go back for a prequel story.
Yuta Okkotsu’s connection to Rika and his growing understanding of cursed spirits is able to stand on its own, but it also draws clear parallels to Yuji’s fate in life. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 benefits from its fairly accessible prequel status. However, praise for Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is probably inflated and has to do with recency bias.
3 5 Centimeters Per Second celebrates the importance of human connection
Some filmmakers tackle completely different stories in their films, while others will constantly revise the same idea until they perfect it. Makoto Shinkai has an amazing filmography, but he’s absolutely an example of the former, and all of his films delve into harrowing melodrama with a fantastical undercurrent. Shinkai’s emotional storytelling structure is at its best in your name and Grow old with you. Likewise, 5 centimeters per second looks like a draft for Shinkai’s later filmmaking.
5 centimeters per second focuses on a series of encounters between two lost souls, which are effective, but lack more substance. Nevertheless, attention to background detail and environments means that 5 centimeters per second is always a visual delight.
2 Redline is a fast-paced space race full of visual excitement
Takeshi Koike and Madhouse deliver a high-octane race across the galaxy that never slows down during its nearly two-hour runtime. Many anime series and movies feature exaggerated competitions, and Red line approaches a deadly race held every five years and promises incredible rewards, but at a dangerous price.
Red line is impressive for the way it’s able to make a long run consistently entertaining, as well as presenting eclectic competition that fleshes out its unique universe. Some may reject Red line like style over substance, but it’s hard not to get swept up in its energy and enjoy the ride.
1 My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is heightened heroic mayhem that lacks substance
my hero academia is a modern anime that feels deeply iconic of current trends with the way it mixes shonen staples with superhero archetypes. my hero academia has produced over 100 episodes with still no end in sight, but the action-packed anime also has three cinematic installments that tell some grand stories.
The first of these films, two heroes, feels the most disposable of the lot. The film’s disgruntled villain and his reckless plan to forever change society exist in a nebulous place within the grand canon. My Hero Academia: two heroes feels like a stepping stone into the anime’s journey, with subsequent films learning from its lesson.
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