While there’s certainly a lot of hype to be had with franchise animated films such as One Piece Red Where Dragon Ball Super Heroes, standalone movies deserve some love too. In fact, some of the weirdest and most ambitious stories in fiction have come from anime.
This year, fans get another beautifully crafted movie from Makoto Shinkai, Locking Suzume Gates, which involves mysterious “gates” opening all around Japan, in the ruins of flooded cities. These films, not limited by the existence of a long series, tell incredible stories. What Are The Best Standalone Anime Options, According To MyListAnime voters?
The Wind Rises (2013) – 8.10
The wind picks up is a 2013 historical drama from Studio Ghibli and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. It follows the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a young boy off the beaten track. Although his acute myopia ruined his dreams as a pilot, he instead hoped to help pilots get airborne by becoming an aeronautical engineer.
Unfortunately, World War II changed everything. The wind picks up starts out as a melancholy film at first and slowly evolves. It tackles the inherent corruption of warfare, even in the noblest pursuits. Jiro’s childhood dream collides with the brutal pragmatism of wartime Japan, and this moral struggle is felt throughout the film.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) – 8.21
The Story of Princess Kaguya is an animated adaptation of The story of the bamboo cutteranimated by Studio Ghibli, and is The last film directed by Isao Takahata at Studio Ghibli before his death. The story tells of a miniature girl, found in a bamboo shoot. She is raised to be human by the couple, and soon finds love on Earth.
However, she is called back to the moon and must now choose between the humans she grew up with or where she truly belongs. The Story of Princess Kaguya is a straightforward adaptation of the classic tale but adds a lot of character development to help inform character decisions. It’s also beautifully animated in a unique style that hasn’t been seen in any other Ghibli film since.
In This Corner of the World (2016) – 8.22
In this corner of the world is a historical drama set in World War II, directed by Sunao Katabuchi and animated by MAPPA. The story follows Suzu Urano, a young girl who marries a young man from the port city of Kure, Shuusaku Houjou. While their love story begins healthily, the year is 1944 and history has other plans for their happiness.
In this corner of the world is a harsh indictment of war and how it affects even the smallest communities. The film’s harshness contrasts with Suzu’s boundless optimism, and this contrast soon comes to a head when the war reaches its final stages. It is a deeply tragic story but one that also speaks of the indomitable of the human spirit, however bruised it may be.
The Boy and the Beast (2015) -8.27
The boy and the beast is an urban fantasy adventure film directed by Mamoru Hosoda and animated by Studio Chizu. In the film, there are two kingdoms: that of humanity and that of the beasts. One evening, a young boy named Ren runs away from home and meets a beastman named Kumatetsu.
Although this is a relatively standard adventure story, The boy and the beast makes full use of her unique style and strong character dynamics to create an unforgettable experience. The animation is energetic and the musical score perfectly complements the film’s wackiest sequences. It’s a beautifully fun story about finding strength by helping others.
Classmates (2016) – 8.31
Classmates is a slice-of-life romance directed by Shouko Nakamura and animated by A-1 Pictures. Hikaru Kusakabe is a carefree young man, living in the moment. One fateful day, he surprises honor student Rihito Sajou singing alone. Hikaru, charmed by Rihito’s unusual clumsiness, decides to help him train. Thus begins the seeds of romance.
Classmates is a simple romance but manages to break the mold of many boy romance stories by being a wholesome and relatively goofy story. Hikaru and Rihito deal with their feelings haphazardly, but never to the point of being ridiculous. This relatability, along with the wistful animation style, helps to make Classmates a great LGBTQ+ romance.
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018) – 8.41
Maquia: When the promised flower blooms is a high fantasy family drama film directed by Mari Okada and animated by PA Works. It follows the story of Maquia, a young woman who is a member of a different race known as Iorph, mystical beings who can stay young for thousands of years. While fleeing the war, she finds a surviving baby and decides to adopt it for herself.
The film’s greatest asset is its wonderfully realized high-fantasy world. Beautiful settings give the story of aging, grief, and loss a melancholic vibe. The fantasy elements of the story elevate the grounded emotional weight of the main story. Okada’s directorial debut showed that she had learned a lot from all her past experiences.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (2018) – 8.57
I want to eat your pancreas is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Shinichiro Ushijima and animated by Studio VOLN. The story follows an unnamed male protagonist who meets a girl named Sakura Yamauchi, a girl with pancreatic cancer. Slowly, they develop a close bond, which evokes the jealousy of Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko.
I want to eat your pancreas is a beautifully crafted film about the importance of human relationships. The absence of a name for the protagonist further accentuates this feeling. Although they don’t call each other by name, their actions alone communicate how important they think each other is, all told through visual language.
Wolf Children (2012) – 8.59
Wolf children is a modern fantasy drama film directed by Mamoru Hosoda and animated by Studio Chizu. It would be Studio Chizu’s very first work, created by Hosoda himself to create the film. The story follows Hana, a young woman who falls in love with a werewolf, and her struggles as a young mother to two half-wolf children.
The central themes of the film are based on parenthood. Wolf children manages to portray the harsh realities of child-rearing and balance it with the wholesome moments that make it worthwhile. Motherhood is a tough road for anyone, not to mention a young woman fresh out of college, and amid her whimsical elements, Wolf children humanizes its main character through these struggles.
Your Name (2016) – 8.87
your name is a romantic fantasy drama film directed by Makoto Shinkai and animated by CoMix Wave Films. The story follows Taki Tachibana, a city boy bored with his worldly life, and Mitsuha Miyamizu, a rural girl who longs for a life outside her small town. One day, they switch bodies, and through this unique situation, they form an unexpected bond that transcends both time and space.
your name resonated with audiences through its deeply relatable themes of growing up, feeling lost, and living a life of regret. The fantasy elements are just showcases for the main story, which is a romance between two different people who fight against fate to see each other again. It helps that it looks absolutely stunning while doing it too.
A Silent Voice – 8.95
A silent voice is a coming-of-age drama film directed by Naoko Yamada and animated by Kyoto Animation. The story follows Shoya Ishida, who after a failed suicide attempt decides to make amends with all the past mistakes in his life. Shoya soon meets an old classmate he bullied, a deaf girl named Shoko Nishimiya. A silent voice approaches mental health and physical health with surprising tact.
Shoko is not defined by her deafness, nor Shoya defined by her depression. Moreover, for a film centered on a deaf character, A silent voice has stunning sound design and music, going from muffled to crystal clear depending on who is following the audience. Mix that with Kyoto Animation’s beautiful trademark style, and A silent voice easily earns all his praise.