The Best Non-Animated Studio Ghibli Movies


When people talk about “good animated movies,” what most often comes to mind is Studio Ghibli, and rightly so. During its 36 years of existence, this studio has produced many visually stunning and intellectually captivating films that have become some of the best anime of all time, in addition to receiving critical acclaim and box office success around the world. Ghibli created his own distinct brand of magical realism and sentimental, intimate depictions of everyday activities, like cleaning and cooking. Even “Ghibli food” has its own topic on Twitter, with each post easily earning 35-50,000 likes!

However, the wonderful world of anime should not be limited and defined by Ghibli alone. There are a plethora of genres, from rom-coms to horror, beautifully represented and pioneered by anime studios, lesser known to viewers outside of Japan. Some, like Paprika, perfect blue, and ghost in the shelleven came to inspire Hollywood blockbusters like Nolan, Aronofsky and the Wachowski sisters.

Japan has long broken with the misconception that animation is a medium only for children. Anime’s target audiences are teens and adults alike, as they understand that sometimes live action, no matter how good, just can’t achieve such smooth motion, rich facial expressions and surreal and varied visual eccentricities that are available in animation. The anime can mix incredible visuals with such polished storytelling ability, with every shot perfectly stylized, whether it’s a tale about rampaging Tokyo gangsters or a high school student experiencing his first love.

With such an abundance of masterful creations, the question arises: where to start? Before the release of Suzume no Tojimari, from anime giant Makoto Shinkaithis fall, let’s look at the ten best standalone animated films, not from Studio Ghibli.


10/10 A silent voice

The boy and the girl on a balcony in A Silent Voice
Animation of Kyoto

An unflinching look at the reality of bullying — from the bully’s perspective. This adaptation of Yoshitoki Ōima’s manga A silent voice is moody and sensual, unafraid of the angst of adolescence: broken friendships, longing for love and acceptance, and self-loathing. Ambient music and delicate hand-drawn visuals help convey the fragile inner world of Shoya, who tormented a deaf-mute classmate. Having become a social pariah, he faces his victim… and his conscience.

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Shoya resolves to mend his relationship with her, but the quest for forgiveness is far from easy. This uplifting story of growth and redemption, which uses the anxieties of youth to create something self-improvement motivationquickly became a hit in Japan,grossing $20 million the year it was released.

9/10 summer wars

The cast of Summer Wars before and after the animation
Chizu studio

Scorching sun, sticky melted ice and the smell of adventure – a quintessential start to a perfect summer break. Kenji is a math genius, who is forced to pretend to be the boyfriend of a girl he secretly likes. He follows his crush to his ancestral mansion and accidentally stumbles upon an artificial intelligence demon, Love Machine – chaos ensues. summer wars director Hosoda Mamoru is a legend in the world of animation. Hosoda has a knack for stories centered around multi-generational families and well thought-out complex virtual worlds.

8/10 perfect blue

A woman looks at screens of her own face in Perfect Blue
Rex Entertainment

Filmography of Satoshi Kon is famous not only among anime fanatics but also among moviegoers in general. His perfect blue is a psychological thriller that explores the dangerous depth of obsessive fandom. He criticizes the pop culture industry, its entire network of greedy consumption and talent exploitation. The story follows Mimi, a member of a J-Pop idol group, who wishes to change her image to that of a mature actress – unsuccessfully trying to find herself in the process. The filmmakers paid tribute to the fantastic and disturbing visuals of perfect bluenotably Darren Aronofsky in his Requiem for a dream (who has exactly remakes shot for shot of the film) and Black Swan.

7/10 The anthem of the heart

The cast of The anthem of my heart
Pictures A-1

The little Mermaid meets Talk in the wonderful movie The anthem of the heart. It’s a heartfelt fairy tale, about a girl condemned to silence – learning to communicate with the world without words. It is not saccharin, however, like the Anime News Network wrote, “There’s a quiet solitude to many of the sequences here that really sells them, and the film isn’t afraid to step into key spaces that many teen dramas eschew either.” The film allows these teenagers, who don’t know how to tell each other their feelings, to show it all through their expressive character designs and body language.

6/10 The night is short, step on the girl

The girl walks in the middle of the street in Kyoto in The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
Science SARU Studio

Winner of the 41st Ottawa International Animation Festival in the Animated Feature category, The night is short, step on the girl is a bonkers anime that follows a college student who decides to do it all – she’ll drink all she can and taste the nightlife. Her secret admirer follows her through the nighttime streets of Kyoto, and they find themselves in various comical, drunken, and downright magical situations in the ancient city. This film, described by The Guardian like “a hallucinogenic trip down a rabbit hole”, is a love letter to Kyoto. A particular appeal of this feature are the unique dynamic and whimsical character designs not typical of anime. They were created by Yusuke Nakamura, one of the most popular modern illustrators in Japan.

5/10 penguin highway

The cast of Penguin Highway surrounded by penguins and the sky
Studio Colorido13

This upbeat kid-friendly film is full of heart and fan-service. penguin highway is a fun summer detective story with sci-fi elements, cute yet refreshing, as viewers may never know where the story will take them next. One day, a group of Adele penguins suddenly appears in a small island town. Only Aoyama, a science-loving preteen, can solve the mystery of their origin. Not without the help of his friends, of course.

Director Hiroyasu Ishida wanted to imitate hand-drawn aesthetic with digital techniques to create a radiant, crisp, multi-dimensional feel, with the backgrounds of forests and fields being the most visually stunning. The film proved to be a hit with critics and audiences alike, winning excellence awards and entering the top 10 at box offices within its first week of release.

4/10 Tekkonkinkreet

The cast flies around town in Tekkonkinkreet
Studio 4°C

Tekkonkinkreet has an ethereal and abandoned, futuristic universe of the Yakuza underworld, narrow alleys and sharp corners, a fantastical and colorful setting for a story that, at its core celebrate the love of family and fidelity. Brothers Black and White roam Treasure Town and try to protect it from cruelty, crime and corporate greed, eager to tear their beloved town apart.

Related: Exclusive interview: Michael Arias creates new worlds with Tekkonkinkreet

Director Michael Arias approached Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga adaptation with no intention of copying the visual style, but rather creating an experience. The end result is a sensory stun that takes the viewer’s breath away. Rough visuals, skewed angles, and odd movements work beautifully with the world-building and given storyline. Tekkonkinkreet has received numerous awards, including the Mainichi Film Award and the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

3/10 The words are bubbling like sodas

The cast of Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop
Signal.MD Studio

A laid-back romance that feels like the sweetest sip of soda on a hot, sweaty summer, The words are bubbling like sodas is a sweet and serious tribute to first love. This film cleverly introduces the genre and romance movie cliches, to sublimate them with visual and verbal poetry: slow-motion shots, subtle glows, soft neon accents, the character’s fascination with music and haiku. Such a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of a love story between teenagers (their cute encounter and the impending parting that comes with the end of summer) calls to mind the film’s message of celebrating love and art. With a 100% review rating on rotten tomatoesthis film can be considered an instant classic of the melodrama genre.

2/10 The old man Z

Old Man Z surrounded by machines

Many anime from the early 90s are at the peak of aesthetics. Every frame is delightfully detailed, every character is strong and one-of-a-kind, and the storylines are positively absurd. black comedy The old man Z is a beautiful representation of the era. A broken computer seems to have been inhabited by the spirit of an old man’s wife and, in a desire to visit the sea, escapes from the hospital and wreaks havoc on the town. The only one who can stop him is a kind young medical student, who has always remained kind and loving to the elderly people she cares for. While brilliant and satirical, this story is as much about compassion as it is about colorful mecha. The old man Z won the Mainichi Film Award for animation in 1991. In 2001, Entertainment Wizard included the film in its top 50 anime to be released in North America.

1/10 Miss Hokusai

Miss Hokusai drawing a dragon
Production IG Studio

Miss Hokusai discover the story of one of the most remarkable figures in Japanese culture – Hokusai… or rather, his daughter Ōi. Due to a woman’s position in society at the time, she had to show her works under her father’s name. This intellectual biopic is a patchwork of episodes from Ōi’s life, showing her subtly becoming herself, talented in her own right, even compared to her genius father. The use of natural light results in delicate visuals, close to the aesthetics of Hokusai paintings. This contrasts with the fiery electric guitar music on the soundtrack, modernizing the story. A big compliment to the honest and feminist critique of Japanese history and culture. The film has a 93% rotten tomatoes endorsement note and was nominated for the Annie and Satellite Awards.

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