Over the years, the stigma towards Japanese animation has decreased dramatically. The mindset of “all anime that isn’t Ghibli is bad or perverted” is long gone, opening up the gates to a goldmine of brilliant storytelling. Let’s take a look at ten of the best anime films that aren’t from Miyazaki or Takahata.
1. Perfect Blue (1997)
The debut film of legendary auteur Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue is known for having inspired the works of several mainstream filmmakers—most notably Darren Aronofsky. It’s a dark, surreal thriller about the delusions of a pop idol turned actress. Kon’s filmmaking is utterly astonishing to this day, highlighting the sadness of his death just over a decade ago. His other films are amazing as well, but this is arguably his most beloved feature.
2. Angel’s Egg (1985)
Created by the man who would later go on to create Ghost in the Shell, Mamoru Oshii’s Angel’s Egg is a heavily ambiguous experience that portrays his falling out with religion. You’d be hard pressed to find an anime as heavily atmospheric as this one. Going in blind is a must.
3. Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Not for sensitive viewers or those who have any traumas involving sexual assault, Belladonna of Sadness is the last film of Eiichi Yamamoto’s Animerama trilogy. This visually stunning watercolor treat is inspired by a book dating back to the medieval era, which is certainly an odd pick for an animated movie. Once again it’s best to go into this blind, but only give it a shot if you know you can handle graphic sexuality and themes of rape.
4. Mind Game (2004)
Masaaki Yuasa’s debut film, Mind Game is possibly the single piece of cinema that makes the most use out of the medium of animation. It’s a chaotic film with tons of comedy, style changes, and sequences that can be described only as bizarre. Despite this, there’s still a strong presence of existentialism throughout that turns the experience from a work of art into a work of sheer genius.
5. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)
Replacing the final (and extremely controversial) two episodes of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion series, The End of Evangelion is nothing short of a breathtaking experience. Both the television series and the movie are rich with complex characters and abstract moments, making the length it takes to watch them easily worth your time.
6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part III: Rebellion (2013)
Yet another follow-up to a television series (there were two recap films titled Part I and Part II respectively, but they’re not worth watching over the show), this installment of Puella Magi Madoka Magica cranks the kino up to eleven with religious allegories, subtle symbolism, breathtaking animation, and a dark story that’s sure to stick with you. There’s also a sequel coming out in the near future, meaning that now’s the perfect time to start watching.
7. Kizumonogatari trilogy (2016-2017)
I may be cheating here, but I consider the entire trilogy of Kizumonogatari to be more like one long movie. Utilizing an art style unlike any other as well as some clever satire on fantasy-fufillment media, this prequel to the rest of the Monogatari series is a much more action-oriented affair than its chronological sequels. Monogatari is one of the greatest anime out there and I suggest starting with Bakemonogatari if you’re interested in the franchise as a whole. Also, Kizumonogatari’s score is one of my all-time favorites.
8. The Flying Luna Clipper (1987)
An entity of pure weirdness, The Flying Luna Clipper is a trippy experience created with a Nintendo Famicom. That’s all I need to say. Go watch it, it’s on YouTube and under an hour in length.
9. The Case of Hana and Alice (2015)
The brainchild of one of my favorite live-action directors, Shunji Iwai’s first foray into animated territory is an incredibly sweet and comfy slice-of-life film. The characters are lovable, the soundtrack is beautiful (composed by Iwai himself), and the backgrounds are gorgeous. The combination of CGI and rotoscoping for the characters doesn’t look too good, but it’s the only flaw in an otherwise perfect movie.
10. Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017)
Once again created by Masaaki Yuasa of Mind Game, Night is Short, Walk on Girl is yet another extremely comforting work with plenty of laughs to boot. Yuasa’s animation is still stunning and the storyline is nothing short of a blast. Not to mention that this is also a great feminist piece.