Japanese animation began in the early 20th century, when filmmakers experimented with new animation techniques. A claim for the earliest Japanese animation is Katsudo Shashin, an undated and private work by an unknown creator. In 1917, the first professional and publicly displayed works began to appear. Animators such as Oten Shimokawa and Seitarou Kitayama produced numerous works, with the oldest surviving film being Kouchi’s Namakura Gatana, a two-minute clip of a samurai trying to test a new sword on his target only to suffer defeat. The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake resulted in widespread destruction to Japan’s infrastructure and the destruction of Shimokawa’s warehouse, destroying most of these early works.
The success of Walt Disney’s 1937 feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs profoundly influenced many Japanese animators and in the 1970s the Land of the Rising Sun saw a surge of growth in the popularity of manga, comic books and graphic novels, many of which were later animated. The work of Osamu Tezuka drew particular attention: he has been called a legend and the god of manga. His work, and that of other pioneers in the field, inspired characteristics and genres that remain fundamental elements of anime today. Following a few successful adaptations of anime in overseas markets in the 1980s, anime gained increased acceptance in those markets in the 1990s and even more at the turn of the 21st century.
I personally absolutely love anime. Fantastic stories paired with upbeat characters, beautiful drawings and epic music. The greatest thing about Japanese animation in general is the huge variety they exist in. Every single one of them is like an open door into another adventure. Some are dark, some are happy. Some are cute, some are sexy. Some are harmless, some are exciting. Just pick one and find yourself in an alternate universe where suddenly everything seems possible. Anime is the perfect escape for the oppressed mind. For starters, we picked the ten best shows you can and should watch right now. From comedy to drama, from action to family friendly entertainment. Welcome to the glorious world of anime!
The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint.
When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, it dawns on them. They want something more from this connection — a chance to meet, an opportunity to truly know each other. Tugging at the string of fate, they try to find a way to each other. But distance isn’t the only thing keeping them apart. Is their bond strong enough to face the cruel irony of time? Or is their meeting nothing more than a wish upon the stars?
From director Makoto Shinkai comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls. In 2002, he debuted his first film, Voices of a Distant Star, which was a true labor of love. Having created nearly every aspect of the movie himself, Makoto’s first film sent shockwaves through the anime world for its expression and impressive world view. For the next years he continued to produce masterpieces and in 2013 scored a hit with The Garden of Words which grossed over a million dollars on a limited release. From directing, to writing, and all the way to color design, Makoto puts his all in every piece of his films. The moment you see his work, you know it is exclusively him.
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Goku may be small, but this fearless warrior packs a punch as powerful as any on the planet. Left alone after his grandfather’s death, this unusual boy is happy to spend his days hunting and eating and eating some more. But everything changes on the day he meets Bulma – a bossy, blue-haired beauty with boys on the brain. Together, they set out to track down the seven magic Dragon Balls and make the wish that will change their lives forever. And that’s just the beginning! Goku also spends some time on Turtle Island where he and Krillin study martial arts under the legendary Master Roshi. The old hermit may not look like much, but if his new pupils can find him a woman, he’ll make sure they’re ready to rumble at the upcoming World Martial Arts Tournament!
Renowned worldwide for his playful, innovative storytelling and humorous, distinctive art style, Akira Toriyama burst onto the manga scene in 1980 with the wildly popular Dr. Slump. His hit series Dragon Ball ran from 1984 to 1995 in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He’s also known for his design work on video games such as Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, Tobal No. 1, and Blue Dragon. His recent manga works include COWA!, Kajika, Sand Land, Neko Majin, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman and a children’s book, Toccio the Angel.
The first adventures of Dragon Ball are lighter in tone and more broadly comic than the beginning of the darker Red Ribbon Saga. And, to be honest, I like them more than everything that came afterwards. The playful stories mixed with crazy characters, Dragon Ball in its earliest form is also the one where adventures count more than overstretched fights against alien monsters. If you like Dragon Ball Z and want to learn more about Son-Goku and his friends or if you just searching for a swift anime full of insane experiences then the first seasons of Dragon Ball are a perfect choice.
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When Satsuki and her sister Mei move with their father to a New home in the countryside, they find country life is not as simple as it seems. They soon discover that the house and nearby woods are full of strange and delightful creatures, including a gigantic but gentle forest spirit called Totoro, who can only be seen by children. Totoro and his friends introduce the girls to a series of adventures, including a ride aboard the extraordinary Cat Bus, in this all-ages animated masterpiece featuring the voices of Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, and real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning, in one of their earliest roles.
From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and Ponyo, and Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, comes a classic tale of magic and adventure for the whole family. My Neighbor Totoro introduced American audiences to Totoro, a character who is becoming as beloved as Mickey Mouse to children the world over. Jump aboard! It’s a journey that will take you to animated heights you’ve always dreamed about! You’ll laugh with Totoro! You’ll cry with Totoro! Best of all, you’ll fly
Hayao Miyazaki, a renown writer, movie director and script writer in Japan, has created numerous award winning animation movies – but My Neighbor Totoro will always be his most recognized work. It’ss the heartwarming story of two young girls who are befriended by the furry creatures called Totoros. The lovable magical animals can’t talk like people nor can they be seen by adults, but they make perfect sense to the pure and innocent of heart. And when you need to call on a friend for help, you can always look to My Neighbor Totoro. He’s out there, somewhere, watching over you.
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Usagi Tsukino is a cheerful 14-year-old schoolgirl who often finds herself in unwanted trouble. One day, she saves a talking cat named Luna from some mean kids, and her life is changed forever. Luna gives Usagi a magic brooch that transforms her into Sailor Moon, defender of love and justice! Now Usagi must work with Luna to find the other Sailor Guardians and the Moon Princess, whose Legendary Silver Crystal is Earth’s only hope against the dark forces of the evil Queen Beryl! Sailor Moon is, without any doubt, of the most treasured anime series of all time!
After finding to new friends with the quite nerdy Sailor Mercury and the tomboyish Sailor Mars, Usagi and Luna continue their quest for the Legendary Silver Crystal as two new powerful allies join the fight. Sailor Jupiter is the tall and tough Guardian of Thunder, and Sailor Venus is the Guardian of Love and the most experienced member. Sailor Moon herself gets impressive new powers with time and learns more and more about the mysterious Tuxedo Mask who always seems to appear at the exact right moment. Could their distant pasts be intertwined, and does that have anything to do with the Moon Princess they seek? The final ordeal with Queen Beryl looms on the horizon, and it will take everything the Sailor Guardians have to be victorious.
Sailor Moon is the quintessential magical girl phenomenon beloved worldwide that chronicles the adventures of a 14-year-old girl and her friends, chosen by destiny to defeat the forces of evil. Told in various anime, manga and novels, Sailor Moon has become cherished by fans for over 20 years. Based on Naoko Takeuchi’s mega-hit graphic novel series, Sailor Moon tells the fantastic fairy tale of a kindhearted crybaby destined to protect the world from dark forces. Will the Sailor Guardians be able to find the Legendary Silver Crystal in time before the world falls into eternal darkness?
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Set in rural Japan, Spirited Away opens with ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents on their way to a new home in the suburbs. Having taken a wrong turn, the family arrives at what they believe to be an abandoned amusement park. Chihiro’s parents are soon tempted by a buffet of irresistible food, which nearly consumes them as they consume it. They are quickly transformed into large squealing pigs.
When Chihiro searches for help, she finds a friend in Haku, a mysterious boy with magical powers. He introduces her to the spirits that inhabit the amusement park at night. Chihiro must go to work for Yubaba, a fierce old woman with a huge head and short body, who runs a hot springs resort for all manner of fantastic creatures and gods. Her experiences with these spirits, monsters and beings from ancient legends, lead to a series of extraordinary and entertaining adventures beyond her wildest imagination.
Hayao Miyazaki’s films are always built around strong characters, and Spirited Away contains some of the most strikingly original creatures ever seen. At the core of the tale is Chihiro, the ten-year-old heroine. She begins as a rather sulky, spoiled child with a tendency to panic when things go wrong, but she develops the ability to remain calm when others are not. She never gives up once she has set her goals. Chihiro meets and befriends a variety of beings in the spirit world and finds herself rather sooner than later in a fantastic fairy tale full of unforgotten wonders, magic and miracles.
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Space Dandy is a dandy in space! This dreamy adventurer with a to-die-for pompadour travels across the galaxy in search of aliens no one has ever laid eyes on. Each new species he discovers earns him a hefty reward, but this dandy has to be quick on his feet because it’s first come—first served!
Strap in for the ride of a lifetime, baby! Space Dandy is here to blow your mind with a show of pompadour perfection. Hunting for rare alien species, the one and only Dandy boldly goes where no Dapper Dan has gone before. He travels the galaxy in his trusty spaceship hoping to make a buck on bounties, rocketing towards his ultimate destination—Boobies, the greatest view in the universe.
Tagging along for the ride are his misfit sidekicks, QT the defunct robot and Meow the alien space cat. Together, they’ll round up more trouble than bounty while the chimp-faced Dr. Gel will stop at nothing to get his paws on the man with the signature ‘do. But that won’t stop this classy crew, baby! Cruise along with Dandy on a deadly space race, pull underarm hairs to other dimensions, and team up with a drop-kicking commander-in-chief for a show that will rock your socks to outer space!
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Inflicted with a deadly curse, a young warrior named Ashitaka sets out to the forests of the west in search of the cure that will save his life. Once there, he becomes inextricably entangled in a bitter battle that matches Lady Eboshi and a proud clan of humans against the forest’s animal gods… who are led by the brave Princess Mononoke, a young woman raised by wolves. This monumental struggle between man and nature will have you transfixed as stunning artistry blends with epic storytelling to create a uniquely entertaining motion picture.
Before it ever arrived in the U.S., this epic, animated 1997 fantasy had already made history as the top-grossing domestic feature ever released in Japan, where its combination of mythic themes, mystical forces, and ravishing visuals tapped deeply into cultural identity and contemporary, ecological anxieties. For international animation and anime fans, Princess Mononoke represents an auspicious next step for its revered creator, Hayao Miyazaki, an acknowledged anime pioneer, whose painterly style, vivid character design, and stylized approach to storytelling take ambitious, evolutionary steps here.
Hayao Miyazaki’s convoluted fable is clearly not the stuff of kiddie matinees, nor is the often graphic violence depicted during the battles that ensue. If some younger viewers, or less attentive older ones, will wish for a diagram to sort out the players, Hayao Miyazaki’s atmospheric world and its lush visual design are reasons enough to watch. If Princess Mononoke is too graphic for you, you can still switch to a more family-friendly Hayao Miyazaki feature like Spirited Away, Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro – but you will definitely miss something epic if you choose to do so.
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The year 2071 A.D. That future is now. Driven out of their terrestrial eden, humanity chose the stars as the final frontier. With the section-by-section collapse of the former nations a mixed jumble of races and peoples came. They spread to the stars, taking with them the now confused concepts of freedom, violence, illegality and love, where new rules and a new generation of outlaws came into being. People referred to them as Cowboys.
Meet Spike and Jet, a drifter and a retired cyborg cop who have started a bounty hunting operation. In the converted ship The Bebop, Spike and Jet search the galaxy for criminals with bounties on their heads. They meet a lot of unusual characters, including the unusually intelligent dog, Ein, and the voluptuous and vexing femme fatale, Faye Valentine. Now, with more scruples than the rest of their ilk, the gang often find themselves without the cash, and consequentially without food on their plates. And when they get caught in the crossfire of a mafia grudge match, they may all reconsider their line of work.
That Cowboy Bebop, first broadcast in 1998, and produced by Sunrise, a subsidiary of Bandai, and TV Tokyo, is a fan favorite goes without saying. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling, invention, design, music and production on every level. Cowboy Bebop is unique. It regularly features in top ten lists of anime jewels, and sometimes even tops those lists. Easy to see why: it’s got everything, and then some. If you only want to watch one anime this year, Cowboy Bebop is the one you should, without any doubt, dive into.
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Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo. At the core of the agency’s motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira.
In 1982, Kodansha published the first chapter of Akira, a dystopian saga set in Neo-Tokyo, a city recovering from thermonuclear attack where the streets have been ceded to motorcycle gangs and the rich and powerful run dangerous experiments on destructive, supernatural powers that they cannot control. In 1988, the manga was adapted into what was at the time the most expensive animated film ever made, which brought Akira’s influence out of the manga world and onto the global stage.
Akira isn’t just a movie – it’s the genesis of a genre. Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like the The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality. Without Kaneda and Tetsuo, without espers and psionic assassins, without that badass motorcycle – our world would be a far less exciting place to exist. But the manga became the movie and the movie became a phenomenon and the world took notice. Now, Akira is everywhere. If you can’t see it in the streets – if you can’t feel it crawling around inside your brain – then you have yet to be initiated.
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In this post-apocalytpic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. When the man-eating giants first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see. For the past century, what’s left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 50-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything.
After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother. He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth. Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction.
From Tetsuro Araki, the director of Death Note and Highschool of the Dead, comes the series Anime News Network calls an intense, visceral, and graphic thrill ride. The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe. Attack on Titan is the perfect anime for any horror-loving fan, or just people who like stories about the battle to survive against man-eating giants that are threatening to eat you, your family, and everyone you know.
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