Japanese animation, unbelievably, has been around for more than a hundred years, with the genre gaining many well-known fans such as Quentin Tarantino, Robin Williams, Keanu Reeves, Farrell Williams, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Grimes and Snoop Dog.
It is a well-known fact that some audiences still hold prejudices against anime, with some only having viewed Miyazaki’s movies. Here are the 3 anime classics that you should watch if you wish to get acquainted with the genre.
The Garden of Words, 2013
The Garden of Words is a poetic work from one of the most famous Japanese filmmakers/animators, Makoto Shinkai. Shinkai’s work is considered an arthouse of anime because there are no traditional anime clichés. The Garden of Words resembles European films, with stunning imagery that makes you want to pause and stare for a minute. Even the rain here is shown in such a way that the gloomy spring weather outside the window starts to bring out extremely warm feelings.
The Garden of Words is a story about high school student, Takao, who dreams of becoming a shoemaker. On rainy days Takao skips school to sketch in a beautiful garden. One day he meets a mysterious woman who is about ten years older than him. They start to get closer and open up to each other about different things, visiting the garden on every gloomy rainy day. The girl drinks beer and eats chocolate; from her monologues it becomes clear that she’s depressed. Takao falls in love with the stranger, but he feels that they are from very different worlds.
This dystopian cyberpunk anime is considered a classic of the genre. The film is based on a manga comic of the same name, the plot of which unfolds in the post-apocalyptic future. Visually and audibly it resembles Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner released one year later, in 1989. For its time, Akira was quite revolutionary: it was filmed at 24 frames per second, using 312 colours in the palette, which is the richest palette for any hand-done animation ever. In addition, this is simply an exciting film. Some believe that it gave rise to an anime boom in Western culture.
According to the plot, in 1988 a nuclear explosion destroys Tokyo, and the main events of the film take place in Neo-Tokyo in 2019. A member of the local biker group, Tatsuo, meets an unusual looking child with bluish skin. This child is a ‘guinea-pig’ that military scientists have experimented on. After their meeting, Tatsuo, who is the smallest biker in his group and was once bullied at school, acquires super abilities, which impacts his personality. Very soon events take a dangerous turn, and it seems that the tragedy of 1988 may happen again.
Ghost in the Shell, 1995
You must have heard of Ghost in the Shell even if you’re not interested in anime at all. One of the reasons for this, is the 2017 film version that was released with Scarlett Johansson playing the main character. The film was unanimously recognized as unsuccessful. If in the original anime there was a holistic, exciting world with a fascinating philosophy, the film seemed simple and squeezed. Ghost in the Shell, released in 1995, is only the first part of a series of full-length anime films. The visuals of the film inspired many filmmakers, including the Wachowski sisters while they were working on the creation of The Matrix.
The action of the cyberpunk Ghost in the Shell takes place in 2029, when the physical borders between the states finally eroded due to the spread of the Internet. The main character is an employee of the ninth department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Japan, nicknamed Major, who’s a cyborg. After the plane crash she was almost reassembled, so her brain is the only human part of her that remained undamaged.
Are you curious to watch these films now? Or maybe you have watched them before? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: IMDb, Vulture