From a global warming-inspired fantasy to a teenage runaway and a former drag queen on the streets of Tokyo, we’ve got you covered
When Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement at the premiere of The Wind Rises in 2013, anime heads, cinephiles, art lovers, and tender hearts fell into despair. The anime auteur and co-founder of legendary Japanese animating house Studio Ghibli is responsible for some of the most cherished films in history, characterised by whimsical but fiercely moral storylines, strong female leads, environmental messages, fantastical creatures, and powerful friendships triumphing over all.
But it’s a new decade, and Miyazaki has announced that the studio is working on not one, but two films this year, starting with action-adventure fantasy feature, Kimi-tachi wa Dō Ikiru ka (How Do You Live?), directed by Miyazaki himself. If that wasn’t enough, Netflix has just revealed that it’s bringing 21 Ghibli classics to its streaming platform next month for the first time.
To get you prepped, we’ve picked out five anime films that aren’t Studio Ghibli, from a global warming-inspired fantasy about a girl who can control the weather, to a teenage runaway and a former drag queen on the streets of Tokyo. So climb onto your cat bus, and clutch your favourite totoro, because you’re in for a treat.
THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME
Mamoru Hosoda took up animation after seeing Miyazaki’s Ghibli classic, The Castle of Cagliostro, but fell short of working at the famed studio upon graduation. Still, every cloud has its silver lining, and despite not getting the job, Hosoda received a rejection letter of praise from Miyazaki himself, urging him to pursue animation.
Like many of Hosoda’s films (bar Digimon – yes, he made that), 2006’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time plays on themes of technology and romance. It follows a young girl Makoto who gains time travelling powers, before realising that every choice has its (serious) consequences. What follows is a butterfly effect epic, as Makoto chooses between taking responsibility for her actions and being with the guy she loves.
For fans of: Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Cat Returns, Laputa: Castle in the Sky
WEATHERING WITH YOU
Following on from his 2016 body-swap romcom Your Name, Weathering With You is Makoto Shinkai’s latest box office sensation about a 16-year-old boy Hidoka who runs away from his parents to forge a new life in rainy Tokyo. Alone in the big city, he starts working at an occult magazine where he interviews a teenage girl who can control the weather – a youthful romance ensues. With Shinkai’s signature warm, bright visuals, and a catchy post-punk soundtrack, it’s no wonder Weathering With You has become Japan’s sixth highest-grossing anime.
For fans of: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, The Secret World of Arrietty
SWORD OF THE STRANGER
In Sword of the Stranger, Kotaro, a boy on the run from the royal army of China’s Ming dynasty (casual), falls upon a wandering samurai, No-Name, who he hires as a bodyguard upon seeing his trusty dog injured.
A high-action samurai romp-meets-buddy-comedy, which features both Mandarin and Japanese, Masahiro Ando’s directorial debut is visually breaktaking, and definitely one to watch for those still reeling after the action-packed sequences of Princess Mononoke and Castle of Cagliostro.
For fans of: Castle of Cagliostro, Princess Mononoke, From Up On Poppy Hill
When twelfth-grade student Natsuki invites nerdy math genius Kenji to pose as her boyfriend at her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday, disaster strikes as Kenji becomes falsely implicated in the hacking of a virtual world, which has been taking over by an out-of-control artificial intelligence named Love Machine.
In a series of events that mirrors today’s social media paradigm, and all-encompassing apps like WeChat, Hosoda’s Summer Wars is beautifully animated love story set amidst a technological disaster that hits very close to home.
For fans of: Only Yesterday, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ocean Waves
Paprika and Perfect Blue director Satoshi Kon’s 2003 unravelling comedy Tokyo Godfathers is about an intrepid group of homeless misfits – a middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, a former drag queen Hana, and a teen runaway Miyuki – who discover a newborn baby in a bin on Christmas Eve, naturally. Determined to find the parents responsible, they embark on a scavenger hunt-of-sorts, with heavy consequences.
The script is co-written by Cowboy Bebop’s Keiko Nobumoto, and you can tell. Like the much-loved anime series, Kon’s bande à part of outcasts is strangely relatable, and their adventures, unmissable.