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6 films to catch at the world’s first digital anime festival

Screen Anime’s line-up includes Hiroyasu Ishida’s squeezably cute debut, Penguin Highway, and Makoto Shinkai’s dazzling body-swap romance, Your Name

Finding new anime releases isn’t easy, especially if you’re new to the genre. Often restricted to tight theatrical windows, new films often get lost in the publicity mill, meaning that it can be difficult for novice audiences to know where to begin.

Introducing Screen Anime, the world’s first-ever online film festival dedicated to anime. With a rolling curation of titles to explore, as well as exclusive interviews with directors and fan events, the festival offers a monthly rosta of anime releases past and present, including Hiroyasu Ishida’s squeezably cute sci-fi, Penguin Highway; Makoto Shinkai’s out-of-body masterpiece, Your Name; and post-apocalyptic dystopia, Patema Inverted. Below, we’ve selected six of our highlights from the festival. Enjoy!

PENGUIN HIGHWAY (2018)

Penguin Highway is the squeezable, adorable debut from director Hiroyasu Ishida, whose animation house Studio Colorido was co-founded with ex-Ghibli animator Yojiro Arai. It follows the story of how hundreds of penguins mysteriously appear in a suburban town, much to the amazement of fourth-grader, Aoyama. After some much-needed digging, Aoyama stumbles across a dentist’s assistant who, he discovers, has the power to manifest penguins from cans of coke, which is as strange as it sounds.

What follows is a surprisingly Lynchian tumble through time and space. Aoyama must find the source of the mysterious penguin energy that appears to have taken the form of a floating orb of water. One day, the dentist’s assistant vanishes, along with the penguins, and Aoyama is faced with even more questions.

For fans of: Ponyo, Your Name, Mirai

PATEMA INVERTED (2013)

A post-apocalyptic anime about the world quite literally being turned upside down, Patema Inverted is, essentially, a story of star-crossed lovers – only, the girl, Patema, is an “invert” from another world who’s at risk of “falling” up into the sky. Trapped in a strange, totalitarian world, reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984, Patema meets the earthbound Age, a rebel-of-sorts, who holds onto Patema so she doesn’t float away. Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s poetic visuals paint an evocative portrait of society torn apart, and a love held miraculously together.

For fans of: Laputa: Castle in the Sky, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

WINGS OF HONNEAMIS (1987)

Wings of Honnêamis is the oldest film on the line-up. With contributions by Ryuchi Sakamoto and Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno, director Hiroyuki Yamag’s two-hour extravaganza is set in a version of Earth where mankind has not yet travelled in space. Rough-edged and slow-paced, it can be an uneasy viewing experience (there’s a particular scene of sexual assault that’s glossed over), but it’s also a thoughtful, beautiful reflection on human greed and the race for technological progress.

For fans of: Akira, Cowboy Bebop

ANTHEM OF THE HEART (2015)

After experiencing a trauma at a young age, Jun makes a vow never to speak again. Years later, when she’s attending high school, she’s signed up to perform in a musical alongside other students, many of whom have also experienced emotional traumas of varying sorts. Singing becomes a way for Jun to reckon with her past and confront her inner demons. Director Tatsuyuki Nagai nails a delicate teen drama that’s a heartfelt look at the nuances of adolescence, friendship, and more.

For fans of: When Marnie Was There, Mary and the Witch’s Flower

YOUR NAME (2016)

When Makoto Shinkai’s dazzling body-swap romance, Your Name, came out in 2016, it was an instant hit, fast becoming the highest-grossing anime film of all time. Like Shinkai’s previous films such as 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and The Garden of Words (2013), the director’s fifth feature film touches on familiar themes of longing and separation. We begin with a meteor shower, on “that day when the stars came falling, like a dream… a shared dream”. In a remote mountain town, high school student Mitsuha lusts for excitement: “Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!” she says. Her wish comes true, and a boy named Taki takes her place, their spirits swapping back and forth at random. What follows is a dazzling story of star-crossed lovers, who become so close, while remaining physically apart.

For fans of: Weathering With You, A Silent Voice

FIREWORKS (2017)

In Fireworks, a disorientating teen tale co-directed by Nobuyuki Takeuchi (an animator who’s worked for Miyazki), a group of kids are preparing to go to a firework show, and are arguing about whether the sparks in the sky are round or flat, depending on your perspective. Two of the boys have a crush on the same girl, who challenges them to a race – the winner gets to take her to the fireworks. But then we see what would happen if the winner was the loser, and this possible world divides further when we’re given a peek into the girl’s personal life. It’s confusing, and strange, but then again, so is teen angst.

For fans of: Whisper of the Heart, A Silent Voice