Anime movies have become more and more of a global phenomenon, thanks to their originality
and compelling storylines. Here's a look at some of the anime movies of recent years that
have helped set the standard so high.
The science fiction genre of anime is well established in Japan.
Back in the 1960's Tezuka Osamu's manga Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom)
became a hugely popular TV show. But the movie that first introduced
the concepts of cyber-punk was Akira. Directed by Otomo Katsuhiro
and based on his own hugely successful manga, Akira made some
¥800 million and was the first serious Japanese animated movie
to have an impact abroad. Sales of the video in the US and Europe
easily beat the 50,000 or so copies sold in Japan.
The movie's stunning artwork and dazzling animation were unheard
of. The latest in computer animation techniques were used but
the key was in the amazing attention to detail. Machines and buildings
were intricately drawn even when they appeared on screen for just
a few seconds. Light and shadow were drawn to maintain consistency
and accuracy. New standards were set for what could be achieved
in animation and the gauntlet was thrown down for other animators.
Otomo's 1995 movie Memories, a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy, was technically even more stunning
and intellectually challenging. But it was also less successful
at the box office.
The story in brief: Set in 2019, it is centred around a group of teenagers roaming
the streets of Neo-Tokyo, once destroyed by psychic powers misused
by the military. Rebels fight to prevent the shadowy government
from unleashing those powers again. The key lies in the mind of
a boy, Akira, who lies in a government laboratory. Meanwhile,
the central character, Kaneda, gets romantically involved with
one of the prettier rebels and, inadvertantly, with their struggle.
Another member of his bike gang, Tetsuo, is injured in a crash
and whisked away by the security forces. The plot is complex and
gets quite bizarre at the end but the movie is compelling all
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
"It is the near future. The world has become highly information-intensive,
with a vast corporate network covering the planet, electrons and
light pulsing through it. But the nation-state and ethnic groups
And on the edge of Asia, in a strange corporate conglomerate-state
called Japan ... "
The above is the intro to Shirow Masamune's graphic novel
from which director Oshii Mamoru created his movie classic in 1995. Like Akira, this movie doesn't
really have many contemporaries outside Japan and it caught the
imagination of audiences worldwide. The story is dark and complex,
the music haunting and the artwork breathtaking. Fans of the 1984
classic Bladerunner will definitely need to see this movie. Shirow was one of the
pioneers of manga which blended human, robotic and computer elements
to create sci-fi stories about a not-so-distant future, making
him a Japanese Phillip K. Dick or William Gibson.
The story in brief:
An internationally notorious computer criminal surfaces in Japan.
Codenamed 'Puppet master' for his ability to manipulate people's
minds, this unique and mysterious 'super-hacker' is suspected
of a multitude of offences including stock market manipulation,
illegal data gathering, political manoeuvring, terrorists acts
and infringement of cybernetic rights. Section 9, Japan's elite
secret service is called in to capture this elusive criminal,
but only to discover that the elaborate web of evidence leads
back to Japan's own Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a computer
virus secretly created by them as the ultimate tool in political
and commercial espionage.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
"We are not trying to solve the world's problems. There can not
be a happy ending to the fight between the Raging Gods and mankind.
However, even in the midst of hatred and killing, there are things
worth living for. A wonderful encounter, or a thing of beauty
can still exist." - Miyazaki Hayao.
The term mononoke dates from the Heian Period (794~1885) and means spirits of the
living or the dead who possess another through jealousy or anger
and cause illness or death.
Released in Japan in July 1997, Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime)
grossed more than $150 million, and was seen by more than
13.5 million people. It became the most successful movie of all
time in Japan, until surpassed by Titanic, which in turn was overtaken
by the next Studio Ghibli production
Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). The film uses 144,000
cels and was one of the most expensive Japanese animation movies
ever made at ¥2.35 billion (over $20 million), or twice
the cost of Akira. The international release of the movie was
handled by Disney (Miramax). See also: Mononoke
poster, and profile of
The story in brief: It is a period of great change in Japan. The country is moving
out of the medieval era and destroying more and more of the virgin
forests. Ashitaka is the descendant of a once-royal family, defeated
by the ruling Yamato clan and existing in a remote mountain village.
Having angered the mononoke Boar God and drawn a curse of death
upon himself, Ashitaka embarks on a journey to understand the
mystery of the curse. Travelling west, he encounters a monumental
battle. The Tatara people are struggling to create a humane society
but destroying the forests in their efforts to make iron. The
forests are being defended by giant animals who understand human
language, known as the Raging Gods, and San (called Mononoke Hime),
a girl raised by wolves. Ashitaka is torn between the two sides
and also his feelings for San. To complicate the conflict, he must
fend off warring samurai and hunters who appear in search of the
Spirit God, who holds the key to eternal life.