You probably remember watching Dragon-Ball Z or Pokemon in the morning when you were a kid eating breakfast and just associate anime with the good old days. However, animes haven’t to be something only steeped in nostalgia. As you probably know, anime is kinda synonymous with Japan so if you`re thinking of coming over then you should make you know the classics!
Starting off our list is a relatively early film from Studio Ghibli, with the master Hayao Miyazaki writing the screenplay. Whispers of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba) is a quiet film. It depicts a coming of age story of a young girl as she struggles with the expectations that are placed onto her by her friends and family whilst finding her true passions in life. She meets a strange cast of characters throughout the film including a cat prince, a young boy with a talent for violin making and an old man who owns a mysterious antique store. With an amazing soundtrack that fits perfectly with the tranquil mood of the film, Whispers of the Heart is sure to tug at your heartstrings.
No list about anime would be worth its salt without mentioning My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro). A quintessential film for all anime lovers, My Neighbor Totoro is another soft film which explores the themes of family, responsibility, and nature. A film which effortlessly captures the whimsy of childhood, My Neighbor Totoro paints a magical picture of Japan which makes you just want to catch the next Cat Bus and go.
Next is a film by the late great Satoshi Kon. Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū) is a departure totally from the first two films on this list. The film follows the life of a former pop idol star as she tries to establish a legitimate career for herself as an actress. Things take a turn for the worst as she realizes that there are more than a few people who have a vested interest in her success. This mix of psychological thriller and horror has all the trademarks of a Satoshi Kon film. The film is littered with themes of altered perception, dreams, and reality. Fans of cinematography will definitely appreciate Perfect Blue, in fact, Darren Aronofsky bought the rights to Perfect Blue so he could use one of the scenes for his film Requiem for a Dream.
Coming in the fourth position, Akira is a cult classic and visually one of the most stunning Anime movies out there. Set in a futuristic Neo-Tokyo dystopia, Akira is a film about a young teenage bikie gang that gets accidentally mixed up in an underground government conspiracy. The textures, cell-shading and gorgeous backdrops are a marvel for the eyes, the soundtrack is fused with cyber-punk and pulsating beats help keep the tension throughout the entire film. A must watch, this film has been heralded by critics as one of the greatest animated science fiction movies of all time.
Rounding out the list, Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is a movie that you may have expected and with good reason. Spirited Away is perhaps the most recognisable anime film there is and justifiably so. Hayao Miyazaki once again manages to transport the audience to a place only he can take you. Spirited Away is the tale of a young girl who accidentally wanders away from her parents and finds herself stumbling across a fantastical alternate world. There she meets a cast of unique and odd characters and ends up working in a sento (public bath house) to get back to her own world. With eye-popping visuals, an original screenplay and fantastic voice acting, Spirited away, at its core, is a coming-of-age story about a little girl who learns lessons in friendship and responsibility.