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10 Best Japanese Animation Movies 2021

best japanese animation movies

Love Japanese animation movies? We curated the best Japanese animation movies for your Saturday movie nights. Check it out!

Japanese anime has carved a niche for itself in this world. The word anime is used colloquially outside Japan to refer to animation produced in Japan. Japanese animation is very different from Western cartoons. It has a diverse art style, and many methods of animation, and differs in its production and its process. 

Anime is not meant just for children and it often involves themes of violence, sexuality, pain, death and suffering. Anime continues to influence the world of animation all over the world, with many American anime style shows and movies being produced. 

Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be one of the best animators of all time. He is known for his work in anime and manga. He is also the co founder of Studio Ghibli, which is one of the best animation studios world wide. 

We have put together a list of some of the best Japanese animation movies for you to watch!

Best Japanese Animation Movies: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Animation MovieDirectorRating
Spirited AwayHayao Miyazaki9/10
Princess MononokeHayao Miyazaki9/10
Grave of the FirefliesIsao Takahata9/10
My Neighbor TotoroHayao Miyazaki8.5/10
PonyoHayao Miyazaki8/10
AkiraKatsuhiro Otomo8.5/10
Castle in the SkyHayao Miyazaki8/10
Howl’s Moving CastleHayao Miyazaki8.5/10
Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection FTadayoshi Yamamuro7/10
The Girl Who Leapt through TimeMamoru Hosodo7.5/10
Weathering with YouMakoto Shinkai8/10

How did we choose the best Japanese animation movies?

We went over 25 different Japanese animation movies and rated them on the basis of story, characters and animation. After much deliberation, our in house experts have put together this list of the best Japanese animation movies.

Top Japanese Animation Movies

Spirited Away

Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 9/10

First up on our list is Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It is the only Japanese animated movie to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. 

The movie is a coming of age tale of a little girl named Chichiro who enters the spirit world. The movie follows her as she crosses paths with many mystical beings as she tries to find her way back to the human world. 

Miyazaki has brilliantly captured this blend of modern Japanese culture and Japanese myths and legends, making this a must watch. 

spirited away japanese animation movie

Key features:

  • Run time: 125 minutes
  • Release Year: 2001

Related: Best Dragon Anime

Princess Mononoke

Starring: Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 9/10

Set in the midst of war torn Japan, this movie features conflict between humans and nature. The story follows a young Emishi prince as he tries to bring peace between the humans and the gods of a forest. 

best japanese animation

Miyazaki has portrayed the struggle between environmentalism and social progress beautifully. This gripping film is an epic fantasy that has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the best animated films of all time. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 133 minutes
  • Release Year: 1997

Grave of the Fireflies

Starring: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi | Director: Isao Takahata | Editor’s rating: 9/10

Set during the last part of Word War II, Grave of Flies is a tale of two siblings fighting for survival amidst a war torn country. 

This film has a dark theme that portrays pain, loss, and suffering which is unlike the usual light and playful themes that anime adopt. This hard hitting and painful film is sure to leave a lasting impact on its viewers. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 89 minutes
  • Release Year: 1988

Related: Best Japanese Dramas on Amazon Prime

My Neighbor Totoro

Starring: Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Hidaka | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 8.5/10

Another Studio Ghibli classic, My Neighbor Totoro, is a sweet fantasy movie about a family and their encounter with mystic creatures who live in the forest near them. 

best anime japan

This iconic movie by Hayao Miyazaki has won multiple awards including the Kinema Junpo Awards Best Film. 

Even after more than thirty years since its release, this movie continues to be a favourite for many, young and old alike. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 86 minutes
  • Release Year: 1988

Ponyo

Starring: Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 8/10

If you liked The Little Mermaid, you’re in for a treat. Ponyo is a real visual feast. Miyazaki has outdone himself with this film and is responsible for drawing a majority of the waves in the ocean.

Ponyo is the tale of a young goldfish who dreams of being a human girl after she falls in love with a human boy. 

Disney has dubbed this delightful film and has gotten A-list talents like Liam Neeson, Betty White, Tina Fey, and Cloris Leachman to voice the characters in the English version. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 101 minutes
  • Release Year: 2008

Akira

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, | Director: Katsuhiro Otomo | Editor’s rating: 8.5/10

If you are looking for a cyberpunk anime film set in the future, Akira is a great choice. 

The movie follows a young biker, Tetsuo, on a mission to release Akira who is an imprisoned psychic. The film is nothing like your usual anime. However, it is packed with strange futuristic visuals, realistic character designs, and a gripping story. 

Akira is one of the best sci-fi anime movies of all time. It has influenced other anime as well as Hollywood films like The Matrix and The Dark Knight.

Key features:

  • Run time: 124 minutes
  • Release Year: 1988

Castle In The Sky

Starring: Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 8/10

Castle in the Sky is an underrated gem from the vault of Hayao Miyazaki’s imagination and is also the debut of Studio Ghibli.

This epic fantasy follows the adventures of a young princess and a boy who loves to fly in their pursuit to reach the last remaining floating city in the sky while they race against sky pirates.

Key features:

  • Run time: 124 minutes
  • Release Year: 1986

Howl’s Moving Castle

Starring: Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Editor’s rating: 8.5/10

Howl’s Moving Castle is a loose adaptation of Diane Wayne Jones’ novel. When Studio Ghibli was given the rights and script to the movie, they didn’t have anyone to direct it. So Hayao Miyazaki came out of retirement to direct this film. 

This movie is a romantic and funny tale of a young woman who is cured by a witch and ends up with the body of an old woman. She finds hope in a wizard named Howl who resides in a moving castle. 

It is believed that this movie is Miyazaki’s view on the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Key features:

  • Run time: 119 minutes
  • Release Year: 2004

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F

Starring: Masako Nozawa, Ryo Horikawa, Ryusei Nakao | Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro | Editor’s rating: 7

In 2015, one of the most loved and popular anime series was made into a film. Dragon Ball Z is a beloved series and this movie captures some of the best parts of the anime, beginning with the resurrection of Frieza.

Key features:

  • Run time: 94 minutes
  • Release Year: 2015

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Starring: Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida | Director: Mamoru Hosodo | Editor’s rating: 7.5/10

This masterpiece is loosely based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1967 novel with the same name and is believed to be its sequel.

The film revolves around Kazuko, who is the niece of the protagonist from the book, as she uses her abilities to leap backwards in time. Since time travel was still a fairly new concept back in 2006, this movie became a top choice among anime fans. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 98 minutes
  • Release Year: 2006

Weathering with You

Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori | Director: Makoto Shinkai | Editor’s rating: 8/10

Weathering With You is Makoto Shinkai’s latest masterpiece. It won the Animation of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Music in the 43rd Japan Academy Prize.

The film is about a runaway high school boy who meets a young girl who possesses incredible powers that can stop the pouring rain in Tokyo and bring in clear skies. Together, they help people in need of good weather to go on with their important days like weddings and other celebrations.

The movie has earned its reputation for its brilliant life like animation and beautiful soundtrack. 

Key features:

  • Run time: 112 minutes
  • Release Year: 2019

Best Japanese Animation Movies: FAQs

Which anime movie has the best animation?

Some  of the best animation in Japanese animated movies is seen in the following movies:
– Spirited Away
– Your Name
– Violet Evergarden
– Cowboy Bebop: The movie
– Redline
– Akira
– Ghost in the Shell
– Princess Mononoke

Who is the best animator in Japan?

Hayao Miyazuki is considered the best animator in Japan. Some of his best works are:
– Castle in the Sky
– Spirited Away
– Princess Mononoke
– The Castle of Cagliostro
– The Wind Rises
– Ponyo
– Kiki’s Delivery Service
– Porco Rosso
– My Neighbor Totoro

Is anime Japanese or Korean?

Anime is a Japanese term derived from the English word animation. It is used to describe all animated work, regardless of style or origin. The word anime is used colloquially outside Japan to refer to animation produced in Japan. 

Which is the highest grossing anime film in Japan?

Demon Slayer: Mugen Train is the highest grossing anime film with a worldwide gross of a little over $500,000,000. This is followed by Spirited Away at around $400,000,000, and Your Name at $380,000,000. 

Also Read

  1. Best Baby Anime
Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
5
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