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Sadly, anime tends to be either appreciated and loved, or snubbed and loathed with very little space in the middle. I’ve been watching anime since 1984 when I’d watch ‘Dragon Ball Z’ and ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’ on French TV. But it wasn’t until Manga Video brought ‘Akira’, ‘Venus Wars’, ‘Winds of Amnesia’, ‘Urotsukidoji’ et al, to us in the West in 1991, that my love for the medium really crystalized.

I’ve been obsessed about animation my whole life, potentially in part due to the influence anime had on me at a young age (to the point where I did a degree in animation at film school), but I’ve always been realistic about how bad a vast majority of anime really is.

But, much like video games or comic books – there is an anime out there for everyone. Both in movies and on TV. I’m choosing to focus on the movies right now, as they speak to me more than the sprawling shows do. And, since my primary love of anime is the exceptional artwork, the movies have the budgets and time allowances to reach far more impressive visual heights.

So below are my Top 35 Anime Films of All Time. I can heartily recommend all 35 of these films to almost anyone. The Top 10, however, I feel should be mandatory viewing for everyone.

01 PRINCESS MONONOKE

Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece. Made directly after ‘Porco Rosso’ as a film for the people (whereas ‘Porco Rosso’ was a self-admitted indulgence), it’s like a meditative version of ‘Lord of the Rings’, filtered through an eco-message. Stunning animation, a truly mature and epic storyline, and, for once, a U.S. dub which is arguably better than the original, with voice talent – Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton, and a script translated and adapted by Neil Gaiman himself.

02 5cm PER SECOND

Makoto Shinkai stunned the world in the late 90’s by releasing gorgeous pieces of animation created purely by himself, with no help or assistance. After a couple of short films and one feature, he hit his stride with this – an hour long animation split into three parts, each chronicling a different decade in the lives of a boy and girl who fell in love when they were kids. The artistry is second to none and the storytelling is unique and powerful.

03 PORCO ROSSO

Often overlooked in the West, ‘Porco Rosso’ is Hayao Miyazaki’s most personal work; a film made purely for himself. And the result is pure cinematic bliss. I can’t overstate just how much of a triumph of cinema this movie is, the central character, the themes, the animation, humour, drama, action, tragedy, all combine to make something classic and unforgettable. Impossible to watch without a big grin painted on your face.

04 JIN-ROH

For a long time, ‘Jin-Roh : Wolf Brigade’ was my number 1 anime film of all time. It’s slipped a little here due to some niggles I pick up on now that didn’t bother me in my younger years, but it’s tempting to still put it at the top spot for no better reason than to attract some attention to what is surely the most ignored anime masterpiece out there. From Production I.G. (‘Ghost in the Shell’, ‘Patlabor’) and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (who would later direct the opening credits to the ‘Cowboy Bebop’ movie as well as the feature film ‘A Letter to Momo’), it’s an alternate future take on Red Riding Hood. Deliberately using an art style that forgoes the usual bright palette of anime for drab, dreary and realistic colors, and utilizing a far more grown up and natural design for its characters – ‘Jin-Roh’ is a melancholic, ponderous and sincere film that deserves to be recognized for the cinematic rarity it is.

05 AKIRA

The film that broke anime into the West, way back in 1988, may still not be beloved in its home country of Japan, but its upheld as a bastion of anime quality to this day in the West and with good reason. It’s still as bombastic, surreal, inventive, packed full of powerful imagery and bolstered by its knockout soundtrack as ever. To this day, it’s rare to find an animated film with animation as intense and beautiful as this.

06 TOKYO GODFATHERS

Satoshi Kon had a career ahead of him that could have defined him as one of the top 3 anime directors of all time. Sadly, he passed away in 2010, leaving behind an all-too brief legacy of just 4 feature films, a tv show and two collaborative shorts, and there’s good reason why all 4 of his films make this list. ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ is my personal favorite, serving as the weirdest and most wonderful Christmas film I’ve ever seen.

07 THE WOLF CHILDREN

Mamoru Hosoda has been my personal favorite anime director since ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’, but prior to that he’d already established his gorgeously clean animation style with the ‘Digimon : Movie’ and ‘One Piece : Movie 6’ (see number 15 on this list). Recently he’s finally gained the attention he deserves with ‘Summer Wars’ and last year ‘The Boy and the Beast’. But in my opinion his finest movie so far is ‘The Wolf Children’. A truly beautiful movie with a sad but poignant narrative and gorgeous animation, packed full of humor, drama, and heartfelt entertainment.

08 MILLENNIUM ACTRESS

The second Satoshi Kon film on this list is ‘Millennium Actress’. Kon was fascinated with the blurry lines of reality and fiction and loved to play with them in Lynchian ways. This, his second feature film, was arguably his most successful at this, as he tells the story of an elderly famous actress whose life is told sequentially via the movies she was staring in during the corresponding years she’s relating. It’s a visually and narratively compelling device and unlike his final film ‘Paprika’ – is incredibly clean and concise here.

09 COWBOY BEBOP : KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR

‘Cowboy Bebop’ is one of the most beloved anime tv shows of all time, and it’s follow up movie is just as good, albeit with far superior animation. This film is a true celebration of the show as everything is amped up before the crew left our screens for good. The fight sequences have a beautiful loose brutality that’s only mirrored in Shinichiro Watanabe’s later show ‘Samurai Champloo’, and the U.S. key voice cast is another exception to the rule of needing to watch all anime with subtitles (forgive the occasional bit part roles here). This is one of the most fun anime movies ever made.

10 BLOOD : THE LAST VAMPIRE

A strange beast this one, as it came out in 2000, ran at only 50mins and has subsequently spawned two tv series, tv movies, a live action film, numerous manga and video games. Yet the gorgeously moody original is oft left from these lists. For me it remains one of the most evocative and beautifully animated pieces in film history. The American voice acting (the film dialogue is purposefully split into Japanese and American) can grate at times, but the visual ride is worth it.

11 THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME

12 TEKKONKINKREET

13 LUPIN III : CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO

14 PONYO

15 ONE PIECE : BARON OMATSURI AND THE SECRET ISLAND

16 ONLY YESTERDAY

17 WINGS OF HONNEAMISE

18 SPIRITED AWAY

19 GHOST IN THE SHELL : INNOCENCE

20 KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

21 THE BOY AND THE BEAST

22 GHOST IN THE SHELL

23 PATLABOR 2

24 GARDEN OF WORDS

25 MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO

26 PAPRIKA

27 SWORD OF THE STRANGER

28 GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

29 PERFECT BLUE

30 WHISPER OF THE HEART

31 SUMMER WARS

32 WXIII : PATLABOR THE MOVIE 3

33 ARRIETY

34 METROPOLIS

35 VAMPIRE HUNTER D : BLOODLUST

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