For people new to anime, here are six essential Japanese animated films

By Limarc Ambalina

Anime is a bedrock of Japanese pop culture.

Blending together the various crafts of graphic art, voice acting, sound engineering, composing, and more — anime is a modern form of entertainment that provides a fun and exciting medium through which to learn morals and important life lessons.

A lot of animated films here (just like in the West) are adapted from the most popular manga, comics or books. Sometimes, though, it’s the other way around. When a particular anime is successful, it can lead to a live action film, novel and even a video game adaptation — never mind the merchandising!

The anime on this list will both help you get a better understanding of Japanese pop culture and give you some common ground to chat with friends, work colleagues, students (if you’re teaching or going to school) and locals in general.

For people new to the genre or those planning to come to Japan (short or long term), here are six must-see Japanese anime that every foreigner should add to their watch list.

Note: All anime on this list are available in English either subtitled, dubbed or both.

Click here to read more.

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For the One Piece anime, be sure to watch the Funimation dub, not the 4Kids Entertainment version which was an abomination.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Where's Nausica??! And watch them in Nihongo because the English dubbed voices are alway WRONG, wrong sound, wrong stress, invariably the wrong tambre. The squawkiness of English just doesn't suit most Nihonsei anime, at least not any of the Ghibli I have seen. I cannot watch the English dubbed ones. Deal with subtitles. One caveat, Grave of the Fireflies should carry a warning: Watching This Video May Cause PTSD In People of Conscience.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Cowboy Bebop.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Totoro, Spirited Away, great movies. Everyone's going to have their own opinion about what should be on there but isn't - Ghost In The Shell, for instance?

Agree with William Bjornson about Grave of the Fireflies. It should have a warning on it of some kind. An unremittingly miserable, profoundly depressing movie without one ray of light to darken the whole running length of it. Yeah, I know it's hard to get any lightness into a movie which is essentially about two kids dying. Slowly. Very slowly. The only positive thing I have to say about it is that I'm glad I've seen it, because now I don't have to watch it again.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

GitS deserves to be there. Both 1 and 2. The first was hugely influential on The Matrix and the second is absolutely mesmerizing to look at.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think overseas the parental guide rating, as well as the subject matter, can give one a hint about Grave of the Fireflies. It's interesting that in Japan, what with the classic Barefoot Gen etc., retellings of wartime horrors are not only marketed for adults.

おもいひでぽろぽろ I think in English "Only Yesterday" is one animated film that helped me understand Japanese thinking a bit more. My in-laws (about the same age as the main character would be now if she were real) suddenly made a lot more sense.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What about Ghost in the Shell???!!.. One of the best anime movies in history.. 1000 times better than that one piece movie..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kimi no na wa.


-2 ( +0 / -2 )

おもいひでぽろぽろ I think in English "Only Yesterday" is one animated film that helped me understand Japanese thinking a bit more. 

Definitely on my list of top anime. I love the last scene!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In terms of Quintessential Japanese? Yeah I have to agree Nausicaa should be top 6. But I would rather give Ghibli one spot and pick 5 other movies to represent in this list, not fill it will Ghibli movies....

Doraemon?? No way!

One Piece??? What??

This list wasn’t thoroughly thought out and I dare to say, clickbait article...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whisper of the heart

Only yesterday

Spirited away

Grave of the fireflies

My neighbor Totoro

Wolf children
0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've never really been into Anime, but after so many years in Japan, some of course has crossed my path. Akira is probably my favorite.

That said, the above list is a pretty good one insofar as impact on Japanese culture.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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