6 Feel-Good Japanese Anime Movies

Good news for all the Japanese anime fans! Last year the news of Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement spread like wildfire after he made an official announcement in a press conference. However, the great Japanese animator and one-time head of Studio Ghibli maybe ‘un-retiring’. According to a report in The Guardian, Miyazaki is said to be working on a new samurai-themed manga comic based on the Warring States period of Japan. Perhaps, it is a hoax, but it sure is something we are looking forward to.

Celebrating Hayao Miyazaki’s comeback and the blooming Japanese anime industry, which began producing animation early in 1917, here’s a list of six Japanese animation movies that you should not miss out:

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Do you often muse about how it would be if you could time travel? This is a story about Makoto Konno, a 17 year-old who gains the ability to "leap" backwards through time. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the movie is absolutely magical, and why not, imagine the things you could do if you had the power to ‘leap’ back into time. If you enjoyed watching Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you would undoubtedly love this movie. It is just delightful to watch Makoto blasting from scene to scene fixing things up and mending relationships. But is changing the past the only solution for a better future? The philosophical symbolism, a teenager’s unsettled mind and the complexity of relationships are brilliantly-captured in the animation.


Japanese animation films are always joyfully insane. Satoshi Kon’s Paprika is a perfect switch between dream and reality. The movie is about Paprika, a therapist whose mission is to find a stolen machine, DC Mini, that allows users to access dreams. Like Satoshi Kon’s previous works, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress, Paprika too is vibrant and complex, there is no Prince Charming, no dancing prince and princesses. Paprika is sometimes too real and sometimes very fantastical. The music composed by Susumu Hirasawa is superb. Do check out the closing theme ‘The Girl in Byakkoya’ and a slower relaxing version of it – A drop filled with memories.

5 Centimeters Per Second

5 Centimeters per second is like a visual novel. Divided into three segments, the movie is about two characters – Takaki Tono and Akari Shinohara – and their friendship that began from their high school days till adulthood. What is really noteworthy is Makoto Shinkai’s distinct animation style. His sharp animation technique makes the audience feel both the nostalgic and melancholic feeling of the characters in the story. From every strand of grass that dances with the wind to the shimmering water, the whole movie is filled with life. It isn’t a very fast-paced movie, and some parts may look highly cinematic or surreal, however, you must watch it for Makoto Shinkai commendable work of art.

Grave Of the Fireflies

The movie opens with a skinny 12 year-old boy Seita begging on the streets, and a voice-over follows, "September 21, 1945… that was the night I died". When it comes to war films, we tend to expect a lot of tension and drama. This 1988 classic by Isao Takahata, can be termed as one of the best and powerful war movies ever produced. The movie cannot be called a war adventure of two siblings even though there are certain moments of joy. It is more about surviving only with the constant reminder that death is imminent. While watching the movie you can actually connect with the characters and it becomes really difficult to absorb the fact that the end is near.

My Neighbor Totoro

This is a personal favorite. The movie just makes its viewers gleefully happy. Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro is a movie which you will fall in love with, no matter how old you are. This is a story of two sisters Satsuki and Mei who shifted to an old house near a vast forest with their father. And then the enchanting adventure of the two little girls starts – from exploring the house to meeting friendly forest spirits. The special thing about this movie is that there is something in it that makes you feel attached to the characters and the situations. Kind of wistful. Roger Ebert said, “It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself.” This pretty much sums up why you should be watching this movie.

Only Yesterday

It might be the most underrated movie from the house of Studio Ghibli. Directed by Isao Takahata, Only Yesterday, is a movie targeted towards the adults. As usual, there are various cultural references from Japanese traditional daily life, and interestingly, the movie also takes up references from the blooming pop culture of the 1960s. The movie follows the life of a 27 year-old Taeko, who goes on a trip to her village leaving aside her usual monotonous life. It is a simple story of how a woman relives her childhood and grows up emotionally. What strikes in with the Studio Ghibli movies is that the characters are very real and there is no exaggeration. They are pure feel-good movies about life and relationships.

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1 Comment

  1. Orangepillows

    February 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    i totally agree with you about the movie The girl who leapt through time. it’s a favorite. Makoto and Chiaki are so adorable.
    i also very much loved Howl’s moving Castle and Whisper of the heart but i see it werent in your list.
    i’m currently looking for beautiful anime movies out there and thank you for helping in my quest.

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