1. Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō / Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)
The lorph are a legendary race of young-looking people who live hundreds of years and spend their days weaving Hibiol, a special cloth which serves as a written chronicle for all of time. Maquia is an orphaned girl who serves as an assistant of chief Racine. One night the soldiers of the Mezarte kingdom and their flying dragons invade their village and kill most of the lorph, while kidnapping a lorph girl named Leilia. Maquia escapes to a neighbouring forest atop one of the dragons, which soon dies due to the Red Eye disease. Maquia then finds a newborn male infant next to his deceased mother and decides to raise him as her own.
This is the first high fantasy anime film that I have ever watched and I am not ashamed to say it made me cry like a baby. Everything from the animation to the dialogues was utter perfection. (click here if you want to read my review of the movie)
2. Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki / Wolf Children (2012)
Hana, a young college student in Tokyo, falls in love with an enigmatic man who turns out to be a werewolf. Their life together is peaceful and they later have two wolf children: a daughter, Yuki and a son, Ame. The father is killed the day Ame was born in an accident while hunting food for the children. Hana’s journey as a single mother is difficult but she soon decides to move with her children to the countryside, away from prying neighbors and into a place where they can choose their own path in life.
That film made me appreciate everything my mother has sacrificed for me in order to become who I am today. (click here if you want to read my review of the movie)
3. Hotarubi no Mori e / Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011)
Based on the one-shot shōjo manga of the same name this 44-minute anime film focuses on the unexpected friendship between young Hotaru and forest spirit Gin, after she is rescued by him, as well as the difficulties their relationship experiences due to Gin not being able to get touched by humans.
I truly enjoyed Hotaru and Gin’s relationship throught the film and the ending, although sad, was the perfect way for this beautiful story to end.
4. Koto no ha no Niwa / The Garden of Words (2013)
The film follows Takao Akizuki, a 15-year-old aspiring shoemaker and Yukari Yukino, a mysterious 27-year- old woman, who meet on a rainy day at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and form an unlikely friendship.
A beautiful and aesthetic film which pays homage to rain, Man’yōshū poetry and Japanese gardens with the most heartwarming ending scene I have ever seen.
5. Eiga Koe no Katachi / A Silent Voice (2016)
Shoya Ishida bullies his newcomer deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya to the point where she is transfered to another school. Being ostracized by his classmates after this incident he briefly considers suicide before embarking on a path for redemption.
Although quite depressing at times the film portrays very realistically how a person realises the wrongs and pain he/she causes and strives to become better. Another thing I liked was how cheerful Nishimiya was despite her difficulty making friends.
6. Majo no Takkyūbin / Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who, according to witch law, has to spend a year away from her family. Settling on a port city with her black cat Jiji she uses her flying ability in order to get a living.
I found Kiki a very relatable character especially since the passage from young teenager to adulthood was something I also struggled with when I first saw the movie.
7. Mimi o Sumaseba / Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old student who loves reading. Upon an ordinary evening she looks through the checkout cards in her library books and discovers they were all checked out previously by someone named Seiji Amasawa.
This was such a heartwarming love story! I adored the fact that both Shizuku and Seiji were so driven by their passions and worked so hard to achieve their goals and didn’t just make their relationship their reason of existence.
8. Neko no Ongaeshi / The Cat Returns (2002)
A spin-off to Whisper of the Heart the film centers on Haru Yoshioka, a quiet and shy high school student who has a suppressed ability to talk with cats. After rescuing a cat from being hit by a truck she finds herself engaged to him as he turns out to be Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom.
Being a cat person it was easy for me to love this movie. I liked the major role that the Baron (also featured on Whisper of the Heart) played as well as his friendship/hint of romantic attraction with Haru. Should Haru ever have to marry a cat then the Baron should definetely be the correct choice.
9. Hauru no Ugoku Shiro / Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Sophie is a young , content milliner who is turned into an old lady by a wicked witch who enters her shop. Escaping her previous life she encounters the wizard Howl and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king.
Old age is refreshingly shown as a factor which grants personal freedom rather than just problems in everyday matters. Love and compassion are also important themes through the actions of Sophie as is confidence and belief in one’s self.
10. Kimi no Na wa / Your Name (2016)
Taki, a high school boy in Tokyo and Mitsuha, a high school girl in a rural town, suddenly begin to swap bodies and try to communicate with each other through written messages.
The film had a lot of magical realism moments which I found quite refreshing as most anime films are based on fantastical elements making them impossible to happen on our everyday lives while this one showed potential of blending in our reality.