I realize it's been quite a long time since my last post. (On a positive note I have been pursuing a career in art and animation.)What better way to redeem myself for not posting for a year and a half than by making a top 10 I've always wanted to see.
I think it's safe to say that most series-based anime films aren't exactly Citizen Kane. They're generally cheap cash-ins to milk a popular franchise. But every now and then fans are treated to something that any film based on a good anime series are entitled to, quality. These are films that attempted to equal and in some ways better the quality seen in the series that they are based on. I'm not including any compilation films. Even though there are some damn good ones out there I'm only listing original films or remakes. I bring you my top 10 anime films based on an anime series.
(All films and images belong to their respective distributors)
10) DIGIMON ADVENTURE & DIGIMON ADVENTURE: OUR WAR GAME
Year Released: 1999/2000
Directed By Mamoru Hosoda
Original Series: Digimon Adventure
- We're starting out with a two way tie. Since these films were both bundled together on DVD they saved me the trouble of having to choose between them. Now you may think I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel by listing not one, but two Digimon movies, but you're sorely mistaken. These are both very good films in their own right. Digimon Adventure is a unique title on this list since it actually served as a pilot for the television series and featured Taichi and Hikari's first encounter with Koromon. Within only a 20 minute run time, Adventure manages to deliver more entertainment and charm than most are able to do in two hours. The best part about Adventure is that it requires absolutely no knowledge of the franchise.
The second film on the other hand may require a little bit of insight but it's still a hell of a thrill ride even if you're going in fresh. Our War Game follows up the events of the television series with Taichi and the gang trying to stop a virus Digimon from destroying the internet. Part sequel, part remake of War Games, and part predecessor to director Hosoda's later smash hit Summer Wars. It's easily one of the most intense and exciting anime films out there. Don't let your ancient hatred for Saban stop you from checking out these underrated classics. (For the record I'm referring to the original Japanese versions of these films. Saban's Digimon: The Movie doesn't do them justice)
9) TENCHI FOREVER
Year Released: 1999
Directed By Hiroshi Negishi
Original Series: Tenchi Universe
- There are a lot of harem anime out there. A LOT! But few have matched the charm and cleverness of Tenchi Muyo! It's one of the few anime franchises of its kind to have spawned not one, not two, but three highly entertaining films. It was a tough call mainly between the first and third installments, but ultimately I had to give it up for the third, Tenchi Forever. A movie that takes a pretty large risk by ditching the comedy and focusing solely on exploring it's already well established characters. Ryoko and Ayeka put their differences aside to hunt down Tenchi who has been missing for six months, and what ensues brings a very engaging and most importantly satisfying end to the Tenchi Muyo! television cannon. (Also known as Tenchi Muyo! In Love 2)
8) A DOG OF FLANDERS
Year Released - 1997
Directed By Yoshio Kuroda
Original Series: A Dog of Flanders
- A young artist named Nello endures the hardships of poverty with his grandfather and faithful dog Patrasche. If you're familiar with the novel then you know this isn't going to end well. The film serves as a remake of the 1975 series of the same title which was part of the World Masterpiece Theater franchise, a collection of television series based on classic literature. Many people consider Grave of the Fireflies to be the most depressing anime film ever released, but A Dog of Flanders comes in a pretty close second in my opinion. But it's also a beautiful picture that is every bit as good as the series it was based on. It's certainly easier to endure. The original was over 50 episodes long! (Whatever you do, DO NOT watch the Pioneer Family Entertainment version. It's edited to shit and changes the ending.)
7) COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE
Year Released: 2001
Directed By Shinichiro Watanabe
Original Series: Cowboy Bebop
- What can I say about Cowboy Bebop that hasn't already been said? It's one of the greatest anime series ever made, so as you can imagine fans were more than a little excited when a feature film was announced. We were not disappointed. Spike an the gang target a terrorist named Vincent, who has the biggest bounty ever offered on his head. A whopping 300 million Wulong. While it basically serves as a two hour episode of the series, this is one show where the formula works very well to its advantage since most of Cowboy Bebop's episodes were self-contained stories. This was also the debut project for the then newly formed Bones studio. So naturally the animation is top notch. But the best part of this film for me was Vincent who is one of the few movie villains to really get under my skin. His cold, sociopath presence steals every last scene is in. I'd put him right up there with Javier Bardem from No Country For Old Men. Highly recommended. (Also known as Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door.)
6) THE IDEON: BE INVOKED
Year Released: 1982
Directed By Yoshiyuki Tomino
Original Series: Space Runaway Ideon
Tell me if this sounds familiar. A mech series that attempts to break down the genre delivers a very unsatisfying ending but is later revived in the form of a double feature which includes a compilation film and a proper ending in feature length form. Yup, this is the series that pretty much laid the foundation for Evangelion. The film tells the story of the crew of the Ideon and their hopeless final stand against the powers at be. Be Invoked serves as the final five episodes of the ill-fated series Space Runaway Ideon, Tomino's follow-up series to the then canceled Mobile Suit Gundam. (Guess which franchise became successful.) Let's just say it's the film that cemented Tomino's nickname, "Kill Em' All." Something has to be said when the creator cites this as one of his favorite works but wonders how he could have came up with such a depressing ending. For it's time it was one of the most violent anime ever made, baring in mind that back then OVA's were a wild concept at best. Despite knowing the history behind this show, the ending of the movie still completely blew my mind. It truly has to be seen to be believed. I cannot recommend this one enough. To me it completely made up for the many flaws that plagued the original series, and that's why it takes the number 6 spot on my list. (Also known as Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked)
5) PATLABOR 2: THE MOVIE
Year Released: 1993
Directed By Mamoru Oshii
Original Series: Patlabor: The Mobile Police
- The members of Section 2 Labor Unit are reunited to apprehend Yukihito Tsuge, a terrorist dead set on driving Tokyo into chaos. Widely considered to be the highlight of the Patlabor franchise, this film further established Mamoru Oshii's heavy emphasis on moody atmospheres and exploring characters philosophically. It would later be perfected with his next film, Ghost in the Shell. It's essentially a remake of episodes five and six of the original series (which just happen to be my favorites.) Few films have truly challenged their source material the way Patlabor 2 did. It's hard to believe it all started out as a goofy mech series centered on a group of ragtag cops.
4) EVANGELION 2.22: YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE
Year Released: 2009
Directed By Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, and Masayuki
Original Series: Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Speaking of Evangelion, 2.22 is the second installment of the four-part remake of the original series. It's also the best thing to ever come out of this franchise. Shinji takes on more Angels and bares an even bigger burden, adolescences. 2.22 features spectacular animation, significantly improved storytelling and character development, and has an ending that will absolutely rock your socks off! This is the Evangelion I've always wanted. One that doesn't make excuses or manipulate you into pretending you care about the characters, but actually takes the time to give them redeeming factors and more reasons to sympathize with them. Not to mention we get some subtle hints about how these films may actually relate to the original series. I really don't want to spoil the ending but I have to mention it again because it elevates an already great film to masterpiece status. If this is the kind of quality we can expect from parts three and four, I will gladly wait a few more years if I have to.
3) URUSEI YATSURA 2: THE BEAUTIFUL DREAMER
Year Released: 1984
Directed By Mamoru Oshii
Original Series: Urusei Yatsura
- Ataru and company are stuck in a time loop and have been repeating the same day over and over again. But there may be more to this already convoluted mess they've gotten themselves into. Oshii once again brings his signature emphasis on atmosphere and philosophy to a harem anime of all things. Not only that, he actually makes it work better than any other formula seen in the show! This is another anime film that really doesn't require any knowledge of the franchise. I should know because as of this writing I have only seen a few episodes of the television series. Unfortunately the strong departure from the norm resulted in backlash upon it's original release in Japan, ultimately resulting in Oshii leaving the series behind. But over time it's become a beloved classic as it should because it's truly an unforgettable experience.
2) LUPIN III: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO
Year Released: 1980
Directed By Hayao Miyazaki
Original Series: Lupin III
- Now you know I wasn't going to leave this one out! Lupin takes on one of his toughest challenges yet, uncovering the secret behind the legendary Goat Bills that are virtually indistinguishable to any legitimate currency. Cagliostro was Miyazaki's debut as a feature film director and while it wasn't a big hit, it established Miyazaki's uncanny storytelling ability and his incredibly high standards for animation. Nowadays it's considered a classic and is constantly referenced by other directors. Despite this, it's also sometimes criticized by Lupin III fans for what they feel is a degrading portrayal of the title character. Lupin is shown as being more of a Robin Hood-like thief/hero and a romantic as oppose to the his usual ruthless sex crazed killer persona. It's definitely a different Lupin, but he still delivers plenty of genuine laughs even if it's not nearly as raunchy as he had come to be known. I think it goes without saying that Cagliostro is the best of the Lupin movies and is an absolute must see for anyone that enjoys movies. (For the record, if you're going to watch this film on DVD make sure it's the 2000 release and not 2006 Manga Entertainment release. For some retarded reason they removed the animation from the opening sequence so they could put their own English credits in. How Miyazaki let them get away with that one is far beyond me.)
And my number one anime films based on an anime series is:
SUPER DIMENSIONAL FORTRESS MACROSS: DO YOU REMEMBER LOVE?
Year Released - 1984
Directed By Shoji Kawamori
Original Series: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
- Many people believe that the 1980's was the golden age of anime. If that's so, then let DYRL stand as a crowning achievement of that era. The film retells the events of the original series, chronicling the last remnants of humanity aboard the giant space fortress, Macross. Few films are as iconic as DYRL. It was one of the first anime to be fansubbed after several half-assed attempts to market the film to the U.S. by severely editing the film's graphic content and story, or by delivering one of the most laughably bad English dubs ever conceived. (Try typing in Super Spacefortress Macross or Clash of the Bionoids on Youtube and see if you can watch it with a straight face.) Kawamori and his remarkable production crew (many of who would go on to become very prominent figures in the industry) delivered a truly incredible looking film which features one of the most spectacular climaxes you're likely to ever see in any animated film. But what truly sets this apart from the rest of the films on this list is that it not only improved upon many aspects of what was already considered a revolutionary series, it surpassed it in almost every way. The characters are more likable, the pacing is near perfect, and Kaifun is reduced to a minor role. (I HATED Kaifun!) Sadly due to a number of legal issues we will likely never get a proper release of this film in North America. But hey, we all have our ways. DYRL is unquestionably one of the greatest films to ever come out of Japan and is an absolute must-see.