2016 was a great year for anime movies. Here are some of my favorites listed in no particular order.
Alternate Names: Kimi no Na wa., 君の名は。
Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Supernatural
Your Name is an emotional coming of age romance film starring two high schoolers named Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana who learn about each other through body swapping. The movie has likable characters, beautiful animations, and phenomenal soundtracks. Your Name is a movie that excels in its perfect balance. The director, Makoto Shinkai, manages to balance light humor with heavy tones, supernatural elements with grounded reality and most importantly, we see the different lifestyles of the two main characters balance each other out.
The story can be confusing at times, especially during the climax of the movie when the viewers are introduced with not only body swapping, but time traveling as well. There are also some plot points that are left unsolved for the viewers to decide.
The art of Your Name is phenomenal. The background scenery and time lapse shots are amazing. I found myself glued to the screen even during parts without the characters.
The music and background sounds are beautiful. I think the director picked the right soundtracks for the movie. It’s just unfortunate that some of the music didn’t fit certain shots. In some parts of the movie, the music vocals overwhelmed the art, and in other parts the art overshadowed the music. However, the music is good enough to warrant those scenes. Check out this official music video of one of the songs from the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2GujJZfXpg
The contrasting lifestyles of the two main characters really balance each other out. Their interactions and reactions after body swapping feels genuine and there’s a constant progression of character as they get to know each other through one another’s lives. Unfortunately, the supporting characters don’t get enough love. I feel like the supporting characters are all likable, but not memorable.
Alternate Names: Koe no Katachi, The Shape of Voice, 聲の形
Genres: Drama, Romance
“Try to be good starting tomorrow, okay?”
Although listed as a romance, A Silent Voice is more of a redemption story about the main character, Ishida Shouya, who struggles to become a better person in order to amend for his past mistakes. At the start of the movie we see a grown up Ishida planning to suicide by jumping off a bridge, but as he stands there and looks around, he reconsiders. The movie then goes back in time to Ishida’s childhood where the story starts. In elementary school, Ishida bullies a deaf girl named Shouko Nishimiya. When the teacher confronts the class about Shouko being bullied, Ishida is singled out by his friends. Shouko eventually switches schools and Ishida’s former friends starts to bully him instead. Growing up, Ishida becomes reclusive and begins to avoid people. However, a few years later when he meets Shouko again, he starts to open up his feelings once more and tries to amend for his past. The movie explores some really serious topics such as suicide and bullying, but ultimately it teaches us about forgiveness and change. The beginning of the movie can be really hard to watch for some people, but if you can get through the start you are in for a masterpiece.
The story does a great job of portraying sensitive topics such as bullying, suicide, and death. However, since the movie touches on these hard subjects, parts of it can be hard to watch.
The different personalities of each characters shine through their body languages. You can even say that these unique characters are created by their subtle body movements and hand gestures. Even something as overlooked as the camera angle is relevant to the story. When the movie is shown through Ishida’s point of view, the camera tends to shy away from people’s faces, reflecting how shy and insecure the main character is. A Silent Voice does an amazing job of animating the emotion and personality of each character through expression.
The sound design in A Silent Voice is breathtaking. The music and sounds in certain scenes reinforce emotions of the characters and the tone of their stories. A huge amount of care is put into making the sounds of each scene resonate with the character’s emotions and movements. This movie also has some of my favorite soundtracks such as the song ‘Lit’ that is featured in the trailer.
In A Silent Voice, one of the characters are outright perfect beings, they all have flaws that make them feel human. Well all of them expect for Tomohiro Nagatsuka, who is just a saint. However, like Your Name (Kimi no Na wa.), a few of the side characters in A Silent Voice are not very memorable. I think there are just too many side characters to keep track of. The two main characters on the other hand are extremely well fleshed out. Also, the voice actress of Shouko Nishimiya did a fantastic job of portraying a deaf girl.
Alternate Names: Kono Sekai no Katasumi, To All the Corners of the World, この世界の片隅に
Genres: Drama, Historical
In This Corner of the World is incredibly beautiful in it’s art and story, but it’s a somber reminder of what could happen to a human during the darkest times of war.
The story follows the journey of an 18 year old woman named Suzu Urano as she learns of love, loss, and war. During the movie, Suzu is constantly in a dream-like state, she often questions whether or not she is truly awake. This dreamy personality of hers adds to the surreal art and animation, but everything is eventually grounded by the harsh story of the movie which focuses on the reality of war. The first half of the movie feels extremely slow. The story does pick up eventually, but and there are also times during the second half where story pacing feels out of place.
The art In This Corner of the World is simply beautiful and breathtaking. The movie is like a vivid moving painting on a large canvas. The bright and surreal tones of the art is such a contrast to the dark themes of the movie, but somehow they complement each other so well.
The soundtracks and ambiances really fit the different types of moods and tones from the movie. Nothing really stood out, but I think that’s a good thing because everything just sounded right.
The character progressions were really well done. It was a pleasure to watch the emotional journeys of all the characters, especially Suzu and Shuusaku. However, there are some characters that are introduced with interesting backstories and personalities who are never shown again.
Alternate Names: 劇場版 牙狼〈GARO〉‐DIVINE FLAME‐
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Magic, Supernatural, Mature
Garo: Divine Flame is a mature supernatural fantasy movie that centers around a story of love, betrayal, and moral ambiguity. The movie takes place a few years after the ending of Garo: The Animation. You don’t really need to watch the anime in order to understand the movie, but watching the anime would definitely make the movie more enjoyable.
As someone who has not watched any other Garo films, the story of Divine Flame seems chaotic at times and while the overall plot is engaging, the movie feels more like a sequel to a story that has already concluded. After finishing the movie, I was left with more questions than answers. However, the story is simple enough to pick up and the world feels expansive enough to be engaging.
Other than the characters and a few backdrops, the movie is done in 2D. The only noticeable 3D art is when the characters put on their armor. Personally, I think the 3D armors stand out too much and feel out of place in front of the detailed 2D environments. Other than that small complaint, the overall art is detailed and the animation is fluid.
The soundtrack has some of the best background music in anime. It’s just unfortunate some of the transitions between them feel out of place.
The protagonists and the antagonist aren’t fleshed out enough, and while their personalities are fun to watch, their motivations and ideals are hard to relate. That’s one of the problems with anime movies based on an existing series; usually you have to watch the anime to understand a character’s actions.
Alternate Names: Ajin: Shoutotsu, 亜人 第２部「衝突」
Genres: Action, Horror, Supernatural
Ajin: Shoutotsu is the second movie in the Ajin series. Shoutotsu is a sequel to the first movie, so if you haven’t watched the first movie, watch that first. And if you are a fan of the first one, definitely check Shoutotsu out. However like the first movie, this movie is also just a combination of scenes from the Ajin anime. So if you already watched the anime, you will see the same scenes in the movie as well. The first movie covers the first half of season one (episodes 1-6) and the second movie covers the second half (episodes 7-13) as well as some parts of season 2.
Ajins are special humans who are immortal and have the ability to summon IBM (Invisible Black Matter). The movie takes place in Japan where Ajins are considered dangerous, so there is an active effort by the government to hunt them down. The ones that become captured are used in inhumane experiments and the few that escape are bent on revenge.
Ajin Part 2: Shoutotsu explores the concept of mortality and the consequences of immortality. The story follows Kei Nagai who, after finding out that he is an Ajin, becomes the target of the government. Overall, the story is mostly consistent; the action scenes are impactful and the exposition scenes are to the point. However because the movie is a condensed version of the anime, there are some small pacing issues during parts of the movie. Some scenes are rushed and as a result, a few minor plot points were left unexplained.
Although I gave the art a 7/10, I think it’s mostly subjective. Some people prefer CGI animation while others think it’s the worst thing to happen to anime. Personally I don’t mind it too much, but I do feel that with CGI, some of the more subtle facial expressions, body languages, and environment animations are lacking. On the one hand, the art in Ajin: Shoutotsu is a huge step up from other CGI anime. On the other hand, when compared to other anime movies, the animation feels clunky and art seems unrefined.
Ajin has some of the most varied soundtracks in anime. Check out this main theme to get an idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMzm9E2WCtc
Overall, the music fits the themes of the movie. Exposition scenes feel suspenseful and action scenes feel dramatic.
Kei Nagai has sociopathic tendencies which you don’t see often in main characters from anime. He’s a character that bases his actions on logic and reasoning instead of emotions. However because of his lack of emotions, Kei doesn’t really care about anyone but himself. Some people might not enjoy that kind of main character, but don’t watch the show for him, watch it for the antagonist, Satou. Satou is what you would get if you give immortality to a sociopath that has no moral standards and is constantly hungry for a bigger thrill. It’s refreshing to see a bad guy that doesn’t have a tragic backstory or have underlying good intentions. Satou is just straight up a horrible human being who wants to watch the world burn, but that’s what makes him such an entertaining character.