Due to the fluctuating nature of these pages, I have decided to shorten this particular list to only 10 movies. Maybe someday, somewhere, I’ll start updating a separate page dedicated to the titles that were cut off.One of Tezuka’s earliest works finally gets adapted (albeit loosely) more than a decade after his death. Taking visual ques from the Fritz Lang movie of the same name, Rintaro’s Metropolis is set in a futuristic society where robots and humans co-exist. Boasting a superb production staff which includes Akira creator and proven mastermind Katsuhiro Otomo as scriptwriter, Metropolis is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. An amalgamation of awesomeness. In a way it reminds me of Akira, with Tezuka’s character designs, Otomo’s screenplay and script, and of course, Rintaro’s genius direction. The sci-fi elements are all present boasting an insightful and intelligent story while maintaining superb production values to boot (expect no less from Madhouse). There’s just something different about the art and designs that separate it from the classic cyberpunk backdrops yet retains a certain aura of mystery and darkness (think Cannon Fodder). Metropolis is a great movie that fans of Rintaro, Tezuka, Otomo, and science fiction in general ought to see. For anyone who has seen and enjoyed Pale Cocoon, Time of Eve is a must see. Much like Metropolis, Time of Eve is one possible envisionment of society in the future. Both movies depict a futuristic city where the presence of “androids” gives rise to various political, ethical, and social problems. Time of Eve draws many references from classical works of science fiction. Most notably, Isaac Asimov’s Three Compliant Laws of Robotics. Conflicts soon arise when the main character discovers his personal android is frequently attending a secret underground cafe for robots. The rules of which state: “Within this establishment, there shall be no distinction between humans and robots.” Time of Eve, is in many aspects, a modern retelling of an old story. The story addresses the age-old discussion of ethics, and what constitutes equality among two beings. I’m eagerly awaiting Studio Rikka’s next project, be it a continuation of this movie or otherwise.
#8. Megazone 23Year: 1985-1989 Director: Noboru Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Shinji Aramaki Studio: AIC, Tatsunoko, Artmic Length: 4 hr. 20 min. (total) Technically not a theatrical movie, Megazone 23 is instead an original video animation divided up into three parts and released over the course of several years. Much of its creators hail from classics such as Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. Originally meant to a be sequel of sorts to Mospeada, Megazone 23 maintains the look and feel of classic early 80s mecha anime. The entire project features an all-star production team which includes big names Noboru Ishiguro and Ichiro Itano (directors of Part I and Part II respectively). A perfect fuse of cyberpunk and space opera, Megazone 23 along with Ghost in the Shell were, in many respects, the groundwork for the popular Matrix trilogy years later. It acted, along with Raideen the Brave, as a huge influence on the more recent TV series Rahxephon, one of my favorites from Studio Bones. It was also an instance where the OVA format was used to its full advantage to bring a niche show to a niche audience. Legendary mechanical designer Shinji Aramaki, known for Appleseed and Bubblegum Crisis, designs the memorable transforming motorcycle “Garland.” He also directs the second half of Part III which I consider to be an epilogue of sorts to the Megazone story. For the record, I actually enjoyed Part III. Screw the haters. Magnetic Rose was originally released as the first part of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories anthology. Animated by Studio 4°C, the director happens to be none other than it’s founder Koji Morimoto. Magnetic Rose is everything it claims to be, and more. It is a jarring and stunningly artful story about a group of space debris workers and their encounter with a mysterious opera singer. It features the scripting brilliance of Satoshi Kon, as well as the musical brilliance of Yoko Kanno. It is, by far, the most visually impressive Memories segment, and quite arguable the best. The characters are amazingly well flushed out given their short amount of screen time. The story is hauntingly beautiful and capped by an abstrusely calm ending. Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes, Magnetic Rose is a short movie that everyone should watch at one point or another. While you’re at it, be sure to check out Stink Bomb and Cannon Fodder, the other Memories segments, as well. Speaking of classics, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that matches up to Lupin III. The popular TV show ran for over 200 episodes. Originally created by manga-ka Monkey Punch, Lupin has undergone numerous changes and re-imaginings. One of these was popular “green suit” Lupin found in the first season and subsequently its second movie Castle of Cagliostro. The movie marked the directorial debut of up-and-coming Toei animator Hayao Miyazaki. While the story is classy, comedic, and all around good fun, the movie’s greatest strength lies in its animation quality. On board as the film’s animation director is none other than the legendary Yasuo Otsuka. Honestly, watching the highway chase scene and the clock tower scene for the first time seriously made me doubt that this movie came out 1979. It’s always nice to revisit the classics. I have great respect for Masaaki Yuasa and the entire Studio 4°C production crew for being one of the few people today who truly strive to experiment with the anime medium. There work on various movies and shorts features a level of obtuseness that is noticeably lacking in many of today’s mainstream shows. The 2004 movie, Mind Game, is a prime example of the studio’s pedigree for experimentation. As the title of the movie may suggest, it does have a tendency to screw with your mind in more ways than one. The story itself, however, is actually quite simple. It tells the story of a manga artists who happens to be a loser in life as well as the events that lead to his to personal growth. Due to the stylistic approach and stunning visuals, the movie becomes very unique as well as polarizing at times. The cinematography is phenomenal, the art style is surreal. Definitely check out this movie, but for fans weary of what to expect, I think it makes more sense to view Mind Game not as a movie, but as a stream of consciousness. The end result isn’t what matters. It’s the overall message and journey of the characters that hits hardest. The original Ghost in the Shell remains, to this day, my favorite Mamoru Oshii work and my second favorite Shirow adaptation. Ghost in the Shell may very well be the last great harbinger of “classical cyberpunk.” The original 1995 film featured an enthralling story and cutting edge animation. In my opinion, Ghost in the Shell remains one of the few films which managed to strike the perfect balance between computer generated graphics and traditional cell animation. Of course, no Mamoru Oshii discussion is complete without mentioning his 2004 follow-up movie, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. While the original was undoubtedly superior, Innocence is still a brilliant piece of art. There are very few people who can match Oshii’s philosophical exposition. Innocence is one of the first anime movies to use 2D drawings of characters over a computer generated background. As a result, the movie is both visually stunning and provocative. For those who have seen the TV series but have yet to watch the movies, I recommend watching the original 1995 movie first, then the 2004 follow-up. Be warned however, even though the series and movies take place in the same setting (2030 AD Japan) with the same characters, the movies strip away all political intrigue, all detective subplots, and most of the section 9 action sequences that were the hallmarks of TV series. What’s left is the lonely journey of one man as he tries to find the “answer.” What exactly is the net, and what exactly constitutes the “ghost?” Studio GAINAX’s first official production, and my did they start with a bang. I absolutely love this movie, I’m just going to flat-out say it. The movie itself looks absolutely gorgeous; a coming-of-age story featuring awesome mechanical designs and a beautifully crafted alternate world. The animation quality is awe-inspiring when you look at it today. It featured the talents of a young Hideaki Anno who just came off the spectacular Daicon Animations as well as Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa. Hiroyuki Yamaga, the current president of Gainax, acted as chief director for the movie at the mere age of 24. After its release, Royal Space Force quickly gained legendary status as that “one awesome movie a bunch of no-name kids created.” It has since become an anime classic and one of my personal favorites. It’s such a shame that this didn’t sell as well as the creator’s had hoped. A sequel was originally planned but scrapped due to financial problems. Even so, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise will always be, to me, one of Gainax’s best. Every once in a while, something comes along that establishes a completely new level of fandom. Akira was that something. When discussing the different generations of anime fandom, usually a new generation is accompanied by the work that established it. The general trend is that every now and then, something will come along that completely revolutionizes the scene and thus establishing a new era. In order to accomplish this, that something must draw in an entire new wave of fans large enough in number to challenge that of the old generation. These new fans are effectively the new generation. In 1988 and the years following where it was released in America, Akira did exactly that. Not only was it pivotal in establishing much of Japanese fandom for the next decade, it also brought the anime medium to light overseas in the states. People often cite Evangelion and 1995 as the pivotal year that really changed modern anime. However, that argument is up for debate. Had it not been for Akira almost a decade earlier, Evangelion never would have been as popular as it had been.
As for movie itself, I’m not going to sit here and try to pitch something that came out before I was even born. I’ll leave that to the “oldfags,” a term given to the generation of fans who are still around today that were part of the Akira revolution. These “oldfags,” who saw Akira in 1988 probably in their teens or early 20s, are now in their late 40s and still hail Akira as the best anime ever created. You think I’m lying? Go visit one of the high traffic anime forums. If you see anyone bashing the current season, saying something along the lines of “why can’t we have anime like we did in the old days of Akira?” chances are, they’re an oldfag. These people still exist, and that speaks to the scope Akira’s effect had on anime fandom.
If you’re a college student like me who wasn’t around for the Akira revolution, chances are you’ll experience something like this. You’re browsing through a season preview list, or looking for a series to watch on Youtube, perhaps Death Note or Code Geass. Eventually you’ll come across an oldfag spouting his discontent at the current anime industry. He’ll come off initially as rude and arrogant. Perhaps you’ll take personal offense, after all, he’s ripping your beloved Haruhi Suzumiya a new one. Then he’ll inevitably bring up Akira. At first, it’s just a name to you; perhaps you’ve even heard it before. Interested, you check it out, perhaps even download or rent it. From the looks of the cover art and plot description, you can’t really make out why this thing is held in such high regard. At this point in time, you still don’t understand these oldfags. Thus, you go back to watching the season’s latest and most popular shows, leaving Akira on the back-burner. It’ll probably sit on your desk or hardrive for a while, until one day, growing weary of the same old moe comedies and harems, you’ll finally sit down, bored, and wonder what should you do next. Then you’ll remember you have Akira. You’ll pick it up, or find it on your hardrive, stare at it for a few seconds, and start having doubts. After all, you’ve seen some good stuff. You’ve probably watched your fair share of classics; Bebop, Champloo, or perhaps even FLCL. These series were so good they blew you away, how can this one movie that the oldfags praise to death possibly top what you’ve seen? But curiosity is a strong force indeed. On a whim, you pop it in and watch through all of it. Only then, will you truly understand.I’ve said before that in terms of its legacy, Macross is the best anime has to offer. This movie is the reason why. In the Macross canon, this movie is actually a “story within a story.” It is not necessarily a recap movie in the traditional sense. Macross: Do You Remember Love is, in fact, a movie that exists within the Macross universe (made in the year 2031). The reasoning was so that the now-thriving population of humanity wouldn’t forget how they got to where they are today. That is essentially what this movie is. It acts as a reminder to the people of Earth. A reminder of the events that transpired, the hardships endured, and the ultimate struggle that humanity had to overcome. This is a movie whose message transcends time itself. A true relic of the anime medium.
As I struggled to find my all time favorite anime movie, it undoubtedly came down to Akira vs. Macross. When all is said and done, both movies are absolute masterpieces in their own rights. Both are incredible testaments to the sheer provocativeness and innovativeness of the animation medium. The difference between them boils down to this: I think that all fans of anime, no matter at what stage they are at, should and must watch Akira. I think that everyone should watch Macross: Do You Remember Love? period.