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The 9 Best Animated Japanese Films Of The 21st Century

How many have you watched?
by Khatrina Bonagua | Sep 21, 2016
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For every Voltes V memory our bosses share, we, their much-obsessed weeaboo, respond with a One Punch Man trivia of our own. The truth is, generational differences hardly matter when talk focuses on the far-reaching power of Japanese anime.

Recently, film and television website, The Playlist released its list of "The 50 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far," and unsurprisingly, some of the movies cited are Japanese animes. Let this be your guide if you're in the mood to binge-watch these solid and memorable cinematic treasures.

9) Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Ranked no. 47 on the list, Tokyo Godfathers is directed by Satoshi Kon and inspired by John Ford's Three Godfathers. The story revolves around three homeless people—alcoholic Gin, transwoman Hana, and young runaway Miyuki—as they find an abandoned baby in the trash on Christmas Eve and try to give the child back to its parents.

8) Paprika (2006) 

This 42nd-ranked masterpiece was the last film directed by Satoshi Kon before he passed away. Based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui, Paprika is set in the future where people can go into other people's dreams using a machine called "DC Mini," which provides a revolutionary form therapy. The multi-awarded Paprika was nominated for the Golden Lion Award at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival.

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7) Ponyo (2008) 

No. 36 on the list is Ponyo, directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki. Ponyo, originally known as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. The plot centers on the friendship and adventures of Sosuke and Brunhilde/Ponyo, who is a fish-girl hybrid.

6) The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, this film is a sequel to the 1967 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Its story revolves around Makoto, a Tokyo-based teenage girl who can travel back in time. The film won many awards including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year in 2007.


5) Wolf Children (2012)

Another film from director Mamoru Hosoda places at no. 32. Wolf Children is the story two kids, Yuki and Ame, sired by a werewolf father and a human mother. The children try to manage their lives as they go through puberty while transitioning into a wolf and how their mother raises them despite the complications as a single parent after their father died.

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4) Millennium Actress (2001)

Millenium Actress, another Satoshi Kon creation, revolves around the making of a documentary that chronicled the life and career of retired and celebrated star Chiyoko Fujiwara. It is said that this film is based on the real lives of Japanese actresses Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine.

3) The Wind Rises (2013)

This is the great Hayao Miyazaki's final movie before his retirement. The Wind Rises is an animated historical drama about real-life airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, the designer fighter aircrafts that were used during the World War II. It is a film adaptation of Miyazaki's manga of the same name and is based on Hori Tatsuo’s 1937 novel The Wind Has Risen. It was the highest-grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2013.

2) The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli and director of Grave of the Fireflies, crafted this mesmerizing tale based on the popular Japanese folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. The film starts off when a tiny girl is discovered inside a bamboo shoot. She grows much faster than her peers, eventually blossoming into the most gorgeous woman and princess in the land.

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1) Spirited Away (2001)

Miyazaki's breathtaking Spirited Away is worthy of being named the best animated of the 21st Century. The magical adventures of Chihiro will forever inspire unceasing wonder in all of us. The Playlist says Spirited Away is at the top spot because it "should occupy a very special place in our hearts as the shining portal into the fantastical, beyond-ken world of Ghibli." This Miyazaki gem is the most successful and highest-grossing film in Japanese history (grossing about $289 million worldwide). It even won the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards.

For the complete list of 'The 50 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far', click here.

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