8 Japanese Anime Movies To Watch That Are Not Studio Ghibli

I get it. Studio Ghibli anime films are well-crafted, entertaining, visually stunning, and are just down right beautiful stories that have deeper meanings than what is seen on the surface. Like many of you, I also first ventured into the world of anime because of Studio Ghibli. BUT, once I saw a non-Studio Ghibli film, I discovered that there is a whole other world of animes out there that are just as beautiful, if not more.

And so, if you are looking to expand your anime film library, here are eight films you can start with, with the last two being those I personally think are the best.

ALSO READ: 10 Insane Fan Conspiracy Theories of Your Favorite Cartoons and Anime

8. Into the Forest of Fireflies (Hotarubi no Mori e)

Year released: 2011
Directed by: Takahiro Omori / Brain’s Base

Hotaru and Gin have an unusual friendship. When Hotaru was a child, she got lost in the woods and was rescued by Gin, who is a spirit. This is how they met. Since then, Hotaru would come visit Gin in the forest, where they formed a special bond—but their friendship is not without restrictions. Hotaru cannot touch Gin, or he will disappear.

Only 44 minutes long, Into the Forest of Fireflies is a delicate story of a blossoming relationship between a human and a spirit. And, like Hotaru, get ready to be whisked away into the forest, where the fireflies will illuminate your heart.

7. A Silent Voice

Year released: 2016
Directed by: Naoko Yamada

Touching on the issue of bullying, A Silent Voice tells the story of a young bully and a deaf classmate whose life in school the former made unbearable. But this is also a story of redemption, as the young man sets off to correct his mistakes years after. A Silent Voice scored an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, which should be enough to convince you to give this film a chance.

6. Summer Wars

Year released: 2009
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda / Madhouse

Mamoru Hosoda is one of the best directors in Japan. If you see his name on a film, watch it and you will not be disappointed. Such will be the case with Summer Wars, a story of a young, tech-savvy student who accidentally started a problem in the digital world that caused Japan’s systems to fall into mayhem. Plus, he was also tasked by his friend to pretend to be her fiancé for a birthday.

Will you enjoy this film? We think so.

5. The Garden of Words

Year released: 2013
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai / CoMix Wave Films

If you are a lover of words and poetry then you will love The Garden of Words, too. This animated short film about a young shoe designer and a stranger is full of beautiful words and poetic attributes that make will make your heart swell. The stillness, the silence, the tenderness of the scenes—The Garden of Words is the perfect example of why Japanese animated films simply shine above the rest.

4. Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa)

Year relased: 2016
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai / CoMix Wave Films

You’ve probably already heard of Kimi No Na Wa, aka Your Name. The film made quite a buzz when it came out in 2016 to praises and excited feedback from critics and Makoto Shinkai fans—another one of Japan’s best anime directors. The film even made its way to Philippine cinema! If you haven’t hopped in with the bandwagon and seen this film, here is the sign that you should. Your Name is a stunning love story that transcends time and distance.

3. 5 Centimeters Per Second

Year released: 2007
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai / CoMix Wave Films

One thing you can expect from Japanese love story film plots—they will make you ache. 5 Centimeters Per Second is a classic favorite of many, and one of director Makoto Shinkai’s best. 5 Centimeters Per Second hits right in the gut, playing with the themes of longing and loving someone from a distance.

2. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Year released: 2006
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda / Madhouse

If there is one underrated anime film, it is this one. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a delightful coming-of-age story that also injects time travel into its plot. The film’s comedic and lighthearted theme makes it an entertaining watch, but we promise that it’s much more  than just that. Just wait for that lovely ending and you’ll understand.

1. Wolf Children

Year released: 2012
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda / Studio Chizu and Madhouse

A movie about a widowed mother and her wolf children, Wolf Children is a moving story about life, love, family, and one’s quest to finding what makes you feel free. The film was a box office hit (beating Pixar’s Brave) in Japan, and received multiple awards locally and internationally. It also dons an impressive score of 94% in Rotten Tomatoes. Wolf Children is a beautiful modern classic that easily tops this list.

Recommend any more non-Studio Ghibli anime films we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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