Best Japanese Animation Movies 2021 | 10 Must-Watch Anime Movies

by Erika Shinomoto
Top Japanese Animation Movies

Looking to watch the best Japanese anime movies? Well, check out this list of top Japanese anime movies that have a great plot, characters as well as animation. Read further to know more about it.  

Japanese anime is one of the most popular genres across the world today. It only took me one movie to get hooked to Japanese anime. 

Today, I have watched so many different anime movies across different genres. Believe me, there is something about these movies that really pull you in and keep you hooked until the last second. 

Best Japanese Animation Movies: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Animation MoviesGenreEditor’s Rating
Spirited Awayfantasy, drama8.6/10
The Girl Who Leapt Through TimeFantasy, Romance 7.7/10
Your Namefantasy 8.4/10
Akiracyberpunk, science fiction 8/10
Princess Mononokefantasy 8.4/10
My Neighbour TotoroFantasy 8.2/10
5 Centimeters Per SecondRomance, drama 7.6/10
Weathering With Youfantasy 7.5/10
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the movie: Mugen TrainDrama, action, adventure, fantasy 8.4/10
Dragon Ball Zaction, adventure 8.7/10

Also, Japanese animation movies are completely different from American ones. The Anime characters in Japan are much more relatable and you will find a huge number of personalities and appearances in Japanese anime. 

Which is the best Japanese animation movie?

I’ve watched a lot of Japanese animation movies but I found Spirited Away to be the best Japanese animation movies of all time because of the plot, character development, and age rating. 

Spirited Away has received several awards including the best-animated feature in the 75th Academy Awards. The story revolves around a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro who finds herself in a very strange world with her parents. In that world, her parents are transformed into pigs by a witch and her curse. In order to help her parents, Chihiro starts working in the bathhouse under the witch and she changes her name to Sen. It’s available to watch on Amazon Prime.

American characters, on the other hand, do not really portray a comic like realism or the American movies just exaggerates their characters with extremely exaggerated features.

Out of all the best Japanese animation movies that I have watched to date, I have brought you my ten favorite movies of all time. 

If you are new to Japanese anime and would like to begin somewhere, I suggest you watch every movie on this Japanese anime movies list and before you know it, you will be the next huge animation fan.

Best Japanese Animation Movies

Spirited Away

Genre: fantasy, drama | Age Rating: PG | Run Time: 2h 5mins | Director: Hayao Miyazaki

 best Japanese animation movies

This is one of the best Japanese animation movies of all time and is undoubtedly Spirited Away. It is an absolute masterpiece that has gained fame and recognition all across the planet.

 It has also received several awards including the best-animated feature in the 75th Academy Awards. The story revolves around a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro who finds herself in a very strange world with her parents. 

In that world, her parents are transformed into pigs by a witch and her curse. In order to help her parents, Chihiro starts working in the bathhouse under the witch and she changes her name to Sen.

She wants to ensure that she and her family can finally leave the strange world and return back to the human world. It is a movie I can watch anytime and as many times as possible.

Related: 10 Best Japanese Anime Series on Netflix

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Genre: Fantasy, Romance | Age Rating: PG | Run Time: 1h 38 mins | Director: Mamoru Hosoda

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is yet another masterpiece that I can rewatch several times. This is a fantasy movie that is based on a sci-fi novel written by Yashutaka Tsutsui. However, the story in the movie differs slightly from the novel’s story. 

The story in the movie is set twenty years after the world portrayed in the novel. Our movie has three central characters who are all high schoolers. They are Makoto, Kosuke, and Chiaki. 

As this is a story about high school, you will see a lot of similarities that can be seen in any high school and amongst all adolescents. The movie also delves into interests such as love, study, and career. It’s one of the best animation movies I’ve ever watched.

However, this is not a sloppy high school romance. The fantasy in the movie comes from Mikoto who finds out that she can easily travel in the past. When this anime movie was released, time travel was a very unique and new concept. It is probably because of this theme that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time became a hit.

Related: Best Anime with Strong Female Characters

Your Name

Genre: fantasy | Age Rating: TV-PG | Run Time: 1h 46mins | Director: Makoto Shinkai

Your Name was my entry into the world of Japanese animation movies. This is a movie that is popular worldwide for its beautiful storyline. The story of Your Name has two main protagonists: Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu. 

Taki lives in metropolitan Tokyo whereas Mitsuha lives in the countryside. The fun begins when both of our central characters realize that their bodies are switched with each other and this is something that keeps repeating. It’s one of the best Japanese animation movies.

Both of these characters are completely positive about this situation and with the switch happening, they learn more and more about each other. Your Name is a story that takes place in two different places: Tokyo and Taka Yama in Central Japan.

Related: Best Manga Recommendations | Best Manga

Akira

Genre: cyberpunk, science fiction | Age Rating: R | Run Time: 2h 4mins | Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira first came in the form of a Manga and the adaptation as an anime movie only happened in 1988. When the movie was released, the Manga series was not complete. So the anime movie of Akira was based on the first three volumes of the Manga that was published till then. 

It is because of this reason that the climax of the movie was completely different from that of the Manga. The movie shows Tokyo post World War III. Akira is one of the best Japanese animation movies that have so much in it. 

The movie has two main characters: Shotaro Kaneda and his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima. Shotaro Kaneda is a leader of the Japanese biker gang. The story comes to life when we find out that Kaneda gets supernatural powers after his motorcycle accident.

Related: 8 Best Japanese Dramas on Amazon Prime

Princess Mononoke

Genre: fantasy | Age Rating: PG-13 | Run Time: 2h 14mins | Director: Hayao Miyazaki

I am absolutely in love with Princess Mononoke. The movie is an absolute delight to watch. The movie brings us closer to the Muromachi period of Japan. Princess Mononoke is one of the best Japanese animation movies to watch.

With its two central characters, the movie introduces us to Ashitaka and San. Ashitaka is the Prince of a tribe whereas San is a woman who has been raised by wolves in the forest. 

The movie basically focuses on the conflict between humans and nature which is something we see every day in our real life. The movie also shows how Ashitaka warns these two to co-exist peacefully together.

Related: Best Japanese Netflix Shows

My Neighbour Totoro

Genre: Fantasy | Age Rating: G | Run Time: 1h 26mins | Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Anybody who has any idea about anime would know about this movie. I became such a huge fan of My Neighbour Totoro that I got merchandise for myself. This is a fantasy anime that was first released in 1988 at the theatre. 

The movie is set in the Saitama prefecture of Japan in 1950. In the movie, we see a family moving into a rural village. The family consists of an elementary schooler, Satsuki, her younger sister Mei, and their father Tatsuo. 

Satsuki’s mother stays in the hospital near the village. Totoro is a mythical creature whom the kids meet and befriend. 

This is an extremely memorable movie because we see the world as seen by the little girls, and which is full of their childish wonders and curiosity. Looking for the best Japanese animation movies to watch? Pick this one.

5 Centimeters Per Second

Genre: Romance, drama | Age Rating: TV-PG | Run Time: 1h 3mins | Director: Makoto Shinkai

5 Centimeters Per Second is a movie that you must absolutely watch. The movie revolves around the main character Takaki and his love for the heroine Akari. This love happened in elementary school. However, the movie continues and so does this love story. 

In the final part of this movie, we see that both of our central characters have grown up and we finally reach the climax of the movie. 

This movie has no supernatural powers and nor are there action scenes, but the entire storyline is extremely beautiful and soothing. It’s one of the best Japanese animation movies to watch. 

Weathering With You

Genre: fantasy | Age Rating: PG-13 | Run Time: 1h 52mins | Director: Makoto Shinkai

Directed by Makoto Shinkai of 5 Centimeters Per Second, Weathering With You is one of the most viewed movies in 2019. The movie revolves around two young characters. The story follows the life of Hodaka, who is a high schoolboy. 

He runs away from home on a remote Island to Tokyo. Another central character of the movie is a young girl called Hina, who lives in a busy city without her parents.  I love this as its the best Japanese animation movies

They both meet each other and start helping as many people as possible. They help the people who hope for good weather on all of their important days, such as weddings and festivals. Weathering with You is one of the best Japanese animation movies of all time.

Hina and Hodaka do this with the help of their supernatural powers with which they can control the weather. There are several themes running around in the movie, including meteorological phenomena, child-rearing, poverty, and so on.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the movie: Mugen Train

Genre: Drama, action, adventure, fantasy | Age Rating: PG | Run Time: 1h 57mins | Director: Haruo Sotozaki

Best Japanese Animation Movies

Every anime lover across the planet must have heard of Demon Slayer. It is one of the most popular anime movies of all time. Demon Slayer is an anime series that inspired the making of this movie. 

The movie centers around the major characters of Tanjiro, his sister Nezuko, Zenitsu, Inosuke, and Kyojuro Rengoku. All of them fight against strong Demons to save the passengers in a train. It’s amongst the top 10 best Japanese animation movies to watch!

Dragon Ball Z

Genre: action, adventure | Age Rating: PG | Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro

Another popular Japanese anime movie is Dragon Ball Z that is loved by people of all ages across the planet. The movie contains powerful battles between Frieza and Goku and Vegeta with the Super Saiyan God. It’s definitely amongst the best anime movies of all time. 

Best Japanese Animation Movies Recommendations

I have watched countless of the best Japanese animation movies and with all of that, I can tell you that it really is worth your entire time. If you would like to begin somewhere, I would recommend that you watch My Neighbour Totoro and Your Name.

Both of these movies will beautifully let you into the world of Japanese animation and you will get addicted. Hope you enjoyed watching my recommendations of the best Japanese Animation Movies.

Also Read:

  1. Japanese Scary Stories
  2. Yurei Japanese Ghost Tales
Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
5

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