As a writer living in Toronto, there is nothing more exciting than the Toronto International Film Festival, which is currently underway. Every year, a wonderful assortment of films is put on display in what I consider to be one of the more prominent cultural events in this city.
This year, I’m watching two films, one of which is From Up On Poppy Hill, by Goro Miyazaki, the son of acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. I somewhat liked his first offering, Tales from Earthsea, despite its mixed reviews, but as you’ll see from this two-part post, it didn’t make my top 10.
Having said that, this post was perfectly planned to be posted while TIFF is in full swing, and in the spirit of appreciating the feature-length medium, a top ten list of anime films is pretty damn fun to write, despite being so difficult to rank. Like ghostlightning’s top 30, I’m going to be ranking these based more on my own personal experiences and tastes, and not as much on overall critical acclaim.
That said, here’s the countdown of my favourite ten anime films of all time, from #10 to #6.
10. Pokémon: the Movie 2000
Though the water’s Great Guardian shall arise to quell the fighting alone its song will fail. Thus the Earth shall turn to ash.
I’m listing a pokémon movie of all things in my top ten solely on the nostalgia and positive experiences that this movie provided, and as a movie, it represents the pokemon franchise as a whole, as well as all other tie-in movies for series that I also greatly enjoy, such as Gurren Lagann, Evangelion, and even shonen titles such as Naruto and One Piece, who have the odd movie here and there that are actually pretty damned good.
Going back to pokémon, watching the show as a kid, I easily bought in to Ash Katchem’s simple dream of being the very best, like no one ever was. With these movies, Ash goes through adventures that transcends mere pokemon training, and turns his everyday trainer life, one that countless others also lead, into something quite amazing.
Through these movies, he becomes a part of something grander than himself, and even though it doesn’t get him anywhere closer to that dream, he forges his own legend for himself. Look no further than the 2K movie to showcase this. In a brilliant prophetic twist, Ash is revealed as the chosen one who will save the world from utter destruction. It was his first foray into chosen one status (“and the world will turn to Ash,”) and it remains today as one of my favourite ways of handling the prophecy and chosen one trope.
9. Perfect Blue
You bad girl… you have to follow the script!
While I absolutely adore Satoshi Kon’s work, and at times put him on an unrealistically high pedastal, I can safely say that Perfect Blue was my least favourite film of his. Having mentioned that, to be the least favourite film of a particular director but still nab number nine on a top ten is telling of the extent of my appreciation for Mr. Kon.
His directorial style of blurring the lines of reality and illusion is impeccable, and masterfully weaved in different ways. In Perfect Blue, he does it with regards to the psychology of a pop Idol. With each passing minute, the audience’s perception through Mima gradually becomes more horrid as a situation with a stalker goes wildly out of control. It’s the textbook example of Kon’s style, even though this particular case takes on a horrific light.
The only reason why I’m not as ecstatic about this film compared to his others is that I’m not really that into the psychological thriller genre. It puts me off-guard, and tortures at my soul and I can’t sleep for weeks on end without wondering if I’m any less sane than the characters that I observe for entertainment. What does it say about me that I would take pleasure in someone else’s mental anguish? The answer is, for many people, that I don’t take pleasure in it, which leaves me to only be entertained by the characters and concepts as they are, within the world of writing and storytelling. It’s the only way I can sleep soundly at night.
8. Spirited Away
Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can’t remember.
I’m going to admit straightforwardly that I am not a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki. His distinct storytelling style and recurring themes don’t mesh well with my own. If I had to provide two words to describe my interpretation of him as a director and writer, it would probably be “artistically preachy.” It’s a bit weird, since I don’t actually hate him or anything. He’s done a lot for spreading Japanese animation to North America, and I’m sure that many “casual” viewers have entered into the world of anime through his films. He’s the Walt Disney to Satoshi Kon’s Stanley Kubrick, and even I can appreciate the subtle nuances of Disney plots from time to time.
That said, Spirited Away is by far his most successful work, and my personal favourite of his. It’s a fantastic take on some of the concepts from Alice in Wonderland, and is packaged in a refined story featuring perhaps the most memorable 10-year-old child that I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ll ever meet a Chihiro in real life, but somehow I’m convinced that any girl who goes through the same experiences that Chihiro did will come out all the better, and all the stronger.
I’ve only watched Spirited Away twice, but each watching experience is always heavy. I believe it’s due to Miyazaki’s strong storytelling voice that comes out in his films. I can appreciate the weight of the experience, but I can’t see myself watching this movie repeatedly without having a worse opinion of it. Thus, Spirited Away cautiously rests at number eight.
Going through the titles on this list, we’ve gone from a movie tie-in for a children’s video game, to a mindscrew nightmare fuel film, to a weighty spiritual dream, all the way to what I interpret as a cross between Initial D and Gurren Lagann. Take everything you know about racing, action, sex, violence, and all of the manly goodies, and crank it up to eleven. You get something that has very little along the lines of a plot, but reeks of style and beyond-the-impossible hot-blooded spirit that is utterly unrivaled by any other film.
Redline is a movie that engages in sexual intercourse with your eyes and ears. The art style is wholly its own, the music is mind-shattering with its ruthless beats and devilish instrumentation. Your mind is thrown in every single direction due to how outrageous everything is, and yet it simply works. If you look at each element of Redline by itself, you will probably be offended by its inclusion. But the movie packages all of its bad, stamps it with Rule of Cool, and suddenly, it becomes not only a refuge in audacity, but rather a refuge for everything audacious.
I’ve watched this movie at least three times since it came out, and unsurprisingly, the first two viewings were within the very same day, with SCCSAV. Without the experience of watching this with other awesome individuals, Redline would still be ranked, but the experience of watching it is enough to warrant this spot as number 7. It’s one thing to have your mind blown; it’s another to compare the splatter patterns with that of your friends.
6. Tokyo Godfathers
This is a Christmas present from God! She’s our baby!
Out of all the movies on this list, I found that Tokyo Godfathers was the hardest to rank. Despite being a Kon film, it detoured slightly from his signature style, and settled for a sort of magical realism that drives the plot and its finely crafted characters. There’s a miraculous tone about it that not only sets it apart from other Kon films, but rather other films in general. And since my lucky number happens to be 6, I feel that it’s appropriate (or maybe fate) that Tokyo Godfathers belongs to the 6-spot.
What I absolutely adore about this film is that despite the mood of the film being Christmaslike and family-centric, Kon still manages to defy any and all notions that anime is only meant for children. Of the three main characters, one is a complete asshole, another is a transvestite, and another is a runaway involved with violence at home. The apparent, yet not too blatant sexual innuendo in the film is nothing to to sneeze at either. However, despite all of this, Kon still manages to incorporate a universal message of hope that is only fitting for a Christmas movie of its kind.
While I’ve made it a personal tradition to watch this movie during the holidays, one doesn’t need to watch this during Christmas to capture its spirit. Hope is universal, even in a country that doesn’t even think of Christmas as a spiritual holiday. It’s one of few movies that not only gets away with the deus ex machina ending, but thrives on it to hammer the point across. It’s a worthwhile watch, and if anyone ever comes to me asking for a non-genre movie suggestion, the first film I tell them is always Tokyo Godfathers.
This List of BeauTIFFul Films
There’s still plenty of TIFF to go around, so expect my top five to come around by the end of the week. Expect the other two Kon films to be in there, but in which positions? And what of the other three movies? You’ll have to wait until next time. I assure you, even with some of the surprise inclusions in this list, there are still a few more to come.