My favorite Japanese anime movies

Movie time at home - decor

Every now and then, I like wrapping myself in a blanket and spend a whole afternoon watching movies. Japanese animes have the power to awake the child in me like no other animated movie does. The amazing thing about Japanese animes is that they combine an incredible soundtrack with a profound story and a message that often makes the whole thing a magic piece of art.

In honour of the child that still lies in each of us, I'd like to share with you my favourites.

Grave of the fireflies picture

Grave of the Fireflies

I cried so much the first time I watched Grave of the fireflies and I still cry every time I have the courage to watch it till the end. Everything about this movie is beautiful yet heartbreaking at the same time. The brother and sister end up alone in the(ir) world because of war and in an abandoned place, their only entertainment is the symbolic light of the fireflies. This story is told in a poetic and a very appealing way. 

The movie captures the reality of war in such a genuine way. It leaves one hopeless, sad, disturbed and yet the love and affection that reflect all along are the most pure emotions. The soundtrack and atmosphere add to the movie's beauty. Grave of the fireflies is my number one favorite anime, a masterpiece.

Storyline ( Taking place toward the end of World War II in Japan, Grave of the Fireflies is the poignant tale of the relationship between two orphaned children, Seita and his younger sister Setsuko. (...) As a result, they are forced to try to survive amidst widespread famine and the callous indifference of their countrymen (some of whom are their own extended family members).

Princess Mononoke picture

Princess Mononoke

It is one of the best anime movies, there is so much to say. The nature spirits, deities and animals that are represented in quite a rude way. The prince Ashitaka and Mononoke are two deep and interesting characters. Mononoke is a strong and independant princess that has a purpose in life. Ecology is the main theme of this anime in which Ashitaka tries to find a balance between human civilization and nature.

Unlike other classics, many scenes in Princess Mononoke are gruesome. Though this is this violence that gives the story its significance. Indeed it isn't a cute and naive animated movie that teaches children to respect our environment and love baby pandas. Not at all. To me, the counterbalance between the message, the nature's beauty and the dark instincts, the blood sprays etc. make the movie's essence more significant. I had to watch Princess Mononoke several times before I truly appreciated its value.

Storyline ( Princess Mononoke follows the journey of the last Emishi prince, Ashitaka, and his attempts to make peace between the human settlement, Irontown, and the creatures living in the forest that surrounds it.

Spirited Away movie picture

Spirited Away 

It is the first Japanese anime I watched so it has a special place in my heart. Spirited Away is particularly rich in characters and decors. We follow Chihiro's journey, the 10-year-old protagonist, and discover the magic world together with her. The spirits / monsters are weird and fascinating, the scenes are funny, some are more poetic. The classic ingredients to make a wonderful anime!

However, the first time I watched Spirited Away, they were some things I didn't really understand so I had to read full reviews to get the cultural meanings and fully appreciate it. Other than that, I like the transformation of Chihiro who was first a typical modern child (spoiled, ill-mannered, grumpy) and then while evolving in the challenging spirit world, she becomes less frivolous and more respectful and dow to earth. She eventually connects to her inner self in a beautiful way...   

Storyline ( Chihiro is a whiny, pessimistic child who is annoyed about having to move to a new town. While driving to their new house, Chihiro's father attempts to follow a shortcut; they subsequently lose their way and come across a mysterious tunnel which leads to what appears to be an abandoned theme park, lined with seemingly empty restaurants. (...) A mysterious boy named Haku appears (...). He smuggles her into a large bathhouse owned and operated by the witch Yubaba, where thousands of spirits come to refresh themselves.

Wolf Children movie picture

Wolf Children

I still remember the first time I watched Wolf Children, I switched off my computer feeling emotionally overwhelmed. The beautiful soundtracks played a role, for sure, but at this specific time of my life, the movie's main theme hit me. Wolf Children talks about the sensitive period of adolescence and also the time an individual makes decisions on what adult they want to be and if they are capable of fully embrace their difference. I find these universal concerns beautifully captured in this family drama. 

Storyline (imbd): College student Hana falls in love with another student who turns out to be a werewolf, who dies in an accident after their second child. Hana moves to the rural countryside where her husband grew up to raise her two werewolf children. 


Here are my favourite animes so far. As animes are made for a Japanese audience in the first place, we, as foreigners, often need to document ourselves about Japanese culture in order to catch the true meanings of the symbols etc. Indeed, they teach us a lot about their culture while they approach universal themes. This is the reason why I enjoy extending the experience by reading full reviews and I recommend you to do the same!