The world of sci-fi anime is a vast one, with hundreds of films in circulation since the mediums inception in the 1960’s, there is a lot of places to start watching. So, if you are looking for somewhere to start, but don’t know where, look no further. While some people might give you a list of films to see that contain Akira (Otomo, 1988) , The Girl Who Lept Through Time (Hosoda, 2006), or the Evangelion franchise reboots, I am here to give you a list of 3  lesser known films from the sci-fi genre that will not only challenge you and expose you to the best the genre has to offer, but hopefully give you an introduction to some of the key figures of the anime industry. 

 

1. Voices of a Distant Star (Shinkai, 2002)     

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Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0__ctDAL4nQ

The first film I was to talk about is from the mecha subgenre on animation. Basically, what these films usually consist of is massive robots beating the crud out of each other in hype-laced space battles, the american film Pacific Rim (Del Toro, 2013) takes a lot of influence from the anime mecha subgenre. ¹ 

I want to focus on a very different film, that uses the mecha subgenre in a very different, subversive way. Voices of a Distant Star is a 25 minute long short film from my favorite director Makoto Shinkai.

Instead of crafting a deep space battle epic, Shinkai focuses on the relationship between 15 year old Mikako  and her boyfriend Makoto, who are separated when Mikako is drafted to go off and fight in space.

The film digs deep into the struggles their relationship undergoes as the couple is literally separated by space and time, and as Makoto slowly grows into a man, Mikako still remains a young lady as a result of the effects of space travel on her body.

The film is a fascinating concept, and this spin on the genre is really interesting. Shinkai is a quickly rising up-and-comer in the industry and the amazing visuals and touching storytelling displayed in this film do a great job of establishing Shinkai’s bright future in the industry.

 

2. Paprika  (Kon, 2006)

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Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZKXXNCkrf4

The next film that I wanted to talk about has a plot that might sound somewhat familiar. Imagine a world where technology allows people to enter the dreams of others. Thereby giving people the ability to affect other people through their dreams and cause them to do things.

Sound familiar?

This is essentially the plot to Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), however, the film I am about to talk about tackled this same exact conflict, but did it four years earlier than Inception, and that film is Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece: Paprika.²

Paprika is the animation genre used to it’s full potential. From the lucid, surrealistic dream sequences, to the wide arrange of colors used throughout the film, this movie looks amazing.

Revolving around a dream therapist who is trying to prevent a madman from wreaking havoc in the minds of the sleeping public, this film is filled with just as much tension and intrigue as it is beauty, and that is saying something.

The director of Paprika, Satoshi Kon, is widely considered to be one of the biggest visionaries in the history of animation. His imagination and animation style and talent matched were matched only by his ability to create intense scenes of action and drama. Sadly, Kon passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, having only directed four feature films, the last of which being Paprika.

Regardless of this, Kon’s works have had a massive influence on the animation industry, and the american film industry, inspiring many films including Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010).

3. Nausicaa Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984)

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Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zhLBe319KE

Chances are even if you aren’t a fan of anime, you have probably heard of, or seen, the works of the amazing Hayao Miyazaki. The director of legendary works like Spirited Away (2001), Princess Mononoke (1996), or My Neighbor Totoro (1993) has been tantalizing international audiences since the late 1980’s.

However, while Miyazaki’s main hits like the films listed above have gained various levels of international prestige and acclaim, one of Miyazaki’s earliest and best films is often left in the dust. And that film, is his post-apocalyptic epic, Nausicaa Valley of the Wind.

Nausicaa Valley of the Wind follows the story of a headstrong and adventurous young princess who has grown up on the outskirts of a post apocalyptic wasteland, haunted by giant irradiated creatures that could level whole cities if disturbed.

After the Princess’ peaceful valley is invaded, she is forced to flee to the wasteland, and goes on an adventure that will change the course of her life, and the world around her forever.

This film is a spectacle to behold. Miyazaki’s beautiful animation and use of cutout-esque cel animation for some scenes and creatures was not only revolutionary, but majestic to take in. It really does give a great depiction as to why Miyazaki is the godfather of anime, and why he is considered one of the best of all time.³

 

Hopefully this list gave you a few more movies to watch, as well as expanded your knowledge of some of the key figures of the anime industry’s past, as well as a great example of its future.  Have a great week, and leave a comment down below if you want to further discuss any of the films or directors I have listed above, or anything else pertaining to the anime industry.  

 

References:

  1. http://eugenewoodbury.blogspot.com/2006/03/voices-of-distant-star.html
  2. https://farfromthesilverscreen.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/anime-vs-hollywood-paprika-inception/
  3. https://www.madman.com.au/news/the-influence-and-legacy-of-hayao-miyazaki/

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Three Lesser Known Sci-Fi Anime Films That Are Great Starter Films

  1. I really had no idea that a lot of Hollywood made, American films started as Japanese anime films or at least draw ideas from anime films. Ghost in the Shell that you discussed last week turning into a live action thriller, Pacific Rim “taking a lot of influence from” Voices of a Distant Star and Paprika sharing the same plot premise as Inception, only 4 years earlier. Seeing that my knowledge of films comes only from Hollywood and a handful independent films, I enjoy reading about genres and topic outside of my norm. Looking forward to reading more from your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you are liking the blog, there is a lot more in store for you as far as recommendations go. Animation allows filmmakers to go into new realms and try out new ideas for a fraction of the cost that it would take those same ideas to be made in live action, so the medium as a whole is filled with interesting ideas to be explored.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paprika looks like an interesting film, I’ll have to check it out! I’m eager to see what sorts of parallels there are with it and Inception. I’ve definitely seen Spirited Away, and it would be cool to check out more of Miyazaki’s work. The concept behind Nausicaa Valley of the Wind also intrigues me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paprika is one of the most visually stimulating film experiences I have ever had. Satoshi Kon also directed a stalker/thriller called Perfect Blue which is my favorite movie of all time. And if you want more of Miyazaki’s stuff, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Movie Castle, and Castle in the Sky are my three favorites of his.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. I never knew that movies like Inception and Black Swan were inspired through ideas from amine films. I guess the people off Hollywood really aren’t as creative as I have given them credit to be. Anyways, these all sound like really interesting movies and I may just have to check them out. I am especially intrigued by Paprika.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as creativity in Hollywood goes: often times production companies don’t want to take a chance on spending millions of dollars on a film if it can’t do well and make them money, so they often turn to literature and other parts of the world for inspiration! And you should see Paprika, it is in the school library and I will never not recommend it to people.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Landen,

    I had no idea American films had so much influence from Anime films and directors. I knew movies like The Grudge were based on Japanese films though. I guess this goes to show that Hollywood seems to be out of their own ideas. I haven’t seen Inception, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Black Swan was also a really cool, crazy film. After watching the trailers to these films I could definitely see myself watching Paprika. All of these films sound like they have an interesting plotline though. I liked that you spoke about how these are good starter films, but also different from the ordinary films many people may offer you. Thanks for the advice!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No problem! I tried to recommend films that are easily accessible, but also not well known. Our library has both Paprika and Nausicca if you are interested in checking either out! Paprika is a super cool experience to sit back and take in. It is a lot more psychological than inception in some ways, and also a lot more vibrant in terms of visuals.

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  5. I think it’s so cool that anime films could inspire directors for big-time Hollywood blockbusters, who would have thought?! Voices of the Distant Star sounds like a very appealing film, since I’m all about a good love story. Especially with a good twist. I may have to check it out! Can’t wait to see what you post next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And Voices of a Distant Star is great because it is only 25 minutes long! So it’s something you can watch during a homework break or something, and it is just plain beautiful.

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  6. Right off the bat I need to say I know nothing about anime. I had a close friend when I was in middle school that liked anime so I had seen an episode or two of some show that the characters all portrayed different countries, that show was kind of humorous to me. But I have never heard of any of these movies or directors/creators. I found the 2nd movie sort of interesting because of it beating inception to it’s own plot kind of idea. Do you believe that inception was based off of this movie at all? Or was it just a coincidence?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christopher Nolan has actually given credit to Paprika for his inspiration for Inception. The anime industry is constantly trying out different sci-fi ideas in ways that Hollywood doesn’t necessarily pursue because the cost-risk ratio of original sci-fi products in Hollywood outweighs potential investment opportunities!

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  7. I am glad you included the trailers to each movie, because it was nice to watch the trailer first then read your summary of each film. Nausicaa Valley of the Wind is one of my favorite amine. It has such an interesting take on the apocalypse and I love how it has a female lead. It’s interesting to see Miyazaki have so many heroines, especially back in the early 80s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I feel like trailers help because still frames from anime can only present so much information. Nausicaa was like his original shojou heroine in many ways! That whole movie is just a spectacle, as far as scale and animation quality goes.

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  8. Wow, I really had no clue how many of these movies from hollywood were been inspired by amines. It was interesting clicking the links and watching the brief trailers of what you wrote about. Growing up, my brother was a huge fan of amines and I’m excited to share your blog with him. I’m sure he will definitely love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You did a great job with describing the movies so people who aren’t fans of anime will be able to relate to their own tastes in movies. I feel like people dismiss anime because it is animated even though it’s really just another genre like a comedy or drama would be. Reading your review for each movie it was no different than reading a review for a live action movie which is good because as I’m sure you know, that shouldn’t be the point of what makes it a good movie. Fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! I really want to try to change people’s minds about the stigma of anime, because it can sometimes be associated with children’s programming just because it is animated, when the medium actually contains some of the most thought provoking cinematic experiences that I have had. I am really glad you like the blog!

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