Japanese anime movies to watch at home


20 Japanese anime movies to watch when social distancing
Japanese anime movies to watch at home
Image adapted from (left to right): Toho, Toho, Kadokawa Herald Pictures

Just when we thought 2020 would be our year – filled with fun, travel, and adventure – life takes us on a very different and unexpected road. And here we are, stuck at home and encouraged not to go out because of COVID-19.

Is that necessarily a bad thing, though? Some of us introverts have been practising social distancing before it was even a thing. It’s also a great excuse to finally catch up on those Japanese anime movies that we’ve always wanted to watch, but never got the chance to. In case you’ve never watched anime in your life, or you’re a seasoned fan looking for a taste-breaker, we’ve come up with a good list of must-watch Japanese anime movies for newbies and anime fans alike.


1. Spirited Away (2001)


Spirited Away top anime movies
Image credits: IMDb

Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl, finds herself trapped in an underworld of sorts, where she encounters strange spirits and flying witches. After her parents are turned into pigs, she must undertake a journey to free her family and return to the human world.

Spirited Away
Image credits: IMDb

Spirited Away has won many awards, including being the first anime film to win an Academy Award. And since it’s one of the most iconic Japanese anime movies, most of us have watched it at least once. But it’s great to rewatch it and get onboard the feels train. And the train ferrying the spirits too, of course.

Spirited Away (Original Japanese Version)
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Spirited Away (Original Japanese Version)

 

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Family, Mystery
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime


2. Weathering With You (2019)


Weathering With You top anime movies
Image credits: IMDb

Hodaka is a high school student who runs away from his island home to Tokyo, but goes broke almost immediately. After days of living alone, he is offered a job at a dodgy occult magazine. Along the way, he befriends a girl with a mysterious and incredible power – she can clear the skies and stop the endless raining in Tokyo. Together, they strive to change the lives that fate had in store for them.

Weathering With You
Image credits: IMDb

Weathering With You is Makoto Shinkai’s latest animated movie, again showcasing beautiful life-like animation and a great soundtrack. It’s no wonder it won the Animation of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Music in the 43rd Japan Academy Prize.

Weathering With You [Official Subtitled Trailer, GKIDS]
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Weathering With You [Official Subtitled Trailer, GKIDS]

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Available on: Blu-ray from 27 May 2020 onwards


3. Princess Mononoke (1997)


Princess Mononoke top anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

Princess Mononoke is set in the 14th century, when gods, nature, and humans lived together in harmony.

Cursed by a boar god, Ashitaka – a young prince – embarks on a journey to the West to seek a cure. Along the way, he encounters humans encroaching on a forest as their civilisation grows, as well as San, a young wolf-girl who fights to protect the forest. Ashitaka tries to negotiate for peace between both sides.

An interesting thing to note is that like other films from Studio Ghibli, there are no truly evil characters in Princess Mononoke. Instead, the struggle between environmentalism and social progress is highlighted.

Princess Mononoke (Original Japanese Version)
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Princess Mononoke (Original Japanese Version)

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

4. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost in the Shell
Image credits: IMDb

No, we aren’t talking about the one with Scarlett Johansson in it.

The year is 2029, and humans have advanced to the stage of improving their bodies with cybernetics. Counter-cyber terrorist organisation Public Security Sector 9, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, is tasked to stop a brain hacker, known as the ‘Puppet Master’, as he commits a series of crimes with unwitting pawns.

Ghost in the Shell anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

Ghost in the Shell is a cornerstone film of the cyberpunk genre and has heavily influenced the Wachowski siblings in their work, The Matrix.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) HD TRAILER
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Ghost in the Shell (1995) HD TRAILER

Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Psychological
Available on: Amazon Prime


5. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)


My Neighbour Totoro anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

Set in 1958, My Neighbour Totoro follows a university professor and his daughters, Satsuki and Mei, as they move to the countryside to be closer to their ill mother, who has been hospitalised. They befriend the spirits that inhabit the surrounding forest and go on adventures together.

What makes this movie so memorable is the way the world is portrayed through the eyes of the girls, with their childish wonder and curiosity. Along with Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro is probably one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most iconic films.

The film won multiple awards, including the Animage Anime Awards Grand Prix Prize, Blue Ribbon Awards Special Award, and the Kinema Junpo Awards Best Film, just to name a few.

My Neighbor Totoro - Official Trailer
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My Neighbor Totoro - Official Trailer

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Family
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime


6. Wolf Children (2012)


Wolf Children
Image credits: IMDb

Hana is a young mother left to raise her son and daughter after her werewolf husband dies unexpectedly. The film follows the trio as the half-wolf children attend school in the countryside.

This heartwarming tale of a mother and her family snagged the 2013 Japan Academy Prize Animation of the Year, and Audience Award at the 2013 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

REEL ANIME 2012: WOLF CHILDREN TRAILER (English Subtitles) [HD]
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REEL ANIME 2012: WOLF CHILDREN TRAILER (English Subtitles) [HD]

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Family
Available on: Amazon Prime


7. Your Name (2016)


Your Name anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

Two highschool students, Mitsuha and Taki, live completely different lives in separate parts of Japan. However, they suddenly switched bodies while they were asleep. This continues to occur randomly, and the two start to form a peculiar bond.

Your Name
Image credits: IMDb

Like Makoto Shinkai’s other works, the film features real-life locations and an award-winning soundtrack list. It was awarded Best Screenplay at the 11th Asian Film Awards, and the Animation of the Year at the 40th Japan Academy Prize.

Prepare a box of tissues for this one – it’s a real tearjerker.

Your Name - Trailer [English Subtitled]
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Your Name - Trailer [English Subtitled]

Genre: Drama, Romance
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes


8. Ponyo (2008)


Ponyo anime
Image credits: IMDb

Ponyo, a goldfish-like creature, dreams of becoming a girl. Using magic, she becomes a real girl and visits the dry land before falling in love with a young boy, Sosuke.

However, Ponyo is actually the daughter of a powerful sea wizard and an enchanting sea goddess. The wizard sends huge waves to the land in hopes of finding his daughter, but the tidal waves threaten to sink the coastal town Sosuke lives on.

Ponyo
Image credits: IMDb

Ponyo is Hayao Miyazaki’s even more fantastical take on The Little Mermaid. The movie is a real visual feast, with an award-winning soundtrack to boot.

Ponyo (Original Japanese Version)
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Ponyo (Original Japanese Version)

Genre: Fantasy, Family, Adventure
Available on: Amazon Prime


9. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind anime
Image credits: IMDb

In a post-apocalyptic future, the Valley of the Wind is one of the few hospitable environments left on Earth. The young and courageous Princess Nausicaä leads giant insects to protect the Valley from the toxic and dangerous jungle. Princess Nausicaä also hopes to reconcile humanity and nature together.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has been cited as an inspiration for other creators, such as Final Fantasy’s creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Official Trailer
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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Official Trailer

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime


10. Akira (1988)


Akira top japanese anime movies
Image credits: IMDb

In a dystopian future, Shotaro Kaneda is a leader of a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo. When his childhood friend develops telekinetic powers after an accident, Kaneda finds himself in a secret military plot that threatens the peace of Neo-Tokyo.

Considered one of the greatest anime movies of all time, Akira has influenced other anime, such as Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop, as well as Hollywood films such as The Matrix and The Dark Knight.

Interestingly, the film was set in 2019.

Akira (アキラ) Japanese Theatrical Trailer 1
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Akira (アキラ) Japanese Theatrical Trailer 1

Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Available on: Amazon Prime


11. Castle In The Sky (1986)


Castle in the Sky
Image credits: IMDb

A young orphan, Sheeta, escapes from imprisonment with the help of a magic crystal. Together with a fellow orphan, a young boy named Pazu, the duo race against pirates in search of the mystical floating city, Laputa.

While not as well-known as Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky is another fantastical movie straight from Hayao Miyazaki’s illustrious imagination.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky - Official Trailer
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Laputa: Castle in the Sky - Official Trailer

Genre: Fantasy, Family, Adventure
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime


12. The Garden of Words (2013)


The Garden of Words top anime movies
Image credits: IMDb

Takao is an aspiring 15-year old shoemaker who one day decides to skip school to sketch at a garden. He meets a 27-year old woman, Yukino, and opens up to her. The duo begin to meet more frequently, but only by chance and on rainy days. As their relationship deepens, they begin to discover shared feelings of alienation from society, as well as romantic feelings for each other.

Once again, Makoto Shinkai boasts life-like visuals and a great soundtrack; the storyline also has the recurring theme of loneliness and star-crossed lovers.

The Garden of Words is set in Shinjuku Gyoen, a real-life park in Shinjuku.

『言の葉の庭』 予告篇
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『言の葉の庭』 予告篇 "The Garden of Words" Trailer

Genre: Drama, Romance
Available on: Amazon Prime


13. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)


The Girl Who Leapt Through Time anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

17-year old Makoto Konno was an average high school student, until she discovered that she has the ability to literally ‘leap’ backwards in time. Using her newfound ability to travel through time, she sets out to solve her problems – often quite flippantly. Soon, more problems arise and she realises that time travel isn’t the easy way out of her problems.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a coming-of-age film, and also a loose sequel to the 1967 novel of the same name. It won the 2006 Sitges Film Festival Best Animated Film, and the 2007 Japan Academy Prize Animation of the Year.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - Anime Trailer - English Sub
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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - Anime Trailer - English Sub

Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Fantasy
Available on: Amazon Prime


14. 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)


5 Centimeters per Second anime movie
Image credits: IMDb

Chronicled over three parts, 5 Centimeters per Second documents Takaki Tono’s unrealised relationship with his childhood friend, Akari, and a lonely life in a big city as he comes of age.

5 Centimeters per Second won the Lancia Platinum Grand Prize at the Future Film Festival, and the Best Animated Feature Film at the 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

5 Centimeters Per Second Trailer
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5 Centimeters Per Second Trailer

Genre: Drama, Romance
Available on: Amazon Prime


15. Paprika (2006)


Paprika
Image credits: IMDb

Paprika, a therapist, uses machines to record and enter the dreams of her patients. When one of the machines is stolen, havoc is unleashed upon the waking world, and it is up to Paprika to recover it.

See familiar scenes in the movie? That’s no coincidence – Paprika was also an inspiration for Inception (2010). The movie also bagged the Golden Lion (Best Film) at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival.

Paprika Trailer (HD 1080p)
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Paprika Trailer (HD 1080p)

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Drama, Science Fiction
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes


16. Summer Wars (2009)


Summer Wars Top Anime Movies
Image credits: IMDb

Kenji is a young math genius who’s asked by a schoolmate to act as a fake fiancé at her family reunion. Things take a strange turn when he solves a complex mathematical equation from a rogue email, and accidentally unleashes a virtual world’s artificial intelligence that’s bent on destroying the real world.

Genre: Action, Adventure
Available on: Amazon Prime


17. Perfect Blue (1997)


Perfect Blue Anime Movie
Image credits: IMDb

Mima Kirigoe is a retired member of a Japanese pop-idol group, and has been pursuing a career in acting. Mima then finds herself a target of stalking by an obsessive fan. As the divide between her public and private life begins to blur, her sense of reality starts to slip past her fingers.

Perfect Blue is a true cult-classic and has influenced many other psychological thrillers, such as Inception (2010), in Hollywood. For example, Requiem for a Dream (2000) features a shot-for-shot remake of a scene in Perfect Blue.

Perfect Blue - Trailer
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Perfect Blue - Trailer

Genre: Thriller, Psychological, Horror
Available on: Amazon Prime


18. Redline (2009)


Redline Anime
Image credits: IMDb

Daredevil racer, JP, is ready to compete in the most popular and dangerous race in the entire galaxy. The race is only held once every five years, and the racers will stop at nothing to win.

To win the race, however, JP must outsmart the mafia, the authorities, and the other racers, who are more than willing to kill to win.

An exhilarating movie like no other, Redline is the one for cyberpunk and racing fans.

Redline Official trailer
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Redline Official trailer

Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Available on: Amazon Prime


19. Ocean Waves (1993)


Ocean Waves anime
Image credits: IMDb

A love triangle unfolds between two friends and a transfer student from Tokyo, which tests their friendship. This is an underrated film made by the younger staff of Studio Ghibli.

Ocean Waves
Image credits: IMDb

Ocean Waves Official US Release Trailer (2017) - Ghibli Movie
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Ocean Waves Official US Release Trailer (2017) - Ghibli Movie

Genre: Drama, Romance
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime


20. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)


Howl's Moving Castle
Image credits: IMDb

A young woman, Sophie, is cursed with the body of an old woman by a witch. Her only hope lies with a young wizard, Howl, who lives in a walking castle. She then finds herself caught up in a war, and Howl’s reluctance to fight for the King.

Howl’s Moving Castle is Hayao Miyazaki’s commentary on the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and his negative thoughts towards it.

Howl’s Moving Castle (Original Japanese Version)
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Howl’s Moving Castle (Original Japanese Version)

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Available on: Amazon Prime


Top Japanese anime movies


It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned fan of anime or a total newcomer, because these Japanese anime movies will keep you enthralled while we ride out the worst of COVID-19. Stay safe and stay inside, everyone!

Here are other articles to check out for the next time you can scoot off to Japan: