Whether you consider yourself an otaku or have never watched an anime in your life, this list might be just what you need.
From niche picks and oldies that marked entire generations, to the best of what Japanese animation has to offer nowadays: there is something for all tastes. Our contributors each selected one of their favourite animes. Funnily enough, all of them ended up being directly or indirectly linked to the theme of war! Well, we hope you’ll enjoy our favourite animes about war!
By Nicole Rees-Williams
Oblivious to the world of anime until last month, I must admit I didn’t quite grasp the hype. I had given the odd cheesy Netflix series a try, but nothing seemed to catch my attention enough to continue watching. That is until the Studio Ghibli films were added this year.
I initially watched a couple of the films that are typically more popular in the west such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Whilst they were beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable, none resonated with me as much as Castle in the Sky (1986).
The plot follows a young girl, Sheeta, who seems to possess powers she was unaware of. After being kidnapped in an airship, a thrilling battle sequence causes Sheeta to fall from the ship into a small mining town where she meets Pazu, and they embark on a thrilling journey to find the legendary island of Laputa.
The town in the film is designed to look like a Welsh mining town that Miyazaki visited in 1984. To be Welsh and watch such a beautiful story inspired by your own home was so special.
Though the aspect of a magical castle in the sky was undoubtedly exciting, what really made me love this film was the small mining town and the people who lived there. Hayao Miyazaki was inspired to create this film after he visited a welsh mining town during the strikes in 1984. Miyazaki claimed he admired the way the welsh community ‘battled to save their way of life.’ The town in the film is designed to look like the Welsh towns that Miyazaki experienced on his trip, and the classic welsh sense of community is easily detectable.It is not often that Wales is portrayed in film or television, especially in a good light. So, to be Welsh and watch such a beautiful, touching story inspired by your own home made by a studio from a completely different culture was so special and unique that it has made Castle in the Sky my favourite anime.
By Caleb Carter
Evangelion is a mysterious, abrasive and sometimes infuriating journey but, always, its numerous floating arms are pinned down by an empathic understanding of the human condition.
Neon Genesis: Evangelion stands, still after 25 years, a perennially elusive monolith. Mirroring its wary protagonist’s donning of a robotic suit of armour, Evangelion deceptively inserts itself into the mecha/kaiju action genre that scatters Japanese culture before mapping a slow, introspective transgression to a centre as gooey, volatile and amorphous as its lead character. Over the course of this gradual subversion, it falls apart. Pressed to diamond by an intense working schedule and infected by the tendrils of Anno’s personal mental health issues, Evangelion tears at the seams from its first moments. In the beginning, this manifests in curiously vanguard editing choices that share more in common with the rude splintering of a Godard cut than traditional anime but as it progresses, the show becomes progressively psychedelic, densely philosophical (bludgeoned into myth at every corner by Judeo-Christian imagery) and heart-rending. By its final two episodes, Evangelion is an out-and-out art piece, interpretive and kaleidoscopically disturbing. Whether any of this flare came about by design or byway of studio pressure for a quick turnaround, interrogating artistic intent only adds to the shows enigma, and will be further complicated by shattering fourth-wall breaks and self-reflexive musings through moments in which the show ostensibly becomes a trumpet heralding Anno’s own metaphysical wall carvings. Cramming a complete, epistemological disintegration into 4 and a bit hours is one thing, to complete this atop an ensemble character arc against a backdrop of dystopian tinkering and moral pondering is another… the ambition of Annostands as tall as his Promethean icons. At times, it even exceeds him. The final 2 episodes are so perplexing, in fact, that Anno received death threats over his ending, and after high demand and sourcing of financing, he sought to remake it.
The result, End of Evangelion, is an action masterpiece like nothing you’ve seen. Distressingly violent, it retells the final events of the series in a ludicrously manic hour and a half, furiously exploding the sublimated religious elements into a cosmic horror that watches the Inner unfurl into the Outer with such speed it evades its own grasp. It’s a colossal mess of a mind-fuck and essentially a middle-finger to those that questioned his vision. Anno makes End of Evangelion the final, most intricate, outer layer to an already impossible puzzle-box. In total, Evangelion is a mysterious, abrasive and sometimes infuriating journey but, always, its numerous floating arms are pinned down by an empathic understanding of the human condition. It is impossible to truly capture, in words, what Anno tries (and fails?) to capture over 6 hours: some punk melody on what it means to be a piece of everything, buried alone inside a duty-bound shell.
By Alex Daud Briggs
When thinking of anime to recommend to someone, I figured it’d be nice to pick something a bit more obscure but very worth the watch. Millennium Actress is directed by the late Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika). It’s about a two-person documentary team interviewing a famous old actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara. From there she recounts her life from the start of her career in World War Two to her end, all while searching for the man she loves, an anti-government rebel.
The film has a fascinating representation of cinema. The scenes will seamlessly change from a flashback scene in the real-World to one within a film with little to no warning for the audience. It can be a bit confusing, but it all adds to the idea that what happens in movies isn’t that different from real life. The drama in each movie mirrors the internal struggle of our heroine as she attempts to find happiness in the harsh film industry and find the man she admired so many years ago. Kon’s works often deals with the theme of how media can influence and merge into people’s lives and I believe this is his best depiction of the idea. Furthermore, the film is basically a love letter to the history of Japanese cinema as many of Kon’s films are tributes to the Kaiju films, Kurosawa samurai features, and historical films.
The film is a love letter to the history of Japanese Cinema.
What makes this film truly beautiful though is Chiyoko herself. She truly feels like a real person with an extraordinary past; from her debut in propaganda films to the turmoils of her first marriage, you feel the emotions she feels. By the end you’re just as big a fan of hers – just like the documentary makers interviewing her. Cinema, dreams and heart, Millennium Actress is a perfect display of all three.
By Joshua Allen
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the best anime series and is an absolute must watch, whether you’re a seasoned anime fan or just beginning to watch!
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was recommended to me when I first began watching anime. The loveable Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse are the two main characters of the series, with such a tragic background it is hard to not to love them. We see the two brothers encounter a range of complex and well-developed characters, each with emotional and brilliantly thought character arcs that truly help with the world building and the sense that help to portray the land of Amestris as the diverse and thriving landscape it is. The emotional depth of characters really makes the series truly enjoyable, adding re-watchability, and is what also makes Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood a memorable series.
In addition to the excellent character arcs, morals are a repeated theme throughout the show, with portrayals of warfare and other ethical matters raised and questioned multiple times throughout the course of the story. The animation and the soundtrack also compliment the show perfectly, the animation is crisp, and the artwork is excellent, with brilliant depictions of rural farmland, snowy mountains, to industrial cities. The soundtrack for the series is also phenomenal, with memorable opening themes and scores that beautifully portray the emotion of the plot. I truly believe that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the best anime series and is an absolute must watch whether you’re a seasoned anime fan or just beginning to watch!
By Lafan Hasan
I always recommend this anime to people who are skeptical about anime!
I have a special spot for animes in my heart because I think it’s such a radiant source of imagination and creativity. I was interested in the emergence of animes on Netflix in 2018 and was eager to try the first one that caught my eye. I stumbled upon Violet Evergarden, a hidden gem is an understatement. The show is only 13 episodes long (including the special). If I were to choose one word to describe Violet Evergarden it would be “elegant”. I don’t say this lightly, it is elegant through its melodious soundtrack interweaving classical western and Japanese music, impeccable animation by Kyoto animation and heart wrenching plot lines. I genuinely think this is the most well-animated anime out there.
The Anime follows Violet Evergarden, a soldier in The Great War who decides to take up the role of a transcriber in a postal service that sends letters to loved ones, post-war. The plot is centered around her development of empathy as it has been robbed off her due to her experience of war. Every episode is a new letter, from a person to another, with a different story. The letters explore a range of scenarios that we all find difficult to deal with. These include terminal illnesses, familial and romantic relationships and even the lack of motivation. I always recommend this anime to people who are skeptical about anime or who are claiming it might be more on the childish side. I think Violet Evergarden challenges that stereotype.
I’ll be honest though, the first 2-3 episodes may seem a bit slow but be patient with it and I guarantee it will play on your heart strings or generate a waterfall of tears. To be clear this is not your usual fun, action-packed anime. It’s so gentle, thought-provoking and provides a whole new meaning to emotional sophistication. It is what animes should inspire to fulfill. I would say it is my favorite short-length series, definitely a 10/10 for me.
Next Article: Review: Onward – Nostalgia, Imagination and Fantasy
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