The Top 5 Best Anime Films on Netflix (June 2022)
Netflix doesn’t have as many Studio Ghibli movies as HBO Max, but if you haven’t signed up for Crunchyroll yet, you should still check out the anime movies it has to offer. There are still a lot of mechas, transformations, and even Miyazaki (thanks, Lupin III!) to watch, and the fact that some of them are Netflix Originals makes them even more fun. The company’s investments in its movies have, to put it nicely, been hit or miss, but its moves into anime have been mostly good.
The library of the streaming service changes, especially when it comes to anime movies. Even though Netflix is best known for its large number of anime series, like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or Demon Slayer, there are still a lot of anime movies to watch. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 anime movies on Netflix, including well-known franchises and hard-to-find favorites. This list is up to date for July 2021.
A Whisker Away
- Year: 2020
- Director: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama
- Stars: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi, Koichi Yamadera,Minako Kotobuki
- Rating: TV-PG
- Runtime: 104 minutes
There have been creepier things in movies than turning into a cat to get closer to your crush, but they are rare. It’s not like standing with a boombox outside a window. But in A Whisker Away, directed by Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama, even this crazy idea leads to beauty and a touching love story.
The script by Mari Okada skillfully jumps the anime through some emotional loops and crinkly toy tunnels. Its silly premise, which includes a group of angry, depressed middle schoolers, lands in emotional truth.
A bit of Miyazaki’s otherworldly magic (a fat cat who sells faces and a whole invisible cat world) goes well with some honest looks at the characters’ mental health problems (not quite as profoundly and darkly as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with a similarly stylish flair).
Even though the characters are a little annoying at first (they are middle schoolers, after all), the truth of the writing comes through. We were also impressed by how realistic the animal animation was and how well it showed life in Tokoname.
- Year: 2019
- Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Yoshiyuki Momose, Akihiko Yamashita, Takuya Okada
- Stars: Fumino Kimura, Rio Suzuki, Masaki Terasoma, Machiko Ono
- Rating: PG
- Runtime: 53 minutes
Short film anthologies are some of the best ways to see how animation, let alone Japanese animation, pushes the limits of visual storytelling.
Just a quick look at the anime anthologies made in the last 30 years is enough: From Masao Maruyama and Rintaro’s 1987 film Labyrinth Tales (known in the West as Neo Tokyo) to Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1995 film Memories and even the American-Japanese co-production Animatrix from 2003, anthologies have stood the test of time not only as landmarks of anime history but also as essential ways to introduce new and exciting talent into the animation industry.
With this in mind, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and former Ghibli animators Yoshiyuki Momose (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) and Akihiko Yamashita (Howl’s Moving Castle) came together to make Modest Heroes, the first volume in Studio Ponoc’s series of animated short films.
The first and most “Ghibli-like” of the three shorts in the anthology is “Kanini & Kanino,” directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The short tells the story of two humanoid crab children who live at the bottom of a riverbed. It could be seen as a re-telling of Yonebayashi’s first film as a director, The Secret World of Arrietty, but this time he came up with the idea and wrote the script himself.
The anthology’s second short, which was directed by Yoshiyuki Momose, is the volume’s most moving story and, in some ways, the real inspiration for the name Modest Heroes. In “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose,” a young mother and her son Shun are the main characters.
Shun is a happy, quiet boy born with a severe allergy to eggs. “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” sets a high bar for the rest of the film, but “Invisible,” the last short in the anthology, meets and exceeds those expectations. It was directed by Akihiko Yamashita, who worked on Howl’s Moving Castle and was a character designer on Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood by Yasuhiro Imagawa.
Studio Ponoc’s second movie, Modest Heroes, is a good one. It’s a collection of shorts that, when put together, show that “there’s nothing mightier than the meek,” a phrase made famous by Rod Serling and others. Still, “Invisible” tells the story of a man who struggles with a disease that makes it seem like everyone he meets doesn’t notice him.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
- Year: 2021
- Director: Kwang II Han
- Stars: Theo James, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell
- Rating: TV-MA
- Runtime: 83 minutes
The Witcher was a big hit for Netflix in 2019. It introduced many people to the dangerous world of Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster hunter who uses magic to help him do his job. Geralt is known as a Witcher. Like many prequels, the animated movie Nightmare of the Wolf seems to focus more on setting up the next season of the live-action show than on telling its own story.
Whether you think that’s a good idea is probably up to you. Die-hard fans will be happy with all the name-dropping and stepped-up violence in the episodes leading up to the show’s return, while casual viewers may wonder what the big deal is.
But Nightmare of the Wolf works because it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it builds on a lot of what makes the original series so good, like the rich history of Witchers in general. And by doing so makes the original series feel like more than just one man’s story, expanding its world in a way that makes almost every part of it seem more complex and exciting than it did before.
The movie tells how Vesemir came to be, but it also gives a quick overview of how Witchers came to be, from the harsh conditions in which they are made to the uncomfortable place they hold in the politics and culture of the Continent.
But most of all, Nightmare of the Wolf keeps making the moral waters in the Witcher universe murky by making characters with every shade of gray you can think of. It’s not a new idea that Nightmare of Wolf’s more important message is that we often make the monsters we fear the most.
But in the end, those familiar parts help us see the world of the live-action series and Geralt’s place in it differently than before. This new way explains why the Continent doesn’t trust Witchers and gives us a better idea of why the few who are left are still fighting.
Lu Over the Wall
- Year: 2018
- Director: Masaaki Yuasa
- Stars: Kanon Tani, Shota Shimoda, Christine Marie Cabanos, Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh
- Rating: PG
- Runtime: 107 minutes
Distributor GKids sell Lu Over the Wall as “family-friendly,” which is true. It is a harmless, unique alternative to the usual computer-animated movies shown in modern theaters. But there’s a big difference between “funny” and “weird,” and before director Masaaki Yuasa even finishes the opening credits, Lu Over the Wall goes way past “funny” and into “weird.”
We don’t get close to reality very often. Lu Over the Wall is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which most moviegoers should embrace. Even its most human beats, those precious hints of things we can relate to that make us feel empathy, are stretched out, changed, and made almost impossible to recognize by exaggeration.
The story is both easy and complicated: Kai, a teenager who just moved from Tokyo to the quiet fishing village of Higashi and is voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the English dub, spends his days doing what most teenage boys do, which is to stay in his room and shut out the world.
As Kai tries to deal with being alone, he makes friends with Lu (Christine Marie Cabanos), a tiny mermaid made to look like a manic pixie dream girl. What should a lone emo boy do in a plot about being a fish out of the water, both literally and figuratively, with xenophobic undertones? Lu Over the Wall mixes happiness with political allegory, bright colors, storytelling magic, real magic, and too many happy musical interludes to count. It would insult the film’s inspired madness to call it “creative.”
The Summit of the Gods
- Release Date: November 24, 2021
- Director: Patrick Imbert
- Stars: Lazare Herson-Macarel, Eric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau, Elisabeth Ventura, Kylian Rehlinger,
- François Dunoyer
- Rating: PG
- Runtime: 95 minutes
Based on Jiro Taniguchi’s early 2000s manga, which added beautiful environmental illustrations and thoughtful, shadow-heavy character designs to Baku Yumemakura’s 1998 novel, The Summit of the Gods is a testament to self-motivation through the stories of two men: mountain climber Joji Habu (Eric Herson-Macarel) and journalist Makoto Fukamachi (Damien Boisseau).
In the French anime by Patrick Imbert, the two meet because of a famous Vestpocket Kodak camera that belonged to the English mountaineer George Mallory, who may or may not have reached the top of Everest in the 1920s. Fukamachi sees Habu with the camera, but he can’t find him again.
Fukamachi wants to know what’s happening, but Habu wants to be left alone while getting ready for his climb. In his search for the hermit, Fukamachi puts together Habu’s life by putting together news articles about his obsessions.
With its intercutting structure, The Summit of the Gods is a great journalism movie and an excellent mountaineering movie. Each has a series of technical steps that have emotional weight that is hard for an outsider to understand fully. Why do people try to reach the top? Why do people work hard to find out everything about a story? These goals about being alone are both personal and professional.
The animation is clear, and the answers to these big questions are easy to understand. Bright blues and purples in nature are majestic and hazy, and they stand out against the dull colors of condos, bars, and city streets. The details in the latter are more practical, and there is so much real-life stuff in them that they make you feel bored. The result is clear, but they quickly become unclear and existential when you look at the reasons behind them.
The movie then shows you the expeditions through the eyes of the people who do it for a living. The shots are so stark and layered with slurries and sunbeams that they look like abstract paintings during the climbing scenes. And yet, on a moment-to-moment level, it’s a detailed crunch of pitons into stone, with clever rope knots and the muscular friction of hands and feet, done by characters who move with purpose, their animations heavy enough to leave footprints and small avalanches of pebbles.
The Summit of the Gods is a subtle movie told in different shades of white and levels of silence, but its passion burns hot underneath the icy rime. Its philosophical point is well made by how its story is told and how beautiful the scenery is: You’re lucky to be doing something you love, whether it’s climbing to the top of a mountain, solving a mystery, or making a particular piece of animation.
- Year: 2018
- Director: Mamoru Hosoda
- Stars: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Koji Yakusho, Masaharu Fukuyama
- Rating: PG
- Runtime: 98 minutes
Most, if not all, of Mamoru Hosoda’s original films from the last ten years, are, in some way or another, autobiographical. Summer War was about Hosoda meeting his wife’s family for the first time. The story was a long way from Hosoda’s first movie as a director, Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, in 2000. Wolf Children, which came out in 2012, was partly inspired by the death of Hosoda’s mother and by his fears and hopes about becoming a parent himself.
The Boy and the Beast came out in 2015, right after Hosoda had his first child. The director’s seventh movie, Mirai, is not based on his own life but on how his first-born son felt when he met his new baby sister for the first time. His questions about what a father should do for his son inspired it.
Mirai is a beautiful adventure fantasy drama told from the point of view of Kun, a young boy who feels lost and insecure after his sister Mirai is born. The story is told from Kun’s point of view, and it takes the viewer on a spectacular journey through Kun’s entire family tree, ending with a touching scene that shows how beautiful it is to love and be loved.
Mirai is Hosoda’s best movie. It was the first anime movie not made by Studio Ghibli to be nominated for an Academy Award, and it’s as educational as it is fun to watch.