Frequently considered one of the greatest animated movies of all times, and certainly the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at their very best. It was also the first non-English animation movie to win an Oscar. On the surface, it's a film about a Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. In a creepy spiritual world full of Shinto folklore spirits, she sees all kinds of magic and fantastic creatures, while having to find a way to save her parents and escape. In addition to the adventure, the coming-of-age theme, and the motifs of ancient Japanese lore, the film can also be understood as a critique of the Western influence on Japanese culture and the struggle for identity in the wake of the 1990s economic crisis. A deep, fast-paced, and hypnotizing journey.
3 Best Movies to Watch by Miyu Irino
Watching A Silent Voice, sensitive viewers will likely feel repulsion toward the main character, Shoya Ishida — and maybe you should, for the awful things he did as a kid. You might even feel the urge to jump into your screen and protect Shouko Nishimiya, the deaf girl who is new at school. A beautifully crafted anime, the story captures a high-school bully’s remorse and despair as he tries to redeem himself from past wrongdoing, demonstrating that even the cruelest among us can become vulnerable to feelings of shame and regret. While it is heart wrenching, the story is also full of hope, showing how to ask for forgiveness, as well as how to give it. Beyond the great script, animation, colours, and scoring, each shot of A Silent Voice is a masterpiece in and of itself.
Fun, wholesome, and relatable, Haikyu!! celebrates the highs and lows of high school volleyball. The show starts off focused on two freshmen volleyball players from opposing middle school teams, who have to learn teamwork in order to be accepted into their high school club. While the team might initially come across as self-conscious, over-the-top, highly dramatic characters, it’s clear that they're coming from a shared love for the competitive sport (and that they also just happen to be going through puberty). However, the show’s strategic storytelling makes us care about the team: explanations about volleyball tactics are taught just at the right moment in order to heighten the stakes of every player’s move. Simultaneously, every player moves into each new plot point as a natural consequence of their backstory and their perception of each event. Haikyu!!’s agile approach makes the show a compelling watch, and a great place to start if you're new to anime.