Ghibli films are great, but there’s only so many of them. So what can you watch with your family when they run out?
Here’s our suggestions for some non-Ghibli shows the entire family can enjoy (In no particular order):
1. A Letter To Momo
The last time Momo saw her father they had a fight – and now all she has left to remember him by is an incomplete letter, a blank piece of paper penned with the words “Dear Momo” but nothing more. Moving with her mother to the remote Japanese island of Shio, Momo soon discovers three yokai living in her attic, a trio of mischievous spirit creatures that only she can see and who create mayhem in the tiny seaside community as she tries desperately to keep them hidden. But these funny monsters have a serious side and may hold the key to helping Momo discover what her father had been trying to tell her. (GKids)
If you’re still yearning for more Ghibli, this is probably the closest on our list – perhaps not artistically, but in tone. Made by the same creators who brought us Ghost in the Shell & worked on for seven years, Letter to Momo is both a visually feast and an entertaining story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Despite being released in 2012, Letter to Momo is still a common sight in many local animation film festivals.
2. Patema Inverted
Patema lives in an underground world of tunnels, the long-abandoned ruins of a giant industrial complex. Though she is a princess, she is held back by the rules imposed by the elders of her clan. One day when she is exploring in a forbidden zone, she is startled by a strange bat-like creature and tumbles headlong into a void – and out into the wide open world above the surface, a place with reversed physics, where if she let go she would “fall up” into the sky and be lost forever. (GKids)
Yasuhiro Yoshiura is the director of several worthy alternatives, including another mentioned below and is someone to keep an eye on in the next few years as Hayou Miyazaki’s retirement creates a vacuous demand for high quality anime film. Patema Inverted is a great work, flipping your understanding of the world over and over. Patema Inverted won both the Audience & Judges Awards at Scotland Film Festival 2013.
3. Garden of Words
Takao, who is training to become a shoemaker, skipped school and is sketching shoes in a Japanese-style garden. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. They deepen their relationship and open up to each other. But the end of the rainy season soon approaches…(Viz Europe)
If art detail is what attracted you to anime originally, Garden of Words will blow your expectations apart. Every single scene is lovingly crafted. Whilst not receiving any notable praise for the plot, it has been lauded again and again for its cinematics. I recommend watching the trailer below for a sneak peek.
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the “DC Mini” it is able to act as a “dream detective” to enter into people’s dreams and explore their unconscious thoughts. Before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen, sending the research facility into an uproar (ANN)
Satoshi Kon’s first hit was Perfect Blue in 1993, which took the West by storm. He originally meant to direct Paprika after this, but the studio went bankrupt and it was only in 2006 that he finally got to return to his adaption of Paprika (which was originally a novel by Yasytaka Tsutsui). Vivid and bursting with life, Paprika is one of Satoshi’s biggest works and is worth watching. Sadly, Satoshi passed away in 2010, but the rest of his filmography is worth going through if you enjoy psychological titles like Paprika.
5. Little Witch Academia
Inspired by a magician named Shiny Chariot, the lively Akko Kagari enters the Little Witch Academia with the dream of one day becoming as cool as her idol. (ANN)
Studio Trigger was created as an off-shoot of Gainax in 2011 and has created consistently successful and impressive works, most notably – Kill La Kill. Little Witch Academia is another one of their productions, created by new and upcoming young animators as part of the Anime Mirai 2013 Project. Incredibly family friendly, but enjoyable by all ages. LWA was successful enough to produce a second title, Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade, that was funded through Kickstarter, meeting its goal in only 5 hours, ending up with a total of $625,518.
6. Time of Eve
Sometime in future Japan, androids have been involved in every aspect of peoples lives. One day, upon checking his android’s behavioral log, Rikuo, a student, noticed his android’s returning times have been odd recently. With his friend Masaki, they found out the place where his android, Sammy, have been visiting: a small cafe called Eve no Jikan where androids and human are not seen as different. Upon talking with the “people” in the cafe and discovering more of Sammy’s behavior, Rikuo changed his view about androids and treat them as friends rather than tools. At the same time, elsewhere in Japan, the Ethics committee is trying to impose policies to reduce the involvement and use of androids in society. (ANN)
Released in 2010, Time of Eve has started becoming less frequent at film festivals, being replaced by newer titles. However, it’s not to be overlooked if you missed it before. Time of Eve gives a compelling in-depth view of each character and their relationships. Unfortunately, while there’s little offensive content, most of the film is through dialogue, so some viewers may find it boring. If you do enjoy it and you’re looking for more, check out the original TV Series, available to stream from CrunchyRoll.
It’s the year 2019, thirty-one years have passed since the start of World War III. A top-secret child with amazing powers of the mind breaks free from custody and accidentally gets a motorcycle gang involved in the project. This incident triggers psychic powers within one of the gang members, Tetsuo, and he is taken by the army to be experimented on. His mind has been altered and is now on the path of war, seeking revenge on the society that once called him weak. (MyAnimeList)
One of the films that really sparked interest in Japanimation (anime) in the West, Akira is a film that should be seen by anyone remotely interested in the medium. This title inspired a generation of animation and continues to influence titles. After Akira, the anime world in the West changed. Consumers wanted more and companies bought anything they could find that fitted the bill, sometimes buying blindly. It’s a little less-family friendly than the other titles – I wouldn’t watch it with easily scared children, but nearly all family members can watch this classic
8. The girl who leapt through time
Life for 17-year-old Konno Makoto is filled with fun days at school and hanging out with her two best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke. But then she finds herself with an ominous ability to leap back in time. A truly strange ability that at first saves her life, but then allows her to not be late at school, to know the answers on any surprise exams and to avoid any troublesome mishaps. It is only when Makoto chooses to use this ability to avoid some of the more personal issues that arise with her friends, that events become both complex and painfully difficult — the simple gift that she began to take for granted suddenly becomes a troublesome burden. (AniDB)
Another well-known title, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is often brought up as a good follow-up for Ghibli watchers. Mamoru Hosoda is also the name behind Summer Wars, another easy access title, as well as The Boy And The Beast, which has been heavily pushed recently. One interesting fact for you Ghibli lovers is that he was originally going to direct Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle, but quit and was replaced by Miyazaki himself.
9. Hotarubi no Mori e
Hotaru is rescued by a spirit when she gets lost in a forest as a child. The two become friends, despite the spirit revealing that he will disappear if he is ever touched by a human. (IMDB)
Roughly translating to “Forest of the firefly lights”, Hotarubi no Mori e is a simple, but compelling movie centered around the intimate friendship of the two protagonists. The pacing of the show is similar to some of Ghibli’s films, slow and peaceful. Hotarubi no Mori e received outstanding praise from reviewers and won several awards for its animation.
A nameless soul belonging to a great sinner on the way to be eliminated from the cycle of reincarnation had been selected to return to the world of the living for another shot at life. He is to become a 15-year-old boy named Kobayashi Makoto, who had attempted suicide three days back by over-dosing on medication. Makoto is dying soon and once Makoto is dead, Makoto’s soul will leave and he can then replace Makoto’s soul. During this limited “homestay” period, while living as Makoto, he is to try to remember what was the great sin he had committed. If he succeeds in his programme, he will be allowed to be reborn. (THEM Anime Reviews)
After years and years of dedication to Crayon Shin-chan, Keiichi Hara finally created a new feature film in 2007. This is his second, and more famous title. Despite being titled “Colorful”, the show is dismal and cruel in theme, but it has some lighter moments too. Fans of Ghibli’s more hard-hitting works like Grave of the Fireflies will enjoy this title.