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I started watching Japanese dorama on TV to try to improve my Japanese language skills. I was struck by the good quality of Japanese drama available. Of course since I am a die-hard romantic movies consumer, most of these movies appeal to my romantic nature.

One actually gets to know a bit about Japanese culture from the movies made by Japanese. It enables one to understand the underlying psyche of the Japanese people. Sometimes we get a peep into the repressed nature of the Japanese race. Then we see the wild creative side of these people coming out in different ways especially in anime. Different races and people work within the constraints and around them to try to release their repressed feelings and ideas. We see the society reflecting back all these dynamic energy in various ways. Sometimes with a good outcome but other times in tragedy. All these forces co-exist with each other, influencing each other.

Click here for my guide to Japanese Dorama.

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Anime Movies

Anime movies are short (usually around 2 hours long) unlike the anime series which may stretch for many episodes.

These are the anime movies I highly recommend:

Akira

It was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. It involves two orphans who are in a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo and their involvement with some children who have psychic powers. Issues about whether to use one’s special powers for good or evil are introduced. It is a good movie to do a comparison with the anime from Studio Ghibli.

Black Jack

“Black Jack” is about a doctor called Black Jack who goes about saving people and has a kid who mothers him. The idea of super humans is introduced as achievable. However, the super humans die horrible deaths and Black Jack is coerced to be involved to race to find the cure for them. In the end, one feels sympathetic for the bad person who dies as she only wants to give ordinary people a chance to excel and be happy, something that she never had.

Blue Submarine Number 6

“Blue Submarine number 6” is a story about a mad scientist who wants to flood the world & allow the sea creatures (some of them are his offspring) a chance to live against the humans. It is a battle between those who live on the land and those who live in the sea. It is made very real by all those dialogue about running a submarine in the movie. However, the characters are not as well developed as some anime that I had watched before.

Ghost in the Shell

This movie’s special effects and deep storyline makes it unusual. One has to think about what the story is trying to portray and explore the psychology of the main character “Motoko Kusanagi”. Her soul is the “ghost” in the shell of her machine body. It is the only real part of her.

Metropolis

This anime is based on the manga comic by Osamu Tezuka. Osamu Tezuka is called the “God of Comics” as he pioneered the modern Japanese story comic form. The screenplay is by Katsuhiro Otomo who also did “Akira”. It is directed by Rintaro. It explores a world where robots and humans co-exist. The survival of the world depends on their interactions, their ability to understand each other and to live together. This movie can be contrasted with the movie “Animatrix”. “Animatrix” tells the story of how robots and humans could not live together in the world as the humans sought to dominate the world. Therefore the robots fought back, fighting for their very survival resulting in the matix.

Vampire Hunter D

The “Vampire Hunter D” is a different ball game altogether. It’s artwork is great although the story is a little on the dark side. It is about a vampire hunter called “D” who is a half vampire, half human. He is paid to hunt down a vampire who kidnapped a young beautiful woman. He risks his life to rescue the lady. The twist is that the lady and the vampire are in love. They want to escape to a place where they will be free to live together.

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Studio Ghibli

For a beginner, I recommend the anime from Studio Ghibli especially the ones made by Hayao Miyazaki. In 2003, we happened to be visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo  when Seto was interviewed for an International Herald Tribune article.

Here is the list of movies from Studio Ghibli that I had watched: Princess Mononoke, Totoro, Nausicaa, Grave (Tombstone) of the Fireflies, Laputa, Kiki Delivery Service, Porcoros, Panpoco, Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns.

The first anime I watched was “Princess Mononoke” by Yoji Matsuda from the famous Ghibli Studio in Japan. It was a great introduction to the world of anime. Blended into the cartoon were issues about man’s co-existence with nature, the spirit and importance of nature, the good and bad sides of human beings etc. To introduce such serious ideas into a cartoon and to be able to carry it off is amazing.

Learn more about Studio Ghibli from wikipedia. There are also several good fan sites including nausicaa.net and onlineghibli.

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Why I Love Anime

The power of the appeal of Japanese animation is incredible. What draws me to it is that the artist or animator uses the medium of animation (which is usually used to produce funny cartoons) to portray life’s serious issues. For example, the anime “Grave of the Fireflies” used two kids to portray the hardships of the Japanese during the allies attack on Japan during World War II.

Another reason why anime is so addictive and fun to watch is that it is able to introduce humorous elements to lighten the mood even when serious issues are involved. For example: in the anime “Marmalade Boy” (Kodomo no Omocha), the way they draw the characters in the animation conveys the intensity of the situation. One has to admire the way they draw beautiful girls and handsome guys especially in a love story animation. Then they draw them in a cartoony form with out of proportions measurements (eg: big eyes, small nose, big mouth, extremely round face, half the size of the usual drawings) to portray certain emotions that automatically lightens the mood. This contrast of serious beautiful animation of characters with the funny drawings of the same characters is the power of Japanese anime. This power can be seen also in the Japanese comics called manga. Usually Japanese animation draws their stories and art form from the manga comics. Sometimes the drawings of the comic characters are better than the animation. To draw beautiful characters in Japanese comics is an art.

The most important is the development of the characters and the growing up or maturity of the people involved especially the hero and heroine. If this is done well, then the anime is a good one, an excellent one. We are able to identify with the protagonists and feel for them as we go through adventures with them.

With anime, one can never tell how the ending will turn out. What twists awaits around the corner will always stump the viewers. That’s one of the beauties of anime. It will leave you wondering and talking about the plot for sometime to come even after you finish watching the movie.

Another element of Japanese anime that contributes to its’ magnetic powers is the inclusion of beautiful songs especially as it’s opening and ending theme songs. The songs are catchy, uplifting, moving, fun.

A good place to begin is the animation by Studio Ghibli.  I have also put together a guide on Japanese movies and dorama. Finally here are some resources if you want to find out more about anime.

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