Image source: アニプレックス on YouTube
This past year was an awesome one for theatrical anime films—with more than a few getting a limited theatrical release even in the West. And while some of these may have not made it to home video in your neck of the woods yet, these are our picks for the top anime films 2017 had to offer.
Genre: Post-apocalyptic Sci-fi Western, Cyberpunk
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Killy, a lone man with a pistol capable of destroying buildings with a single shot, wanders through an endlessly expanding mega city, searching for any remaining humans with the gene needed to interface with the city and bring it under control. In his way stands The Safeguard, robotic killing machines created by the system to destroy the impure humans that don’t carry the gene. But when he comes upon a human settlement that, for some unknown reason, isn’t being targeted, Killy teams up with the inhabitants of the village—and mysterious scientist Cibo—to see if there isn’t another way to stop the Safeguard and save humanity.
Why You Should Watch It: Despite the cyberpunk nature of the film, BLAME! is more a western than anything else. A stranger wanders into a remote village on a quest of his own. The villagers have a problem that only the outsider can fix. Together, they attempt to help each other as action and adventure ensue.
But what stands out in the film is the relationship between Killy and Cibo. While their goals are different in method, their overall goal—to connect with the mainframe of the mega city—is the same. They are both big picture thinkers and thus share an almost instinctive bond—so much so that Cibo serves as Killy’s voice for much of the film, explaining to to the other characters his motivations and thoughts. But in the end, their bond proves that neither is cold nor heartless and shows that, together, they might actually have a chance of saving their world.
Watch It If You Like: Knights of Sidonia, Mad Max Fury Road, Trigun, Expelled from Paradise
Where You Can Get It: Netflix
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya: Oath Under Snow
Genre: Modern Fantasy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: When a young boy, Shirou, and his adopted father find a girl at ground zero of a magical disaster, they take her in. However, to Shirou’s father, this mysterious child, Miyu, is a tool that is capable of granting a wish and saving the world. But Shirou’s father is far from the only one wanting to use Miyu’s powers and soon Shirou finds himself involved in a war between magical families with Miyu as the prize.
Why You Should Watch It: While there are magical battles in this film to be sure (and amazing-looking ones at that) the core of this film is an emotional one. Shirou idolizes his father and wants to fulfill his father’s dream of becoming a hero capable of saving everyone—no matter what personal sacrifice is needed to attain this goal. But the more time Shirou spends with Miyu, the closer they become. As the secret magical war comes to a head, Shirou must choose between the fate of the world and the girl he’s come to love as a sister.
It’s also important to note that while the Fate franchise is massive, Oath Under Snow can be enjoyed as a stand-alone film. While you may not understand the ins-and-outs of the magic system or why such a war would be needed, the plot and human drama are easy to understand. Of course, if you are a fan of Fate/kaleid liner and the rest of the franchise, your enjoyment will only increase.
Watch It If You Like: Fate/stay night, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Fate/Zero, Fate/Apocrypha, Fate/Grand Order
Where You Can Get It: Amazon.co.jp from 1/31/18 (no English subtitles)
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
Genre: Romance, Surreal Comedy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: A college student known only as “Senpai” has an enormous crush on “Otome.” He spends his days trying to plan ways of “coincidentally” running into her. However, Otome is completely oblivious to his feelings. She’s only concerned with one thing: enjoying her life as if it were one endless night of drinking, partying, and exploration.
Why You Should Watch It: Like The Tatami Galaxy before it (with which it shares an author, director, and animation studio), The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl is a story about love, time, and growing up. College life is explored as a surreal adventure, filled with colorful characters and over-the-top experiences torn from real life but dialed up to 11.
It is a visual trip thanks to the directorial vision of Director Masaaki Yuasa and stands apart from other modern anime as it incorporates the over-exaggerated style of classic 30s and 40s Western animation. Yet beneath this flashy exterior is the heartfelt tale of two people learning who they really are, what they really want, and what is truly important.
Watch It If You Like: Tatami Galaxy, The Eccentric Family, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Where You Can Get It: Amazon.co.jp (no English subtitles)
No Game, No Life Zero
Genre: Apocalyptic Fantasy
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Sixteen races battle across the magical world of Disboard—with humans being the weakest. Forced to hide underground from the toxic ash that rains from the sky, extinction seems certain. But when Riku, the last great human tactician, meets android girl Shuvi, the two begin a journey to end the war and bring about a world without violence.
Why You Should Watch It: Like the series it serves as a prequel to, No Game, No Life Zero is about the power of the weak—the strength that comes from being backed into a corner while all those around you are sure you’re incapable of achieving anything. Thus it’s always extremely gratifying to see Riku and Shuvi to succeed by exploiting this and winning on their wits alone.
It is also a satisfying film on an emotional level. Shuvi is a being of pure logic trying to learn about human emotion. Riku, on the other hand, is a tactical genius able to make the tough calls and send even friends to die when needed. Unfortunately, this ways massively on his soul after the fact, destroying him mentally. Together, they are able to balance each other out, in a love story that crosses not only race but the very nature of man and machine.
And while the world and story are far darker than the TV show, it is, in the end, a story of hope with a simple moral: only those who dare to chase their dreams achieve them.
Watch It If You Like: No Game, No Life, Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle
Where You Can Get It: Amazon.co.jp from 2/23/18 (no English subtitles)
Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale
Genre: Sci-fi, Near future cyberpunk
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: After surviving VR death game Sword Art Online, teenagers Kirito, Asuna, and their friends are finally settling in to a normal life. The newest craze sweeping Japan is an augmented reality headset and its hit app Ordinal Scale, which overlays the everyday world with a fantasy one filled with monsters to defeat. But when the boss monsters turn out to be the same as those from Sword Art Online, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to Ordinal Scale than just entertainment.
Why You Should Watch It: While many anime movies not adapted from the original source material can seem meaningless in the overall plot, Ordinal Scale feels like a vital part to the tale. It fleshes out our heroes and sets the stage for their adventures to come.
Thematically, the film is centered around memories—the good and the bad—and how they affect our lives. What would happen if you suddenly couldn’t remember the most pivotal moment of your life? Or when you fell in love? Or how you first met all your friends? Would you still feel the same way about those important people in your life? Would you still be you?
But even outside the plot and themes Ordinal Scale is interesting. It shows a possible future for our world where AR becomes an intrical part of daily life. More than going around catching Pokémon, AR is used as a way to earn real world achievements (like coupons), automatically track what things you enjoy, and create a stage for you to sing your favorite song. You can even buy virtual clothes that overlay the ones you’re actually wearing. It’s a tantalizing bit of thought exploration that fun to see even if you’re not invested in the world and characters.
Watch It If You Like: Sword Art Online, Accel World, .hack//, Log Horizon
Where You Can Get It: RightStuf
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