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4 Must-See Anime Movies That Are Not From Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli has set an exceptionally high standard for the genre, but its popularity has overshadowed equally excellent works by other filmmakers.

Studio Ghibli’s anime movies are always sensational and phenomenally artistic. But what about other impressive anime movies from other studios? Are they as extravagant as their competitor? They are, and there are plenty of exceptional movies from different studios out there. Below are four impressive anime movies made by companies other than Studio Ghibli to watch and why.

“A Silent Voice”

Directed by Naoko Yamada and written by Reiko Yoshida, “A Silent Voice” portrays the realities of anxiety, depression and suicide. Kyoto Animation produced the film, Futoshi Nishiya created the character designs and Kensuke Ushio composed the music.

The film reveals the imperfections that come with being human. Its characters reflect on their selfishness and repent for their mistakes. “A Silent Voice” demonstrates humans’ capacity for good while still showing all the wrong deeds humans can do. It exemplifies that perfection is impossible, and without any flaws, there would be no room for growth.

The characters undergo a lot of development and are thoroughly fleshed out; the two protagonists are the bully Shoya Ishida and the new student Shoko Nishimiya, who is deaf. Viewers at home can discover who these characters are inside and observe how they change and grow over time. Given the story’s key themes, it can be an eye-opening experience. It is a remarkable film because it does an excellent job of depicting life’s realities.

However, some people criticize the anime film for not filtering intense material, such as the bully’s toxicity toward the deaf girl and the realistic scenarios surrounding suicide.

The Kyoto Animation film also excels at depicting social anxiety. The audience sees the former bully (there is irony in the movie in that Shoya ends up bullied) concentrate on the floor and avoid eye contact with others, all from his perspective. It also emphasizes how distant the protagonist, the former bully, is to the rest of the world. X’s are placed all over people’s faces as though the protagonist is closing himself off from the world.

A Silent Voice” also depicts the trials and tribulations deaf people experience daily. There is so much self-loathing in the film that the viewer feels the emotion throughout their entire body. The message conveyed is to forgive not just others, but oneself. It is one of the most challenging goals anyone can accomplish.

The characters must overcome their faults and insecurities to break through the barriers in their life and genuinely be content. In the most unlikely places, the characters often find hope. The movie teaches the audience nobody can confront their concerns and problems alone. With the help of others, the characters are supported and cared for.

“5 Centimeters per Second”

Written, directed and produced by Makoto Shinkai, “5 Centimeters per Second” does away with the common “happily-ever-after” trope and focuses on a realistic long-distance friendship between the characters Takaki Tōno and Akari Shinohara. It is produced by CoMix Wave Inc., and the music is composed by Tenmon.

The movie’s title is based on the speed at which cherry blossom petals fall to the ground. The petals are a metaphorical representation of humans, mimicking the slowness of life. They also represent how people grow close but slowly drift their separate ways.

The story has three parts, which deal with different periods of the characters’ lives. The first part, “Cherry Blossom,” establishes the bond of the two main characters when they were kids. The best friends get separated by life events but manage to keep in touch by writing and calling. They eventually develop strong feelings for each other and have to deal with the distance between them getting bigger and bigger over time.

The second part is titled “Cosmonaut” and shows their progression into high school, where they struggle to communicate as much as they used to. The film introduces a new character who develops unrequited feelings for Takaki. All the characters deal with their own fears and insecurities as they have to guess each other’s feelings over time.

In the third part, titled “5 Centimeters per Second,” the protagonist prepares to face the realities of adult life. His former best friend Akari is facing a new chapter in her life as well, and communication between them is more than sparse at this point. The ways people deal with the gifts and consequences of time are the main theme of this segment.

Some dislike the movie because it lacks a happy ending and the closure that people feel it deserves. There is only a nearly depressing mirror of realistic life events that leave some people feeling dejected. However, like life itself, the story is complex and contains many hidden messages that have won over many fans. The movie demonstrates that sometimes a person who loves another might not have their feelings returned. Nothing in life is set in stone, but that shouldn’t hold anyone back.

“A Whisker Away”

Directed by Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama, “A Whisker Away” tells the story of a lonely girl, Miyo Sasaki, wanting to escape reality so she can be a cat and hang out with her crush in disguise. The movie, produced by Studio Colorido, Toho Animation and Twin Engine, focuses on the themes of friendship and family. The music is composed by Mina Kubota, which makes the movie a more feel-good one. However, the film also deals with fear and sadness in some parts.

A Whisker Away” is a strange yet wholesome movie everyone can enjoy. The protagonist lives a double life, as during the day she is human, and at night she puts on a mask to transform into a cat. Miyo smiles to hide her pain throughout the story, like when her crush finds her weird and clingy yet enjoys being with her cat version in secret. The story takes a turn when a pile of traumatic events leads her to give up being human.

Viewers can note that the person who supplies her the mask has a hidden agenda. He sells transforming masks for both humans and cats who are seeking refuge from their painful lives. The mask seller benefits greatly from the masks he sells and does everything in his power to influence his customers to continue reaching out to him. His manipulation works on Miyo as she gets pushed over the edge.

However, at her lowest point, a hand reaches out to her, letting her know that no one truly despises her. The film concludes on a happy note, with the main character discovering new hope in life as she realizes her insecurities are not all warranted. She learns to be more open with her family as well.

“The Garden Of Words”

Written, directed and edited by Shinkai, “The Garden of Words” is an intimate and understated film animated by CoMix Wave Films and distributed by Toho. Since it addresses social issues and watching it can be a coping mechanism, the film is best suited for audiences who are feeling lonely or socially incomplete.

The film tells a tale of forbidden love because of age. Two strangers, a woman named Yukari Yukino and a high school-aged boy named Takao Akizuki, meet under a gazebo in a lonely park while hiding from the rain. The high school boy doesn’t know the identity of the woman but does not mind being friends. Whenever it rains, the two either skip school or work to see each other under the gazebo.

Both characters have ambition but are discouraged by their harsh realities. They bond over being social outcasts and get to know each other as they work through their individual problems and pursue their dreams. As time passes, a full four seasons of weather pass by, influencing how often they meet. The weather, especially rain, is rendered realistically throughout the scenes.

Just like “5 Centimeters per Second,” many people may not like the movie because it lacks a happily-ever-after ending. However, it’s definitely worth a chance because it talks about important issues like societal standards. Rain is the key motif in the film, which allows the characters to separate themselves from their limitations and relax. Shoes are also an important symbol. By meeting during rainy days, they help each other learn to walk again in life. Takao even makes Yukari a pair of shoes, which helps with her physical anxiety.

Honorable Mentions

There are plenty more noteworthy anime movies that are not from Studio Ghibli. The ones below are already widely known, but they still deserve recognition. Most of these sensational films are made and directed by Shinkai, who is known as one of the top animators in anime history. His films match the excellence of anime movies from Studio Ghibli and other studios.

Sophie N. Munoz, University of Texas at San Antonio

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Sophie N. Munoz

University of Texas at San Antonio
English Major, concentration in Creative Writing

She/Her ~ {6w5} ~ INTJ ~ Introvert

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