vergilius (Level 13)

Recently watched Natsume's Book of Friends and Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal. The latter is unmissable. Working my way through BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad.
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My Top 5 Favorite Anime Movies
1. Princess Mononoke

I'm pretty sure the subbed version is a perfect movie. The dub's adaptive script is by Neil Gaiman, though, which is awesome. Like much of Miyazaki's stuff, there's an environmental message here, but here it's subtle. Instead of Captain Planet villains, we have sympathetic antagonists with interesting motivations. But managing an environmental message that isn't also misanthropic is the least of this movie's achievements. Princess Mononoke is an unforgettable spectacle, weaving together myth, history, romance, honor, and intense action. I wanted to put something else here simply because everyone already knows how good this movie is. But in addition to being widely acclaimed, it's my favorite, when push comes to shove.

2. Millennium Actress

I haven't seen this one enough times to have a *really* good feel for it yet, but wow. Just wow. Could well be my number 1 after a few more viewings. The masterful Satoshi Kon experiments with shifting narrative frames that spill over into each other to tell the story of an actress, from the formative events of her childhood, to her burgeoning "old Hollywood"-style stardom, to her creative peak, to the end of her career, and to her retirement, all the way up to where the movie started--with a few journalists seeking her out in her remote residence for a rare interview. The story is good, but the way it's told is exhilarating. Memory elides into narration, narration lapses inward back into memory. While the story's being woven, one feels disoriented. The titular character pulls us through her life as we hang on for own. Just as we are getting our sea legs and begin to see the complete story come together before us, we realize it's almost over. The resulting complex of clashing emotions is evidence of the film's genius. I'm really, really bummed that Satoshi Kon passed on, if only because he could have made another movie this good.

3. Paprika

Animation is a cool medium because you can manipulate the entire frame to exactly your liking. That makes it great for things like sci-fi, fantasy, and surreal psychological adventures. This movie is an excellent example of the last type. What keeps it from being higher on the list is that they had no idea how it was going to end until late in the production process...and you can tell. The first 80% of the movie is simply awesome though.

4. Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence Apocalypse

If I'm going by pure merit, this should probably be another Ghibli feature, like Porco Rosso, or maybe the brooding but beautiful 5 Centimeters Per Second from Makoto Shinkai. But this isn't a list of the five best anime movies, it's a list of my five favorite anime movies. And this makes the cut. The cool thing about this movie, which I've seen elsewhere titled "Adolescence of Utena" with no subtitle, is that it takes a lot of the subtext that makes the show interesting and turns it into text proper. The result is a reimagining of Utena's story in a more metaphorical, abstract idiom. The amateur critic in me loved seeing a lot of the threads I had picked up on magnified and moved from the background to the foreground. The story loses much of its subtlety in the transition, and I suspect the sometimes bizarre presentation is an attempt to compensate for that loss. It works, to a large degree, although people who have not seen the anime will likely have trouble parsing a lot of the action. The movie assumes you're familiar with the show's visual vocabulary. It watches like half director's vanity project, half Freudian fever dream. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

5. Howl's Moving Castle

Billy Crystal's a fire spirit! Batman's a wizard! The writing is kind of loose but I don't care because I'm distracted by how charming everything is! Again, probably wouldn't make a 5 best list, but it does make my 5 favorite. A good "sick day" movie. Watch under a blanket and with chicken soup.

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