2020 Film Ranking
by Rakka • Tags: anime film lists
Updated for all films in 2020.
Princess Mononoke (「もののけ姫」)
Of course, this is a Ghibli film, so it’s already a classic. But some things still stood out to me:
- This is quite the bloody/violent movie; there’s more limbs taken off here than in all of Kara no Kyoukai. Also, it has quite incredible fight scenes; San flips around a lot, but Ashitaka is much more understated. Again comparing to Kara no Kyoukai, which has crazy camera work all over the place, Mononoke is not anywhere near as flashy, but more impressive in the end.
- It’s really weird to have villains and heroes who aren’t one-dimensional, particularly with Lady Eboshi, who treats her people so well yet is ruthless with the forest and the people outside her walls.
- On that note, this film has strong environmentalist and feminist themes (women? working? being in the lead?) which probably says more about the state of films today…
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (「時をかける少女」)
Another classic that I finally got around to watching. This film is just fun: Makoto is just a blast to be around, and when she finds out she has time travel powers, she uses it to sleep in and eat her pudding before her sister gets to it, instead of causing mischief or trying to enrich herself. When she finally does try to use it to intervene in her friends’ lives, she does so genuinely trying to help them. When she does give in to temptation, she uses it to just run away from a confession. And of course, I have to call out the amazing theme song drop towards the ending; Makoto’s last leap through time is as inspiring as it is gorgeous, and the song fits perfectly. I feel like Shinkai must have learned from this film, because in a way, Your Name and Weathering With You both feel like they draw on the narrative structure here (adding a heaping serving of boy-meets-girl) as well as the perfect use of the theme song for the climax (hello, “Sparkle” and “Grand Escape”).
Nakitai Watashi wa Neko o Kaburu (A Whisker Away; 泣きたい私は猫をかぶる)
I’m happy this film lived up to my hype and more, with Mari Okada (Anohana, O Maidens in Your Savage Season, Maquia) serving up the youth & family drama (with a side of supernatural) you’ve come to love and expect and Yorushika delivering the music. At times painfully lonely, at times unfortunately relatable, and at times just plain hilarious, the film manages to tell a nice—though not necessarily deep—tale about building confidence and seeing what others are going through, while avoiding Okada’s tendency for excessive drama followed by a BS ending. (Not that I don’t love that anyways.) I have a small criticism: the characters are a bit tropey, especially with genki girl Muge hiding personal troubles (hi Minorin!). The film also calls back to Spirited Away, especially with the cat city, though I feel like this isn’t to its detriment—it tells a different story. (Also, slight vibes of Hotarubi no Mori e in the visuals and setting in the last part.)
No Game No Life: Zero (「ノーゲーム・ノーライフ ゼロ」)
A prequel to the main series, telling the story of how the world and its deity came to be. While I hated the main series overabundance of fanservice, this movie toned it down and kept it reasonable, while keeping the plot devices and eye-popping color palette that made the series fun to watch, and somehow adding a passable romance story on top of it all.
Ride Your Wave (「きみと、なみに乗られたら」)
An fun and hilarious rom-com with a “weird” twist from MAASAKI Yuasa (minor spoilers from the trailer: the guy dies and comes back to life as a…spirit?…who can appear in any body of water). The main characters actually get together fairly quickly, there’s lots of cute moments, and the girl actually gets to experience some character growth, plus you get a heartwarming conclusion.
Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home (「花咲くいろは HOME SWEET HOME」)
A sweet side-story to the main series, written (but not directed) by Mari Okada, giving some more background for Ohana and her mother. However, it’s not really worth watching on its own.
Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll
I have mixed feelings on this movie. On one hand, KyoAni again outdid themselves with goregeous backgrounds, excellent animation (the dancing at the ball was detailed and didn’t cheat by hiding the complex moves from the camera), etc.—all the things you’d expect from them. On the other hand, the plot and narrative of the film just floated; the movie could have ended in the first half (after Amy’s story) and it would have been satisfying enough. Instead, we got to see her sister Taylor fumble towards being a mailperson, which, while endearing, dragged on and ultimately didn’t lead to a satisfying conclusion.
Still, worth a watch for the visuals alone—but I hope KyoAni can find something else like Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) where the story and visuals support each other, instead of the visuals carrying the plot. (Something that Shinkai, for his faults, at least succeeds in.)
Lu over the Wall
Another YUUASA Maasaki film about a middle school band who finds and saves a mermaid that enjoys music. Cute and peppy, but unlike Ride Your Wave, nothing here really stood out for me.
Now, this wasn’t the most well-received film critically, but I still like it quite a bit because I’m a sucker for the “boy meets girl” trope and for scenes set to dramatic music. Unfortunately, the characters are rather boring and the girl doesn’t get much of a role in the plot at all. This is a criticism you could levy at Shinkai’s films as well, but it’s even worse here—she’s mostly just an object that the two male leads fight over. And that central conflict is a bit heavy-handed and melodramatic. The 3D CGI was uncanny: the way the characters were…weighted made them feel like VTubers; everything felt like it was floating around a bit. And some scenes (especially the chase scene at the end) felt like they forgot to enable textures and/or lighting in their pipeline.
However, I have to give this film props because it (like Girl Who Leapt Through Time above) manages to drop a great insert song, “Lost Game”; the first 30 seconds or so of this song are just haunting.
Children of the Sea (「海獣の子供」)
A coming-of-age film where I honestly can’t explain the plot. A girl meets two brothers raised in the sea, who she eventually follows to some ceremony…and stuff happens? But of the films here, this one definitely has the most impressive visuals. I’d recommend just watching the music video for the film’s theme song “Umi no Yurei” instead.
See the full review, but in short, while this film had its promising moments (particularly in the third story), it just felt dry overall and didn’t devote enough time to really develop its themes.
A simple fantasy film, with pretty visuals but not much of a plot, and a main character who mostly passively experiences the story instead of driving it forward at all. Not really worth a watch.
Films I didn’t get around to:
- Her Blue Sky (Sora no Aosa wo Shiru Hito yo)