2020 Film Ranking
by Rakka • Tags: anime film lists
This post will be periodically updated.
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…
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.)
Ride Your Wave (「きみと、なみに乗られたら」)
An fun and hilarious rom-com with a “weird” twist (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.
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.)
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. So admittedly, the main reason I like this film is because of its insert song, “Lost Game”.
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s84rIhPuhk.
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.
- Her Blue Sky (Sora no Aosa wo Shiru Hito yo)