The Banana Guide to Asian Entertainment: It’s All About Japan: Part III

Kids, keep away! These animated flicks aren’t for you.

I love animation, all types of them. Hand-drawn, CGI, stop-motion, mixed media — anything is game for me in terms of style and genre. Hayao Miyazaki has the amazing talent to give us some of the most beloved animated films for children or grown-ups. My favorites are My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ), Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ), and Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫). Though, I tend to think that the latter is geared towards adults a lot more.

This is what’s amazing about it, we don’t think about animated films as solely for children. Japanese animated films touch upon some very heavy-handed topics that are not very suitable for little kids. The mind-bending Paprika is just one simple example of that.

My favorite animated film, and the only one on my Top10 of favorite films, is Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓). When I saw that DVD cover of Seita and Tetsuko holding hands, there was a natural calling for me. This was way before I had gotten into “the Asian thing,” and without knowing any details about what this movie was about, I bought it and watched it at home where I was reduced to a puddle of tears.

I had never in my life seen such a heart-wrenching animated film. The human emotions displayed there were something that was even hard to find in live action movies! How people could even dare to call Grave of the Fireflies a “cartoon” was beyond my comprehension.

Though the film isn’t too graphic on anything, I don’t think any parent would be crazy enough to let their little kids watch the film, unless they would want to create some emotional issues in the child. To fully understand what the film is about and all its implications, you would probably need to be in your late-teens at least.

Note 1: Anything in Satoshi Kon’s filmography is animation done for grown-ups, that’s for sure.

Note 2: Makoto Shinkai’s filmography is also pretty mature animated flare.

Other animated films for grown-ups: Colorful (カラフル), Tekkonkinkreet (鉄コン筋クリート), Metropolis (メトロポリス), and anything that has to do with Neon Genesis Evangelion (新世紀エヴァンゲリオン).


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

9 Responses

  1. Camiele says:

    All I know is that Grave of the Fireflies could be the most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen. Certainly, there’s nothing “cartoonish” about Japanese animation. Obviously, they’ve got films and shows geared towards children, of course. However, their animation is so beyond mature sometimes that I marvel at people’s lack of respect for the genre. I even love the old school animation Akira comes to mind (obviously… HaHA). Japanese animation is some of the most thoughtful, most interesting storytelling to ever be put on film.

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, I was a mess. A MESS watching Grave of the Fireflies. There was a live action version done a couple of years ago for television… I haven’t dared to watch it. LOL

      It appalls me how many of my friends refer to animated films as “dibujitos” (as in little drawings) LOL. In school, I used to… almost, get offended. hahaha.

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, Well, that’s when you say, “And what you watch is any better?” Lame people are LAME!!! Any time anyone sees anything animated, they automatically think it’s the same thing as, like, Animaniacs. WRONG! People are so ready to be close-minded and I just don’t have time for them… HaHa.

        Yeah, I made the mistake of watching it at work and I was an emotional wreck while processing people’s taxes… HaHa.

        • amy says:

          @Camiele, LOL. And were you like “I’m just crying because this person is going to lose so much money”?

          Not like there’s anything wrong with Animaniacs… xP

  2. Camiele says:

    @amy, Yeah, nothing wrong with Animaniacs. Love Pinky and the Brain as much as the next person.

    HaHa. People mostly were coming around my office like, “Why are you so quiet?” HaHa. I wasn’t crying… well, I was crying on the inside. I mean, it’s probably the most depressing film every made.

  3. oh my gosh Grave of the Fireflies.
    Kon’s “Milennium Actress” is another fave anime.

    I think I just started at three points with Japanese live-action film – through J-horror, looking for other weird stuff, and classics. My favorite book is Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma monogatari), and I liked Nakashima’s adaptation. I also like what I’ve seen of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s work. I’ve seen much of Miike, and I recommend The Bird People in China to show that he does things other than outre horror. The guy makes like six movies a year, so there’s plenty of variety (in quality and genre) among his work. Sion Sino’s Suicide Circle has stuck with me, as has Nakashima’s Confessions. I’m also making my way through the works of classic directors Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi (a favorite), and Masaki Kobayashi. I’m also hoping to watch some films by female Japanese directors.

    Finally, for those seeking truly odd only-from-Japan horror experiences, I recommend Hausu and Jigoku (Hell). The latter is slow going until the insane third act.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, wow. That’s a broad list! There’s really way too much too watch, and so little time to do it!

      I’ve noticed Miike does have an extensive… VERY extensive filmography with a lot of variety, but I haven’t really dived into it (for the length of it haha). And I still have to catch up on Akira Kurosawa xD

  4. Roxanne says:

    Wow!! I’ve seen most of Miyazaki’s movies all of which I’ve loved. I’ve seen some more ‘commercial’ type movies like Nana and recently Uchuu Kyoudai (also a manga adaptation). I really need to get into all this wonderful Japanese cinema. I might just take up a Tsutaya subscription so I can rent all the movies I want!!

    Thanks for this wonderful insight into Japanese cinema ^_^

  5. amy says:

    I really liked Nana, which made me get into Mika Nakashima’s music. LOL Make sure one of the first films you watch be Swing Girls. Juri Ueno is LOL funny on that one.

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