By Domi Watkins
I love Japanese animation! And I know what you’re thinking: She’s one of those people? The strange person who attends conventions and cosplays as popular Japanese characters like Hatsune Miku or Sebastian from Black Butler? That annoying weirdo who considers themselves Japanese and tries to speak the language but fails horribly at pronouncing even a single word? A weeaboo?
Well friends, I’m actually a little bit different. You see, I was raised in Japan and lived there for twelve years. I grew up watching the sakura (cherry blossom) trees blossom every spring and eating nikuman (steamed meat beans) in the winter. My Saturday morning cartoons consisted of Japanese animation series like Tokyo Mew Mew, Hamtaro, and Mirmo de Pon! on TV Aichi and TV Tokyo respectively. Below are a few films I thoroughly enjoy from that genre:
Several viewers recognize the story of 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino, who is whisked into the spirit world while she is moving. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. Perhaps the most famous of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, Spirited Away will delight viewers with its rich and engaging mythology.
On Christmas Eve, three homeless people living on the streets of Tokyo find a newborn baby among the trash and set out to find its parents. The premise may sound plain, but this story challenges the traditional view of what it means to be a family, presenting an attempt to construct a “pseudo-family” out of an increasingly fragmented and isolated modern Japanese society.
Just as the title suggests, this film does involve werewolves. However, there is a twist to the lore that surrounds these mythical creatures. Wolf Children follows a young mother who is left to raise two half-human, half-wolf children, Ame and Yuki, after their werewolf father dies. It is a beautiful story about growth filled with mesmerizing scenes that capture the sentimentality of single motherhood.
The Boy and the Beast
An orphaned boy stumbles upon the world of beasts and is taken by in by a gruff warrior looking for an apprentice. I am a sucker for films that showcase people, or in this case beasts, who grow closer together through time and who initially can’t stand each other. The frequent banter and spewing of insults always gets me laughing.