The word anime means different things to different people. Some view the medium as a diverse art form that has transcended its Japanese origins to become an international phenomenon that’s had an undeniable impact on pop culture worldwide. Others just think ‘big eyes’ and ‘octopus porn.’
Although the earliest commercial Japanese animation dates all the way back to 1917, anime first became popular in the West during the video boom of the early 1990’s. As its international audience has grown, the influence of anime on Western animation has become more and more evident, to the point where entire programs such as Teen Titans and Avatar: The Last Airbender are designed to emulate the anime style.
Aspects of Japanese animation are also apparent in live-action Hollywood movies such as Pacific Rim and The Matrix Trilogy, yet many film fans in the West still sneer at the mention of anime, deriding it as either too childish or too geeky for mainstream consumption.
Like any stereotype, some of the conceptions people hold about anime are grounded in truth to an extent, but this reductive view fails to acknowledge the diverse range of incredible films that are technically characterized as anime. For every mecha-obsessed, big-eyed action epic, there are also thoughtful character studies that span a range of story types. Anime is a style, not a specific genre, so like all animation, there should be a movie somewhere out there for everyone, regardless of personal taste.
However, if you’re still not sure about Japanese animation or have a friend who is resistant to trying it out, here are five films we’ve selected to change people’s mind about anime… and there’s not a single robot in sight!