Most of us seem to tend to think of animated films as something for children, that they lack the same emotional depth and/or sophisticated plotting of live action. This is simply untrue. Animation is not merely for children. It is an exciting storytelling vehicle with its ability to suspend rules of reality and show anything you can imagine. It’s an under-appreciated medium. But it is gaining recognition and acceptance as a true art form. Here are five of the best animated films that came out this year.
Have A Nice Day
This Chinese dark comedy, written and directed by Liu Jian, feels a bit like a classic Tarantino film with the same quirky style and irreverent violence, but still maintains its cultural roots. The plot of the movie revolves around a young chauffeur in a small town in China who steals a bag with a large sum of money from his boss, and the reactions of those about town who learn of the theft. Jian’s sharp script has characters poking into each others’ desires and motivations all under the shadow of the money and the personal and societal expectations placed on them.
My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
I think we sadly still have this idea that “weird” is a negative term, so many of us may feel reluctant to try out something weird or shy away from anything just a little too bizarre or confusing. That’s why I love this film (written and directed by Dash Shaw), whose plot centers around an ordinary high school suddenly sinking into the ocean and the attempts by the students and staff to get back to the surface. This is exactly the kind of premise that can only be accomplished in animation. The movie doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about how exactly it happened, but instead uses the bizarre circumstances to ask how exactly these totally ordinary people react to the totally extraordinary.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Based on the book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, this fantasy anime tells the story of a young girl who suddenly finds herself with magical, mysterious powers. While Mary and the Witch’s Flower isn’t actually a project from the famous Studio Ghibli, it does have the same animation style and magical themes present in most Ghibli films. That’s because it’s a work produced by Studio Ponoc, a very new Japanese animation studio founded by several former Ghibli employees. Not to mention, the movie was directed by Hirosama Yonebayashi, a former animator and director at Ghibli. If you’re looking for a strong female protagonist in a magical setting, this is the movie for you.
Lu Over the Wall
This visually stunning anime film, directed by Masaaki Yuasa and written by Yuasa and Reiko Yoshida, tells the story a young man named Kai living in a small fishing village who meets an eccentric mermaid called Lu and proceeds on a wondrous adventure with her. While the premise may seem a little familiar, the movie makes up for it with beautiful animation and incredible visual imagery (giant water cubes with boats teetering off the edge, among other things). Yuasa is known especially for his fantastical, colorful animation style, and in this film, his talent and ideas perfectly shine through.
In a Heartbeat
Most of us can probably remember the heart-pounding, butterflies-in-the-stomach, red-cheek feeling of having our first crush. Nowhere has that been so perfectly depicted as in this American short film by Esteban Bravo and Beth David and produced by the Ringling College of Art and Design. Without a single word of dialogue, this four-minute film runs us through a whirlwind of emotions, led on by an anthropomorphic heart, and gives us a lovely, happy ending, a rarity for any film with LGBT themes and protagonists. If you’re ready to be taken on a roller coaster of emotion and sweetness, watch this right away.