Anime Film

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The Anime Film Plot

If you’re a regular anime watcher, or have seen a couple of anime series, then you’ll probably have come across a feature-lenght anime film. Important to note is that I’m specifically talking about films based on already established series, instead of stand-alone movies like Akira, Ninja Scroll, Perfect Blue and others.

Many popular anime series such as Naruto, Dragon Ball, Pokémon, Digimon and One Piece have over the years built such a financial success that production companies are able to invest in films dealing with, in most cases, sidestories insular to the main plot, but with a much more complex and detailed animation process, which really shows. The animation level in these movies is simply incredible and full with mind-warping sequences and gorgeous backgrounds.

However, I’ve found that, to my own arbitrary sensibilities, the screenplay doesn’t always match the genius animation these movies have. Stories tend to feel like regular episodes flattened and spread out like dough. Sure, the cake comes out beautiful, but there’s something missing in the flavor.

Do you agree with this? Why do you think this happens? Do you got any examples of a tightly written anime movie based on a series?

  • Good suggestion. Makoto Shinkai's 'Kimi no Na wa', whilst beautifully executed visually, still lacks something in it's storytelling, although I've read that Makoto isn't satisfied with it either. I think one of the problems comes from whether the anime film is production driven (by the money men) or creatively driven. – Amyus 4 years ago
  • There's definitely something to that observation. Just remembering my time watching the Bleach movies and thinking "Nothing is really happening here, right?". Not to say that Bleach was a series known for narrative quality. But you were capable of grasping the stakes of the conflict. You could occasionally empathize with every party in the conflict. However, the characters introduced in the films are given to time to develop beyond being easily-understandable archetypes. Furthermore, the main cast isn't allowed to develop in any significant way; probably because the films canon standing is dubious at best. They always come off as cash-in side-stories; meant to capitalize on the popularity of the franchise before the fanbase jumps to the next one (slight shade thrown at My Hero Acadamia: Two Heroes). It never seems as though anyone on any of these production teams said "let's make a movie good enough to stand on its own". The only two I can think of, off the bat, with any lasting impact are Castle of Cagliostro (based on Lupin the Third) and Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven's Door. Cagliostro is primarily a Gibli film first; that's why I believe it endures. Lupin the Third is legend, similar to Sherlock Holmes and Batman; so long as you keep fundamental aspects of the character intact, you can do whatever you want with the narrative, style, tone, etc. Heaven's Door is less enduring a work than Caliostro (and significantly less enduring than Bebop proper). The film was beautiful and had some of the best action I've seen animated. The story was simple but well executed; it channeled Noir-era films in a much stronger way than Bebop proper did. If the connection to its parent series didn't exist, it would probably (definitely) be less relevant than it already is. However, that film is worth watching on its own. It's a decent work; worth your time even if you don't know Bebop from Rocksteady. Nowadays, it seems like most anime don't reach the level of prominence to justify a feature film. That said, broadly speaking, the anime that do still reach that level of popularity were never really narrative powerhouses to begin with (Hero Aca being the exception). – OtisPickett 4 years ago
  • A good observation. I think it comes down to either or in a lot of cases. Production companies can invest time and effort into visual affects and cosmetics, but the narrative quality suffers. Is it just them being lazy? Maybe, in the case of Bleach, or One Piece they just simply ran out of material. I think Bleach ran out of material during the anime but... yea different topic... lol. Do they production companies value or money or full effort creativity? I think the answer is obvious for most of the mega mainstream animes, despite stories like One Piece and Dragon Ball being considered classics. Great Entry! – Kibishii 3 years ago