Once again, we’d like to stress that there is far more to anime than just one studio (just as there are many talents aside from Miyazaki). While Ghibli may have a well-deserved reputation for quality all-ages material, there are plenty of titles by other artists which can be enjoyed by the whole family, and not just the resident otaku.
Here are just a few fine recommendations that need not be confined to the ghetto of late-nite, after-bedtime programming…
OBLIVION ISLAND (or HARUKA & THE MAGIC MIRROR)
It’s a tried and true premise. After young Haruka loses her deceased mother’s hand mirror, she visits a local shrine to pray for its return. At the shrine, she spots a creature, Teo, gleaning for discarded trinkets, and she chases him into a pocket world where all of humankind’s forgotten possessions wind up. Realizing her mother’s mirror must be on Oblivion Island, a city-sized scrap dump, Haruka disguises herself as a creature and compels Teo to escort her there.
But Baron, the island’s miserly overlord, might have other ideas for this one lost treasure…
Playing out like many children’s fantasies, from MirrorMask to The Wizard of Oz, we see Haruka bump into outlandish creatures who oddly resemble real people in her life; and she can only complete her adventure if she come to terms with her mother’s passing. The familiar set-up feels quite fresh though, with some real personality in Haruka and Teo’s character animation. And that charm is all the more pronounced when you hear Christine Cabanos and Cassandra Lee respectively voice them in the exceptional dub.
And there’s added appeal for general animation fans, too. Flipping the typical 2D/3D “hybrid” approach, computer-modeled characters are imposed over lavishly-painted backgrounds. This unique mash of detailed texture and clear design is especially eye-popping during the delightful scenes where Haruka and Teo first ride through Oblivion Island’s skyscrapers of trash.
FOLK TALES FROM JAPAN
Grow up on Reading Rainbow? More than any other anime (even Doraemon!), this show should absolutely be programmed on PBS.
As the title clearly spells out, it’s an anthology retelling basically every fable in this country’s tradition. Think that’s a boast? Consider that each episode features three folk tales, and there are already 200 episodes. If you’ve ever sought a more genuine insight into Japanese culture than what contemporary anime offers, you couldn’t possibly get more thorough.
Indeed, anybody who delighted in Ghibli’s Tale of Princess Kaguya is sure to enjoy this, if only for the fact that Episode #20 features its own adaptation of that particular folk tale.
Educating with a gentle touch, veteran actors Akira Emoto and Yoneko Matsukane narrate every story and voice every character in much the same bedtime reading style as LeVar Burton. Far from any stereotypes about the big-eyed, weird-haired anime, Folk Tales from Japan takes a creatively-limited approach with its animation, giving a dreamy sense of motion to water color illustrations.
Perhaps the only caveat is that, as of yet, this is is only available subbed on CrunchyRoll. But since when have subtitles ever scared off the PBS crowd?
The good ol’ MPAA has rated this PG-13, but it’s a “soft” PG-13, at worst. It’s not any more than intense than a latter Harry Potter flick…
Taking more of a fantastical angle on robots, this future sees men and machines living side-by-side in a sprawling mega city. Of course, the robots are second-class citizens relegated to the lower levels, so there’s some ripe tension stewing when our scrappy lead, the human boy Kenichi, bumps into the mysterious robo girl, Tima. Together, they search for the secret of her creation–and soon find an answer that will rock their city to its foundation.
To clarify, this isn’t quite an anime adaptation of Fritz Lang’s silent expressionist opus, Metropolis. Ideas have been exchanged between the East and West on a two-way road for decades, and this is from a time when that road had more wiggly on-ramps. Anime and manga legend, Osamu Tezuka, reportedly saw the poster for Metropolis and was inspired to tell his own story with its broad strokes, even though he hadn’t actually seen the film itself. As such, it’s one movie where “re-imagining” actually is the proper label.
It boasts some of the most striking usages of color in any feature-length anime, as well. The real explosions don’t start blasting until the finale, but the palette alone makes Tezuka’s Metropolis feel like a non-stop fireworks show.
Featured Image Credit: FUNimation