15 Amazing Anime Films for Kids and Teens

From Academy Award winners to new discoveries, here are titles to enhance or jump-start anime collections.

While many librarians are familiar with Japanese anime adaptations from popular manga series, such as “Naruto,” this roundup will focus on stand-alone feature-length films. Whether your library is looking to expand its anime selections or trying to start one from scratch, you’ll find the titles below useful.

The following are all from critically acclaimed directors and studios. Studio Ghibli, perhaps the best known producer on this list, was started in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Spirited Away (2001) was awarded the 2003 Oscar for best animated feature, and four others by this company have been nominated for Academy Awards. Studio Ponoc, founded by former Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura in 2015, will be a name to watch. Viewers may notice similarities in tone, animation, and artistic style to Studio Ghibli’s fare.

Additionally, director Mamoru Hosoda’s compelling characters and story lines have become internationally popular. Satoshi Kon’s art is unique, and his stories are fascinating. The visually gorgeous works of Makoto Shinkai include elements of science fiction/fantasy, and many of his movies are most appropriate for older audiences.

The discs include the option to view with the original Japanese language audio or dubbed in English. Special features share fascinating behind-the-scenes information about the filmmaking process: location scouting, storyboarding, scoring scenes, and interviews with directors, producers, and voice actors. These extras will spark programming ideas and creative displays to promote book and DVD collections.

With diverse genres, compelling narratives, eye-catching animation, and memorable characters, the movies below are only a sample of the many quality anime available.

Studio Ghibli

Castle in the Sky. 125 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181418; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181425. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–First released in 1986 and the first film released by Studio Ghibli, this combination of magic, action, treasure hunting, and steampunk imagery makes for a fun, family-friendly adventure. Pazu, a young orphan, rescues Sheeta when he sees her floating down from an airship while trying to escape her kidnappers. They find out that the fabled floating castle, Laputa, is real and was once a thriving and powerful kingdom with vast wealth, technology, and robot warriors. On the run from the military and pirates, Pazu and Sheeta embark on their own quest to protect Laputa from falling into the wrong hands.

Howl’s Moving Castle. 119 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181616; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181623. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–Cursed by the Witch of the Waste, Sophie Hatter is turned into an old lady and leaves home and finds a job as a housekeeper for the charming wizard Howl. She lives in his moving castle alongside Howl, his young apprentice, and the fire demon Calcifer. Based on Diana Wynne Jones’s novel, the 2004 fantasy film blends magic, romance, and a strong antiwar message with arresting animation. Fans of the movie may also enjoy reading the other novels in Wynne Jones’s trilogy, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways.

Kiki’s Delivery Service. 103 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181456; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181463. Rated G. Gr 3 Up–In this charming coming-of-age story, Kiki, a 13-year-old witch, leaves home for the first time with her talking black cat, Jiji. Using her broom for transportation, Kiki creates her own business in a picturesque European seaside town with cobblestone streets, open-air markets, and a giant clock tower. A bonus feature includes tours of the Swedish locations—Stockholm and Visby—that were used as models. Pair travel books about Sweden with this movie for a fun presentation. Eiko Kadono, the author of the original book series upon which the 1989 movie is based, recently won the Hans Christian Andersen award at the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. My Neighbor Totoro. 86 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181432; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181449. Rated G. Gr 2 Up–Siblings Satsuki and Mei move with their father to the countryside while their hospitalized mother is recovering from an illness. There, Satsuki and Mei meet Totoro, a giant, furry forest spirit. With Totoro’s magic, they make the plants in their garden grow overnight and float through the sky with Totoro’s umbrella. This delightful 1988 movie captures the essence of childhood wonder and magic. The story will resonate with viewers young and old. A full-color manga series based on the film, as well as a novel adaptation, is available from Viz Media. My Neighbors the Yamadas. 104 min. Shout! Factory. 2018. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181555; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181562. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–Directed by the esteemed Isao Takahata, this quirky slice-of-life is made up of short, humorous vignettes about the Yamada family. In one story, the mother and father fight over the TV remote and end up dancing the tango through the living room; in another, the grandmother tells a group of bikers to use their intimidating nature for the pursuit of justice. The use of solely digital technology, minimal background art, and title breaks between the various segments makes this 1988 work stylistically unique; viewers will feel as though they are watching a manga come to life. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. 117 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181395; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181401. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–This 1984 movie, which launched the career of director Hayao Miyazaki and sparked the creation of Studio Ghibli, takes place 1,000 years after the decay of civilization. Humans wear gas masks, and the Ohm, giant guardian insects, ensure that no harm comes to any of their kind who overpopulate the world. When a neighboring village attempts to instigate a war against the Ohm to take back the world for humanity, Nausicaä, a teenage girl, tries to find a peaceful solution in hopes that all may coexist. Princess Mononoke. 134 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181531; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 826663181548. Rated PG-13. Gr 8 Up–In alternate feudal Japan, Ashitaka, a young prince, leaves his village in search of a cure after he is cursed by a boar god–turned–demon. On his quest, Ashitaka meets Lady Eboshi, leader of a village that uses guns and other technology to advance itself at the cost of the forest and its inhabitants. Though Lady Eboshi is kind to her people, her ambition has sparked a war against the forest gods, as well as San, aka Princess Mononoke, who was raised by wolves. An epic fantasy from 1997, this is a bold, beautiful, and often gritty tale and one of the studio’s most iconic works. Spirited Away. 125 min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD $19.96. UPC 826663181579; Blu-ray/DVD $29.95. UPC 82666318 1586. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–A tunnel in the middle of the woods leads to the intersection between the human and spirit worlds. After her parents are turned into pigs, Chihiro finds herself stuck in the spirit world. She meets Haku, a river dragon in human form who is bound to the controlling sorceress Yubaba. In order to survive and save her parents, Chihiro works in Yubaba’s bathhouse, where she meets a number of remarkable spirits—good, bad and everything in between—and finds the courage inside herself to survive.

Mamoru Hosoda

The Boy and the Beast. 119 min. Funimation. 2016. DVD $29.99. UPC 704400014925; DVD/Blu-ray $34.99. UPC 704400014918. Rated PG-13. Gr 8 Up–After his mother passes away, a young boy enters the realm of the beasts, where he lives and trains with Kumatetsu, a giant bear who is strong and brash but not a natural teacher. Ren, named Kyuta by Kumatetsu, wants to become stronger at any cost. Despite their constant bickering, the boy and the bear form a close bond. When the human and beast worlds are threatened by darkness, the duo find a way to protect everyone. Filled with bright colors, detailed backgrounds, engaging fight scenes, and hilarious banter, this 2015 offering will make a great addition to library collections. A manga adaptation is available from Yen. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. 99 min. Funimation. 2016. $34.95. UPC 704400014963. Rated PG. Gr 6 Up–In the school science lab, teen Makoto finds a device that allows her to travel back in time. In great comedic fashion, she literally leaps into the air and then rolls onto the floor, popping up a short time before diving into her time travels. An average student who is also somewhat clumsy, Makoto uses the knowledge she picks up from time traveling to pass quizzes and avoid accidents at school. This humorous sci-fi film (2006) with relatable characters is not to be missed. Yasutaka Tsutsui’s original novel, which serves as a prequel to the movie, is available from Alma. Wolf Children. 117 min. Funimation. 2013. DVD $29.99. UPC 704400092411; DVD/Blu-ray $34.99. UPC 7044000 92428. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–Hana, a hardworking college student, falls in love with her half-wolf classmate. When they have two children, Yuki and Ame, Hana has to figure out how to raise the half-wolf offspring on her own after their father passes away. Realizing that the city is neither a good fit nor safe for Yuki and Ame, she moves her family to a rural village. Despite the harsh labor of mending the house and tending the fields, Hana does everything in her power to give her children a good life. This is a beautiful film (2012) about motherhood, family, and growing up to find one’s own path. Pair with the manga adaptation, Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki, published by Yen.

Kenji Kamiyama

Napping Princess. 111 min. Shout! Factory. 2018. DVD $16.97. UPC 826663184761; Blu-ray/DVD $26.99. UPC 826663184778. Not rated. Gr 6 Up–The year is 2020, and Japan is getting ready to unveil its self-driving cars for the Summer Olympics. When high schooler Kokone falls asleep, she awakens as Princess Ancien of Heartland, an alternate world populated by people she knows but filled with talking stuffed animals, pirates, and a magical tablet. After her father is kidnapped in the real world for stealing sought-after car technology, Kokone must rescue him using the knowledge she gains from her adventures in Heartland and the world’s mysterious connection to her past. Fans of this 2017 movie may enjoy reading more about self-driving cars.

Satoshi Kon

Tokyo Godfathers. 92 min. Sony. 2004. $19.99. UPC 043396028142. Rated PG-13. Gr 9 Up–After finding an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve, a teen runaway, a transgender woman, and a middle-aged man—all of whom live together as a family on the streets of Tokyo—search for the missing mother. In doing so, they confront the past they tried to leave behind. Kon’s hilarious 2003 film explores topics that are not often portrayed in the media. Language, alcohol use, and some violence make this more appropriate for older teens and adults.

Makoto Shinkai

Your Name. 107 min. Funimation. 2017. DVD $29.99. UPC 704400023927; Blu-ray/DVD $34.99. UPC 704400023910. Rated PG. Gr 7 Up–Mitsuha, who lives in a small rural village, begins to body-swap with Taki, who lives in Tokyo. The two teens eventually meet, only to realize that they are living in different times. After Taki discovers where—and when—Mitsuha lives, they attempt to change the course of history, even if that means they will no longer remember each other. Director Shinkai has made a compelling and unique film (2016) with striking visuals and intricate attention to detail. The light novel is available from Yen On, and a manga adaptation is being published by Yen.

Studio Ponoc

Mary and the Witch’s Flower. 103 min. Universal. 2018. DVD $22.99. UPC 191329055915; DVD/Blu-ray $29.99. UPC 191329055922. Rated PG. Gr 4 Up–In this stunning debut from Studio Ponoc, Mary and a neighborhood cat find an old broomstick in the woods and a flower, which temporarily gives Mary the powers of a witch. She is whisked away by the broom to a magical college, where she quickly impresses everyone with her talents. The headmistress believes Mary is an extraordinary witch, not knowing that the girl’s gifts are due to the rare Fly-by-Night flower, which the headmistress has been trying to harness for her own schemes. The film’s coloring is vivid, and the characters are expressive. With exceptional world-building and an inspiring heroine, the 2017 movie will appeal to fans of Studio Ghibli’s works and those unfamiliar with anime.

Marissa Lieberman is a children’s librarian at East Orange Public Library, NJ.

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