3 Culturally Significant Anime Films on My Watchlist

Lately, I have been watching a lot more anime than I normally do. Granted it’s only been an episode or two or three in between bouts of homework and treatments. But it’s far more than I’ve typically been consuming. It feels quite fantastic. The only drawback is that in lieu of watching more things, I haven’t really been able to read as much. Figuring out that balance is a bit tricky, but I’m going to keep dabbling in it here and there until I find a comfortable rhythm with all of my self-care hobbies. In the meantime, I’m going to take full advantage of my thriving otaku predilections while they’re blooming so energetically.

Anime films are something I haven’t seen much of when compared to the number of serials I’ve watched. I’ve been wanting to remedy this for a long time, but so many films tend to get enthusiastically hyped and thus end up making me want to hold off on viewing them. So, I thought it would be neat to re-visit old anime films that either many people haven’t heard of or that time merely forgot about.

With my recent venture into the Naruto anime, the old-school animation styles have been very appealing to me. There’s a nostalgia and an air of comfort that helps me feel all fuzzy when it comes to olden-golden media. Plus, so many previously released materials tend to be the inspiration or foundation for many contemporary works and their influences go unrecognised due to how aged they become over the years, or maybe even because of how obscure they are.

Today I wanted to share with you three anime films that I want to see more than most of the other titles floating about on my watchlist. Two of these films were made approximately twenty and thirty years ago respectively, while the third is only eight years old. They are titles that I haven’t seen discussed on any other anime blogs or channels before but have premises that seem like they’d be a perfect complement to the narratives and stories that I tend to be fond of.

Ocean Waves (1993)

Ocean Waves (海がきこえる) came out in 1993 and is a Studio Ghibli film that’s an adaptation of the novel written by Saeko Himuro. It’s a romantic slice-of-life film that takes place in Kōchi, Japan. It is about three individuals, all high school students, who end up developing feelings for one another in different ways. Emotions of jealousy and inferiority arise, causing complications in their friendships.

Love triangles are a tricky trope for me. If written well, they can lead to some of the most compelling of stories. In that regard, it’s safe to say that it can be a trope that I have a love/hate relationship with. One of things that intrigue me the most about this film is the fact that it takes place in Shikoku, which consists mostly of coastal towns due its smaller liveable environments (most of the island is mountainous and unliveable). The ocean can be a powerful allegory, particularly where romance is concerned, and with the film being a product of Studio Ghibli, I’m curious to see how it shall play out.

Secondly, the early 1990s was an interesting time for Japan socially. Many things that began almost immediately after the Second World War, such as Western influences brought in from its occupation by US forces for fives year, would have had enough time to establish dominant roles in their social and cultural ways of life. That identity crisis of modernising yet trying to hold on to elements that are uniquely Japanese would be far more apparent and bustling during the 80s and 90s. One such example would be the suppression versus the exploration of sexuality As someone who’s obsessed with Japanese cultural and social history, especially Postwar Era, I can’t resist it.

Lastly, the film was created by a younger group of animators at the studio during this time. It was slightly controversial because it ended up going over budget and taking far longer to complete than anticipated. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious as to the result of something that stirred up quite a bit of professional stress.  

The Tale of Genji (1987)

The Tale of Genji (源氏物語) released in 1987 and is the anime film adaptation of the original novel by Murasaki Shikibu. The novel is not only credited as being Japan’s first novel, but also the first novel to ever be written (although this always being debated). It follows Genji, who is the son of a courtier and the emperor.

I love this story. I have multiple translations and copies of this book, and it’s one of the stories that helped fuel my passion for the Japanese literature genre. While I can get into all of the reasons that I adore it as both a Japanophile and a bibliophile, I will merely say instead that nearly all narratives about life at court and the treatment of non-royals in Japan can be credited to this novel in one way or another. Plus, it was a huge feat for women.

Since I am so ardent about The Tale of Genji, adding the film to my watchlist and, hopefully being able to watch it sometime in the near future, was sort of a no-brainer. I know that there is also an anime series with approximately twelve episodes that was released in the mid to late 2000s that shouldn’t be missed upon finishing the film. But I definitely want to view this first and foremost!

Grandfather’s Lamp (2011)

Grandfather’s Lamp (おぢいさんのランプ) premiered in 2011 and is an original short film that tells the story of a young boy who discovers a lamp while playing hide-and-seek. His grandfather then tells him a tale about an important role that this lamp played.

I mentioned earlier that I’m utterly obsessed with the evolution of Japanese culture and social structure, particularly after the Second World War. This short was created as commentary on the modernisation of Japan and the drastic ways the country had changed because of it. When they lost the war, they lost a humongous part of who they were as a people to the West, which created intense strife and confusion as to who they would be moving forward.

Titles, like this one, that take a unique parable and use it as a metaphor for something in the real world is like a drug to me. If you have read any of my anime reviews, particularly ones from this year (now that I’ve finally found my very own reviewing voice and rhythm), you’ll know that I live for content like this; things that are intellectually engrossing in multi-faceted ways. Tales that make me think and ponder about what’s been shared long after it’s been consumed. Because of that, I cannot wait to find this short and finally view it.

I know that hunting these down is going to involve a bit of work on my part, and maybe my cousin’s (he lives in Japan and it may be easier for him to find them than it would be for me). But I look forward to it as I’m so excited to see what these films have to offer.

Are there any older films that you haven’t had an opportunity to watch yet, but would like to get to in the near future? What are some elements that catch your interest when it comes to anime films?

Thank you so much for visiting me today! I appreciate your support. I wish you a lovely day ahead.


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17 thoughts on “3 Culturally Significant Anime Films on My Watchlist

  1. I remember seeing Umi ga Kikoeru on TV with my mom as a kid, until she said “you’re too young to get this” and switched to another channel. 😂 Love all your choices, and I hope to watch those culturally relevant films myself as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is totally unrelated, but have you seen the movie Hotarubi no Mori e? (Translation: Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light”) Highly recommend this movie and it won’t take up a lot of your time. If you like sad stories, you’ll like this one.

    I haven’t seen any of the ones on your list but they look interesting. I’m hoping to start watching anime again but I haven’t had the time to do so.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For Ocean Waves, I doubt you’ll find anything particularly new pertaining to Japanese culture or social norms unless you’ve never seen any slice of life anime. With that being said, it’s definitely worth watching, because the main lead is such a cutie, and the female lead is… Well, I’d love to know your thoughts lol

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ocean Waves did get an English release on DVD (I believe Ghibi is released under Disney in the USA), so it is possible to track down. It might not meet your expectations, it was a bit of a slow burn for me. The other two films I havent heard of so Im interested to see your thoughts on them!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! I found some copies online, so I’m glad it’s still pretty available. The other two will be a bit more difficult, but I’m determined to find them. I shall definitely do write-ups for them when I watch them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually found two of these available on YouTube in full version (or at least so it appears). I’ve got a day off here today so I might even sit back and watch one… but they all sound very interesting. What I have done for a long time to balance anime and reading is one night I read myself to sleep, and the next I watch anime until I have to stop because you can’t read subtitles with eyes closed. Recently I’ve changed up some though. Because I am really working on studying Japanese (the language) again I will do an hour or so of Japanese study, followed by an hour or so of anime because I’ve learned over time that it seems to improve my ear, so to speak, to hear the words and grammar in use right after I’ve studied. Seems to make it stick better for me. Then I read myself to sleep. I am liking how that works out because it seems I’m making good progress on all three things. If anything is suffering its the anime because I’m watching several series at once, but only one or two shows a night. I am not above working some anime in during the day 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds like a great plan for getting all three things done, even if it’s a bit paced. I may have to try something like that. My ADHD also always throws a fit when I either do too much or only stick to one thing. It can be such a pain in the neck lol. I’ve really been into anime lately and I’ve just sort of gone with that feeling. But I do hope to get back into reading relatively soon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Living neatly equidistant to two great library districts got me reading again. I’ve spent the last few years gaming and watching anime for the most part in my free time. I’m enjoying more of a balance these days. Although it does take me forever to finish an anime series. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lucky for me I’m retired now and can just go with whatever appeals to me at the moment. Over my life I’ve found this really works better for me, although it does mean I occasionally disappear down a rabbit hole of research on something…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ocean Waves was a favourite of mine because I had always loved films about nostalgia; whilst I’m less backward-looking since watching have every confidence someone else in my old position would enjoy it. Did the nostalgia appeal much to you? From your passion for following Japan’s changes over time I would assume that might be the case. Thanks very much for all of our recommendations, anyway, as I’m interested, especially after reading Mishima and Oe, in the socio-political side of things so am certain the other works will appeal to me


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