My Favorite Anime Movies from the 1980s

I am usually not one for Top 10 listings to be honest. It’s all subjective and a matter of opinion. Why limit the variety of beautiful things in the world to a select number? Still making a list can be a good exercise and I decided to do this in regards to the animated films Japan created during the 1980s. To be fair, I am going to make two listings here. Why? Many of my favorite choices are a bit on the rare, or esoteric side of the fence and many of the better known, or easier to obtain films deserve a voice as well.

For my favorite listing I will use the following criteria… first, it has to be a film that I genuinely love and am proud to stand up for, anytime and anywhere… second, the movie has to be one that I replay and, or think about often. That’s IT! Keep it simple. For the second listing I will include as many of the films from the 80s that left an impact on me. Now on with the show…

I hope some of these resonate with you and by all means… list your favorites.

 

My 12 Favorites

(in alphabetical order)

ae-ud

Angel’s Egg (1985)
A visual poem that is dark, gothic, symbolic, mysterious and directed Mamoru Oshii. A true piece of fine art that belongs in a museum. To learn more click here.


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Arcadia of My Youth (1982)
Captain Harlock on the big screen well before the CG movie. A tale of stoic heroism, honor and following one’s definition of being free. To learn more click here.


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Chie the Brat (1981)
An endearing tale about a working class girl, her dysfunctional yet lovable family and the town she lives in. Directed by Isao Takahata. To learn more click here.


DiS_3

The Door into Summer (1981)
There is usually one year, or one summer, that defines us in our journey out of childhood and into adulthood. Once beyond that threshold, there is no return. To learn more click here.


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Grey Digital Target (1986)
A story in a dystopian wasteland where in order to survive and thrive, one must earn their way through fighting and war. To learn more click here.


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The Ideon: Be Invoked (1982)
The epic conclusion to the Ideon saga. One of the darkest mecha space opera of all time and a powerfully sublime ending as well. To learn more click here.


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Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
Friendship, sacrifice and the beauty of all that is life all wrapped up though a voyage to the stars on a train. To learn more click here.


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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
The movie that made Hayao Miyazaki a household name about a righteous heroine in a post nuclear world in search of ecological balance. To learn more click here.


DYRL_5

Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)
Space opera, mecha, romance, aliens and remembering love through a lost culture. Take the original Macross series and multiply it by 100! To learn more click here.


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They Were 11 (1986)
A defining tale about trust, growing up and identity for a group of students wanting to pass their final exam onboard a spaceship. To learn more click here.


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Toward the Terra (1980)
In the future children are born and raised to become perfect citizens. A new race of evolved humanity contradicts this and declare their individuality. To learn more click here.


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Windaria (1986)
A tale of love and war through the eyes of two young couple showing the price of following what one is expected to due over listening to one’s heart. To learn more click here.

 

The Honorable Listing

(in alphabetical order)

Akira (1988)
Barefoot Gen (1983)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Crusher Joe (1983)
Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)
Fist of the North Star (1986)
Gauche the Cellist (1982)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Movie Trilogy (1980/1981)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Patlabor: The Movie (1989)
The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)
Project A-Ko (1986)
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987)
Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
Vampire Hunter D (1985)

#108 : They Were 11

TW11_1Now for that age old question… what do you want to be when you grow up? The more appropriate version I would say is… when you mature what identity, or role, will you tie your life towards. For a group of young students in a far off sci-fi future these questions amongst many others will be answered as they learn to live with each other and understand what is important and true for themselves. In 1986, these students were the focus of a feature film by the name of They Were 11.

TW11_2Imagine having to pass a final exam as if your life was on the line, literally! Groupings of ten students have to board spaceships and survive on what is available and solve any problems without guidance. If you need to call for help, even just once, you have to forfeit the idea of graduation. As the story begins we have an immediate problem. This group of ten students we will be with during the story numbers one more. We have eleven students instead of ten, which means one of them is either a stow a way, an imposter and maybe even a threat. Who can it be? Everyone seems to be a suspect, yet all of them have legitimate reasons for being part of this final test. As the story unfolds, the drama grows as problems and issues ensue and trust becomes difficult between these eleven as one of them seems to intuitively understand the ship and certain circumstances better than the rest of the group. This would be enough for any other tale, but They Were 11 has even more to tell.

TW11_3The eleven students all come from different backgrounds. Many of them come from royalty, or well to do families and are in school to essentially follow their family’s traditions. These students are locked into their own paradigms and don’t have much choice for their lives. Tada, one of our main protagonists, is an exception as he is a highly gifted young man from a modest background and is making his way based on his talents instead of his lineage. Add to this, Tada begins to awaken to esper and psychic abilities, plus repressed memories from his childhood, that makes him quite suspect to the others. Frol, our other primary protagonist, is a young feminine androgyne who desperately wants to fit in and be one of the boys due to male privilege and freedom. Frol’s questioning of gender is the other major focus of They Were 11 as Frol comes to terms with the fact that in heart, soul and body a woman she is meant to be. A relationship soon develops between both Tada and Frol as they both share each other’s company, ideas and struggles.

TW11_4So many times space opera is a showdown of spaceships, laser beams, battle tactics and macho bravado, or perhaps, stern military seriousness. Many examples can follow these traits and do it successfully, but They Were 11 goes against this trend. Instead we have a story about relationship, characterization, love and sacrifice set in a future outer space environment. Sounds more like a shojo type of story than the usual shonen/seinen and by jove it is; one of my all time favorite’s of the designation. Instead of the bombast of say a full symphony orchestra, we have a string quartet. And though the size is smaller in scale, the power behind the meaning being expressed may be a little more intense. This is space opera treated as traditional drama for the stage; They Were 11 is dramatic theater, a play, set to animation.

They Were 11 tackles many difficult issues and does it all with grace and dignity. The original manga was the creation of one the best from the Year 24 Group, Moto Hagio, a woman who I have heard was the female equivalent to the great Osamu Tezuka. They Were 11 is a story that represents themes of self discovery and aspiring not to become someone, but to embrace an inner truth in ourselves that only we know to be correct. In a year that saw the release of Studio Ghibli’s first film Castle in the Sky and one of my all time favorite’s Windaria, They Were 11 represents a true dark horse that deserves more attention and recognition; an awesome and inspiring movie.