1. Perfect Blue

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Summary: Mima is a young woman who is frustrated by her career as a mid-tier pop idol and decides to leave her girl group to pursue acting. Soon her life is turned upside down by the negative backlash from her fans and she begins to uncover the obsessive lengths people will go to preserve their own vision on "Mima-Chan", including murder. A true psychological thriller that hits upon the isolation of show business and instability of modern life. This is the directorial debut of Satoshi Kon, whose entire filmography could populate this list with his attention to detail and brilliant use of animation to merge the internal world of the mind with the familiar world around us.

Why it's NOT for kids: Nothing particularly "waifu-worthy" about watching a grown woman slowly descend into a total ego meltdown, terrorized by the threats around her. Violence comes quickly and brutally as well as some unsettling themes of sexual violence (both real and fictitious). If you're looking for anime staples like robots and high schools, look elsewhere.

Why YOU should watch it now: Besides having a real solid 90's anime aesthetic (oh man you guys remember the 90s? What's that? You don't? Shit.Perfect Blue is more prescient than ever in the year 2016. As the concept of 'celebrity' has shifted from rockstars to YouTubers, the line between fan and performer (and between performance and self) has never been blurrier. Anybody who dreams of fame will have second thoughts after watching this self-contained anime masterpiece.

 

2. Waltz With Bashir

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Summary: Hailed as the "first feature-length animated documentary" the movie follows filmmaker Ari Folman's journey to recall his memories about a horrific night during the 1982 Israeli war with Lebanon in an attempt to help his recurring symptoms of PTSD. Flashing back and forth between the past and present, Ari talks to his friends who shed light on the events, which are stylistically reenacted in dreamlike animation sequences. 

Why it's NOT for kids: The realities of war are presented to the audience in very stark terms. This is a film not about scrappy heroes of war, but scared 19-year olds asked to follow the flawed plans of flawed men. 

Why YOU should watch it now: In 90 minutes Folman presents one tiny slice of the century of warfare that has defined the middle east. It's also a calm and sober reflection on the duty of individual soldiers, and how their service affects them long after they leave the battlefield. 

 



3. It's Such a Beautiful Day

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Summary: Animated (and filmed) by hand over the course of several years by a single creator, this absurdist film by Don Hertzfeldt (yes, the same animator who gave the world 'MY SPOON IS TOO BIG') mixes fast paced goofy humor and truly contemplative philosophizing in a way that is singularly unique. We follow Bill, a stick figure everyman who may or may not be dying of a mysterious disease that affects his mental health and ability to relate to others. As he struggles to make amends and confront the possibilities of life and death, his journey takes on mythic proportions, are they real or merely a side-effect of his illness?

Why it's NOT for kids: While the silly sense of humor that made Hertzfeldt's earlier work Internet famous is there, The film also diverges into long stretches of almost meditative stillness that would cause even the most perfectly-medicated of children to gnaw their own foot off in boredom.

Why YOU should watch it now: Animation is an artform that provides the creator with near-infinite creative freedom, and this level of timing, tone, and intellectual intimacy could only come from a person in direct control of every single frame presented to the audience. This movie is as funny and deep as an all-night conversation with one of your oldest friends.

 

 

4. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

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Summary: Set years after the events of the (much more popular) first Ghost in the Shell movie, Batou is tasked with investigating a series of murders related to malfunctioning sex robots. The mystery takes him through a series of locations along with his partner where he uncovers clues, gets into intense fights, and philosophizes on the meaning of humanity. There is also a lovingly animated old basset hound and he's adorable. A technical achievement in animation at the time that pushed famed anime director Mamoru Oshii to his limits. 

Why it's NOT for kids: Sex robots, machine guns, and lots of bright red Yakuza blood makes this not safe for Toonami. Also the film was criticized for having overly heady dialogue and the absence of popular/sexy character Major Kusanagi made this film divisive in anime circles who wanted a more direct sequel to the first movie.

Why YOU should watch it now: The entire Ghost In The Shell series is rife with important questions about our increasingly digitized future, and this one makes many parallels to the very-real world problem of sex trafficking. On a technical level the film is marvelously detailed and will make for some really eye-pleasing fodder for High Definition displays.

 

 

5. Mary and Max

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Summary: An unlikely friendship emerges when an eight-year old Australian girl decides to become pen pals with a troubled 44-year old Jewish New Yorker. As the two exchange letters sharing the details of their very different lives they grow and change in unexpected ways. A lovingly animated portrayal of dysfunction, mental illness, and the redemptive power of acceptance and friendship, this film reinvigorated the lost art of claymation and is one of the most highly-acclaimed productions to ever come from The Land Down Under.

Why it's NOT for kids: Though a quirky and fantastical portrayal of the human condition, Mary and Max addresses issues involving depression, chronic anxiety, alcoholism and even suicide. 

Why YOU should watch it now: In a world filled with silky smooth faces (from CGI blockbusters and flashy anime) the craggled and ugly clay figures are as flawed and ugly as the people we know and love in our actual lives. These are characters that get overwhelmed and fall short, but still care for others around them. On a technical level it rivals stop-motion powerhouses like Aardman Animation and Studio Laika.