Written by Vanitas
This list includes 10 animations, 5 of which are Eastern and 5 more of which are Western that I consider masterpieces. I will delve into each entry’s plot and why it earned its position on this list. This list is for you even if you are a weaboo, sitting in their parents’ basement sleeping with a body pillow of your waifu or if you are a hipster posting check-ins from your house whenever you watch Lion King so that you can show everyone that “you are still a kid deep inside”.
Before I start, I want to point out that the “Anime” list includes short anime series too and not only movies as well as the “Cartoon” list includes cartoon series.
Number 10: Hunchback of Notre Dame
Whenever you think of your “Favourite Disney Movies” the Hunchback is probably not in the top 5 that will come to your mind and I understand why. But there’s a scene that made this movie iconic for me. After Esmeralda is imprisoned, Frolo prays to “Beata, Maria” in the form of a song called “Hellfire”. In the song he views his love for the young Gypsy as the work of the Devil, blaming Esmeralda herself, while also talking about how virtuous he is and how far above the common crowd he stands. He wants Esmeralda, her street dancing had him mesmerized but now he has to blame someone other than himself. He is so blind of his lust that he turns to Holy Mary saying that he feels as if hellfire is burning inside him, “forcing” him to sin. So the choice is made, Esmeralda the “witch” has to die so that the Archdeacon remains “pure”. I think this is one of the deepest moments in a Disney movie, spitting in the face of the Catholic Church’s not-that-old ways and exposing the corruptness of its priests; and all that in a children’s movie.
Number 9: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Water, 35 litres. Carbon, 20kg. Ammonia, 4 litres. Lime, 1.5kg. Phosphorus, 800g. Salt, 250 g. Saltpeter, 100g. Sulphur, 80g. Fluorine, 7.5g. Iron, 5g. Silicon 3g. 2 drops of human blood and traces of 15 other elements. What is that? The ingredients needed to create an average human adult? Why need that? To answer that I have to actually tell you what this story is about. Two brothers Edward and Alphonso live in a world where Alchemy is at its prime and works kind of like magic. The golden rule is the Law of Equivalent Exchange which is “Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.”, for example if you want to create gold you must offer something of equal value. But what happens when you want to bring back a dead human? Ed and Al’s mother is tragically lost and they are left alone since their father is long gone since their birth. In their desperation, they turn to Alchemy and to its biggest taboo. Reviving a dead human. Using the ingredients above they try to resurrect their mother but in the process, Al loses his body and Ed loses his left leg. In a desperate attempt to not lose his brother, Ed bonds Al’s soul inside a knight’s armour sacrificing his right arm but this is still not all. What came back was not their mother. More like a dead moving body without a soul.
What does the future hold for these prodigies? Their quest to get back Al’s body and Ed’s limps begins and it is one of the most tragic stories in the Japanese Animation culture.
Number 8: Up
Can a no-sound clip of 4 minutes make you cry? Pfff, of course not! It’s only 4 minutes, how can I relate to a character enough in 4 minutes for me to care? WRONG. The movie Up starts with a heartbreaking intro of a couple’s life from the beginning to the death of the protagonist’s wife. A grumpy old man named Carl, with no children living in his house making plans to honor his wife’s life-long wish: to fly their house on top of a mountain and live there. One day, a young boy scout comes to his door to help the old man, as a challenge from his scout master. The old man ignores the boy and tries to get rid of him. After that the old man begins his operation to get the house in the sky! Of course, the boy hid in the old man’s house so now, the old man, a cute dog and a young boy are stuck in a flying house. Watch their admittedly cute adventure in one of Pixar’s most iconic animations ever. Memories might weight you down, but love takes you up in the sky.
Number 7: Howl’s Moving Castle
Had enough of weird houses moving from place to place? Of course not! Howl’s Moving Castle is an amazing heartwarming story about a young girl, a curse and a Wizard. A young, shy girl is cursed by a spiteful witch to have the body of an old woman. Through that misfortune the young girl ends up in “The Wastes” and encounters a living scarecrow that will lead her to the house of Howl, a young, socially awkward wizard with even weirder friends where she is hired as a cleaning lady. Follow Howl’s moving castle (quite literally, since it actually has legs and actually moves), an amazing animation filled with love, friendship, adventure and magic that finds a way to penetrate that hard “shell” of every day’s routine and really leaves you with a feeling of contempt at the end. A masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki that everyone deserves to see.
Number 6: The Lion King
I almost didn’t include this movie, because of how popular it is (not that I have a problem with popular movies, they are popular for a reason), I feel that you should get some suggestions from top 10 lists and I can’t really suggest The Lion King since LITERALLY everyone has seen it. But honestly, it just had to be in a top 5 cartoons list (since the other 5 spots are reserved for Eastern Animation). It’s an amazing movie about the love between a son and a father, a betrayal and a very unique friendship. Simba, the heir to the king of Africa, Mufasa, is a young lion that soon finds himself in complete solitude when his father is brutally dethroned by his own brother Scar, leading to his death and making Simba, a now fatherless, homeless lion cub wander in the dangerous, wild planes of Africa. But fate isn’t such a cruel mistress (mainly because this is a children’s story but anyway) and Simba ends up in the company of Pumbaa, a warthog and Timon, a meercat who will take charge of teaching him what Simba’s parents didn’t have a chance to teach him (first same-parent couple raising a child in Disney history confirmed?). Lion King is a movie about so many beautiful things that you have no option but to fall in love with it.
Number 5: Death Note
What would you do if suddenly you had the powers of God in your hands? Would you give them up in order to have a normal life or would you take justice upon your hands? In this epic series, Yagami Light, a genius young student finds by chance the notebook of a Death God and he partly assumes a Death God’s role meaning that whosever name he writes in that Notebook will die of whatever cause is designated by the owner. A series that challenges ethics and morality, as Light decides to rid the world of criminals, filled with plot twists and ingenious tactics used by the great minds of Light and “L”, a detective that noticed the pattern in the deaths caused by the Death Note, that will keep you on your toes for the entirety of its duration. Considered as one of the best Animations the East has to offer, you NEED to see this battle with your own eyes. Death Note will not clear things up for you. It’s up to you to decide if Yagami is the bad guy, if his act of punishing criminals is righteous or simply wrong, if it’s ethical to take the law into your own hands or leave this job to the police. Death Note is the bridge from Western animation to Eastern and rightfully so.
Number 4: Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton is undisputedly the King of Gothic animation, even though I, myself, am not that much of a fan, I do not think that there’s someone as devoted as Tim Burton to this theme. It’s a macabre piece of animation where you feel an eerie touch everywhere. The movie is about Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town who by chance discovers Christmas Town and obviously does not grasp Christmas’ concept but is fascinated by it. So, when he returns back to the gloomy, gothic, spooky town after visiting the cheerful, colourful and happy Christmas Town he sets in motion his plan to make Hallooween Town better, by sabotaging Christmas. A creepy, stylish and dark stop-motion animation that has left its mark in the history of Animation, making it worldwide famous.
Number 3: Grave of the Fireflies
“September 21, 1945… that was the night I died”. Seita, a young boy, speaks these words to the audience at the start of the movie. He lived in Japan with his much younger sister Setsuko and their mother during World War II while their father fought in the Imperial Navy. The movie tells the story of these two siblings and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the war. After the death of their mother and the absence of his father, Seita knows that he is Setsuko’s only hope to survive. They drift across the countryside, fighting against starvation and disease. The apathy of the world is portrayed all around them and even though the war has turned even the kindest people to cruel monsters, their hope shines through the ravaged land, preventing them from succumbing swiftly to an inevitable fate. But unfortunately we know the end to this tale from the start and that’s the tragic part of it. There are beautiful scenes throughout the movie as Seita tries to keep his sister’s innocence intact and there are obviously heartbreaking scenes too, where the audience notices the fragility of the young boy compared to the naivety of his sister. I am so glad I got to watch this film right before I made this list because the list would feel incomplete without it.
Number 2: Archer
Best comedy series I have ever watched. The end. This list has been kind of heavy since the start but it’s time to lighten the mood up with some Sterling Archer, a superspy with the temperament of James Bond who’s probably never sober throughout the whole series. He works for ISIS (no, no the bad guys) a spy company owned by his mother. Hilarious running jokes from the start of the show to its finish (it’s an ongoing series but what will you do about it?), controversial humour and cool as fuck characters such as Lana, the big-handed modern amazon of the office, Krieger, the mad scientist that you never thought you needed but you most definitely do, Cheryl the nymphomaniac of the agency, Cyril the nerd and Pam Poovey the most badass, gossiper and funny female character I have ever encountered. How all these characters make ANY sense being together? Watch Archer and find out how this comedy with its weird art style and with its incredible sense of humour made it to this list.
Number 1: Elfen Lied
Lucy, a special breed of human, is a victim of scientific experimentation by the Japanese government. Confined in a secret lab, completely sealed away from the outside world because of how dangerous she is, she finds a way to break free and in the process slaughter almost everyone in the lab but certain events cause her to suffer from some kind of split personality. Kota and Yuka, two cousins, find Lucy washed ashore and take her under their care, naming her Nyu, because apparently that’s the only thing she can now say. Lucy/Nyu suffers flashes in which she returns to her former self only to protect herself and Kota from the forces that are trying to hunt her down. Watch this weird plot unveil in 13 episodes that might disturb you, shock you, but surely amaze you as the plot thickens and the characters unveil their true pasts leading to a tragic story.
This was my top 10 list of Animes and Cartoons. I probably missed some, mainly because I could only choose 5 of each genre. Did your favourite Cartoon/Anime make it in the list? Did I intrigue you to try watching something from “the other side”? In any case, I assure you, all these are worth it. Till next time.