By Hana Dao
- “Your Lie in April”
This anime is popular among anime and non-anime fans alike, a must-see especially for anyone who enjoys classical music. The plot revolves around three childhood friends whose lives are changed forever when they befriend a young violinist, Kaori Miyazono. Arima Kousei is a piano prodigy and the anime’s protagonist, who finds himself chained to a traumatic past. When he initially meets Kaori, Arima finds himself put off by her fierce nature and tendency toward wild musical improvisation that often disregards the composition. Over time though, they grow closer, most notably when she drags him into being an accompanist for her concert performance. “Your Lie in April” presents to us the complexity of true growth and unbridled freedom. All 22 episodes of the show can currently be found on Netflix.
2. “My Neighbor Totoro”
If you’re a fan of Hayao Miyzaki’s work, then you may have already seen this animated fantasy film turned cult classic. Nonetheless, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a great one to rewatch. The film’s main characters Mei and Satsuke Kusakabe have just moved to the Japanese countryside to be closer to their mother, who is undergoing hospital treatment for an unspecified but cancer-coded illness. They soon discover the presence of unique spirits that reside in the forest near their home — including the fluffy gray giant named Totoro, playful soot creatures and a magnificent catbus. Mei and Satsuke’s adventures take them on a journey to discover the mysterious secrets of the natural world but also the tragedy of nature receding under urbanization. For some, Totoro and his friends are also symbolic of the flourishing of spring and regrowth. Even so, there are many opposing theories circulating online about what Totoro symbolizes as an ominous spirit of the forest. Decide for yourself when you get the chance to watch it!
3. “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”
This movie is definitely more underrated than it should be, albeit sounding like it’s pro-cannibalism! The wondrous scenes of cherry blossoms throughout the movie remind me that I should definitely go back to Japan during the springtime — but they also contribute to character development. They add a level of intricacy to particularly the main female character, rightly named Sakura (the Japanese name for cherry blossom trees). When they meet for the first time, Sakura tells Haruki that she is going to die soon. The aloof love interest shows little sympathy for her situation, responding with a nonchalant, “Okay.” From that moment on, Sakura persistently goads Haruki into spending more time with her to complete her bucket list — despite her friends being extremely wary of Haruki. Haruki’s monotonous routine is forever changed by his spunky classmate who teaches him so much about life, even though she is so closely bordering her own death. While death is a prevalent theme, the movie is also a celebration of life despite its transient nature. By encouraging one to think about what it would mean if we truly lived each day as if it would be our last, we are also faced with the question of whether we would change our life given the recognition of our own impending mortality. The movie elegantly presents to its audience the harmony of such a dichotomous relationship.
4. “Fruits Basket”
Recently remade in 2019, “Fruits Basket” is a humorous and lighthearted anime based on zodiac animal folklore. It features Tohru Honda, an orphan, who ends up staying at the home of her classmate Yuki Sohma when her grandfather’s home undergoes renovations. During her time there, Tohru realizes there may be more secrets to the Sohma clan than they are letting off. Overall, the show is funny and entertaining but also a little outdated in the way romance for girls is portrayed in the shoujo style. Aside from that, however, the anime is quite whimsical and has unexpected twists that catch you off guard. “Fruits Basket” has well-fleshed out character development, and the soundtrack is very memorable for fans.
5. “The Secret World of Arrietty”
Another great work from Studio Ghibli, The “Secret World of Arrietty” is a spin-off of the children’s tale “The Borrowers.” The Borrowers are tiny people, approximately the size of dolls, who come out at night to “borrow” supplies from the humans they reside with. The central story takes place in a quaint cottage away from the city that is home to Sadoko Maki and the Borrower family. Arrietty and her parents are Borrowers who live somewhat unbeknownst to the human homeowners. You might be thinking the Borrowers may basically be parasites or vermin, but the Borrowers take only essentials and live by small means as people who prioritize survival. Despite how everything else seems to be gigantic on the scale of the Borrowers, Miyazaki and the animators at Studio Ghibli have been able to capture an intense amount of detail on screen, making it hard for us not to embrace the little things in life.