Every so often, popular TV anime shows will get theatrical releases to either expand the story further and provide a closure, or recap movies composed of select scenes from the TV series with added or redone scenes, or they’re retellings with the select and redone scenes with alternate character development and plot. Why are the studios doing this? Imagine yourself writing an essay and already submitted it, and you’ve realized too late that you could’ve worded some paragraphs better. This is more or less like that.
For this article, Honey’s Anime is listing 3 movie series that fit the description of both recap and a retelling of the original story. There are a ton out there and the ones listed here are among the best of their kind. And please be reminded that there will be spoilers, so tread carefully.
3. Macross Frontier Movies
- Episodes: Movie 1: Itsuwari no Utahime (The False Songstress)
- Aired: November 21, 2009
- Episodes: Movie 2: Sayonara no Tsubasa (The Wings of Goodbye)
- Aired: February 26, 2011
After a grueling war that decimated planet Earth, a peace treaty has been made between humans and the giant aliens called the Zentradi, and with the two species live in harmony, they set out to the outer reaches of the galaxy in search of new planets to colonize using massive colonization ships. One such ship is Frontier, and they’re in search for new worlds for humans to survive. As they search endlessly across space, Frontier was attacked by an alien species called the Vajra. With a fleet of variable fighters and powerful ships, Frontier must fend off the Vajra in order to survive.
The movie version of Macross Frontier is what you’d expect for recap movies, but some of the writing has changed that, arguably, were not in favor of Ranka. In the TV series, Ranka has more prominence on screen and enough development that fans tend to favor her to end up as a couple with the main guy Alto Saotome. The movies shifted their focus more toward Sheryl Nome like her no-nonsense, yet vulnerable personality, a look to her dark past, a charming relationship with Alto, and eventually her relationship with Ranka, who, in the end, shares the same destiny as her. And without a shadow of doubt, Sherly is one, if not, the most well-written songstress in all of Macross, surpassing even that of the immortalized Lynn Minmay and the rogue AI Sharon Apple.
In the end though, the Macross Frontier movies are a great recap of the TV anime containing the best scenes and very good rewrites and additional new scenes, especially the ending that, if you’re up-to-date with Macross, has fanservice like the brief Isamu cameo of Macross Plus, the final battle is similar to the Bird Human battle in Macross Zero, and the after ending scene is a nod to the Lynn Minmay concert from the Macross: Do You Remember Love? movie. Admittedly, the exclusion of the nyan-nyan song from episode 1 was a tough pill to swallow.
2. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Movies
- Episodes: Movie 1: Gurren-hen
- Aired: September 6, 2008
- Episodes: Movie 2: Lagann-hen
- Aired: April 22, 2009
Due to a catastrophic event in the past, the remaining pockets of humans have fled underground. Simon and Kamina are one of the few people who were raised underground and have never seen the surface. They spend their lives digging and digging, until one day, Simon finds a robot with a huge face. The robot is named Lagann and a series of events forced Simon and Kamina to travel to the surface and they’re caught in a mystery on a galactic scale.
It’s common knowledge by now that it’s not a good idea to watch these recap movies without first watching the original TV versions because you’ll miss out on character development and scenes that didn’t make the cut. Gurren-hen covers half of the TV anime and it ends with Simon fighting Earth’s ruler Lordgenome. Lagann-hen covers the last half of the TV anime and has the most changes like how the humans made contact with the Anti-Spirals, how the evacuation of Earth was handled, and how certain characters were left to live to fight another day. The biggest change however is the final encounter with the Anti-Spirals in a battle so big, not even the multiverse could contain.
While the battles, especially the last one, were bombastic, it’s the little things that made the movies a bit better than the TV original. One best example is the revision and extended version of Simon fighting the Anti-Spiral—in the end, the fate of the universe lies within the fists of the two most powerful men in the universe. And according to fan speculations, the battle against the Anti-Spiral took 8 billion years because, you know, perception of spacetime is very different, especially if you’re the size of an entire universe.
1. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Movies (Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movies)
- Episodes: Movie 1: Hajimari no Monogatari (Beginnings)
- Aired: October 6, 2012
- Episodes: Movie 2: Eien no Monogatari (Eternal)
- Aired: October 13, 2012
- Episodes: Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari (Rebellion)
- Aired: October 23, 2013
Kaname Madoka is your everyday pink-haired middle-school girl doing what every girl does at her age, until she and her friend Sayaka meet a cat-like creature named Kyubey and the mysterious girl named Homura Akemi. Kyubey offers Madoka and Sayaka a proposition: Make a contract with him to become magical girls and fight witches that bring disaster to the world. However, witch hunting is only part of a grand scheme that Madoka was never prepared for.
Movies 1-2 are the usual recap movies with additional scenes, introduction of a new character, and changes to the plot, because why not? You could argue that the first 2 movies are skippable, but there are some great moments like better character interactions between Sayaka and Kyouko (especially if you wanted more yuri from these two), and well-crafted set pieces that will make you suspicious that one of the animators took more LSD than they did during the TV version. What’s unskippable though is the 3rd movie Rebellion because it’s a continuation of the Madoka Magica storyline, taking place after the final episode of the TV series.
Without spoiling too much, Homura Akemi sets out to find a way to bring Madoka—who is technically a god—back to the mortal back realm. Doing this is no easy feat and Akemi has to deal with her crippling mental state and she is slowly turning into a witch, that is also affecting reality around her. Will Akemi find her beloved Madoka, or will she lose hope and turn into a witch? The twist at the end is nothing short of unexpected, and it will surely make your jaw drop.
And these are the 3 anime movies that are better than the TV originals! This is the part where we say that “being better than the original” is highly subjective, but hey, at least the studios had the decency to let you experience new things from anime you’ve already seen before. Some are good, while some are shameful cash grabs, but the ones we’ve listed are one of the best out there.
Are there any more movies like these? If you have some in mind, then please, share it with us!