There are a lot of holidays out there that each celebrate something special. One that is sometimes overlooked by people but definitely deserves recognition is Earth Day! Earth Day is meant to be a day to be thankful to our planet for sustaining our species and to be mindful of how we treat nature, wildlife, and our natural resources. A lot of people appropriately celebrate Earth Day by planting a tree or something similar. But what about the rest of your day? Is there something an anime fan can do to stay in the spirit of Earth Day? You bet! Of course, there are great anime out there to help you celebrate Earth Day!
To create our list of the Top 10 Anime to Watch on Earth Day, we chose anime that highlight the same issues or celebrate the same wonders that the holiday itself is meant to do. That means these anime are environmental anime for the most part. They deal with issues like humans vs. nature, drained natural resources, respect to animals, and understanding the beauty and wonder of our planet - and our own responsibility to care for that beauty. These anime will make you feel good, make you feel guilty, and above all - they’ll make you think! And that’s what Earth Day is all about.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul. 2016 – Sep. 2016
Rewrite is the story of Kotarou Tennouji, a high school boy happy to pursue his own selfish, hedonistic values above all else. He lives in the city of Kazamatsuri, which is a perfect combination of nature and human society. However, he does not follow the shared values of the city and lives only for himself. Drawn to the supernatural by his own ability to rewrite any part of his body to make it faster or stronger, Kotarou revives a club for the occult. In preparation for the annual Harvest Festa, Kotarou and the other members of the club begin to investigate rumours of mysterious creatures that have been appearing in the city.
Rewrite is an excellent fantasy and supernatural anime to check out on Earth Day. It may not be pushing environmental values like many other anime on our list, but it does showcase a beautiful balance between human society and nature in Kazamatsuri. Most of the citizens of the city respect and live by that balance, which we can learn a lot from today. It celebrates the beauty of nature alongside human innovation rather than as two forces that must contend with one another. Plus Rewrite does have an interesting narrative to enjoy as well, which makes it a fun watch on Earth Day for fans of the supernatural. It’s quite funny, too!
9. Ueki no Housoku (The Law of Ueki)
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: Apr. 2005 – Mar. 2006
Ueki no Housoku begins with junior high school student Kousuke Ueki’s teacher being chosen by the Celestial God to compete as a candidate to be the next God. Each candidate chooses a student to bestow powers upon and fight for them in a competition. Kousuke has the interesting power of being able to turn garbage into trees! He has to use his power to fight against other junior high school students if he wants to prevail and help his teacher become the Celestial King. And on top of that, there is the intriguing award called the “Blank Talent” also up for grabs to the winner, and everyone wants the power behind that kind of freedom.
Ueki no Housoku is an interesting choice for an Earth Day celebration anime. It has an unexpectedly Earth-friendly battle at the core of the plot, and Kousuke’s ability to turn rubbish into trees is one that we could use in real life for sure! It may not be pushing recycling or in-your-face environmentalism, but it’s still creating a story around the idea of a battle that is good for the planet. Ueki no Housokue is the embodiment of the old saying “one man's trash is another man’s treasure.” If only we could do something so amazing for our planet in real life!
8. Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai (This Ugly Yet Beautiful World)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2004 – Jun. 2004
Takeru Takemoto’s life seems pretty average in Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai as he works his job as a motorbike courier. But everything changes when he sees a star falling into the forest from the sky, and he decided to find it. Takeru could never have anticipated what awaits him; a beautiful girl coming out of a cocoon! The two are soon attacked by a monster, but luckily they are able to fend it off using their powers. And that’s just the beginning. Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai is a story of the threat of global extinction, and the idea that everything beautiful has something ugly about it too - and of course, also the reverse of that!
Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai is a good route for Earth Day if you like science fiction. It has several sci-fi tropes like a girlfriend suddenly appearing, supernatural powers, and aliens. Add into that a message about what would happen if we destroy the Earth and the threat of the planet ending, and you’ve got an entertaining sci-fi with an environmental agenda. Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai aims to show that the ugliest parts of the world are also what make them the most beautiful, and can make you fall in love with the planet around you once more if you let yourself get lost in the story.
7. Kawa no Hikari (Light of the River)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jun. 2009
Kawa no Hikari is a short film taking place over one year about a family of rats. That’s right; this story follows some above average rats on their journey. When the rats’ home in a tree is destroyed by a human construction site, they are forced to find a new place to live whether they like it or not. And they have to do it before the cold of winter sets in! The family’s journey brings them through an adventure, dangerous situations, and no friends as they search for a new place that they can call home.
The plot of Kawa no Hikari is simple but meaningful. It highlights the issues of human expansion without regard for nature and wildlife as the humans construct more structures. No one ever considers that they are evicting an entire family of rats that now have to change their whole lives without any say of their own, plunging them into struggles that they don’t deserve. Kawa no Hikari is a light-hearted anime, but the themes that it explores are quite serious. If you want to spend your Earth Day remembering to be mindful of nature and wildlife no matter how small or insignificant that it may seem, check out Kawa no Hikari for a surprisingly moving story.
6. Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko (Pom Poko)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jun. 1994
Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko is based on a very real issue - the constant expansion of Tokyo and the destruction of nature that it causes. As the city expands, it threatens the home of a family of raccoons. Desperate to save their forest home, the raccoons try to use their powers to stop it. Two of them travel to Shikoku to enlist the help of the sages. The others terrorise the construction site by causing accidents and pretending to be ghosts. Determined to stop the construction from processing, the raccoons are willing to do just about anything to save their home.
Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko may be a whimsical, fantasy story about a family of cute raccoons. But the issue it draws attention to is all too real and tragic. Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko highlights the effect that human expansion has on both nature and the animals that call it home, especially when done without any consideration for the Earth. By showing the raccoon family in a humanising way, Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko makes the issue important to viewers who can better identify with the family’s struggle. Earth Day isn’t just about nature, it’s also about animals, and Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko is a great choice when you want to remember that!
5. Giniro no Kami no Agito (Origin: Spirits of the Past)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jan. 2006
Giniro no Kami no Agito takes place in the future, where a DNA experiment on plant life has gone horribly wrong. At first the mutated forest was kept on the moon, but eventually, it spread to the Earth and has left the planet devastated by its destruction. One day, a village boy named Agito discovers a strange girl who has been sleeping for 300 years in a stasis unit. When she wakes up, the Earth is incredibly different from what she remembers. Things only get worse when the neighbouring village of Ragna learns of her reawakening and believes she is the key to the creation of a high tech weapon to destroy the forest. When she’s taken away by the warriors of Ragna, Agito makes a deal with the forest to gain its powers to save her - and to save the forest, too.
Giniro no Kami no Agito is a story of the negative effects that humans can have in nature when they tamper with it too much - and then nature fights back in return! While the forest is first painted in a negative light, you begin to understand its plight the more you watch the film. And when you see what the village of Ragna wants to do to it, you find yourself on the forest’s side and disgusted by the cruelty of humans towards the Earth. Giniro no Kami no Agito’s main character Agito works with the forest to save both it and his village and friend, showing a mutual agreement between humans and nature. It’s a great film especially for sci-fi fans to enjoy on Earth Day!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr. 2009 – Sep. 2009
Shangri-La is set in the distant future of Japan, which has been destroyed by earthquakes and global warming across the world. Society now has a huge class divide, with the rich and powerful living inside a walled city called Atlas. Meanwhile, the poor struggle to scrape by living in the jungles that have taken over what used to be civilisation, and these jungles just keep getting more violent and dangerous all the time. Kuniko is a strong-willed girl who wants to lead her people to a life is safety in Atlas, and to open up the gates of the city to everyone once and for all instead of allowing only the upper class to survive.
Shangri-La’s entire plot would not exist without global warming, which is central to setting the scene and mood for the anime. It highlights the dangers of long-term global warming and how it is slowly destroying the planet. Shangri-La shows a fictional future but it’s based on a very real danger to our planet. And the jungles that take back modern civilisation are the Earth’s response to humans destroying it through our own selfish expansion projects. While the main story may not have an environmental focus, the setting of Shangri-La certainly reminds us of what could happen if we damage the planet too much. And that’s a great reminder to watch on Earth Day!
3. Miyori no Mori (Miyori’s Forest)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Aug. 2007
11-year old Miyori has a tragic beginning in Miyori no Mori when her parents desert her. She shuts down, deciding that she doesn’t want to be close to anyone ever again. She is entrusted with her grandma who lives near a large forest. Every day, Miyori walks through the trees, feeling an overwhelming sense of loneliness there. But the more she explores, the more Miyori discovers in the forest. It’s full of so many surprising secrets for a young girl to discover, and it gives her a new feeling of belonging and meaning in her life when she thought she would never feel it again.
Miyori no Mori is a beautiful story for nature lovers. It highlights the secret wonders that exist in an untouched forest, and show what might appear to be a lonely place transforming into something so much more. It also shows how amazing a place that is untouched by humans can be when nature is just let alone to be itself - and how a human can interact with it in a respectful way like Miyori does. Miyori no Mori may have a sad beginning, but it’s not a negative anime film. It’s a story that is perfect for a positive outlook on Earth Day to celebrate nature and its wonders, however simple.
2. Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Mar. 1984
Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä is set a millennium after a great nuclear war all but destroyed the Earth. The human race is dying, fighting a losing battle against a forest that is spreading across the world in response to human destruction. It’s full of poisonous spores and giant insects, forcing the remaining humans to live in small enclaves. Near the sea in the Valley of the Wind, one farming village lives in relative peace. But all that changes when an airship crashes there, and the fierce army from a neighbouring kingdom come to retrieve a mysterious object from the wreckage. They want to create a weapon from the nuclear war once more, and Princess Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has to stop them and save the Earth.
Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä paints a dark picture of nature taking revenge on the human race, who questionably deserve the punishment after nearly destroying everything with nuclear war. When Nausicaä has to defend her village and the Earth itself from yet another war created by humans, she fights back by teaming up with the powerful forces of nature. She even risks her own life and safety to protect the giant insects that most humans see as monsters; she sees them as so much more. Nausicaä has a strong connection to the Earth and it’s flora and fauna and shows that humans can learn to live alongside it rather than destroy it. It’s a hopeful message for Earth Day, and also a warning against the threat of human destruction.
1. Mononoke Hime
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jul. 1997
Mononoke Hime begins with a fierce attack on a small village by a giant boar. Fighting fiercely to protect his people, the young prince Ashitaka is able to slay the beast, but not before it leaves a demonic curse on his arm that is slowly draining his life. Ashitaka travels through the forest in search of a cure. His journey brings him to the Iron Town Tatara. Here he discovers an intense conflict between the town’s leader, who is promoting deforestation, and Princess Sam and the spirits of the forest that stand in her way. Ashitaka fights to find a middle ground between the advancement of technology and the preservation of nature - all while struggling with his own demonic curse.
Mononoke Hime does not hide that it’s an environmental film; the entire story revolves around the struggle between humans and nature. It paints an ugly picture of what humans are able to do to the Earth if they are left unchecked and shows the very real suffering of the forest and its animals. It’s all done through fantasy, of course, with talking animals, forest spirits, and demons. But the message is still there. Mononoke Hime is a film about finding a mutual respect and harmony between humans trying to survive and better society and preserving the only Earth that we all share. Since that is what Earth Day is all about, this film easily takes the top spot!
So after you have finished planting your tree and are settled back safely inside, are you ready for some anime to keep the Earth Day celebrations strong? Whether you want a touching story, beautiful animation, science fiction wastelands, or something to really make you think about your impact on the planet we’ve covered it. These anime show Earth at its best and at its worst, all thanks to the contributions of its main guardians - us! So while you definitely should get out there and do something outdoors for Earth Day, don’t forget to reward yourself with some anime when you eventually come back inside.
Did we forget an anime you think would be great for Earth Day? Are you going to watch any of these this year? How do you feel about anime that have an agenda behind them to make us think like these ones do? Let us know all your comments below!