If there was ever a genre that tugs at heart-strings, it would be drama. Drama can encapsulate many different sub-genres, but what many dramatic works have in common is that they have a way of moving the audience. From stories of romance and school life, to tales of hardship and the reality of life, dramatic tales can always provoke heavy feelings in the audience. Drama anime in particular is rooted in making the audience strongly care for the material. As such, we are going to be counting down 10 of the best Drama anime movies of all time.
10. Perfect Blue
- Release Date: Feb. 28, 1998
J-pop idol Mima Kirigoe grew tired of her career and decided to instead become an actor. This life choice proves to be much more stressful than Mima initially intended, with her schedule being much more taxing, and her reputation being put into question. To add onto her stress, a stalker decides to post every single detail of Mima's life on the internet for the whole world, and a chain of murders are following Mima around. All of this stress eventually gets to Mima, and she slowly has a more difficult time telling what is fantasy and what is reality.
Mima's slow descent into madness influences not only herself, but also the audience watching the film. Mima's mental state has a large influence on how the story can be interpreted. Regardless of which type of story beats one may believe, the psychological aspect of Perfect Blue still holds up as the most interestingly horrifying part of the film. There are many segments throughout the film that are downright terrifying - exemplified further by the somewhat uncanny art style that certain characters can take (the stalker in particular having an extremely grotesque appearance). For fans of dramatic, psychological horror, Perfect Blue is among one of the greatest even to this day.
9. Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda. (The Anthem of the Heart)
- Release Date: Sep. 19, 2015
Jun Naruse was a child when she became cursed by an egg fairy after certain things she said tore her family apart. Since she was cursed, Jun refuses to speak and instead lives her life not saying a word. One day, Jun is appointed as an executive member of the "community outreach council" and must learn how to communicate with her fellow members and figure out how to get over her curse.
By far one of the most impactful actions one can commit is what one says. Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda (shortened to KokoSake) does a wonderful job of both showing the grief that one may go through from accidentally saying the wrong thing, as well as what that one thing could do to impact someone for the rest of their lives. Jun and the rest of the cast are all likable, with each of them getting fleshed out properly and given their own amount of screentime. By far, the character with the most development is Jun herself, as she is struggling to grow out of her shell and try to communicate with and befriend the people around her. The progression in each character's individual stories, as well as the overarching plot, is what makes the film so compelling and emotional, as it's hard not to root for each character's respective goal by the end of it all.
8. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)
- Release Date: Jul. 15 2006
As the stress of her future life begins to get to her, Makoto Konno learns that she is able to manipulate time as she sees fit. Using her new found power, Makoto reverses the mistakes she's made throughout the day, trying to make it as easy as possible for herself. However, even the most minor instance being fixed has grave consequences, and Makoto must learn this the hard way as she begins to control her powers. It's up to her to realize just how much responsibility actually comes with being able to control her actions.
Makoto's plight throughout the film is a perfect embodiment of why it's a bad idea to be too stuck in the present. Throughout the film, we see the consequences of Makoto's time-traveling, a perfect analogy of how, in general, it's a better idea to move forward in time rather than try to fix what happened in the past. This is helped tremendously by the characters and how they are developed nicely through the various conflicts and situations they are put through in such a relatively short amount of time story-wise. Overall, it is an entry that must be experienced to truly witness the various situations and lessons that are presented, and while it may seem more light-hearted, there is no shortage of heavy moments throughout.
7. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In This Corner of the World)
- Release Date: Nov. 12, 2016
Suzu Urano moves to a small town in Hiroshima in 1944. There, Suzu marries into Shuuzaku Houjou’s family, and carries out her life as a new member of the Houjou family. Life is initially simple and sweet for Suzu, but that all changes in 1945, when the U.S bombs the village where Suzu lives. Suzu's entire life changes from that point on, and it is up to her to try and make the most of the situation, regardless of how grim.
No doubt one of the heaviest subjects to tackle is that of war-time, since it is a subject and time so ripe with tragedy and hardship. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni succeeds because it tackles the tragedy of war, while also clueing the audience into how life was before reality struck. Suzu's family life is wholesome and sweet, which engages the audience with her throughout the first half of the film, and that engagement is what makes the moments in the second half so much more powerful. One can't help but root for her since she was suddenly thrown into this awful situation and must adapt. At the same time, the struggles that Suzu faces are what make the film so compelling, and the connection between Suzu and the audience is enough to drive this movie all the way to a strong recommendation.
6. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of The Fireflies)
- Release Date: Apr. 16, 1988
In post-WWII Japan, Seita and his sister Setsuko have lost everything that they loved and held dear, except each other. American bombings took everything away from them, forcing them to live as homeless orphans traveling the countryside for any sign of food or shelter. They are quickly met with the grim reality of life, as no one is willing to help them despite their age, and they must work together to keep each other safe. The two siblings remain hopeful, and do their best despite their grim situation.
While Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni tackled the familiar life of pre and post-war Japan, Hotaru no Haka delves into the harsher reality of what had happened. From the outset, it's hard not to care and root for these siblings, as they have essentially lost everything and the world is cruel to them. At the same time, their inevitable fate is spelled out from the very beginning of the film, making the scenes in which these two struggle all the more emotional as you see just how much they work together in spite of the dire situation. The harsh reality that these two are tossed into - Setsuko in particular, given her young age - is rough to watch, but it also makes the story all the more sweet when they retain some hope regardless of situations.
5. Hotarubi no Mori e
- Release Date: Sep. 17, 2011
Every summer, Hotaru Takegawa visits her best friend - Gin - out in an ancient forest near her uncle. They grow closer throughout the years, initially meeting when Hotaru lost her way at the age of six and Gin helped her out. However, Gin and Hotaru can never physically touch one another, as Gin is a forest spirit who will disappear at the slightest touch of a human. Despite his continuous warnings, Hotaru eventually begins to develop deeper feelings
Hotarubi no Mori e has a certain sense of melancholy associated with its themes. As Hotaru's feelings begin to blossom, there is the constant question of how a relationship between the two would flourish - that being the primary focus of the story. At the same time, it's almost sweet to see these two interact, instead developing their relationship purely through emotional interactions. Their friendship brings into question what is truly needed to have a relationship - if one truly needs to see the other all the time or be able to physically touch them. The movie plays on the traditional relationship conventions, and being able to instill so many emotions and questions into the audience in the short time it has is truly something of note.
4. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
- Release Date: Jul. 21, 2012
When Hana catches a glimpse of a mysterious man in her college classes, she couldn't help but be captivated by him. As she grows closer to him, she learns that he is actually the last werewolf alive, but that does not stop her from developing feelings for him. Hana and her husband eventually have children - Ame and Yuki - who carry the same werewolf attributes their father does. Unfortunately, Hana's husband suddenly dies, leaving her to take care of her two wolf children alone. Struggling to keep her children's secret safe, Hana moves from the city to the countryside, where she must do her best to raise her two children by herself, and learn how difficult it can be to raise two wolf children.
As the title implies, the film is primarily about Hana's struggle while raising Yuki and Ame while they also become accustomed to their wolf background from childhood through to adolescence. There are heavy themes of change throughout - both in Ame and Yuki as we watch them mature over the ages, but also in Hana as she goes from a single mother straight out of college to a countryside woman who tries her best for her two children. Coupled with the beautiful animation, Wolf Children's best segments are the ones where the audience can feel the effort Hana puts into trying to be the best mother she can be.
3. Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words)
- Release Date: May. 31, 2013
Takao Akizuki skips class one day in order to sketch designs in a garden. While there, Takao meets with Yukari Yukino for the first time, and offers to make her some new shoes. Since that first meeting, Takao and Yukari meet up more often, and eventually their relationship evolves to them confiding in one another. Despite this, they can't avoid the struggles in their lives, and their relationship is truly put through the wringer as they continue to meet up at the beautiful garden.
Kotonoha no Niwa does a far better job of storytelling through what is on display than most anime do with explicit dialogue. A lot of Yukari and Takao's personality is found through the moments they share in the garden. The story still tells itself rather linearly, but for the folks that may pick up on certain instances (such as Takao drawing feet and shoes before revealing his passion), the level of detail that this film attains is much appreciated. These details are further exemplified by just how fantastic the art and animation actually is. The beautiful animation is what separates the garden from the rest of the world, as the lush and vibrant green contrasts with the gray, concrete feeling that the city displays. The amount of depth and characterization that Takao and Yukari are given in the short runtime is an accomplishment, and the writing of these two characters and their struggles is reason enough to watch this film.
2. Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice)
- Release Date: Sept. 17, 2016
Nishimiya Shouko transfers to a brand new school - deaf and ready to meet new people and make new friends. However, Nishimiya's disability gets in the way, and she is eventually bullied out of school. Everyone at the school blames Ishida Shouya, a particularly nasty kid who constantly treats Nishimiya like garbage. This continues to high school, where Nishimiya and Ishida coincidently end up in the same school, and Ishida sets out to right the mistakes he made in the past.
At the very beginning, Ishida Shouya is an insufferable character who bullies Nishimiya for no real reason. This is exactly why his redemption and effort to make amends for his past sins, as well as his friendship with Nishimiya in the future, are so compelling and downright tear-jerking at times. The first half in particular feels very realistic and heavy, as bullying in school is a very prominent issue even to this day. The various dramatic moments between the two characters in both their childhood and teenage years shine brightly because they are so grounded, with Ishida in particular growing into a likeable and almost relatable character by the end.
1. Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)
- Release Date: Aug. 26, 2016
Mitsuha Miyamizu can't stand her countryside lifestyle and dreams of one day moving to Tokyo and enjoying the city life. This dream comes true when she suddenly wakes up in the body of Taki Tachibana, a high-schooler working a part-time job at a restaurant. At the same time, Mitsuha's body is being inhabited by Taki. They begin leaving messages for one another, trying to figure out the cause of this strange circumstance, as well as understanding the struggles of each other's lives and becoming closer along the way.
What starts off as a simple premise eventually blossoms into a compelling dramatic narrative. From the very first scene onwards, Kimi no Na wa captivates through both its charm and mystery. The characters and story have a relatable charm to them that leads to the audience rooting for them. The animation is breathtaking as well, with the most compelling and emotional scenes pushed further by how amazing the quality of the art is. Kimi no Na wa is one anime film that every anime fan should watch, as its impactful story will no doubt take most anime fans on an emotional ride that they are sure to never forget.
Drama will forever be a staple when it comes to compelling storytelling. These films are among some of the best when it comes to the medium, but of course, they are not the only ones that deserve to be mentioned. If you have any other recommendations in mind, make sure to drop them in the comments section, and stay tuned to Honey's Anime for all your anime needs!