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Military forces of sovereign states often showcase their defensive power within the global arena. With changes over time, each country’s military strength has evolved tremendously, whether in logistics, technology, strategies, and tactics devised. In the air, land, and sea, many brave men and women collectively train, bringing peace and safety to their nation and its people. In anime films, we get to experience the many hardships and triumphs our brave soldiers endure for freedom and purpose. In saluting their sacrifice, our commanding officer, Honey, presents to you our top 10 list of military anime movies. Forward! MARCH!
10. The Sky Crawlers
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: August 2, 2008
In the film The Sky Crawlers, world peace has finally been achieved in this alternate universe, kinda. Although the urge for war and battle still exists among humanity, to quench this craving, private corporations hire fighter pilots to engage in regulated combat. These contracted fighter pilots, also known as Kildren, are genetically altered to appear and remain in an adolescent state, equipped with faster reflexes. Easing into the film, we follow Kildren pilot Yuuichi Kannami, who is recently assigned to Area 262. Easily falling into the routine of his unit, Yuuichi begins to notice strange occurrences at work here, as many questions surrounding base operations are only answered with more mystery.
The Sky Crawlers highlights historical aerial crafts, demonstrating realistic dogfights reminiscent of the WWII era. Fusing great action scenes and interesting characters into the mix, the theme and premise of the film requires some in depth analysis, as Director Mamoru Oshii is recognized for his philosophy-oriented storytelling. In particular, when accounting the issue of war and peace, is it truly acceptable for anyone to live this kind of life with only a singular purpose, as Yuuichi does being a fighter pilot? Moreover, in justifying the need for Kildren, can war in this universe truly be eradicated for good? Just some notes to think about while watching this film.
9. Appleseed (Movie)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: April 17, 2004
The setting is post WWIII and a great warrior is born to fight. A new world called Olympus emerges as a utopian society, built to thrive with a new species called bioroids. As bioroids are created to keep the peace, a deadly secret now threatens an entire race. The Appleseed movie follows Deunan Knute, a badass veteran, and Briaeros, her mate, who are called upon to figure out why a band of terrorists are going after bioroids, killing them off, thus tipping the balance of war and peace. Additionally, Deunan must also search for Appleseed, the essential key to unlocking all this uncertainty.
Appleseed is based on the work of Shirow Masamune, the Mangaka behind Ghost in the Shell. With that being said, to compliment the story, the animation for this film is superb, with awesome and eye-catching action sequences. As Deunan maneuvers around, the cityscape around her is super cool and futuristic looking. In highlighting the look and feel of the film, Appleseed also offers an epic dance soundtrack with notable DJs and artists.
8. Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito 1 – Yokuryuu wa Maiorita (Code Geass: Akito the Exiled 1 – The Wyvern Arrives)
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: July 16, 2012
Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito 1 Yokuryuu wa Maiorita tells the story of an “Eleven” named Akito Hyuuga and his unit, as they struggle at war with the forces of the Holy Britannian Empire. Akito and his comrades of rebellious Elevens are part of a secret European unit called Wyvern, or W-0, comprised of expendable soldiers due to their race. Piloting humanoid war machines, Knightmare frames, W-0 is sent on a rescue mission that appears to be an average task from the start, but later on proves to be a dangerous, suicide rescue attempt. What will be the fate of W-0s in this deadly assignment? Watch and see!
This film presents itself with an easy to follow storyline without the need of watching the main series beforehand. In the far off future, Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito 1 does a fantastic job of incorporating a traditional European setting and elements with mecha battles. The style of animation and myriad action sequences deserve a round of applause. Lastly and most importantly, the concept of racism is spotlighted here, as members of the W-0 are all made up of Japanese soldiers. This scenario correlates with a time in our military history when units were segregated and occupations limited to certain racial groups. In modern age, however, we are glad to do away with this obstruction.
7. Strike Witches Movie
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: March 17, 2012
Strike Witches Movie is an action, military, and magical anime film. Humanity is facing a mysterious foe, the Neuroi, creatures that have invaded most of Europe and are continually expanding. Military officials have devised countless methods to stop the Neuroi. The most successful approach is to use the power of “Strike Witches”, girls who possess magical powers and are the only ones who can pilot the specialized units available. Moving into the film, we are introduced to a young lady, Shizuka Hattori, a promising cadet who is sent to retrieve fellow Strike Witch Yoshika Miyafuji. During Yoshika’s last assignment, she lost her powers, and since then has been studying to become a doctor. With many witches assembling to contribute their strengths, the gals of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing do what they must to bring peace to Europe once more!
Following the second season of the series, Strike Witches movie highlights an array of fantastic characters, the warm and complex relationships of the girls, and each ability and skill of the witches. The movie delivers a fun and exciting endeavor that includes massive gunfights, the witches constantly charging the enemy head on, countless panty shots and overall, a heartwarming message. In its entirety, the Strike Witches Movie is another addition to the franchise created to continue the battle between “mecha musume” and the mysterious Neuroi.
6. Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: October 3, 2009
“People have sought to secure survival and prosperity by harnessing the primeval power known as aer. Magic and monsters; in this world ruled by powers beyond human understanding, we’re faced continuously with difficult decisions to make. What should we protect? What should we give up? How should we live our lives?”
“Brother in arms, united in adventure,” Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike captures the story of Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, two enthusiastic recruits who have enlisted to fight as Imperial Knights. They are sent to the town of Ceazontania, where reports of abnormal aer activity have caused mutated beasts to threaten the surrounding region. Aside from the monsters, there is also an internal power struggle within the capital between the Knights Commander Alexei Denoia and Princess Estellise, in turn, affecting the support and performance of Imperial Knight troops. Will our heroes be able to protect the empire and find balance within the capital? Check it out and see for yourself!
Right from the start, we are thrust into action with an intense battle scene, raising questions about whom they are fighting and what the heck is going on. Fusing medieval features with massive machines and other worldly powers, these components already attract curiosity. The film also has great animation, portraying pleasant buildings and landscapes. Filled with adventure, this film is something worth looking into and perhaps playing, as it is sourced from a video game.
5. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: June 25, 2016
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky or commonly known as Gundam Thunderbolt is a sci-fi war drama taking place in deep space, as the Earth Federation is at war with the Zeon’s Living Dead Division. The Zeon is in the process of developing an experimental weapon by tying the human nervous system into their machines, allowing for more accuracy and precision. Furthermore, in this long and grueling battle between both factions, we watch the Federation’s Io Flemming and the Zeon’s Daryl Lorenz take their teams into the battlefield, delving deep into the Thunderbolt Sector.
Gundam Thunderbolt is fantastic for those who would like to jump into the series without prior knowledge in understanding references. Of course, for those who are familiar with it, viewers will gain extra enjoyment and perks from prior binging. When it comes to visual effects and style, this film takes the cake, as it displays such high quality work of the pilots weaving and bobbing through galactic space. Taking us through the intricate stages of battle, the story and characters are very well developed. Additionally, the musical tracks within the film provide to us a buffet of sounds, ranging in styles, offering a little something for everybody.
4. Kurenai no Buta (Porco Rosso)
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: July 18, 1992
Porco Rosso follows Marco Paggot, a veteran WWI fighter pilot with a rare curse that transformed him into a pig. Deemed “the scarlett pig”, Porco now spends his time as a bounty hunter that targets air pirates. As an achieved pilot, his reputation takes a turn one day, when American Pilot Donald Curtis successfully shoots him down. Without a craft, Porco travels to Milan, even after being sought by Italian officials, to get his plane fixed by none other than his trusted mechanic and his talented granddaughter, Fio. Ready to fly again, we watch Porco Rosso journey back to the start to protect his good friend Gina from Curtis’ advances, as well as prepare for the trickling effects of another impending world war.
Another fantastic work by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, Porco Rosso displays an emphasis in aircraft design and admiration for aeronautics, and the countless flight sequences exhibit such fascination. As the film is time and geographically specific, viewers get to experience a period of history when these machines were just coming out of their infancy. After passing through a great world war, we observe daily life, both untroubled and with difficulty, as the country tries to rebuild itself socially and economically once more.
3. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Arata naru Tatakai no Overture
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: December 18, 1993
Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Arata naru Tatakai no Overture, also known as Legend of the Galactic Heroes, is an awesome 90-rific action, military and sci-fi film. Set in a distant future within our universe, humanity has reached a great length in the space race. Stretching across our galaxy, these achievements could not have been possible if it weren’t for the many factions fighting and corrupting one another in order to advance further. Two of the main factions that are highlighted are the Reich and the Free Planets. Focusing on the many tiers of this long war, the strategic operations of opposing commanding leaders Reinhard Von Lohengramm of the Reich and Yang Wen-Li of the Free Planets transpire within this interesting plot.
With an extensive list of characters, Legend of the Galactic Heroes finds a way to showcase many of them, capturing their struggles, qualities, and complexities, drawing them further into the developing storyline without sidetracking. The animation and graphics are typical of the time, as is the soundtrack, but as we are decades away from the 90s, there is something iconic about this style that is truly appealing. In terms of the galactic battle, we get to become involved with more than just the conflict, but how life surrounding it perpetuates fatally. As this space conquest involves a great number of fighters, its gloomy tally of fighting and death makes us reevaluate if occupation of more territory is worth the high price.
2. Berserk: Ougon Jidai-hen III – Kourin (Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent)
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: February 1, 2013
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent is the third and last film of the trilogy that continues the story of a mercenary named Guts in the Kingdom of Midland. It’s been a year since Guts left the gang and Griffith was captured by the Kingdom for treason. When the Band of the Hawk was ambushed by the Bakiraka Assassins, Guts and Casca journey to find and free Griffith. Endlessly tormented and tortured, Griffith refuses to let them take pity on him, as he drags himself away from their sight. However, when a speculated lost egg is found in his getaway, the emergence of this item is too agonizing to bear, as we soon discern that this force has conceived a terrible darkness.
What is a greater war than fighting the astronomical forces of dark and light?! As Guts faces a terrible evil, this film, in comparison to the first and second films, unleashes the scariest demonic forces that have been kept at bay for many ages. Based off the manga, this action-packed and thrilling medieval movie is well developed with a deep and intense storyline. Living up to the definition of horror and gruesome, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent is not short on gore whatsoever. Taking on the enemy with brute strength and swordsmanship, these guys are pretty tough and brave, to say the least, in taking on something so frightening. You go boys!
1. Girls und Panzer der Film
- Episodes: 1
- Air Date: November 21, 2015
In an attempt to save Ooarai Girls High School, the sensha-dou team has won the championship in the 63rd tournament. Even with their recent victory, the Japanese Ministry of Education still plans to close down the school. Once again, in an effort to keep the school open, Miho Nishizumi and her team must win a match against a university level sensha-dou team. With the aid from other schools, both new and previously battled, their joint operation will help save Ooarai Girls High School from closure. Crossing our fingers!
When it comes to ultimate extreme sports, leave it to the girls with the big guns! Disciplined, zealous, and dangerously cute, Girls und Panzer der Film displays these ladies competing with massive military equipment effortlessly! The film is nicely developed, introducing viewers the many different schools from the series. Moving along, the tank battles and the tournament altogether are very engaging and exciting, keeping your hopes up in saving the school, and leaving you satisfied with the end results! “Okay ladies now let’s get in formation!”
In conclusion, with all the combat, intense drills, and prideful sense of duty, military films provide viewers with an extremely exciting experience. We see with these films and within the military genre, that it takes more than being a good soldier to win battles. Essentially, we hope you enjoyed our choices for top 10 military anime movies! If you haven’t already, make sure to check out all of these super awesome titles! Moreover, let us know if we’ve missed any other great movies by commenting below, and that’s an order! See ya!