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If you might’ve wonder why most teen shows often involve the school setting, lots of girls, sex and lots of fanservice, the reason for that is very simple: The vast majority of anime consumers are teens and young adults. Catering to these demographic reels in money for they provide power fantasies with characters of their age and in familiar settings like high schools. Yes, these type of shows dominate anime and unless the demographic changes, we won’t be seeing any revolution anytime soon. It kinda sucks to watch these anime with, say, the opposite sex or your parents when panties and boobs flood the screen. This is why we fans get awkward reactions when talking about, or even mentioning anime in public.
Of course there a huge list of anime that caters to teens and young adults that offers a great experience without the need of fanservice to evoke an emotional response, so our list of the Top 10 Teen Anime Movies, we’re going to count down on 10 movies aimed at teens telling a good story without using excessive fanservice to attract the typical pubescent, power-fantasy-hungry teen.
10. Hotarubi no Mori e
- Aired: Sep 17, 2011
On one summer day, six-year-old Takegawa Hotaru lost her way wandering around an ancient forest where spirits are said to reside. Stranded, exhausted, and crying, Hotaru was rescued by a masked spirit named Gin. Hotaru then learned the hard what that if she touches Gin, the spirit will disappear. Despite this, the two became friends and every summer, Hotaru comes to the forest and hang out with Gin like playing games, lazing around and meet other spirits. As each passing year, their relationship also grew and the pain for longing for their touch grows stronger as well.
Let’s start this list with this short, but touching movie of a girl falling in love with a spirit wandering the forest. Despite the movie’s short length, it’s enough to give the two main characters development that lets the viewers appreciate their rather forbidden love between a human and a spirit who will vanish if touched. Though not the most complex stories out there, Hotarubi no Mori e is great at teaching young people that love takes time to blossom and there will be a day we’ll have to make a decision and accept the outcome.
9. Tokyo Godfathers
- Aired: August 30, 2003
Tokyo Godfathers tells the story of three homeless people who stumbled upon a baby in a dumpster on Christmas Eve. Drag queen Hana, the runaway teen Miyuki and the middle aged bum Gin now embarks on the journey to find the baby’s, whom they called Kiyoko, mother using the belongings they found. Tokyo Godfathers is a story of realization, redemption, and miracles that give hope, even to people who have abandoned their lives and are living on the streets.
Director Satoshi Kon is known for directing dark and mind-boggling movies, so it was surprising for him to direct and write a family-centric movie Tokyo Godfathers. The best thing about this movie is how everything is all tied up together with nothing sticking out. Each character has a purpose, a reason to be in the movie and it’s funny how the three homeless people get into situations, how they come in terms of their past and then experience miracles all because of one adorable bundle of joy found in the dumpster.
8. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)
- Aired: Jul 15, 2006
There will be a time when a student starts deciding on what future they’ll take and Konno Makoto is not yet prepared to make that decision. Already in her third year, Makoto’s time is running out, until one day she discovers she has the ability to leap through time. With her newfound power, she jumps back through time just to fulfill her desires, get better grades, endless fun with friends and wants to stay this way forever. However, such power, if misused, has great consequences when her life breaks apart every time she time leaps and alter the future not only herself but the future of everyone around her.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time teaches every that we all need to move forward and face our future. Makoto tried to live in the past because she doesn’t want to change, but time doesn’t work that way and reality hit her hard like a train. The movie is also about friendship and love, and ruining these fragile emotions will have negative effects to you and everyone.
7. Bakemono no Ko (The Boy and the Beast)
- Aired: Jul 11, 2015
After his mother died and his father nowhere to seen, Ren ran away from his heartless relatives and is roaming around the streets of Shibuya searching for food. Sitting in a corner cold and hungry, Ren encounters a group of beast men and one of them has taken interest to the boy. And due to several instances of getting chased by cops, Ren followed the beast men and unwittingly ended in the realm of the beasts Shibaten. One of the beast-men Ren encountered was Kumatetsu a powerful warrior and one of the prime candidates to become the realm’s new lord. Fate brings these two stubborn individuals together and Kumatetsu took Ren in as an apprentice and an adopted son. Bakemono no Ko is a coming of age story of a boy looking for a second chance and a warrior looking for something other than just fighting.
This movie is best watched with family because essentially Bakemono no Ko is a story focusing on the father-son relationship between human Ren and the beast Kumatetsu. At first, Kumatetsu took in Ren because he wants an apprentice, but as the movie progresses, Ren really wanted a father to take care of him, and Kumatetsu, despite him being reckless and pompous is really an honorable man and a good father figure. The story gets interesting when Ren manages to return to the human realm, met a girl and has taken interest in studying. There are some bits of action sequences in featuring martial arts and sword fights to get your blood pumping.
6. Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice)
- Aired: September 17, 2016
Ishida Shouya is an outgoing kid with lots of friends at school and his life as a kid all seem too perfect. One day, he starts bullying the deaf girl, Nishimiya Shouko, who has transferred to the same school and class, to the point that she stopped coming to class and the teachers took matters into their own hands. Shouya was the prime suspect, but he also blames his friends for also bullying Shouko. The tables have been turned when Shouya’s friends ostracized him, bullied him in return and scarred him for life.
This movie may be too wordy or slow, the drama is so thick you can blot out the sun, but it’s still a good family movie of one boy seeking redemption. The first part of the movie is all about young Shouya’s grade school years and how his bullying towards Shouko gradually becoming worse and worse. His friends abandoned and bullied him that Shouya became a loner, he can’t look at his classmates in their eyes, burdened with guilt because his mother used her savings to pay for the damages he caused, and is thinking of ending his own life. Things slowly change as he finds redemption through Shouko, the very girl he bullied. The message of the movie doesn't bully people, and not only you hurt them, you also hurt everyone around you and it'll be just a matter of time karma bites you.
5. Byousoku 5 Centimeter (5 Centimeters Per Second)
- Episodes: 3
- Aired: February 2007-March 2007
The movie has 3 chapters or stories and each of them was aired separately when it initially came out. For the Blu-ray release, all chapters are rolled into one movie.
Toono Takaki and Shinohara Akari are very close friends and classmates who have torn apart after Akari’s family moved away to a faraway town, and eventually remained in contact through mail. When Takaki’s family is also moving away, the two decided to meet one last time. As years passed by, the two grew up continuing on with their lives, but sometimes they still recall their fond memories with together and wondered if they’ll ever meet again.
5 Centimeters Per Second handles a few themes, and one of them is keeping in touch in a long distant relationship, and letting go and move on. The story, being told through the thoughts of Takaki and key characters, is very somber in tone like you’re watching an actual person trying to let go of his past and move on. The movie’s stunning art style and animation are one of a kind like you’re in a dream-like state surrounded by shimmering lights that give mundane things such as vending machines and street signs, a mysterious and somber feeling.
Younger fans may find that writing letters and having them snail mailed are outdated and in some situations in the anime, could’ve been avoided through simple emails. But while technology makes life easy, writing letters are more personal or even emotional compared to reading uniformed digital text on a screen. You can tell what the writer was thinking by the grammar, the pressure used when gliding their pen through the paper and so on. That’s something emails cannot portray. *ahem* Please excuse me for going off a tangent there.
4. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
- Aired: July 21, 2012
Hana falls in love with a man who she met at her college. Their relationship grew as the two helped each other out with lectures and going on dates, and then the man showed Hana his deep dark secret — he’s, in fact, a werewolf. Despite this shocking revelation, Hana’s love for the man remained strong and decided to start a family. Hana soon gave birth to two children and they all carry the wolf gene of their father who soon died after an unfortunate circumstance. All alone and fear of people discovering her children are wolves, Hana raises her children in secret.
The first few minutes may bore you because of the crawling pace, but once you get to the part where Hana starts raising her wolf children, everything is smooth sailing albeit through an emotional, tear-jerking typhoon. The story of Wolf Children mainly revolves around Hana’s struggle to raise two children with nothing but her will and determination. Hana starts out as your typical college girl and slowly becomes, quite frankly, one of the toughest moms around who raised two wolf children… and let’s be honest, Ame is a dumbass.
3. Summer Wars
- Aired: August 1, 2009
Koiso Kenji was invited by his senior crush, Shinohara Natsuki, to a summer trip with her family. Upon arriving at the huge mansion with Natsuki’s large extended family, Natsuki told Kenji to pose as her boyfriend to impress her grandmother who is turning 90 soon. This awkward situation is nothing compared to what Kenji will get himself into. One night he receives a text message containing a block of numbers. Kenji, who is a math genius, decoded the numbers without knowing what the results will be. The next day, all hell broke loose when OZ, a massive virtual world where the majority of the world’s population are connected, got hacked and the world is in total disarray. Did Kenji unwittingly break OZ with the code he cracked? And what will happen to the world after all private information, including military secrets and nuclear codes, are leaked?
Summers Wars shows what it's like to live in a fully connected world and how vulnerable it is when someone hacks into the system. OZ is a massive world where everyone can interact, play and do business with each other. With a mysterious hacker messing everything up, Kenji, Natsuki, and every family member of the Shinohara household banded together and do whatever it takes to stop the hacker and the world from literally ending. Summer Wars is a great family movie that teaches the viewers a few lessons, especially about family bonding and saving the world through your mobile devices.
2. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies)
- Aired: April 16, 1988
Grave of the Fireflies is a historical animated film set during World War II, based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Nosaka Akiyuki. The story is about two orphaned children surviving the harsh death-ridden world in 1945. Homeless, Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, drift around the countryside looking for anything to keep them alive.
You’re going to need an iron stomach and a strong heart because Grave of the Fireflies will literally ravage you like no other film. After the initial bombings, Seita and Setsuko were taken in by their aunt, but due to Seita’s lack of judgment (and perhaps PTSD), the two eventually ran away and hope for the best. You may blame and hate Seita for his poor decisions, but what can a kid do in 1945 Japan? Amidst all the sadness and the children’s inevitable fate, Grave of the Fireflies is a visual masterpiece depicting war-torn Japan with such attention to detail that you can’t help but get absorbed. The story and visuals won’t take you to a colorful fantasy world, but rather it shows your soul can easily be ravaged like what firebombing does to wooden homes and human flesh.
1. Kimi no Na wa. (Your name.)
- Aired: August 26, 2016
If you were thinking Your Name. reminds you of 5 Centimeters Per Second, then you’re right on that. Both movies were written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, a director with talent and skills that a lot of people claimed to be on par with, or if not superior to Hayao Miyazaki, the creative mind behind Studio Ghibli. Out of the few films that Makoto Shinkai produced, Your Name. is perhaps his greatest work while being lighthearted compared to his more somber storytelling that is aimed more towards young adults.
Your Name. is a story of friendship and love that moves across great distances, space, and time with teenage main characters young adult audiences can relate to. The movie also gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to be a teenager living in Japan and a teenager living in the rural areas like city teens and having access to technology and have to take part-time jobs to splurge on luxurious activities or save it for college. Rural teenagers are more traditional as they follow local values.
The reason why Your Name. is number one is it ticked a lot of boxes that make a movie great. It has two great relatable main characters, an interesting storyline, it’s also a love story, stunning visuals, and with a sense of humor. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, Your Name. is one of the movies you have to see.
Let’s face it, Japan’s culture is very different and they do certain things that are too extreme for the West. Anime fans are often criticized as perverted dakimakura-hugging, figurine hoarding sociopaths because of the contents we usually consume. We all know that’s not true and if you want to convince someone anime isn’t all about boobs and panties or simply childish, then these movies will help them see that light.
And that’s our list! What do you think of our picks and did we miss a teen movie that is worth checking out? If you have one in mind, please share it with us in the comments section!