By Brittany Vincent
It’s September, which means summer is winding down. But the end of summer doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the thrill of seeing our favorite anime blockbusters. The only difference? The theater is your house and the silver screen is your TV…or phone…or tablet.
Now is the perfect time to take in an epic story, whether it’s one of the greatest anime movies of all time or a romantic tale about a young girl whose heart is on the path to healing. If you’re thinking about planning an epic movie night, we’ve got the perfect five summer movies to get you started!
No top anime movie list is complete without arguably one of the greatest of all time: Akira. This postapocalyptic cyberpunk thriller follows biker gang leader Shotaro Kaneda (in the year 2019, no less) as he witnesses his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima acquire strange telekinetic powers after a motorcycle accident.
Tetsuo’s psychic powers grow more dangerous and terrifying by the moment, eventually attracting the ire of the government and a secret project looking to study Tetsuo’s powers. Tetsuo isn’t willing to be held captive, and while he mounts an escape from the city of Neo Tokyo, he becomes increasingly more egotistical and dangerous.
It all leads up to an explosive showdown between Kaneda, Tetsuo and the citizens of Neo Tokyo looking to save what’s left of their city from Tetsuo’s nightmarish abilities. It’s a raucous thrill ride from start to finish, with eye-popping animation, perfectly orchestrated action scenes, and one of the most memorable stories in anime. If you watch only one anime film this summer, make it this one.
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent
SPOILERS if you haven’t seen the first two Berserk movies!
The legendary dark fantasy series Berserk culminates in this stunning feature film that wraps up the original 1997 anime series’ Golden Age Arc in a visceral, gut-wrenching manner that will have your jaw dropping to the floor by the end of the film.
The third in a trilogy of Berserk film adaptations, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent is the first of them to offer a glimpse at what lies beyond the events of the original anime.
A year after Guts and Griffith duel and Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk, Guts reunites with a very, very different Griffith who’s been subject to a variety of horrendous tortures. Griffith ends up reunited with his precious Behelit, which sets a terrifying set of events into motion. Guts must gather what’s left of the splintered Band of the Hawk to fight back against the nightmarish being Griffith transforms into.
The entire fate of humanity is at stake with this explosive end to the Berserk films, and even if you’ve seen the prior installments and read the manga, you’re not going to know what hit you—it truly needs to be seen to be believed. This may be one instance where you want to watch only with viewers who have strong stomachs.
Sometimes, you need a good tearjerker to get all those tears you’ve been saving up out. You’ll feel a lot better afterward! Hal is a particularly emotional journey from start to finish, but one that you’ll be glad you took.
Teenager Kurumi has lost her boyfriend Hal after he was inadvertently killed in an airplane accident. She’s a broken shell of a woman who barely leaves her home, sewing and spending time despairing over her lost love on her lonesome. Those around her can’t bear to see her so heartbroken and thus convert their robot named Kyuichi into a robot that resembles Hal.
Hal is new to the world and to the role of Kurumi’s boyfriend, so he has to learn how to behave based on the notes Hal and Kurumi used to share. Little by little, Kurumi begins to blossom back to life. But as you may imagine, a love based on a robot attempting sentience isn’t fated to last. You won’t see the massive twist coming, though, as you’ll be too busy wiping your eyes.
Sakura Wars the Movie
Sakura Wars is a classic mecha series that combines a variety of elements from other genres for the ultimate anime movie, Sakura Wars the Movie. Based on the popular video game franchise from SEGA, it follows the Imperial Combat Revue’s Flower Division, or a group of women who both pilot steam-powered mechs and perform as a theater troupe called the Imperial Revue in Tokyo’s Ginza area.
Swordswoman Sakura Shinguji, actress Sumire Kanzaki, French psychic Iris Chateaubriand, martial artist Kanna Kirishima, and the rest of the troupe work together to defend Tokyo against demons in between putting on shows to packed theaters. But an American corporation is threatening to put the Flower Division out of business by way of mechanical fighters called Japhkiels.
The Flower Division must fight their way to the top and prove their worth despite all the hardships they endure while juggling their theater and mech fighting careers. Sakura Wars the Movie is a blitz of beautifully choreographed fights, theater performances and flower petals. When it’s over, you’ll want to play the games.
Sword of the Stranger
Going to the theater to see action epics is part of the reason we have the cinema experience in the first place. Sword of the Stranger is a great-looking movie that puts sword fighting at the forefront and hooks you in with the first few moments—you’re in for a wild ride.
Kotaro is a young boy who’s being hunted by a group of swordsmen in the Sengoku period. It’s not exactly clear why he’s being chased to begin with, but he’s got his faithful dog by his side. One of the men chasing Kotaro is Luo-Lang, who’s been looking for a fighter who can match his abilities.
Kotaro eventually happens upon a mysterious ronin named Nanashi. The two become fast friends, but Nanashi ends up needing to help protect Kotaro—he’s a lot more important than the movie initially lets on. There’s a lot going on in Sword of the Stranger, most of which you won’t be able to telegraph, but you’re promised action-packed combat scenes, gorgeous animation and heart in this samurai-centric epic.