Top 10 Anime DVDs

Monday, March 14 by Alan Rankin

The top 10 anime DVDs prove how far international anime fandom has progressed. In the 1980s, American fans of Japanese animation had to trade homemade VCR tapes they found through bulletin boards on the infant Internet. In the 21st century, fans located anywhere in the world can use high-speed Wi-Fi on their phones to order special-edition DVDs of their favorite anime films, often including subtitles, director’s cuts and alternate endings.

  1. “Barefoot Gen.” A little boy survives the Hiroshima bombing and witnesses its horrific aftermath. Keiji Nakazawa‘s manga “I Saw It,” based on his own life, was one of the first Japanese comics translated into English. “Barefoot Gen” is a fictionalized version of the same story; Richard Corliss of “Time Magazine” called the 1983 anime version “one of the five best Japanese animation movies on DVD.”
  2. “Akira.” Katsuhiro Otomo’s science-fiction epic was one of the first anime films to enjoy worldwide success. Futuristic cycle punks find their lives changed by super-powered mutations, expressed with anime’s signature stylistic excesses. The two-disc DVD includes both the original Japanese and the English-dubbed versions of the film.
  3. “Grave of the Fireflies.” While the world was awed by 1988’s “Akira,” the same year proved that anime films could tell smaller, more somber stories. Two children find tragedy in the aftermath of war, a common theme in 20th-century Japanese storytelling. DVD producer Section 23 released a two-disc special edition of the film in 2009.
  4. “Ninja Scroll.” “Wicked City” director Yoshiaki Kawajiri,one of the first anime creators to make headway on foreign shores such as the U.S., had even wider success with his 1993 film. The combination of ninja swordplay, fantasy and horror elements proved irresistible to fans around the world. An anniversary edition DVD was released in 2003.
  5. “Ghost in the Shell.” Masamune Shirow‘s cyborg cop manga was the basis for another anime classic. The 1995 film has inspired sequels and TV series. But many fans avoid the “Ghost in the Shell 2.0” DVD, which “Lucased up” the original film by adding CG graphics.
  6. “Princess Mononoke.” For many fans, the world of anime begins and ends with the work of Hayao Miyazaki. This 1997 eco-fantasy adventure preceded “Avatar” by thirteen years, and was more beautiful by half. The DVD is available alone, or as part of a Miyazaki six-pack showcasing the essential works of the great director.
  7. “Neon Genesis: Evangelion.” Hundreds of anime TV series are available on DVD. “Neon Genesis” has a huge fan following that enjoys the interplay of literary symbolism with giant-robot fights. The series is available in many DVD versions, including the complete set included in the “Renewal” and “Platinum” reissues.
  8. “Spirited Away.” By the 2000s, anime master Miyazaki had fans around the world. These included Pixar director John Lasseter, who offers an intro to the DVD version of Miyazaki’s beloved fantasy classic. Disney has followed a rare hands-off policy in releasing the master’s films virtually unaltered on DVD.
  9. “Tokyo Godfathers.” “Millennium Actress” director Satoshi Kon found inspiration for his next film in an old John Wayne movie. The story, about three homeless renegades who find an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve, has actually been retold many times. Kon’s 2003 version combines action scenes with subtle human touches.
  10. “Death Note.” A clever student finds a demon’s notebook, granting him the power of life and death. The many twists and turns in this tale of animated horror have delighted and intrigued fans all over the world. The whole series is available on DVD, as are the live-action films based on the story.