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In Japanese, anime simply means “animation,” but in the West, the phrase is used to describe cartoons that originate in Japan and are known for their bright colors, lively characters, and action-packed narratives. Television shows like Pokémon and films like Akira, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke have raked in millions of dollars for decades.
We were curious as to which anime films were the most popular around the world. Newsweek used data from Box Office Mojo, a company that uses a complex algorithm to measure box office receipts.
$358,180,115 in Worldwide Box Office
The narrative of two young people who are disillusioned with their life is told in Your Name. Mitusha is a country girl who wants to know what it’s like to live in a big city, while Taki has bizarre dreams about becoming a female in a small town.
Then strange things begin to happen. Every now and again, the two swap bodies, living a day in each other’s shoes before swapping back. Your Name was the first non-Studio Ghibli film to breach the ten billion yen (roughly $100 million) barrier at the Japanese box office.
$355,475,245 in Worldwide Box Office
Is it any wonder that Chihiro’s journey is at the top of the list? Hayao Miyazaki’s iconic tale of a young girl’s struggle to save her parents from the clutches of the evil witch Yubaba is still as entertaining now as it was in 2001. The film, which also stars Haku, Sen, and Karaj, was chosen as the fourth best film of the twenty-first century in a BBC poll in 2016. Studio Ghibli is still considered the gold standard in animated narrative by anime enthusiasts all over the world. It’s simple to understand why.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a film about a castle that moves (2004)
$236,214,446 in worldwide box office
Another tale about body-swapping. Sophie is a typical young girl with a severe lack of self-confidence. When an evil witch transforms her into a hag, she embarks on a journey to a castle owned by Howl, a mysterious supernatural person who may hold the key to regaining her youth.
Actor Christian Bale auditioned for Hayao Miyazaki’s two-hour epic after being impressed with Spirited Away, volunteering to play any role he was offered. Bale was cast as Howl in the end.
Total Box Office Receipts: $204,826,668
It’s apparent that Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid impacted this Studio Ghibli work. Ponyo is the name given to a goldfish discovered in a bottle by the shore by a young boy. We soon learn that the fish is the daughter of a wizard who, after falling in love with the child, wants to be human. Ponyo’s desire of becoming a human is realized as the two embark on an incredible journey. Weathering the Storm with You (2019)
$193,457,467 in Worldwide Box Office
Things turn turbulent, both figuratively and literally, when young Hodaka Morishima walks away from his life to start afresh in the big metropolis. After saving her from a gang of robbers, he befriends Hina Amano, a young woman who has the ability to control the weather. She is said to be the Sunshine Girl, with the ability to bring the sun wherever she goes. Weathering with You was nominated for best international feature at the 92nd Academy Awards, and it deals with issues comparable to Your Name.
Doraemon, please stand with me (2004)
$183,442,714 in Worldwide Box Office
It’s not often that a film includes time-traveling robot cats, but that’s exactly what this one does. After his great-great-grandson in the 22nd century sends the mechanical feline to his timeline, Nobita Nobi, a troubled 10-year-old kid, encounters Doraemon. Doraemon won’t be able to return home until Nobita’s situation has improved. Will he pay attention and straighten up?
Mononoke (Princess Mononoke) is a (1997)
$169,785,704 in Worldwide Box Office
After his town is besieged by a mythical entity, Princess Mononoke follows a young warrior prince as he journeys across 14th century Japan. However, while on his mission to figure out why Mother Nature is in such a state of anguish, Ashitaka becomes embroiled in a battle. The film tackles mankind’s exploitation of the world for natural resources—and the horrific consequences of pushing the planet too far. Its themes are reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII.
The First Pokémon Movie (1998)
$163,644,662 in Worldwide Box Office
In 1998, Pokémania was at its pinnacle. Many children throughout the world grabbed the enigmatic Mewtwo, who only appeared after beating an elite group of trainers at the end of the game, as they attempted to become Pokémon masters in Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. After being cloned by Team Rocket’s Giovanni in order to create a super-weapon, we learn why Mewtwo (understandably) despises humans in Pokémon: The First Movie. Look out for a dramatic sequence in which protagonist Ash turns to stone, which still brings tears to the eyes of all grown-up Pokémon enthusiasts.
Arrietty’s Mysterious World (2010)
$149,411,550 in Worldwide Box Office
Consider this the anime adaptation of The Borrowers, which tells the story of a little family who lives covertly inside a house. Arrietty hides from the people that dwell in her home until she meets Shawn, a 12-year-old boy, and strikes up a connection with him. Relationships with full-sized people, on the other hand, are exceedingly perilous and may cause harm to Arrietty’s family.
The Wind Is Blowing (2013)
$136,533,257 in Worldwide Box Office
Jiro Horikoshi enjoys flying but is unable to pursue a career as a pilot due to his nearsightedness. As a result, he becomes an engineer and designs a significant number of planes, many of which are eventually employed by the Japanese military. When The Wind Rises was released in the United States, it sparked debate, with some critics claiming that the picture was hawkish and symbolic of Japan’s refusal to admit its war crimes. The Wind Rises is unquestionably Studio Ghibli’s most mature picture, despite some viewers finding its undercurrent unsettling.