Perhaps no one will argue with me that the lion’s share of the popularity of a particular anime depends on who exactly occupies the director’s chair. It is the director who is essentially responsible for the failure or unconditional success of the project. And today I want to share my favorite directors, whose works I personally watch with great pleasure, regardless of whether something new has come out or I just wanted to refresh my memory of a title.
I think I won’t be wrong if I call Hayao Miyazaki the most famous and beloved anime director by viewers. And not just some television adaptations of popular light novels and manga, but full-length feature films that can only be called classics and masterpieces.
In the maestro’s films, anti-war themes are clearly expressed, the greatness of nature is glorified, and the main characters experience important moments in their lives. Its aesthetic is incredibly clear, detailed and fluid. Even the cursory scenes in his films have characteristic Miyazaki touches. Well, the visual style of his works is also impossible to confuse with anything else.
I absolutely love “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “The Witch’s Delivery Service” and “Whisper of the Heart”, but I can recommend viewing absolutely all of the maestro’s works without exception.
I think that most fans of Japanese animation do not need to explain who he is. Shinkai has been called the Miyazaki of his time since his film Kimi no Na wa became a worldwide hit, although true fans of his work joined the director’s fan club back in the days of Byousoku 5 Centimeter ), and cultural dinosaurs fondly remember “She and Her Cat” (Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko).
And no matter what anyone says, Makotych has “the most beautiful clouds in the industry.” But seriously, the visual style and execution of his works are important components of such popularity and love from viewers.
Most anime fans know Kunihiko Ikuhara as the director of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S, but his signature works are “Young Revolutionary Girl Utena” (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) and my personal favorite “Penguin Drum” (Mawaru Penguindrum).
Both titles make effective use of Ikuhara’s signature storytelling tool: symbolism. Ikuhara is obsessed with putting hidden meaning into everything he can. From princes and roses in “Utena” to circles and apples in “Drum”, and some themes are not revealed immediately, but only after repeated viewings. This approach is not always successful, and the director’s later works, such as Sarazanmai, literally get lost in the surreal chaos of this approach. Ikuhara’s direction is stylish, complex and endlessly interesting.
Among the works of this director, one of my favorite modern (relatively modern) directors are “Cowboy Bebop”, “Samurai Champloo”, “Children on the Hill” (Sakamichi no Apollon), “Space Dandy” ( Space☆Dandy). Its distinguishing feature is the inclusion of music in the anime. He brings the songs to the forefront of the narrative rather than allowing them to remain in the background.
Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo would lose all their style if their music wasn’t so distinct. Well, “Children on the Hill” and “Carol and Tuesday” are clearly dedicated to music. And even though I have some complaints about “Echo of Terror” (Zankyou no Terror), the name Shinichiro Watanabe sells me this or that title time after time.
Mamoru Oshii is one of the most original directors of all time. In all his works he returns to motifs and images that are important to his overarching themes. It doesn’t matter if the film he’s working on is an adaptation, he will still put his vision and his themes into it. Tanks, reflective water, and reflections on metaphysics and politics dominate films such as Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, Ghost in the Shell (Koukaku Kidoutai) or Kidou Keisatsu Patlabor the Movie).
Sometimes it seems that the director wants his films to reflect only his thoughts and themes. For other anime directors, this could be a disaster, but Oshii is talented and smart enough to make his approach to directing work just right. Just look at “Angel’s Egg” (Tenshi no Tamago) – absolute nonsense that manages to catch your attention.
Even though I don’t like this director for the final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, it would be wrong to ignore such a person. Hideaki Anno’s main calling card is teenagers experiencing stress and various traumas. And I’m not talking about “Evangelion”, but about “On His Side – On Her Side” (Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou), where both main characters analyze their emotions and what they may be missing as people.
Unfortunately, Hideaki Anno cannot boast of diversity in his directorial portfolio, but he managed to have a hand in such undoubted recognized masterpieces as “Grave of the Fireflies” (Hotaru no Haka) and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” (Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa), as well as my favorite “Abenobashi Magic District” (Abenobashi Mahou☆Shoutengai).
Satoshi Kon has no rival when it comes to his imagination and human psychology, which is the focus of his work. The mental disembodiment that fame can cause, the nostalgia for memory and art, the destructive nature of stress, the changing landscape of dreams—Kon makes all these concepts appear on a surface level.
The viewer literally sees the thoughts and emotions of the characters, but does not feel them. The psychological component of his works sometimes seems so real that you get the feeling that you can touch with your hands all the “game” happening on the screen.
I consider Satoshi Kon to be the greatest anime director, who had an incredible impact on the media and, to my great regret, left us too early. But his legacy remains in the form of “Paranoia Agent” (Mousou Dairinin), “Once Upon a Time in Tokyo” (Tokyo Godfathers), “Paprika” (Paprika), “Actress of the Millennium” (Sennen Joyuu) and, of course, “Perfect Sadness” ( Perfect Blue).