Though it’s the same artistic medium as most traditionally animated films, Japanese anime tends to be in a class of its own, largely due to the shared aesthetic characteristics of the genre that makes it stand out from Western animation—angular faces, wide eyes, Saiyans charging up their powers for episodes on end, etc.
As anime caters to a different audience, its films likewise have a different commercial reception, which usually depends on which franchises are popular with the kids at that moment at time. That being said, the more fantastical films from Studio Ghibli, a good portion of them directed by anime heavyweight Hayao Miyazaki, have proven to be big hits as well thanks to distribution deals with Disney. The following ten movies have been the most domestically successful (that is, in North America) anime films of all time, with figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo.
10 The Wind Rises, 2014 - $5,137,900
The latest by anime titan Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises is a semi-biographical film about Jiro Horikoshi, who designed two iconic fighter planes for the Japanese Empire—both of which were used quite notoriously during World War II. Miyazaki based the film off of his manga, much as he did with his first original film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind; the manga in turn was loosely adapted from a short story by Tatsuo Hori, which was written in 1937.
9 Howl’s Moving Castle, 2005 - $5,850,300
Based on the novel by English author Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and depicts the adventures of a young hat-maker, Sophie, who is turned into an old woman by a witch’s curse and finds herself caught up in the escapades of eccentric wizard Howl and his massive, mobile steampunk castle.
8 Spirited Away, 2002 - $13,542,400
7 Digimon: The Movie, 2000 - $14,223,400
6 Ponyo, 2009 - $16,093,800
Very loosely adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” Ponyo is a children’s film written and directed—once again—by Hayao Miyazaki that tells the story of an enchanted half-girl, half-fish who becomes fascinated by and wishes to live among humans. Her desire for humanity inadvertently unleashes a massive storm on the local island, where the boy the fish-girl has befriended lives.
5 The Secret World of Arrietty, 2012 - $19,278,500
4 Pokémon 3: The Movie, 2001 - $23,981,400
3 Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie, 2004 - $25,336,000
2 Pokémon: The Movie 2000, 2000 - $64,623,200
1 Pokémon: The First Movie, 1999 - $134,192,000
The first and most well-known Pokémon movie focused on Mewtwo, a psychic, feline super-Pokémon cloned from its smaller forebear, Mew. While the film as a whole is relatively kid-oriented and meriting its G-rating, its opening scene, wherein Mewtwo learns he has been created without purpose and violently escapes from the human-operated lab, seems like the Pokémon take on Stephen King’s Carrie. As with its sequels, Pokémon: The First Movie was not a critical darling, but made a significant dent in the box office. To promote the film, theatre-goers received exclusive Pokémon cards
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