Top 10 Best Anime Films to Watch That Aren’t Made by Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli’s animated films have been a force to be reckoned with at the box office in Japan and around the globe for decades.

Not only have they consistently drawn in audiences, but they’ve also garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards. This level of dominance has made it challenging for non-Ghibli films to gain the same level of recognition within the anime industry.

Despite the formidable presence of Studio Ghibli, a handful of anime films have managed to achieve significant success.

Some Anime Films That Aren’t Made by Studio Ghibli

These films have tackled a range of themes, from pondering the nature of artificial intelligence to incorporating real-world Japanese locations as part of their backdrop. What sets them apart is not just their storytelling prowess, but also their deep character development and stunning animation.

These non-Ghibli films have played a pivotal role in shaping the anime industry, offering audiences thought-provoking narratives and visually nice experiences. Though they may not always enjoy the same level of spotlight as Studio Ghibli’s productions, their impact on the medium is undeniable.

Top 10 Best Anime Films to Watch That Aren’t Made by Studio Ghibli

10. Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods Rejuvenated the Dragon Ball Franchise

Goku’s first time turning Super Saiyan (Credits: Toei Animation)


  • MyAnimeList: 7.40
  • Tomatometer: 88%
  • IMDb: 7.1

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” marks the eighteenth installment in the enduring Dragon Ball franchise. This feature introduces viewers to Beerus, the formidable God of Destruction, on a quest to locate the mythical Super Saiyan God. His objective? To engage in a battle of epic proportions and demonstrate his unparalleled strength and might. Accompanied by his enigmatic companion, Whis, Beerus sets off to the North Galaxy for an encounter with Goku.

The impact of “Battle of Gods” on the Dragon Ball franchise was nothing short of transformative. After a prolonged hiatus without new content, this film served as a rallying point, reigniting the passion of long-time fans and ushering in a new wave of enthusiasts.

Its international theatrical release and strategic marketing campaigns, including collaborations with various industries, helped expand its reach beyond borders.

Notably, this was the first Dragon Ball film overseen by the esteemed creator, Akira Toriyama. Upon its premiere, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” soared to unprecedented heights, both commercially and critically, solidifying its status as a landmark achievement in the series.

9. The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl Is a College Romance Story for the Ages

The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (Credits: Masaaki Yuasa)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.18
  • Tomatometer: 90%
  • IMDb: 7.5

“The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl” is a delightful romantic comedy from 2017, helmed by the talented director Masaaki Yuasa and adapted from Tomihiko Morimi’s beloved 2006 novel of the same title.

At its heart lies the enchanting tale of two university students: the vivacious Kohai and the earnest Senpai. As Senpai harbors feelings for Kohai, he sets out to express his affection, only to find his plans thwarted by a series of unexpected events and interruptions.

While not a direct sequel to “The Tatami Galaxy,” this film shares a similar backdrop and cast of characters. Critics were quick to laud its impeccable production values and innovative animation style, hailing it as a breath of fresh air in the genre.

Its accolades include the prestigious title of Animation of the Year at the 41st Japan Academy Prize, further solidifying its status as a standout gem in romantic storytelling.

8. Wolf Children Is a Family Story About Single Parenting & Discovering Adolescence

Wolf Children
Wolf Children (Credits: Crunchyroll)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.57
  • Tomatometer: 95%
  • IMDb: 8.1

“Mamoru Hosoda’s ‘Wolf Children’ made its debut in 2012, offering audiences a poignant coming-of-age narrative. At its core is the tender of family dynamics and the adventures shared by Hana, a devoted mother, and her two remarkable children, Ame and Yuki.

Their lives take a unique turn when Hana falls in love with Ookami, a young man with the extraordinary ability to transform into a wolf. Together, they find the joys and challenges of parenthood until tragedy strikes, leaving Hana to raise her wolf children alone.

Drawing parallels to beloved Studio Ghibli classics like ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ ‘Wolf Children’ goes into themes of identity and heritage as Ame and Yuki grapple with their dual nature as both human and wolf. Through their journey, audiences are offered a sneak peek into the complexities of single parenthood, witnessing Hana’s unwavering love and determination.

Critics have lauded the film’s rich character development and heartfelt portrayal of familial bonds, earning it widespread acclaim.

Its accolades include the prestigious Animation of the Year award at the 2013 Japan Academy Film Prize, as well as international recognition from esteemed festivals such as the Oslo Films from the South and the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

7. A Silent Voice Is About Learning To Love Oneself Beyond One’s Physical Appearance & Past

A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice (Credits: Crunchyroll)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.93
  • Tomatometer: 94%
  • IMDb: 8.1

Released in 2016, “A Silent Voice” is a poignant coming-of-age tale brought to life by Kyoto Animation, adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s acclaimed manga. The story revolves around Shoya Ishida, whose elementary school days are marked by his teasing of the new student, Shoko Nishimiya, who is deaf.

Ishida’s actions spark a cycle of bullying led by classmates like Naoka Ueno, ultimately leading to Shoko’s transfer to another school.

Haunted by his past behavior, Ishida grapples with guilt and the consequences of his actions as he find high school. Determined to make amends, he seeks out Shoko to reconcile, leading to an unexpected friendship that transcends their shared history.

Critics and audiences alike have lauded “A Silent Voice” for its powerful storytelling and exquisite animation. The film’ finds themes such as self-acceptance, redemption, and the impact of bullying resonates deeply, earning it widespread acclaim and numerous accolades, including the Japan Academy Film Prize for Excellent Animation of the Year.

Furthermore, its bold portrayal of characters living with disabilities and its sensitive handling of topics like teen bullying and suicide mark it as a groundbreaking work in animated cinema.

6. In This Corner of the World: A Wartime Drama Film Capturing Life During WWII”

In This Corner of the World (Credits: Maooa)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.22
  • Tomatometer: 97%
  • IMDb: 7.8

“Released in 2016, ‘In This Corner of the World’ emerges as a poignant wartime drama crafted by MAPPA, based on Fumiyo Kono’s manga. The narrative revolves around Suzu Urano, a newlywed bride who relocates to Kure City, a bustling port near Hiroshima, to join her husband’s family amidst the tumult of World War II.

The film delicately portrays Suzu’s daily life and struggles against the backdrop of wartime Japan, offering viewers a glimpse into the resilience of the human spirit amidst adversity.

Critics have lauded ‘In This Corner of the World’ for its breathtaking visuals and evocative depiction of both Japan’s serene landscapes and the harsh realities of war.

While fictional, the story draws inspiration from historical events and the experiences of the town prior to the devastation of Hiroshima. Its accolades, including the prestigious 40th Japan Academy Film Prize for Best Animated Film, underscore its impact and contribution to the cinematic.

5. Your Name Is a Body-Switching Love Story & Epic Sci-fi Adventure

Your Name (Credits: Makoto Shinkai)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.84
  • Tomatometer: 98%
  • IMDb: 8.4

“Makoto Shinkai’s ‘Your Name’ unfolds as a mesmerizing sci-fi tale entwined with themes of love and adolescent discovery. The narrative revolves around two high school students,

Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu, who find themselves inexplicably swapping bodies overnight. As they find each other’s lives, they uncover a deeper purpose: to prevent a looming catastrophe.

The film’s global commercial success solidified its position as one of the most influential works outside the Studio Ghibli realm, dominating the market for years. ‘Your Name’ not only grabbed anime enthusiasts but also drew in mainstream audiences, reshaping the perception of anime films on a global scale.

Praised for its stunning animation and heartfelt storytelling, ‘Your Name’ intricately captures the essence of adolescent life and yearning. Makoto Shinkai’s distinctive artistic vision, inspired by the nuances of human desires, has become synonymous with his signature style, elevating the film to a timeless masterpiece.

4. Paprika Is an Uncanny Film About Reality & Dreams

Paprika (Credits: Yasutaka Tsutsui)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.04
  • Tomatometer: 86%
  • IMDb: 7.7

Released in 2006, “Paprika” emerges as a mesmerizing psychological fantasy thriller under the direction of Satoshi Kon, adapted from Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel. Set in a futuristic world where dreams can be accessed through the revolutionary DC Mini device, the story follows Doctor Atsuko Chiba, a psychiatrist who employs the DC Mini for therapeutic purposes with her patients.

However, chaos ensues when the device is stolen and used for nefarious ends, prompting Doctor Chiba to get on a thrilling quest to reclaim it and apprehend the perpetrator.

Critics have lauded “Paprika” for its enthralling animation and surreal visual landscapes, characteristic of Satoshi Kon’s unique artistic vision.

Paprika (Credits: Yasutaka Tsutsui)

The film seamlessly blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, immersing viewers in a world where the boundaries of perception are constantly challenged. Satoshi Kon’s adeptness at juxtaposing abstract imagery with tangible themes has cemented “Paprika” as a seminal work of animated cinema.

Furthermore, the film’s influence extends beyond its initial release, inspiring subsequent live-action films and narratives to find similar themes, such as Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed “Inception.”

“Paprika” stands as a testament to Satoshi Kon’s unparalleled creativity and storytelling prowess, grab audiences with its spellbinding portrayal of the interplay between dreams and reality.

3. Perfect Blue: a Psychological Thriller Commenting on the Danger of Being a Pop Idol

Perfect Blue (Credits: Yoshikazu Takeuch)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.54
  • Tomatometer: 83%
  • IMDb: 8.0

Released in 1997, “Perfect Blue” emerges as a gripping psychological thriller under the direction of Satoshi Kon, adapted from Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s novel, “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis.”

The narrative revolves around Mima Kirigoe, a former J-pop idol who transitions to acting, only to find herself ensnared in a nightmarish world of stalking and psychological torment.

As Mima grapples with the pressures of celebrity life, she becomes increasingly unable to distinguish reality from the fabricated personas she portrays, leading her down a harrowing path.

The film sheds light on the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry, particularly  and objectification of female idols, while also delving into themes of identity and the erosion of self in the pursuit of fame.

“Perfect Blue” is widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, with many critics hailing it as one of the greatest anime films of all time. Its stark commentary on the perils of celebrity culture resonates deeply, laying bare the dangers faced by those in the spotlight.

Furthermore, its influence can be seen in subsequent works, such as the idol-focused anime “Oshi no Ko,” cementing its status as a seminal work in the genre.

2. Ghost in the Shell: A Groundbreaking Film in the Cyberpunk Genre

Ghost in the Shell (Credits: Mamoru Oshii)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.27
  • Tomatometer: 95%
  • IMDb: 7.9

“Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 masterpiece, ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ stands as a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre, adapted from Masamune Shirow’s acclaimed manga.

Set in the year 2029 in the fictional New Port City, inspired by the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, the film follows Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg public security agent, on a relentless pursuit of the enigmatic hacker known as the Puppet Master.

Thematically rich, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ goes into provocative subjects such as human cyborgs and artificial intelligence, inviting audiences to ponder the complexities of identity and existence in an increasingly technologically driven world.

The film’s pioneering use of cel animation and computer graphics showcases the cutting-edge advancements in animation at the time, while its audio and music production, spearheaded by composer Kenji Kawai, further find the immersive experience.

Despite its initial box office reception, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ has garnered a dedicated cult following and is widely regarded as one of the greatest anime and sci-fi films of all time.

Its profound influence extends beyond the realm of animation, inspiring subsequent works such as the iconic ‘Matrix’ film series. With its visionary storytelling and groundbreaking visuals, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ remains an enduring classic that continues to drab audiences worldwide.

1. Akira: Guided the Anime Industry Into International Waters

Masashi Kishimoto: Akira
Akira poster (Credits: Tokyo Movie Shinsha)


  • MyAnimeList: 8.16
  • Tomatometer: 91%
  • IMDb: 8.0

Released in 1988, “Akira” stands as a seminal cyberpunk action film adapted from Katsuhiro Otomo’s influential manga. Set in the dystopian Neo-Tokyo of 2019, the story follows Shotaro Kaneda, leader of a bike gang, as he finds a society on the brink of collapse.

A chance encounter with his childhood friend Tetsuo Shima sets off a chain of events, leading to Tetsuo gaining powerful telekinetic abilities and becoming a threat to the government and society at large.

The impact of “Akira” reverberates through the annals of pop culture, solidifying its status as a foundational anime film. Its bold art style and thematic depth have left an indelible mark on subsequent anime and manga series, particularly within the cyberpunk genre.

The film’s influence extends beyond the realm of animation, inspiring Western musicians such as Michael Jackson and Kanye West.

With its release in U.S. theaters, “Akira” garnered an international cult following, propelling Japanese pop culture and anime into the global spotlight. Its arrival marked a turning point, catalyzing a second wave of fandoms in the early 1990s and guiding the anime industry into uncharted international waters, where it continues to thrive to this day.