As the American astronomer Carl Sagan says, “Imagination will carry us to the worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” Our imagination can really take us to places without limits. Hence, let’s go as we travel the magical world of fantasy and imagination with these best Japanese fantasy movies!
1.) Princess Mononoke (1997)
Our first stop for this magical trip is a Hayao Miyazaki creation. Princess Mononoke is a Japanese fantasy film released in 1997.
This film is set in Japan during the late Muromachi period. Ashitaka, the last prince of Emishi, killed a demon that attacked their village. However, the demon’s destruction resulted in a curse in his right arm. Temporarily, this gave Ashitaka superhuman strength, but will eventually consume and kill him.
Ashitaka embarks on a perilous journey to find the cure for the curse. Princess Mononoke marked as one of the highest-grossing films of 1997.
2.) The Taste of Tea (2004)
Next up on our itinerary, is a family-oriented comedy fantasy film directed by Katsuhito Ishii. The story revolves around the family members of the Haruno family.
Each family member is individually confronted with different challenges of life as they live together in their simple house. The Taste of Tea will not just stir up your imagination but will surely entertain you with its comedic elements.
This film got a 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It is also one of the movies picked for Ed Park’s choices in Sight & Sound critics’ poll of the greatest films ever made in 2012.
3.) My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Have you ever thought of dust bunnies coming to life, or a cat that turns into a bus? Our next stop from the list of best Japanese fantasy movies is another Hayao Miyazaki classic that will fill your minds with awe and wonder.
Two girls, named Satsuki and Mei, transfer into a new home with their father to get close to the hospital where their mother is confined. The youngest, Mei, is led by two dust bunnies to a camphor tree, where she meets Totoro, a huge wood spirit. The adventure begins as Satsuki and Mei explore the magical land of forest where the spirits dwell.
This film was released both locally and internationally, well-acclaimed by various film critics worldwide.
4.) Paco and the Magical Picture Book (2008)
Okunuki is a grumpy old man who runs a large corporation. One day, he was brought to the hospital when he collapsed during a meeting.
At first, Okunuki were hated by other patients. Until one day, he crossed paths with Paco. Paco is a young girl suffering from a chronic short term memory loss. She only retains her memory for a single day.
She asks Okunuki to read aloud her favorite picture book. The next day, Paco totally forgets about Okunuki. Initially, Okunuki thinks Paco is just fooling around, but later on, his heart starts to get soft on Paco as he realizes the severity of her condition.
Each day, together with the other patients, they all journey with Paco through the magical land of the picture book. This movie was directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and was released in Japan in 2008.
5.) The Miracles of Namiya General Store (2017)
This film, among the best Japanese fantasy movies, will show you that no amount of time and space can separate two worlds apart.
In its heyday, the owner of the Namiya General Store was famous for giving advice to anyone who sought it. Every night, people would drop the letters in a mailbox and the owner would give a reply written in a milk carton hung outside the store.
In the present 2012, the store was totally closed and abandoned. One night, three fugitives go into the store where they discover a letter that was written 32 years ago. The boys wrote a reply letter and sent it back to the past.
This movie was directed by Ryuichi Hiroki and is based on a novel by Keigo Higashino entitled Namiya Zakkaten no Kiseki.
6.) Spirited Away (2001)
The story follows a young girl named Chihiro, who is about to move to their new home with her parents. Along the way, they stopped in front of a tunnel that leads to an abandoned amusement park.
To her father’s insistence, they went on to explore the park. Things went wrong when Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs after eating in a restaurant inside. Chihiro must now find a way to turn her parents back and go out of the amusement park.
Like any other Miyazaki films, Spirited Away made a name and became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.
If you are looking for a film that would make you realize the value of a loved one, this one may be the destination of your choice from our best Japanese fantasy movies!
7.) Humanoid Monster, Bem (2012)
Humanoid Monster, Bem is a 2012 film directed by Shunsuke Kariyamaya. The movie features a humanoid family that disguised themselves as humans, but turned into monsters when they experience extreme anger or sadness.
Born as monsters, but with a pure heart, this family was shunned by people because of their appearance. When people reportedly went missing and killed in the city, this family of three now finds a way to save humanity.
8.) RoboGeisha (2009)
Who would have thought that a Geisha could actually turn out into a robot? If you’re up for some sci-fi action film, RoboGeisha is one of the best Japanese fantasy movies that you should definitely see!
It all began, when two siblings, Yoshie and Kikue were kidnapped by a steel maker to transform them into robot assassins. Soon, as events turned out, the two became robot assassins. The director, Noboru Iguchi, will take us to an adventure, as two sisters pull through in their lives as assassins.
9.) Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2010)
Akari, is a daughter of a researcher named Kazuko, who privately created a time-travel formula. Unfortunately, a car accident caused Kazuko to fall into a coma. After regaining consciousness, she tells Akari to travel back to 1972 to send a message to her mother’s first love, Kazuo.
However, she mistakenly travelled back to 1974, where she met Ryota. Together they sought to find Kazuo to send her mother’s message. Perhaps, this could be your film of choice among these best Japanese fantasy movies if you’re up to some film that transcends through time.
10.) The Machine Girl (2008)
Now time for some action-packed scenes with our second to the last film of best Japanese fantasy movies!
The Machine Girl is one of the films directed by Noboru Iguchi that was launched in 2008. This movie revolves around the story of a girl named Ami, who sought revenge for the death of his brother, Yu, and his friend, Takeshi.
This film was featured in March 2008 at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. It was also premiered in the United States in May of the same year.
11.) Attack on Titan (Shingeki No Kyojin) (2015)
Before we completely wrap up our trip, let’s go see what we have for our last film on the list!
Attack on Titan is a 2015 film directed by Shinji Higuchi. A post-apocalyptic film based on a manga of a similar title written by Hajime Isayama, this movie was released into two parts. Part one was released in August 2015 while the second part was released in September of the same year.
This film mainly tells the conquest of Eren Yaeger, together with his friends Armin and Mikasa in fighting the Titans that destroyed their hometown.
This film received mixed reactions and reviews from the audiences. Part one ranked 7th among the highest-selling films in Japan box office in 2015. The second part, however, was a total flop, earning less than the first one.
This trip may be over for now, but you can always go back to check and see the best Japanese fantasy movies of all time! As you return, don’t forget to see some of these movies with your friends! Enjoy!