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The Top 5 Makoto Shinkai Movies

by Jacki Jing & Zac Bertschy,

Over the last 20 years, if there's one anime director people have heard of (who isn't named Hayao Miyazaki – it's probably Makoto Shinkai, the director of what is still the highest grossing animated film of all time in Japan, breaking Miyazaki's Spirited Away record in 2016 with his smash hit your name. But Shinkai's fame didn't start there – he's had a surprisingly prolific body of work, beginning in all the way back in 1999 – and since then, fans have known him for his astonishing attention to detail, beautiful animation techniques, touching romance stories and – notoriously – his jaw-dropping work ethic. His latest film, Weathering With You, is currently climbing that highest-grossing anime films list yet again – and you can see it this week in theaters right here in the USA.

Here are our five favorite works by this world-renowned artist.

5. She and Her Cat

Shinkai's very first work was this short little OVA he made with the help of only three other people – an adorable and sometimes melancholy work that visits the life of a woman dealing with a personal crisis, viewed entirely through the perspective of her cat, Chobi. Shinkai sold this OVA himself at Comiket – and it went on to great acclaim, kickstarting his enormous career. It was adapted by another director into an anime series in 2016 – and either version of this is worth your time. Although everything Shinkai makes feels like a very personal work, this one might be the one that feels the most personal.

4. 5 Centimeters Per Second

This movie – released originally in pieces before being given a full theatrical release – is emblematic of the middle of Shinkai's career, when he focused on romantic, occasionally sad and nostalgic stories about love without a whole lot of supernatural trimmings. Five Centimeters Per Second covers, in distinct segments, the relationship between Takaki and Akari, childhood friends who feel a deep connection over the years of their life, drifting apart and simultaneously dreaming about one day watching the cherry blossom petals fall together again. The ending is not to be missed – this one, like most of Shinkai's work – will make you cry for sure.

3. Weathering With You

Shinkai's latest film – a visual masterpiece with aesthetic choices and production design that put his evolution as an artist on full blast – is commenting on a whole lot of stuff relevant to our world. Hodaka runs away from home – which means he's going to struggle with the incredibly difficult life that awaits him on the street in Tokyo, where it is endlessly raining. Fortunately, he meets a surrogate father in Suga, a tabloid magazine publisher who takes him in. But we're just getting started here - that's not the only thing that saves him, not by a longshot. Hina – a girl he rescues from a pretty unfortunate life herself – turns out to have the ability to control the weather through prayer (a concept that has longstanding historical roots in Japanese myth) – and together they go on a touching, beautiful and romantic adventure together. This movie will absolutely make your eyes pop out of your head – it's that gorgeous.

2. Voices of a Distant Star

This one was Shinkai's most well-known work throughout the early 20th century – famously produced entirely on his home PC, it touched millions of fans worldwide. The story revolves around the distant romance between Mikako – who is recruited by the army to fight in a war against aliens in space, piloting a giant robot – and Noboru (voiced by Shinkai himself), who's still on earth. The two of them stay in touch via their celphones – but Mikako is so far away that the messages slowly take years and years to reach Mikako – and if you can't see where this is going, well, just track down a copy for yourself and get ready to cry. Not just one of Shinkai's strongest works – this is clearly the storytelling DNA for pretty much everything that came afterward.

1. your name.

OK – seriously, what did you expect? Shinkai worked for years on this, his biggest film ever – which became such a sensation both inside Japan and around the world that it rocketed him to superstar status. Like Weathering With You, your name. touches on a vast array of deeply personal issues – and was particularly piercing in the wake of the 2011 disaster in Fukushima. It's no secret why this movie did so well – with a gentle and memorable score by rock band RADWIMPS, your name. weaves a tale of staying connected to eachother through monumental, unfathomable tragedy, how we're all connected by love even when the world is falling apart. It's composed basically like the perfect pop song – it builds to a beautiful crescendo, with lyrics that stay with you long after the credits roll. You've probably seen this one already – but if you haven't, you definitely need to.

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