No one really asked but here’s some of the best underrated Japanese animated films that you should add to your watch list.

Because there are more great films other than Spirited Away and Kimi no Nawa. But seriously speaking, aside from your Studio Ghibli favorites, there’s a lot of other great animated films. From a compelling story line to a wonderful animation and art. So we’re compiled a few ones that you’ll definitely enjoy!


Based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1993 novel of the same name, Paprika is about a research psychologist who uses a device to enter her patients’ dreams to help them. The science-fiction psychological thriller reminds you of the film Inception, with Leonardo DiCaprio. It shows how loose the world can be in someone’s dream. And how it interconnects with their real-life issues and problems. At some point, it feels like reality and fantasy leaks into each other and you can’t point out which is which.

True, Paprika might seems like a muddled and confusing mess. But the metaphor of it to the human mind shows distinction and realization as to how we think and feel. You’d just find yourself drowning in curiosity of how the human mind works in mysterious ways.

Mirai no Mirai

Mirai no Mirao or Mirai of the Future is a 2018 adventure fantasy film about family. It follows the story of 4-year old Jun who meets his new baby sister, Mirai. Like usual kids, he gets increasingly jealous of baby Mirai until one day, he storms off to their garden. He finds himself meeting people from the past and the future, including his sister Mirai from the future. Together, they go on an adventure discovering more about themselves, their family and how love ties them all.

It’s quite a trope to find, especially for animated films. However, the fantasy they injected in the film brings forth a certain playfulness that you can relate to. Either you’re a kid or a grownup. It’s quite nostalgic as it brings back life lessons appropriate in all situations. Not to mention, the art itself is a wonder. It might seem like a kid’s movie having told through a kid’s point of view. But it’s true-to-life details keeps you grounded that entails what it means to be a family.

Summer Wars

If you prefer a more technological advanced film, then Summer Wars would be a good choice. The 2009 science fiction film by Mamoru Hosoda tells the story of a math prodigy Kenji Koiso and how he tries to save the world from destruction. During summer, his secret crush Natsuki takes him to her grandmother’s 90th birthday, to pass him off as her boyfriend. But he unwittingly breaches the security of Oz, a virtual world, after solving a 2056 digit math riddle. This caused a malicious AI called Love Machine to hijack Oz accounts and bring destruction and chaos in the real world.

While it sounds a whole lot of bananas, Summer Wars means more than saving the world. It’s a witty allegory for man against technology while tackling relationships and family traditions. It might get a little convoluted at some point. But one thing’s for sure – Summer Wars’ gets you hooked with the exaggerated possibility of what technology can do and finding a way through it with people supporting you all the way. Despite having a heavy conflict, it has it’s own charms that lightens the mood, one where you can definitely connect to.

Grave of Fireflies

If you haven’t watched this, shame on you! (Kidding!) The 1988 anti-war film Grave of Fireflies is Studio Ghibli’s most haunting and reflective works of all time. It tells the past of Seita before he died after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. It mostly tackles how he and his sister struggled in the waning days o World War II where food and compassion are scarce.

It’s nothing but aching and sad. The daring concept is startling enough. Every film, we’ve gotten used to seeing victory at the end of a hard journey. But this bittersweet movie shows how one can fail despite everything they’ve endured. No words can truly describe the harrowing tragedy it posed. A masterpiece, indeed.


This 2010 animated feature film serves as a reminder how beautiful life is while tacking serious social problems. It follows the story of a lost Soul who earns a second chance to live despite not wanting it. He gets placed in the body of Makoto Kobayashi, a student who just committed suicide. He must figure out his greatest sink and mistake in his former life before his 6-month time run’s out in Makoto’s body.

It’s quite cliché, if you ask me. However, the reality it poses about the struggles and pressures on students are quite real and relatable enough. It’s like a cautionary tale, reminding you that you only live once (no pun intended). And that despite life being a challenge, things will eventually turn out better. So that’s why we have to live a colorful life. Even with a heavy theme, it really connects to you, especially if you’re feeling down and blue.

These underrated Japanese films might be under the radar. But they have delivered honest-to-goodness lessons for everyone of all ages. It might not be as top-grossing or as popular as the others, but they are certainly worthy of praise. Nothing wrong with checking them out, right?

Have you seen any of these underrated Japanese animated films? Which one do you think you will like? Share us your thoughts on the comments down below! Or hit us up on our Facebook or Twitter @UDoUPh!