Over the years, the British Film Institute (BFI) has established itself as one of the leading publishers in the field of anime studies, with Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, and Spirited Away in its BFI Film Classics line, 100 Anime in the BFI Screen Guides, and Anime: A History, Jonathan Clements’ in-depth examination of how animation was actually produced in Japan from the early 1900’s to the present, and how the animation industry developed and evolved over the years. In 2010, BFI published 100 Animated Feature Films, by Andrew Osmond (the author of BFI Film Classics: Spirited Away, as well as other writing on anime, going back to 1998’s Nausicaa and the fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki, in the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction – one of the earliest English-language scholarly articles of any kind on Japanese animation). And now, Osmond and BFI have decided it’s time for an update, with 100 Animated Feature Films, Revised Edition.
With a book of this kind, one question always comes to mind. What is it that makes it different from a Rolling Stone 40 Greated Animated Movies Ever. Or a stacker.com Best Animated Movies of All Time. Who is this book actually for? What is its intended use and expected audience? And this is where I would argue that at least with regard to anime studies, 100 Animated Feature Films actually has several good uses. At a minimum, the titles that it covers can serve as an easy source to draw on to represent “Japanese animation” in a syllabus for a class, whether on film, on Japanese media, or on some other topic that does not even directly involve Japan or to animation. Of the 100 films that it covers in brisk, two-page summaries (previews are available online), 24 were produced in Japan (and 2 more are co-productions), and represent a range of genres and approaches – yes, the science fiction of Akira and Ghost in the Shell and the fantasy of Studio Ghibli, but also the unexpected “slice of life” approach of Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words, the absurdism and surrealism of Mind Game, and the more recent state of Japanese animation, with A Silent Voice. Similarly, this book can be a great resource for an undergraduate or high school student – who is searching for films to examine for an assignment. Finally, when public libraries develop their film collections, books of this kind are one of the major resources that the collection development librarians rely on – to identify titles to include, and to justify purchasing these titles – since they are highlighted in a guide, they are worth buying!
Incidentally, since this is a Revised Edition of the book, it is also worth looking at what specifically changed in terms of how the author has covered Japanese animation between the two editions. The original edition, published in 2010, certainly did not ignore anime – 23 of the 100 titles were from Japan. But it’s particularly interesting to see which animated feature films the author chose to keep in both editions – there are 14 total, 9 of them from Studio Ghibli, and which titles are new to the Revised Edition. Granted, of the 12 new titles, 7 were released after 2010, but that still means that the author decided that 5 animated feature films – Belladonna of Sadness (1973), Ghost in the Shell (1995, the book’s first edition covered Ghost in the Shell 2), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Perfect Blue (1997), and the Czech Republic-France-Japan-Slovakia co-production Toys in the Attic (2009) deserve to be featured instead of others. And 9 anime films that appeared in the 2010 edition do not show up now.
Regardless, just its table of contents makes the valuable statement that any conversation about animation needs to consider anime/Japanese animation, and really, animation, including anime, has a place in any comprehensive conversation about film in general. That remains an important statement to make, and I am simply happy to see an organization such as the BFI stepping up to make it.