Anime films to give as gifts for Christmas

Like western cartoons or computer animation, like live-action footage and other forms of moving images, anime is a popular representative of the same. From Ghibli classics from the last few decades to modern productions under the umbrella of streaming providers, there is a lot to choose from. There is something for a wide variety of target and age groups. Below you will find my very personal anime recommendations that I would give as a gift for Christmas in good conscience. Next to Ghibli films and Strips by Makoto Shinkai there are a few more.

Anime films from the Madhouse studio

I have to admit that I'm not familiar with the body of work that Madhouse has put out since 1979. In addition to numerous well-known films, the animation studio is also involved in many series productions. It appeared on my screen with the production “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” published in 2006. “Paprika”, a film that is considered the spiritual predecessor of “Inception”, comes from the same year. But the next big hit for me was the film “Summer Wars,” released in 2009.

So these are the two Madhouse films I would give away:

  • The girl who jumped through time: 17-year-old Makoto gains the ability to travel through time. She uses the gift to make supposed improvements in her life, but soon has to face the consequences.
  • Summer Wars: Teenager Kenji accidentally helps hack the metaverse/virtual world called OZ and infects it with a defective AI from military experiments. In addition to real-world problems to solve, OZ now needs to be saved. 
The girl who jumped through time
  • Amazon Prime Video (video on demand)
  • Anne Helm (actor)
  • Mamoru Hosoda (director) - Satoko Okudera (writer) - Madhouse (producer)
Summer Wars [DVD]
  • This article has NO German language and subtitles.
  • Tagame Tamura, Eiko Kanazawa, Chigusa Takaku (actors)
  • Mamoru Hosoda (director)

Note: Unfortunately, German editions of the films have become rare on Amazon. So take a look at which languages ​​are available. Otherwise, check whether the films are available on Prime Video. There is also the Madhouse film “Tokyo Godfathers“, which can certainly be streamed as a Christmas film.

More films by Mamoru Hosoda

What's interesting is that the two films that I'm not only most familiar with but also like at Madhouse have the same director. This is Mamoru Hosoda. He took part in “Digimon” productions around the turn of the millennium and directed a “One Piece” film in 2005. Films by him, which I also have next to it  “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Summer Wars” are one from 2012 and one from 2021:

  • Ame & Yuki – The Wolf Children: After her husband, a wolf-man, dies, Hana moves to the country as a single mother with her two children Ame and Yuki. The story, told over thirteen years, highlights, among other things, the difficulties children have in integrating into society.
  • Beautiful : The half-orphan Suzu doesn't have many friends. But she can make a name for herself as “Belle” in the virtual world/metaverse called U. There she meets a violent user, who is a boy from a difficult background. She can help by working with others.
Ame & Yuki - The Wolf Children
  • Amazon Prime Video (video on demand)
  • Jaron Müller, Christian Zeiger, Julia Meynen (actors)
  • Mamoru Hosoda (director) - Satoko Okudera / Mamoru Hosoda (writer) - Studio Chizu / Madhouse (producer)
Belle (DVD)
  • The new and globally acclaimed masterpiece by Oscar nominee Mamoru Hosoda (THE GIRL WHO LEAP THROUGH TIME,...
  • Produced by Studio Chizu (THE BOY AND THE BEAST), Belle was designed by character designer Jin Kim (THE ICE PRINCESS)...
  • The film is also impressive musically: the title song alone has been released on Spotify in Japanese and English...

Note: Ame & Yuki is now also rare on Amazon on German DVD. It's quicker to stream the film on Prime Video here.

The film "Der Junge and das Biest“ from 2015 should also be good. But I haven't seen it yet. In addition, in 2018, the film “Mirai – The Girl from the Future” was released. It's less about the eponymous girl Mirai and more about her brother. Since this is - in my subjective opinion - an annoying toddler, I don't get much out of the film and wouldn't give it away.

Sky is (not) the Limit: Films by Makoto Shinkai

Makoto Shinkai made his first attempts at anime in 1999 at the age of 26. The short film “She and Her Cat” made back then is still a work of art celebrated today as a modern classic. With the subsequent films “Voices of a Distant Star” (2002) and “The Place Promised In Our Early Days” (2004), themes emerged that would also be important in later films: interpersonal relationships, the sky and the weather and space phenomena. Makoto Shinkai celebrated his worldwide breakthrough in 2016 with “Your Name”, but all previous and subsequent films are also worth recommending and giving as gifts.

So I would give away all of Makoto Shinkai's films:

  • She and Her Cat (1999): Living with the owner is told from the perspective of the cat Chobi. The challenges of everyday life and emotions are addressed. This monochrome debut work is five minutes long.
  • Voices of a Distant Star (2002): Two teenagers separated by a space mission communicate with each other via text message. But as the distance increases, the messages take longer and longer (sometimes years) to arrive. A sci-fi study of relationships, distance and alienation.
  • The Place Promised In Our Early Days (2004): In an alternate reality, Japan was segregated in the 1970s. The film's plot begins in the 1990s. In addition to the political and military tensions, it is about three teenagers/young adults and the desire to reach a tower. The desire eventually becomes a necessity.
  • 5 centimeters per second (2007): Similar to "Voices of a Distant Star", the film explores the themes of love, distance and continuing one's own life alone. However, there is no sci-fi here and the distance is made clear by living apart from each other in Japan.
  • Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011): The alternative title “The Journey to Agartha” already describes a large part of the plot. The girl Asuna meets the boy Shun from the hidden land of Agartha. There, loved ones should be able to be brought back from the dead. The teacher Morisaki also wants that. An adventure with difficult decisions ensues.
  • The Garden of Words (2013): In a running time of only 44 minutes, the story of the encounter between a student and a teacher (who does not recognize themselves as such) in the park is shown. He dreams of becoming a shoemaker. She is recovering from hostility and the resulting stress that left her unable to work.
  • Your Name (2016): Makoto Shinkai's worldwide breakthrough came with this film, which highlights the time-delayed body swap between two teenagers. By working together, they can avert a catastrophe. A meeting between the two is made difficult by hurdles in time and space.
  • Weathering With You (2019): Tokyo is plagued by seemingly never-ending rain. However, Hina, who takes care of her younger brother alone, is able to clear the clouds and let the sun shine through. When the runaway Hodaka learns this, they offer Hina's ability as a service. But that has its price. A vital decision will soon be made.
  • Suzume (2022): The orphan Suzume lives with her aunt and meets a stranger on the street who is looking for nearby ruins. There he has to close a door to prevent world-destroying worms from entering. Suzume soon has to help him because the stranger turns into a chair. Sounds bizarre, but it's a heartfelt adventure. (At the time this article went to press there was no German DVD/Blu-Ray yet)
Voices of a Distant Star
  • Makoto Shinkai (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
The Place Promised in Our Early Days - [DVD]
  • German Japanese
  • DVD
  • Makoto Shinkai
5 centimeters per second
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
Children Who Chase Lost Voices
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 12 years ago
The Garden of Words
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
YourName. - Yesterday, today and forever
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
Weathering With You - The Girl Who Touched the Sun
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
Makoto Shinkai Collection (Special Edition exclusive to Amazon) [Blu-ray]
  • 7 art cards, extras (The Garden of Words): filmography Makoto Shinkai, interview Makoto Shinkai, storyboard for the film,...
  • Interview Makoto Shinkai, storyboard for the film, music video. Extras (Voices of a Distant Star): Original trailer, 257 min
  • Shinkai, Makoto (director)

Patema Inverted by Yasuhiro Yoshiura

I actually had to look up what else Yasuhiro Yoshiura had written, directed or otherwise helped design. Among other things, he worked on the 2009 film “Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance”, a fairly successful franchise. But where he was active as an author, director, storyboard artist and in many other roles is the film “Patema Invertedfrom 2013.

The film, which takes place in the not too distant future, is about gravity experiments and their consequences. By splitting the world into two groups drawn by opposing forces, enmities arise. The seemingly overpowering group is characterized by a totalitarian, fascist society. However, a more peaceful group lives underground. There is a literal twist in the final showdown.

Patema Inverted - The Movie - [DVD]
  • German Japanese
  • DVD
  • Yasuhiro yoshiura

A Silent Voice: The Movie

In the case of “A silent voice“film from the animation studio Kyoto Animation, I feel similar to Madhouse. Because here too I only know a fraction of the entire work. While at Madhouse there are three of numerous films, at Kyoto Animation it is only one. But A Silent Voice has it all. The coming-of-age film describes the school situation of a student with a hearing aid. She is bullied and also attacked by a classmate. But over time a friendship develops. There are also relationships with other characters. An interesting film about bullying, socialization and rehabilitation.

A Silent Voice - [DVD]
  • German Japanese
  • DVD
  • Naoko yamada

A few examples of “Lupine III” films

Lupine III is a franchise based on the stories surrounding “Arsène Lupine” by Maurice Leblanc. The first manga editions under the name Lupine III appeared in 1967. The first anime productions with corresponding stories appeared in 1971. Personally, I only have one original “Lupine III” film and two crossover films with other franchises ready to recommend. If you or the recipient like them, it's certainly a world you can dig into for a long time.

I can recommend these three films with the master thief Lupine III:

  • The Castle of Cagliostro (1979): Lupine III and his two assistants are traveling in a small, fictional European principality, where they witness a kidnapping after a counterfeit money robbery. Various entanglements are uncovered and a wedding is prevented. The rescued abductee is a princess.
  • Lupine III vs. Detective Conan: The Movie (2013): A skillful crossover with various twists in which both protagonists can show their strengths. Another storyline revolves around a princess from a fictional kingdom. However, most of the action takes place in Japan in the 21st century.
  • Lupine III vs. A Super Trio – Cat's Eye (2023): This Prime Video production not only brings back the “supertrio” from the 1980s, but also brings together the three sisters and Lupine III with a modern animation style. The exciting story about art theft and intrigue manages to console the graphic style, which takes some getting used to.
Lupine III - The Castle of Cagliostro - [DVD]
  • German Japanese
  • DVD
  • Hayao Miyazaki
LUPIN III. vs. Detective Conan: The Special
  • German Japanese
  • DVD
  • Hajime Kamegaki
  • Amazon Prime Video (video on demand)
  • Kanichi Kurita, Akio Otsuka, Daisuke Namikawa (actors)
  • Kobun Shizuno (director) - Shuji Kuzuhara (writer)

Detective Conan films: There are now 26 of them!

I won't go into detail here Films from the “Detective Conan” franchise - with the exception of 2020, one of them has been published every year since 1997. I've seen all of them that are somehow legally available in this country and can therefore say: If you want to give a gift to a Detective Conan fan, then you can't go wrong with any of the films. Of course, they are becoming more modern over the years in terms of animation and content. But if you want to explore the entire work around Conan, the Detective Boys, Ran and old Mōri, Ai and the Professor as well as the Men in Black, you can't avoid the many styles.

Anime films that are not for children

Cartoons, animation, anime, etc. are often lumped together by people who aren't very familiar with them and are labeled "kids' stuff." However, you couldn't be more wrong. I would never show Akira (anime film from 1988) or Rick and Morty (US animated series since 2013) to a child. And the films already mentioned so far are often not really for children, but at most for teenagers. Some may be suitable for children, others may be more coming-of-age films, others only for adults due to action, violence and other content.

In any case, I would watch the aforementioned film “Akiraare among the films that you should not watch with (small) children. Because there are numerous violence and body horror elements in the cyberpunk anime. Nevertheless, it is a classic that set strong standards in terms of the possibilities of the anime medium back in 1988 - especially when it comes to playing with light, shadows, perspective and speed. From a purely technical point of view, it's worth seeing. Plus, of course, classics like “Ghost in the Shell"Or"The last fireflies".

  • Otomo, Katsuhiro (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 16 years ago

Interstella 5555 – music anime for fans of Daft Punk

“Interstella 5555 – The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem” from 2003 is an exceptional phenomenon in many respects, both in the field of anime films and in the field of music videos. The 68-minute film has no dialogue and conveys its story exclusively on the visual level. There is still audio, namely in the form of the 2001 Daft Punk album “Discovery”. This successful mix of progressive rock and disco in combination with the manga and anime great Leiji Matsumoto ultimately led to Interstella 5555.

In addition to the film standing on its own, “Interstella 5555 – The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem” could certainly trigger a little nostalgia among different age groups. The production is not only reminiscent of the long-play music videos that were briefly fashionable in the 1980s and that, in addition to the respective song and its content, also told their own stories. Younger Daft Punk fans may also have memories of the mid-2000s trend of combining songs with excerpts from anime and uploading them to YouTube as AMV (Anime Music Video). So everyone gets their money’s worth here.

Daft Punk - Interstella 5555 [Limited Edition] [2 DVDs]
  • Daft Punk (actor)
  • Takenouchi, Kazuhisa (director)
  • Audience Rating: Released from 6 years ago
  • Audio CD - audiobook
  • Ada (Warner) (Editor)

Many more anime gift ideas

As with live-action films, CGI productions and similar media, there is no exhaustive list when it comes to anime. And if you look at lists from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes or other film specialist sites, you will find many more recommendations there. But I can only recommend those anime films as Christmas presents that I have seen myself, found to be good and have not forgotten again in the meantime. Others are only available from streaming providers, such as “Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop” or “Drifting Home” on Netflix. The most you can do is Give away Netflix credit.

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