15+ Best Underrated Anime Movies That Are A Must Watch!!

Underrated Anime Movies

The world of anime is cruel and unjust as lot of movies, which should have risen the ranks of fame lie forgotten in the dust. It is quite a satisfaction when you come across an underrated anime movie and end up falling in love with it totally.

However, the search for such movies can prove to be tiresome. Do not worry though, we have got you covered here!!

Best underrated anime movies:

In order to make your job easy, we have come up with a curated list of the best 15+ lesser known anime movies that are totally worth your time. From slice of life dramas to movies with surreal plots, this list of underrated anime movies has something to offer for every fans.

16) Redline:

Runtime: 102 mins
Director: Takeshi Koike
Studio: Madhouse
Genres: Racing, Action, Sci-fi

Redline is a science fiction auto racing anime film produced by Madhouse and directed by Takeshi Koike. The film is set in the distant future, where a man known as JP takes on great risks for the chance of winning the titular underground race. This underground race is an “elimination race” which is one of the most popular in the galaxy, the Redline.

It is kind of a homage to the illegal racing scenes  and the comic style of late 70s and 80s. Redline is an interesting watch for people with speedy sports car fetishes and a love for the futuristic cyborg world. The fact that the movie took seven years to be completed is visible in the sheer quality of the art style, which makes it more than just a straightforward racing movie!

15) Patema Inverted (Sakasam no Patema):

Runtime: 99 mins
Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura
Studio: Studio Rikka, Purple Cow, Studio Japan
Genres: Sci-fi, Mystery, Adventure

Patema Inverted is a sci- fi adventure film written and directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura. The plot follows a young girl Patema who lives in an underground society, after an experiment intended to harness energy from Earth’s gravity  fails and gravity reverses, causing nearly everyone and everything to start flying away from Earth.

One day while exploring, she ends up on the surface of the earth and finds herself trapped in an inverted world. She teams up with a boy from the surface, to get back to the underground world.

It is not everyday that you find yourself trapped in a world that wasn’t supposed to exist, let alone be inverted.

The dystopian future drama is a great blend of animation, interesting story and beautiful visuals. Seeing two teenagers defying the opposing laws of gravity and coming together to find a peaceful solution makes for a wonderful watch and guarantees this flick a place in our list of best underrated anime movies.

While you are at it, you should also check out the movie, “Time of Eve,” which is from the same director of Patema Inverted.

14) Mai Mai Miracle (Mai Mai Shinko to Sennen no Mahou):

Runtime: 95 mins
Director: Sunao Katubuchi
Studio: Madhouse
Genres: Drama, Historical, Slice of Life

Mai Mai Miracle is a drama/ SoL movie directed by Sunao Katabuchi at Madhouse Studio and is an entry that should be there in list of every underrated anime movie enthusiast.

The story is set in 1955 in Kokuga, Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture and follows Shinko, a third grade elementary school student, who was born and raised in one of the town’s venerable families. She is a little girl whose characteristic is a strange curl on her forehead (she calls it her “Mai Mai”), and her love for playing in the fields. On the other hand, her secret joy is to imagine and to daydream about the world of one thousand years ago. 

The movie follows themes of children coping with growing up in an almost Ghibli-esque way, but retains its own distinct signature in storytelling. The anime movie allows the viewer to explore the wonders of childhood through Shinko, who learns to admire the world around her, convey her feelings and to make friends along the way.

Definitely a must watch movie for people who love family friendly movies with a tinge of childhood nostalgia!

13) Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Hoshi Wo Ou Kodomo):

Runtime: 116 mins
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Studio: CoMix Wave Films
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Drama

Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a fantasy adventure movie directed  by Makoto Shinkai at CoMix Wave Films. The movie follows Asuna Watase, a young elementary school girl, who is unknowingly dragged into a journey to a long lost land, after she accidentally tunes her old crystal radio to a melancholic song from this mysterious hidden world. This adventure bound to surpass her very imagination, turning her once melodic life into an intricate requiem.

This underrated anime movie brilliantly encapsulated the themes of life, death, separation and loneliness through the eyes of a student and a teacher as they go in search for something that is not fathomable in tales of fantasy that a 12-year-old might know. This movie also seems to take a leaf out of Miyazaki’s book and is worth a watch, especially for Shinkai fans who want to experience something different from the director.

12) Memories:

Runtime: 114 mins
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Tensai Okamura
Studio: Studio 4°C, Madhouse
Genres: Drama, Psychological, Sci-fi

Memories is an anthology film, featuring 3 different stand-alone stories , Magnetic Rose (directed by Koji Morimoto), Stink Bomb (directed by Tensai Okamura) and Cannon Fodder (directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who is also the original mangaka of these stories). Co-produced by Madhouse and Studio 4°C, the short films encompass different genres including Sci-fi, Horror and Psychological drama. 

I would rather place this movie in a list of lesser known anime movies, than a list of underrated anime movies, for there aren’t many who know about this masterpiece out there. The technical and visual style of all the stories in Memories are closely related, even with the differing core themes. It is one of the most critically acclaimed anime movies in Japan.

The movie is guaranteed to give you an amazing experience (if you are a fan of Satoshi Kon movies) with a great story and deep underlying themes.

11) The Portrait Studio (Shashinkan):

Runtime: 17 mins
Director: Takashi Nakamura
Studio: Studio Colorido
Genres: Drama, Historical, Slice of Life

The Portrait Studio is an anime short film written and directed by Takashi Nakamura at Studio Colorido. The story takes place before WWII at a photo studio on top of a hill where the owner has to try everything to make the daughter of a couple smile for the camera. Thus starts a long-running relationship between the girl and the owner, and time passes to years and then decades…

Though this anime movie only has a runtime of over 16 minutes, the beautiful tale of a woman who refuses to smile will definitely move your heart. The art and music of the movie is quite good and only serves to improve the overall experience of viewing this small yet wonderful piece of art!

This is definitely one of the best underrated anime movies out there. Watching it won’t take much of your time too. I pride myself on being able to suggest this to you, heh.

10) Only Yesterday (Omoide Poporo):

Runtime: 119 mins
Director: Isao Takahata
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Genres: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life

Only Yesterday is a drama movie written and directed by Isao Takahata at Studio Ghibli (and is the only Ghibli film in this list!) The story follows Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old unmarried & independent woman, who decides to visit her distant family in the rural countryside to help with the safflower harvest in order to get away from and unwind from the rush of the big city.

Having your past self follow you around can be quite a difficult thing to deal with, even if it happens subconsciously. Balancing your childhood dreams and your current self is a theme that is explored in this Ghibli classic.

Unlike normal anime film tropes, Only Yesterday has a very realistic story which focuses on adults, particularly women. The movie has a nostalgic theme as Taeko looks back on her childhood dreams and experiences, comparing them to what she has become today as an adult (which turns out to be quite contrasting). 

This underrated anime movie subtly touches on the problems and situations that every adult might face in their life and presents it in a heartfelt and enjoyable way. If we may say so, this is a “boringly beautiful” movie that you should definitely not miss out on!!

9) Tekkonkinkreet:

Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Michael Arias
Studio: Studio 4°C
Genres: Action, Adventure, Supernatural

Tekkonkinkreet follows a pair of orphans who attempt to prevent the Yakuza and their assorted violent and corrupt allies from taking over their city.

Tekkonkinkreet is a movie that is famous for its unique and distinct character design. While it might not adhere to everyone’s tastes, the movie’s plot and stylish (yet somehow moody) art which embraces creative freedom and delivers in every way possible makes it one of the gems in this list of underrated anime movies.

With dark and brutal themes depicted throughout, this is one those rewarding movies that oozes with quality. The movie will make you question morals, loyalty and relationships as the brothers strive to outlive the violent underbelly of Trasure Town.

‘A vivid and colorful experience’ would be the best way to put it, with strokes of realism!

8) In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai No Katasumi Ni):

Runtime: 168 mins
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Studio: MAPPA
Genres: Drama,War

Co-written and directed  by Sunao Katabuchi at MAPPA studio, this underrated anime movie follows the life during the years surrounding the WW II in Japan through the eyes of a girl Suzu Urano who has to leave her home after getting married to a man she barely knows. Put to work in her husband’s household, the homesick girl struggles to adjust to the unfamiliar environment, living with a family who treats her coldly. She cannot help but question: can this ever truly become her new home?

In This Corner of the World is a movie that offers a refreshing take on Japan during World War II. Instead of focusing directly on the bombings and hardships that ensue, the movie depicts the changing conditions in a daily home as Japan slowly entered the years of war. The peaceful everyday lives of everyone is slowly replaced by harsher and unforgiving situations that accompany a war.

Contrasting themes of innocence and cruelty are present throughout the movie as the director tries to paint the image of mundane life amidst the bombings in Japan. The movie is not without its flaws, but is a must watch for those multitude of feelings that hit you as you watch Urano prevail against all the suffering.

7) Tokyo Godfathers:

Runtime: 97 mins
Director: Satoshi Kon
Studio: Madhouse
Genres: Drama, Comedy

Tokyo Godfathers follows an aging alcoholic, an ex-drag queen trans woman and a young runaway who set out in search of an abandoned newborn baby’s mother, whom they found in a dumpster on Christmas eve. During their journey they run into  yakuza members, a dying homeless man, and other interesting characters.

Though they are homeless and are broke, the trio do their best to look after the newborn (whom they name Kiyoko, meaning the “Pure One”) all the while confronting their pasts and realising the importance of having a family.

Tokyo Godfathers is a comedy drama film (loosely based on the novel Three Godfathers) directed by Satoshi Kon at Madhouse. Though it is a critically acclaimed movie, not many are familiar with this title (which is kinda sad). This makes it not just an underrated anime movie, but also a lesser known one.

The highlight of the film is the characters and their interactions which add to the overall feel good value of Tokyo Godfathers. This holiday movie is quite different from the usual Satoshi Kon tropes and will leave you pleasantly surprised. Definitely a must watch.

6) Liz and the Blue bird (Liz To Aoi Tori):

Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Naoko Yamada
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Drama, Music, School

Liz and the Blue Bird is a drama-musical based on Ayano Takeda’s Sound!Euphonium (Hibiki!Euphonium) novel series. It is directed by Naoko Yamada at Kyoto Animation. The film focuses on Mizore Yoroizuka and Nozomi Kasaki (supporting characters in Sound!Euphonium) who are tasked to prepare for a concert with the school’s brass band. The concert is based on a fairytale mentioned before, which acts as a story inside the story of the movie. 

A fairytale of blue bird in the form of a young girl and real story running in parallel, surrounded by blossoming relationships and heartwrenching decisions is something which makes this anime movie stand out from its underrated counterparts!

The movie flourishes with fresh character designs, incredible art style and awesome soundtracks. Coming from the director who gave us A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Bird focuses on the struggles of self discovery and other teenage personal issues that arise between the focal characters.

The coming of age drama with its ever present music is bound to win your heart quite easily. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!

5) Summer Days with Coo (Kappa no Coo to Natsuyasumi):

Runtime: 138 mins
Director: Keiichi Hara
Studio: Shin-Ei Animation
Genres: Drama, Adventure, Mythical (Creatures)

Summer Days with Coo is a film written and directed by Keiichi Hara based on the novels by Masao Kogure. The plot follows Kouichi Uehara who picks up a large stone that turns out to be a  small, lone kappa that miraculously survives over 200 years. The kappa, named “Coo” is adopted by Uehara’s family, but it finds it hard to adapt to life among humans and misses its kind.

After a couple of adventures the family realizes that Coo can’t stay with them. But, when the media finds out, a circus ensues.

With shounen like adventures, this movie is certainly the one you are looking for if you are into mind bending themes, action and a simple yet engaging plot! While this is movie many might have seen in their childhood, if you were born in the 90s, it continues to remain a criminally underrated anime movie even today.

Rather than the visuals and the animation, the story of the movie is what stands out. As the whole city is drawn to the kappa, Kouichi has to make tough decisions so that Coo can live freely.

4) A Letter to Momo (Momo e No Tegami):

Runtime: 141 mins
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio: Production IG
Genres: Drama, Supernatural, Slice of Life

A Letter to Momo is an uplifting supernatural drama film written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura which portrays the varied emotions of a girl recovering from her father’s death. The plot follows 11-year-old Momo Miyaura, who moves with her mother to a small island town after her father dies. When she arrives, she encounters three goblins that others cannot see who help her to cope with the loss of her father and the changes in her life.

Apart from the stunning visual quality, the movie scores pretty high for its humor, overall plot and the theme of coping with the loss of a loved one.

The film transitions from a lighter mood to a much serious one with ease and will manage to keep you entertained throughout. The characters don’t have an idealistic nature and come with their flaws, making them more endearing and lovable.

While it has been compared to Studio Ghibli creations, it is unique in its own way, earning a place in our list of best underrated anime movies! You should definitely give this masterpiece a try.

3) Miss Hokusai:

Runtime: 93 mins
Director: Keiichi Hara
Studio: Production IG
Genres: Drama, Historical

Making it to the top three in this list of underrated anime movies is Miss Hokusai. The second Keiichi Hara movie in this list is quite different from the first one.

Instead of mythical Kappa and its adventures, this movie, set in Tokyo of 1814,  is an untold story about an outspoken daughter, who assisted her father throughout her life and greatly contributed to his art. But she remained uncredited!

Tetsuzo is a much accomplished artist of his time. 23-year-old O-Ei has inherited her father Tetsuzo’s  talent and stubbornness for art, and very often she would paint instead of him, though uncredited. She is constantly overshadowed by her famous father, but O-Ei is determined to leave behind something of her own in this world. 

This movie is not an everyday anime entertainer, but rather a work of art. Centred on the culturally dynamic society of nineteenth century Japan, the whole movie has a poetic touch to it.

From the beautiful background art to the thought provoking story, which is more like a series of events, everything contributes in making this anime film a beautiful and enjoyable experience.

2) Penguin Highway:

Runtime: 119 mins
Director: Hiroyasu Ishida
Studio: Studio Colorido
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Bagging the second place in this list is none other Penguin Highway, a movie which I highly recommend. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida at Studio Colorido, this criminally underrated anime movie follows bright and inquisitive Aoyama who decides to investigate the penguins who suddenly showed up in his town.

However, he soon realizes that the intriguing older woman he has a crush on is somehow linked to the whole incident.

Penguin Highway is one of those movies you wish you had discovered earlier.

The movie serves you a unique mix of fantasy, surrealism and stark visuals which capture your heart from the get go. The humor and metaphors in the movie might not be to everyone’s liking, but it is something we strongly recommend that you check out before forming any opinions!

Penguin Highway will leave you a tad bit sad and with a whole lot of questions by the time it ends. So keep your mind sharp and get ready to discover new things with Aoyama and his friends as they embark on a unique and unfathomable adventure which you’d never want to end. 

1) Mirai no Mirai:

Runtime: 119 mins
Director: Hiroyasu Ishida
Studio: Studio Colorido
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Mamoru Hosoda is a director who is up there with Makoto Shinkai and Hayao Miyazaki when it comes to delivering movies that are enjoyable to the fullest. However, Wolf Children and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time are perhaps his only movies (maybe Boy & the Beast too) that received recognition worldwide.

Mirai is a gem from this criminally underrated director (just like Satoshi Kon), which follows Kun Oota, a four year old boy, whose life is thrown upside down after the arrival of his little sister, as she becomes the object of his parents attention.

Amid the tantrums, Kun is visited by his little sister from the future and is taken on a journey traversing time as he meets the past, present and the future selves of his family and realises the importance of relations.

The movie has underlying themes of parenting struggles and sends out deep messages surrounding family relationships. The movie is a visual masterpiece as you slowly fall in love with the tantrums of a toddler who is begging for attention from his parents!

If not anything, you’ll surely be humming the opening of the movie very soon!

Since you have read this far, here’s a list of some more underrated anime movies (as a bonus ofcourse) that you might want to check out just in case!!

A pleasant surpise? Yes? OK Yes! We might add a short description for them in the future (along with our opinions!). This post will be updated if we find anything worth including in this list, so stay tuned!

  • Promare
  • Napping Princess
  • Steamboy
  • The Sky Crawlers
  • Mind Game

Do you feel there are any other movies, that are not quite famous but definitely worth a watch? Let us know in the comments section!!

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1 thought on “15+ Best Underrated Anime Movies That Are A Must Watch!!”

  1. Great List! Haven’t seen all the movies on this list but the ones I have seen were great. A movie I’d recommend is Children of the Sea. It’s a movie directed by Ayumu Watanabe and made by Studio 4°C. The manga was also great and the anime is a visual spectacle.

    There also seems to be great movies that have come out recently and some great ones that will release this year, which I’m looking forward to watching once they eventually get sub versions.


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