Anime films’ history with the Oscars…or the lack thereof.

Anime started as a pivotal part of Japanese entertainment culture, and through the growth of social media, has garnered critical acclaim. Over the last decade alone, recognition of the medium has been talked about throughout Hollywood and other celebrities. The Oscars, on the other hand, have failed to nominate any films from the genre. 

Anime has become an increasingly popular part of popular culture with people like Micheal B. Jordan and Kayne West sharing their love publicly for the medium. West referenced the 1980s anime film “Akira” in his music video for the song “Stronger” and talked heavily about how the movie inspired his artistry. Micheal B. Jordan did a Coach campaign with artwork from the anime “Naruto” being part of the collection. 

Even with anime’s growing acclaim, the Oscars have never really nominated anime films for their “best-animated film” category.

The Oscars’ track record with bringing diversity to their platform has been slow. “Parasite,” a critically acclaimed foreign film, broke down the walls of the Oscars to win the Best Picture award. It was a milestone for looking past western entertainment and seeing the validity of eastern entertainment. 

Brienza says, “That the combination of the Oscars being historically an American event and the culture clash of Japanese and American animated films may play a part in why anime films don’t get much Academy Award attention.”

There was a small breakthrough for anime films in 2003 with “Spirited Away” winning best-animated feature film. The director Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for his work with Studio Ghibli and is an inspiration to many when it comes to animation. However, since “Spirited Away” won, no anime films have been nominated. 

Maramount Commons describes Miyazaki’s work as such, “Studio Ghibli’s reputation rests on Miyazaki’s accomplishments. It was here where Miyazaki produced his award-winning films. Such films include: ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky,’ ‘My Neighbor Totoro,’ ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service,’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and more. Miyazaki’s success skyrocketed, reaching an international level.  He created some of the most successful films in Japanese history and established himself as an equal to Walt Disney.”

It begs the question: are anime films the problem, or is it just the Oscars? 

A hugely popular film that broke records was “Your Name,” which came out in 2016. “Your Name” became an international success and was acclaimed worldwide. Rotten Tomatoes even gave the film a 98% critic rating.

“It’s shattered records for Japanese films across Asia and is now the most profitable picture from the country in China. Before even arriving stateside, it has nabbed the title of the top-grossing anime movie of all time, while also enjoying critical raves,” states Patrick st. Michel of the Atlantic.  

In 2018, Makoto Shinkai tried again with the equally successful follow-up film, “Weathering With You.” The film was chosen as Japan’s official Oscar choice for a foreign film. This choice would mark the first time in 20 years an anime film had been chosen. It failed to even get nominated.

Why bring this topic up again? In 2020, there was another anime film that surpassed both “Your Name” and “Spirited Away” to become the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan. That movie is first in the highly popular “Demon Slayer” franchise called “Mugen Train.” “Mugen Train” was even awarded animation of the year at the 44th annual Japanese Academy Awards. Despite the effects of the pandemic, it had a short run in the theaters in Florida, giving it the chance for a  nomination.  

The film was chosen by Japan as its official Oscar selection for 2021. When the 2021 Oscar nominations came out, many were disappointed, but not shocked, to see no nomination for the film. 

The Oscars are supposed to be a show that awards great films from all parts of the world. So, what is it going to take for an anime film from Japan to win another Oscar or even be nominated for an Oscar again? With the easy accessibility to this medium, there is  no excuse for more Eastern entertainment to get nominated at the Academy Awards.