Film | Wide Angle

As the heavyweights return, will 2019 be a smash year for anime?

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

When looking forward to the coming year in anime, it may be helpful to jump in the time machine and hop back to 2016. That’s the year Japan was hit with a flood of smash original anime films, including the sleeper hit “In This Corner of the World” and Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” By the time 2016 was over, the latter had become the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time worldwide.

Jump back to the present and Shinkai is preparing to repeat the feat — or at least give it a try. The director’s recently announced “Weathering With You” is set to hit theaters July 19. Centering on a high school boy who runs away from home to live in Tokyo and a mysterious girl who can control the weather, the film will no doubt generate massive buzz, though whether it can reach of heights of Shinkai’s previous film is another question.

“In This Corner of the World,” which depicted the everyday life of a woman in Hiroshima Prefecture before and during World War II, is also set to reappear in 2019. After the film became a word-of-mouth hit, playing for well over a year in some theaters, director Sunao Katabuchi went to work on an extended version. That version, which will feature 30 minutes of new footage, was originally set for release in 2018, but was delayed until this year.

This year will also mark the theatrical reappearance of director Masaaki Yuasa with his latest feature, “Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara” (tentative English title: “Riding a Wave with You”). A love story between a surfer and a firefighter, it is the first feature for Yuasa since 2017’s “Lu Over the Wall” — though, since then, the director has seriously upped his cachet with the Netflix original “Devilman Crybaby” and a career retrospective at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Don’t expect the ultra-violence of “Devilman,” though: Yuasa describes the film, which hits screens June 21, as a “simple romantic comedy.”

There’s no shortage of anime on the TV front, either. One of this winter season’s most anticipated series is “The Promised Neverland.” Based on a hit manga, “Neverland” is about a group of children living in what seems like an idyllic orphanage. It turns out, though, they’re actually being raised as food for demons. The series is directed by Mamoru Kanbe, perhaps best known for the dark “Elfen Lied,” and if “Neverland” brings the same intensity, it might be best watched in a well-lit room.

This spring’s TV season will see the latest series from cult favorite Kunihiko Ikuhara (of “Revolutionary Girl Utena” fame), “Sarazanmai.” The series concerns three junior high school boys who are turned into mythical turtle-like creatures called kappa. Ikuhara is known for his innovative visuals, and if the trailer for this series, which blends live-action footage of Tokyo’s Asakusa district with anime, is any indication, he hasn’t lost his touch.

Plenty of franchise favorites are set to hit both the big and small screen this year, too. Look out for continuations to “One Piece,” “My Hero Academia,” “Psycho-Pass,” “Code Geass,” “Attack on Titan,” “City Hunter,” “Pokemon” and more. It’ll be a year for binging.