Top Recent Anime Movie Director Comparison

One thing I sometimes wonder is how movies from all the great directors stack up. Over the last decades, the four directors whose films consistently come up on the best of list are Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, Satoshi Kon and Makoto Shinkai. I also want to add Mamoru Oshii in to the mix as well. To judge which films are better than others, I look at their rating across the websites listed below. Note that the methodology is similar to the one I used to measure the Ghibli films:

# Title Score Director Year
1 Spirited Away 8.98 Miyazaki Hayao 2001
2 Princess Mononoke 8.91 Miyazaki Hayao 1997
3 Laputa: Castle in the Sky 8.70 Miyazaki Hayao 1986
4 Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind 8.69 Miyazaki Hayao 1984
5 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time 8.69 Hosoda Mamoru 2006
6 My Neighbour Totoro 8.63 Miyazaki Hayao 1988
7 Tokyo Godfathers 8.55 Kon Satoshi 2003
8 Millennium Actress 8.50 Kon Satoshi 2001
9 Howl’s Moving Castle 8.49 Miyazaki Hayao 2004
10 Kiki’s Delivery Service 8.44 Miyazaki Hayao 1989
11 Summer Wars 8.43 Hosoda Mamoru 2009
12 Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro 8.42 Miyazaki Hayao 1979
13 5 Centimeters Per Second 8.41 Shinkai Makoto 2007
14 Porco Rosso 8.35 Miyazaki Hayao 1992
15 Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea 8.29 Miyazaki Hayao 2008
16 Voices of a Distant Star 8.25 Shinkai Makoto 2002
17 The Place Promised in Our Early Days 8.20 Shinkai Makoto 2004
18 Paprika 8.13 Kon Satoshi 2006
19 Ghost in the Shell 8.03 Oshii Mamoru 1995
20 Perfect Blue 8.01 Kon Satoshi 1998
21 Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below 7.85 Shinkai Makoto 2011
22 Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence 7.83 Oshii Mamoru 2004
23 Patlabor 2: The Movie 7.60 Oshii Mamoru 1993
24 One Piece: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima 7.50 Hosoda Mamoru 2005
25 Patlabor: The Movie 7.32 Oshii Mamoru 1989
26 Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! 7.28 Hosoda Mamoru 2000
27 The Sky Crawlers 7.19 Oshii Mamoru 2008
28 Angel’s Egg 6.88 Oshii Mamoru 1985
29 Digimon: The Movie 5.98 Hosoda Mamoru 2000

The results are as follows:

  • Miyazaki conquers the top 4 spots and 7 of the top 10
  • Oshii on the other hand dominates the bottom of the list with three films in the bottom five
  • Hosoda is present in both end of the table. Both of his Digimon films in 2000 are pretty poorly rated but he more than makes up for it by making gems such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars in more recent years

GENERAL vs. ANIME-SPECIFIC

All the 15 sources I use can be divided into either i) General whereby the sites cover all range of movies and ii) Anime whereby the sites cover only anime. I am interested to find out if there is any difference in how general reviewers perceive animes from any particular director, compared to anime-specific reviewers

Title Gen Anime
Spirited Away 1 2
Princess Mononoke 2 1
Laputa: Castle in the Sky 3 7
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind 12 4
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time 13 3
My Neighbour Totoro 4 8
Tokyo Godfathers 9 9
Millennium Actress 19 5
Howl’s Moving Castle 7 11
Kiki’s Delivery Service 5 14
Summer Wars 17 6
Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro 8 13
5 Centimeters Per Second 14 12
Porco Rosso 6 16
Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea 11 17
Voices of a Distant Star 15 15
The Place Promised in Our Early Days 24 10
Paprika 16 19
Ghost in the Shell 10 21
Perfect Blue 22 18
Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below 22
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence 22 20
Patlabor 2: The Movie 20 24
One Piece: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima 27 23
Patlabor: The Movie 26 25
Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! 25 26
The Sky Crawlers 21 27
Angel’s Egg 18 29
Digimon: The Movie 28 28

Here are my observations

  • Anime-specific sources really like Hosoda’s films more than its general counterparts, with The Girls Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars ranking 3rd and 6th (compared to 13th and 17th). Why the great discrepencies? Are they too ‘Japanese’ that general reviewers fail to appreciate? Interestingly also, other Hosoda’s films also rank better among anime-specific sources
  • On the other hand, general sources generally seem to find Oshii’s films more palatable. Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers and Angel’s Egg all score better among general sources (10th, 21th and 18th respectively versus 21st, 27th and 29th among anime-specific sources). Is it possible that the general sources are more receptive to Oshii’s cryptic style? It reminds me of my conversation with my brother on Wong Kar Wai’s films whereby an Empire Magazine reviewer questioned our perception of his films when seeing ‘My Blueberry Nights’ and whether the subtitles makes his Chinese films more romantic than when all the words are in English.
  • Both Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are in the top three in both sources. Some films are just liked equally by everyone.
  • I also wondered whether there is a rating bias based on how old an anime is. I ran a simple correl function between the ranking and the year. For General ranking, I get 0.31 correlation value and for Anime-specific, 0.03. This shows that for anime-specific sources, old movies and new movies get essentially the same treatment. However interestingly for general sources, the slight positive correlation suggests that the newer the series, the worse the ranking.  This is definitely too small a sample size to prove anything but I would love to run this over a larger data set at some point.

To further verify my two points I made above, I computed another table where I subtracted Anime-spectific score by general score (if 5cm Per Second’s score from general and anime-specific sources are 8.00 and 8.47 respectively, its composite score for this analysis is 0.47). Positive score means anime-specific sources give better score to that film.

# Title Score Director Year
1 Digimon: The Movie 2.34 Hosoda Mamoru 2000
2 The Place Promised in Our Early Days 1.38 Shinkai Makoto 2004
3 Millennium Actress 1.07 Kon Satoshi 2001
4 Summer Wars 1.01 Hosoda Mamoru 2009
5 One Piece: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima 0.96 Hosoda Mamoru 2005
6 Perfect Blue 0.93 Kon Satoshi 1998
7 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time 0.71 Hosoda Mamoru 2006
8 Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence 0.70 Oshii Mamoru 2004
9 Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind 0.49 Miyazaki Hayao 1984
10 5 Centimeters Per Second 0.47 Shinkai Makoto 2007
11 Voices of a Distant Star 0.46 Shinkai Makoto 2002
12 Patlabor: The Movie 0.38 Oshii Mamoru 1989
13 Paprika 0.35 Kon Satoshi 2006
14 Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! 0.22 Hosoda Mamoru 2000
15 Princess Mononoke 0.20 Miyazaki Hayao 1997
16 Tokyo Godfathers 0.19 Kon Satoshi 2003
17 Patlabor 2: The Movie 0.12 Oshii Mamoru 1993
18 Howl’s Moving Castle 0.05 Miyazaki Hayao 2004
19 Laputa: Castle in the Sky (0.00) Miyazaki Hayao 1986
20 Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (0.02) Miyazaki Hayao 1979
21 My Neighbour Totoro (0.08) Miyazaki Hayao 1988
22 Ponyo on the Cliff By the Sea (0.11) Miyazaki Hayao 2008
23 Porco Rosso (0.18) Miyazaki Hayao 1992
24 The Sky Crawlers (0.24) Oshii Mamoru 2008
25 Kiki’s Delivery Service (0.24) Miyazaki Hayao 1989
26 Spirited Away (0.31) Miyazaki Hayao 2001
27 Ghost in the Shell (0.49) Oshii Mamoru 1995
28 Angel’s Egg (0.94) Oshii Mamoru 1985

I am actually pleasantly surprised how well the directors line up one end or the other.

  • All of Miyazaki’s films, saved for Nausicaa, are in the bottom half (i.e. Anime-Specific source give worse score). Does this suggest the ‘Miyazaki Aura’ that causes many ‘general’ reviewers / voters to want to give his films higher scores compared to other anime films, whereas those who frequent anime-specific sites or anime-website reviewers are more immune to it?
  • Oshii is also another candidate in the same situation as Miyazaki
  • On the other end, four of Hosoda’s five films are in the top seven. Is it because of the ‘Japanese-ness’ of his films that perhaps put off slightly general viewers. That would help to explain why Miyazaki and Oshii fares better among those audiences too, considering their films are typically more ‘internationally focused’
  • Shinkai also falls in the same camp as Hosoda
  • Not surprisingly, Millennium Actress is the highest scored among Kon’s films. That is probably the most Japanese films of all his creations.

TIMELINE SCORE

I simply plot the scores of each movie on a time scale for each director

  • Hosoda clearly improves massively over his five features (I guess it helps when the materials you are working with are not just Digimon)
  • Miyazaki is amazingly consistent over the three decades he has been directing films. However, he seems to have peaked with Spirited Away and there is a downward trend in scores from his last two films. Will it continue?
  • Oshii has a decade between 1995 and 2004 when he did not make a single anime feature. He has also had his ups and downs (more down than up though). Rating-wise, he is also constantly inferior to the other four directors.

SOURCES USED

Sources Weight Type1 Type2
IMDB 10% Rating General
Rottentomatoes 5% Rating General
MRQE 4% Rating General
DVD Talk 4% Score General
DVD Verdict 3% Score General
Anime Academy 4% Score Anime
THEM 4% Score Anime
AniPlanet 12% Rating Anime
Anime Source 4% Rating Anime
ANN 12% Rating Anime
MAL 16% Rating Anime
AniDB 10% Rating Anime
AnimeNfo 4% Rating Anime
Nihon Review 4% Score Anime
The Anime Review 4% Score Anime

Note that the weight is based on the number of votes/ratings each source have. For review sources, such as Anime Academy, I give it 4% and everything else increases from that.

There concludes another anime study. I would definitely like to continue this and include other more famous past directors and compare them with these 5 masters. Perhaps, I would also look at doing this for series directors too. I hope I have time to go through all those!


10 Comments on “Top Recent Anime Movie Director Comparison”

  1. omo says:

    Is it possible for you to make available the raw data? Namely, I want to see if the results change if I reassign the weights to your sources.

    • Definitely. Though, do give me some time to sanitize the spreadsheet a little bit! It’s a little all over the place right now since I wasn’t planning on sharing it with anyone originally:) What kind of weighting do you have in mind?

      • omo says:

        I’m just curious as to how different sites break things down and in terms of various ways of weighting each vote and what not. Or if I exclude entire groups from the consideration (eg., blogs).

        Take your time with cleaning it up. Looking forward to tweaking some numbers🙂

      • Omo, have sent you the file to email address you have below your avatar. Sorry again that it has taken me this long! Let me know if you need anything else.

  2. Taka says:

    Yeah…the general sources. They all heard about Miyazaki when Princess Mononoke came out and demolished box office records in Japan. Then Spirited Away came along and seemed to do it again. From there the only thing a fair number of people knew about anime was Miyazaki’s works.

    What I’m saying above is that while there may be some difference in the way anime fans vs. general fans perceive anime, I think it’s far more likely that Miyazaki and Oshii to a lesser extent just get more exposure.

    I mean just looking at the number of watchers on IMDB for Porco Rosso (probably the least well known of Miyazaki’s movies) still has more ratings Satoshi Kon’s most watched movie, Perfect Blue. So the fans who do end up watching Kon’s movies are the more discerning anime type fan who may or may not like the movies. That’s my theory anyway. It doesn’t really explain Oshii except for Ghost in the Shell which has 40,000 reviews on IMDB.

    But if we want to talk about Director’s who really only anime fans watch but consistently is well liked among them look no further than Miyazaki’s partner in crime at Ghibli Isao Takahata. Even general viewers have seen Grave of the Fireflies (a pretty darn Japanese-like movie) and thought it was great, but most of them haven’t seen Only Yesterday or Pom Poko or any others.

    • Thanks for your comment as always:) I totally agree that in popularity term, Miyazaki and Oshii should win emphatically over most other anime movie directors. What I am more fascinated is that those greater mass also like the products of those two directors more than the more limited ‘anime-specific’ source audiences. Granted, my sample size may be pretty small and the result may turn out just to be a statistical anomaly, but I am still struck by the uniformity of the result.

      And I thought Paprika got some good exposure when it came out. I guess anime is still a pretty niche thing, outside of the influence of Ghibli and Oshii… I did get lazy and did not yet compile the results on the popularity of these 5 directors but I would be very surprised if Miyazaki and Oshii do not dominate that list, just like you said.

      In hindsight, I should have included Takahata too… Somehow I just wanted to include the four best directors of the decade + Oshii! Since Takahata has not done anything since Yamadas (which is in 1999 I believe), I decided not to include him in. If my ‘Japaneseness’ theory holds, I would expect Takahata’s film to definitely fall closer to Hosoda’s works and has higher scores under anime-specific sources than general sources. I will let you know if that is the case!

  3. omo says:

    Just want to say that I received your data! I haven’t had the time to look closely but I noticed some columns are not referring to valid sheets, is this something intentional or is it me just missing something?

    At any rate thank you very much for providing the information.

    • Sorry for the late reply on this! It’s possible that it was referring to another sheet in my original worksheets that I have neglected to hard code when I sent it to you. That analysis is part of my bigger, convoluted excel that contains all the information I have collected. I tried to send you only the relevant part. Please let me know if you cannot use the sheet because of that and I will go back and resend the sheet with the corrections.

  4. Burton says:

    Statistics aside, it’s clear that Miyazaki’s films are the best animated, followed by oshii. Hosada and shinkai are embarrassing in comparison, and even kon looks stiff and flat. I think anime fans tend to be more concerned with the fandom and the idea of hipsterish exclusivity than actually evaluating the quality of the films. That and the fact that hosoda and shinkai serve up heavy orders of teen oriented melodrama.

    • Thanks for the comment. Miyazaki to me is obviously clearly above everyone’s else but I would not be so sure to put Oshii on top of Hosoda. Oshii definitely has his gems (GitS, Patlabor) but he hasn’t exactly done anything of great note recently. Say whatever about the melodrama of Hosoda, his films are still highly entertaining and beautiful to look at, though not as complex (or convoluted) as Oshii. Shinkai’s films are just gorgeous to look at. I’m still hopeful he can develop his storytelling to match his visual artistry. I still adore all of Kon’s works though so I would put him much higher than what you might:)

      Is there any other worthwhile anime movie directors recently? Ando Masahiro of Sword of the Stranger perhaps?


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