There’s nothing quite so transportative as getting lost in a good book. Whisked away to a land of magic and intrigue, shadows and subterfuge or sheer heart-hammering thrills, you can forget yourself a while and maybe even come back better for it. This list is our personal top five of the anime that distil this wondrous feeling, concentrating it into a series or even a movie. Because admit it, reading sometimes just brings on a headache, and seeing in front of our eyes can make a good book into an altogether new and unique experience. Happy viewing!
This charming story has become one of our new favourites (just head over here to read our thoughts for yourself). Based on a series of children’s novels by Hiroko Reijo and illustrated by Asami, Okko’s Inn is both a series and compilation movie about ghosts, grief and finding one’s place in the world in the aftermath, and it’s so grounded you’ll never once stop to question its spirits and demons. They are so much part of the comfortable furniture of this show that it’ll make you believe, or at least forget you were a cynic at all. That’s all part of what makes it so universally moving.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Now here is a true fairytale with a difference. It sparkles with magic and romance, curses and redemption, but in doing so in such a classical way, it never undermines its heroine’s worth and power. Sophie is a vulnerable soul, prone to self-doubt and a fair smattering of self-deprecation, but it’s in her vulnerability that she is most powerful, empathetically feeling the magician Howl’s despair and working to heal him.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
This show is a bit of everything thrown into a submarine with a generous sprinkling of sugar on top. Swashbuckling undersea adventure? Check (this thing’s based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for goodness’ sake). Self-liberated circus performer? Check. Avid inventor and gizmo enthusiast? Check. Super cute love story between said ex-circus performer and inventor? Check, check. And still, besides that pesky Island arc, it never once feels like a jumble or a mockery of itself, which is a triumph all on its own. The fact that it was based on concept by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hideaki Anno only sweetens the deal.
The Eccentric Family
When we want to watch something fun, thought-provoking, tear-jerking and otherwise utterly adorable, this show based on the novels by Tatami Galaxy‘s Tomihiko Morimi is our go to. Its subtly queer coded main character is a treasure that media in general still lacks, even though its high time his like were more widely visible. Yasaburo Shimogamo’s genderless quality is the real deal for the representation we need to see in the future.
From the New World
If you’re in need of a series that’ll give you a good old emotional purge, this is the one. Its intellectual ponderings on free will and the authoritarian nature of schooling for kids aside, this is a haunting and transcendent story of love and friendship above all else. Anything that makes queer relationships the stars of the show is all good in our books anyway. We just wish one of them could have made it through to the end intact.
Did any of your fave novel-to-anime adaptations make our list? Let us know in the comments, and do tell us about any spine-tinglers we missed.