AFive recent anime movies offer fully realized, complex women as their central figures. By Charles Solomon
lthough they differ widely in subject and style, five anime features that received U.S. theatrical releases in 2017 — Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World, Kenji Kamiyama’s Napping Princess, Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower and the English dub of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. — boast complex heroines with individual strengths and foibles.
All five girls must rise to challenges they never anticipated. But each girl deals with the crisis in ways that feel true to her nature, in contrast to the one-size-fits-all spunky/adorably klutzy females who populate so many American animated films. That trend extends even to non-humans. Except for the fur and the number of feet, Princess Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: The Movie and Precious in Nut Job 2 don’t feel that different from Tulip in Storks or Sam Sparks in the Cloudy films.
Mary (Ruby Barnhill) in Mary and the Witch’s Flower has the flash-pan temper often associated with red hair, and woe betide anyone who mentions her frizzy curls. She’s so annoyed when a friend remarks on her hair, she ignores his warnings and follows a black cat into the woods on a misty morning. The path leads her to a small broom that carries her to Endor College, a school for witches and wizards that predates Hogwarts. (The film is based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick.) With some advice from her greataunt Charlotte, Mary channels her energy to escape angry sorcerers and rescue animals that have been turned into chimeras.
Kokone (Mitsuki Takahata) in Napping Princess would prefer to laze her way through high school, looking after her misfit mechanic fa-