Among the various the anime genres, the anime focused on adventure tend to be among the most popular, and for good reason. Focusing on the journey of 1 or more characters allows the viewer to be introduced to the rest of the characters and the world they all inhabit. If done properly, you’re not only captivated by the abilities and characters you see, but also invested in the character(s) on the journey succeeding in their quest. TV shows have a lot of time to set up everything properly as opposed to movies, so when a successful adventure movie is made, it makes it just that much more impressive.
Adventure movies usually have a couple hours at the most to set the tone of the story and what is at stake before going on the journey. As a result, a fair amount of anime adventure movies don’t develop an aspect or emphasize a certain aspect as much as they should, which makes the ones that do develop everything equally stand out a lot more. In addition, anime adventure movies can be pretty varied in their telling despite having similar devices that they follow. Here are the Top 10 Anime Adventure Movies.
10. Patema Inverted
- Genres: Sci-Fi, Seinen
- Aired: Nov 9, 2013
Patema Inverted focuses on two youths: a young girl named Patema who lives in an underground civilization, and a young boy named Age who lives among a society that hold negative opinions towards Patema’s people. When Patema explores the network of tunnels outside her home, she accidentally falls into a giant pit only to find herself hurtling towards the sky until Age saves her at the last moment. Together they work together to investigate the origins of both of their homes. What sets their adventure apart from most is the perspective we see the movie in, as the inverted gravity aspect of both their civilizations results in seeing one of the characters normally while the other is upside down, and vice versa. It’s also an uplifting movie with a positive message of working together with people and discovering the truth for yourself. A strange concept for a movie to tell its story, but enjoyable nonetheless.
9. Ninja Scroll
- Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural
- Aired: Jun 5, 1993
An older movie, Ninja Scroll focuses on Jubei Kibagami, a freelancing swordsman wandering feudal Japan until he is dragged into the objective a female ninja named Kagero wishes to carry out. While refusing this offer at first, Jubei quickly realizes he has no choice as a man who can make his body as hard as stone makes it difficult for him to leave. Jubei soon gets caught up in a plot to overthrow the government as well as fighting ninja with supernatural powers. All in all, the adventure aspect of the movie is pretty standard, and the animation is pretty good for the time period that it was made. However, Ninja Scroll can be seen as the go-to example for paving the way for anime like Naruto to be successful. If you’re a fan of action adventures, quick battles, and an overall gritty and violent tone, then Ninja Scroll should be the movie to check out.
8. The Boy and the Beast
- Genres: Adventure, Supernatural
- Aired: Jul 11, 2015
An adventure built around 2 main characters, The Boy and the Beast revolves around a 9-year-old boy named Ren and a warrior named Kumatetsu, both of whom are lonely and anti-social despite living in completely different worlds. As fate would have it, they end up meeting each other, and their student-teacher relationship begins to develop into a father-son relationship that slowly helps them overcome their obstacles. This adventure is a lot more emotionally driven, as the slow personal growth that both Ren and Kumatetsu develop helps get the viewer invested and feel more impacted by their decisions near the end of the movie. If you’re a fan of adventures that emphasize the emotional aspect of the adventure, this movie is worth viewing.
7. Sword of the Stranger
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Historical, Samurai
- Aired: Sep 29, 2007
An anime film that focuses both on action as well as adventure, Sword of the Stranger is at the end of the day a relatively simple adventure story with captivating fight sequences. A young orphan named Kotarou and his dog Tobimaru steal from villagers to survive until assassins sent from Ming’s Dynasty hunt them down for mysterious reasons. With the help of a wandering ronin named Nanashi, they are able to evade them for a short time, but the 3 soon realize that their journey to Kotarou’s destination will be dangerous to say the least. Like Ninja Scroll, if you’re type of adventure story is one that focused on the action aspects of it, then Sword of the Stranger more than delivers, as the fights that take place are some of the best in an anime movie.
6. One Piece: Gold
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Shounen
- Aired: Jul 23, 2016
This movie is a lot more meaningful if you’re a fan of the anime, but as a stand-alone adventure story it is definitely one of the better One Piece films. This time the Straw Hats arrive at the private casino (on one of the largest if not the largest ship in the series) owned by Gild Tesoro, one of the richest men in the world. While Luffy and the gang get up to their normal hijinks and enjoy the games at first, it soon becomes clear that Tesoro is up to something, resulting in the Straw Hats planning a heist and separating into different groups in order to set things right again. If you’re a fan of One Piece and enjoy characters having a laugh throughout the adventure in general, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t like this film.
5. My Neighbor Totoro
- Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Supernatural
- Aired: Apr 16, 1988
Although this may not seem like an adventure at first in comparison to the other adventure stories on this list, My Neighbor Totoro is fascinating with its take on the genre. The story focuses on Tatsuo Kusakabe’s daughters, Satsuki and Mei, as they adjust to the new rural area their father has moved them to. After a chance encounter Mei has with a forest spirit named Totoro, both Mei and Satsuki enjoy spending their time in the forest with Totoro and the other smaller forest spirits. As a result, this movie focuses on one main adventure through the showing of smaller adventures Mei and Satsuki go on with Totoro. While there may not be a heroic journey or quest element present, My Neighbor Totoro brings the sense of adventure back to the normalcy of everyday life and makes it fascinating again. It also captures that sense of wonder kids have when they explore, as almost anything can be an adventure for them at that age. If you’re looking for an adventure that focuses on normal events and makes you feel like a kid even for a little amount of time, this would be the adventure to check out.
4. Princess Mononoke
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
- Aired: Jul 12, 1997
This adventure stands out with its overall takeaway message of finding a harmonious balance between technology and nature. When a demon boar attacks Ashitaka’s village and curses his arm, Ashitaka travels to Tatara in hopes of finding a cure, only to be caught up in a conflict between the village trying to destroy the forest and the forest spirits fighting to protect their home. While there is still an element of adventure to this story, it’s much more somber and serious in its telling as opposed to others on this list, especially with its overall message. That being said, you still feel a sense of wonder as you watch Ashitaka encounter the different forest spirits and come to understand Princess San’s reason for fighting. Certainly the movie to watch if you’re into adventures with bigger implications beyond the movie itself.
3. Howl’s Moving Castle
- Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
- Aired: Nov 20, 2004
The adventure that takes place in this movie is spectacular in the sense that it touches on all the great aspects of an exciting journey with a lot at stake. Sophie Hatter was just a maiden living in a small village and content with her life until a chance encounter with the Witch of the Waste leads to her being transformed into an old woman. Luckily, a renowned wizard by the name of Howl knows how to help her, but it will require Sophie joining his peculiar companions in a magical flying castle in order to turn back to normal and set things right again. With unique characters, an emotional investment in both Sophie and Howl, and a unique take on the journey through the use of the flying castle, this adventure is visually stunning and just plain enjoyable to watch. One of Miyazaki’s best films.
- Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Psychological, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Aired: Nov 25, 2006
This movie perfectly executes the adventure aspect in terms of both its subject matter as well as its approach. The story itself is relatively straightforward: Dr. Atsuko Chiba works as a “dream detective” named Paprika using a special machine to explore people’s dreams in order to help solve psychological issues. That is, until that machine falls in the wrong hands, resulting in Paprika hunting it down before it’s too late. The seamless transitions between dreams and reality in addition to the creative things Paprika encounters are things that simply can’t be replicated in another film or would be extremely difficult to do so. The visuals are almost too good, as the viewer can get caught up watching what’s going on that they may miss key points to the plot. This adventure film would be the one to go to if you want to see something different from the norm.
1. Spirited Away
- Genres: Adventure, Supernatural, Drama
- Aired: Jul 20, 2001
It doesn’t get more adventurous than this film. When Chihiro Ogino and her parents stop off at an abandoned amusement park on the way to their new home, Chihiro suddenly finds herself trapped in the spirit world, and her parents have transformed into pigs. With strange spirits wandering around, Chihiro must overcome her fears and find her way through this strange world in order to turn her parents back to normal and return home. This journey truly is an adventure in the sense that we not only see character growth in Chihiro from start to finish, but we also don’t witness what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on adventures. There aren’t any epic action scenes or romances occurring; it’s simply about a girl unwittingly taken to a new world and trying to find her way back again. A simple concept, yet an epic journey that we’re taken on as we see realistic characters interact with each other. There’s no question as to why many consider this film to be Miyazaki’s masterpiece.
A lot of anime adventure films are pretty different in terms of their tone and the overall objective of the main character(s). Keep in mind, however, that at their core lie the keys to making a great adventure film: characters with the right attitudes, abilities that are able to stand out, and a world that is worth exploring, one where you don’t want to miss a single thing. These 10 movies deliver on these characteristics and then some. But what do you think of the ranking? Is there an anime adventure film that should have been higher? Should have been lower? Should not have made the cut? One that’s missing altogether? Post your thoughts in the comment section below!