Best Anime Short Films, Ranked

Best Anime Short Films, Ranked

The strict definition of a short film is one of 40 minutes or less, but it is generally assumed that any feature too short to be a feature is also a “short”. Many of the old animated shorts from Disney or Warner Bros. might have been considered animated shorts at the time if they had only been a few minutes longer.

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Anime, which is often associated with experimental or unconventional types of films, has a lot to offer in this genre. Even the earliest days anime included selection of short films in an impressive selection, and it is difficult to choose the best of them.


7/7 Neo Tokyo (1987)

Neo Tokyo (1987)

The Japanese title “Labyrinth Tales” better describes the nature and design of this short film. The maze in this case is the mind of a little girl playing hide and seek with her cat, aptly named Cicerone.

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Her visions include a deadly car race and a nation too dependent on technology, and premiered to a favorable reception at the Tōkyō International Fantastic Film Festival the same year it was released. It has stood the test of time, and was ranked number 10 on Paste magazine’s “100 Best Anime Movies of All Time” list in 2021, and has since inspired an entire library of dystopian science fiction and experimental films.

6/7 The Sensualist (1991)

The Sensualist (1991)

Essentially a sexual biography of the main character that starts in childhood and follows him into maturity and his adult years, The sensualist is often seen as a piece of erotic art or experimental anime as opposed to pornography or “hentai” and has some introspective moments that overlap with life, aging and physical beauty.

The film is based on a book by Kōshoku Ichidai Otoko called “The Life of an Amorous Man.” Released in 1682, the Edo period, the animation uses the historical setting to create a sensual and opulent environment. It’s more about seeing the richly colorful layers of the kimonos move than the actual gender, which is always symbolically expressed to the viewer.

5/7 Program (2003)

Program (2003)

Program is one of the short films that make up The Animatrix anthology, and it stands alone, but makes more sense when seen in context The matrix universe. The animation is unique, modern and designed to look like an augmented form of reality. It uses few colors and instead relies on its creative premise, like a program in the Matrix.

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Unlike other stories in this franchise, the viewer is always aware that the action takes place in a simulation, but the nature of it is unclear until the very last moments. The plot is a callback to the original film where the traitor is among them and “the call comes from inside the ship” so to speak.

4/7 Cat Soup (2001)

Cat Soup (2001)

This is what is called an “experimental film” and it is iconic for its unsettling animation style and overall design. It starts with a young anthropomorphic cat almost drowning in a bathtub and gets even weirder and scarier from there.

The main character, Nyata, is the near-drowning victim who must travel through a kind of terrifying and surreal wonderland to retrieve the other half of her sister Nyaako’s soul. Their adventures aren’t exactly colorful and childish fun, but they are interesting, so for anime fans who like the more daring and creative, Cat soup is a great anime short film.

3/7 The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words (2013)

Find The garden of words under keywords such as “piano music” “ambient rain sounds” and “shoe design” along with some of the top-rated anime of its time. The same year it was released, it was honored at the Stuttgart Animated Film Festival and the Fantasia International Film Festival, and won the Kobe Theatrical Film Award.

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The plot is a simple “slice of life” type of story. The main character is Takao Akizuki, who skips what seems like his pointless classes to sit in a garden pavilion and make shoes. A young woman with an equally ambivalent attitude towards her job joins him, and together they overcome their fear of life, which is symbolized by “learning to walk again”.

2/7 Blackout 2022 (2017)

Blackout 2022 (2017)

Most people are under the impression that there are two films in it Blade Runner franchise, but there are five of them. Three are short films, and one of them is the animated film Blackout 2022.

This anime short tells the story of the Blackout, an event referenced in the full-length film when the power went out and everyone’s electronic records were wiped clean. The event is referred to several times in Blade Runner 2049 and takes place ten years before the full-length live-action film. The director is Shinichiro Watanabe, whose other work includes Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plusand his realistic style suits the seriousness of the story.

1/7 Beyond (2003)

Beyond (2003)

Beyond completes the circle that began with another story about a girl and her cat. This anime short is also part of the Animatrix anthology, and uses the teachings of Matrix universe as a premise, but uses a completely different design and style than Program.

An alternate title for this anime movie is “Beyond Reality” and that’s a more accurate description of what’s going on. A girl follows her cat into a strange house where the laws of physics don’t seem to apply, a recurring theme in anime shorts. Director Kōji Morimoto is the director, and he took some inspiration from the anime short Neo Tokyo which is also part of his portfolio.

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