The Oscars are known for snubbing some absolutely amazing films in any genre, but anime films tend to get particularly overlooked in the Best Animated Feature category. Studio Ghibli has managed multiple nominations and a well-deserved win for Spirited Away, but otherwise, only one anime feature has been nominated -- Mamoru Hosoda's Mirai in 2018. Let's take a look at the five worst Oscar snubs for anime films.
Submitted and snubbed back in 2003, Madhouse's Tokyo Godfathers is an absolute masterpiece. It focuses on three people experiencing homelessness that find a lone baby on New Year's Eve. It's a startlingly raw film about the nature of human kindness and the miracles of coincidence. Though this film is not from Studio Ghibli, it captures the same level of thematic depth and quality.
Directed by Satoshi Kon, this film follows a trend in anime film's representation of a family. Rather than this perfect, picturesque visual of families around the holidays, Tokyo Godfathers showcases a darker side of family relationships. By having multiple characters with dysfunctional family lives, the film highlights the true nature of families and the conflicts that naturally arise. Tokyo Godfathers is an excellent film that deserved at least a nomination.
Another film by Satoshi Kon and Madhouse Productions, Millennium Actress was submitted and snubbed in 2003 as well. It is an incredibly rich story about an aging actress who conducts an interview about her past career and life. The structure of the film is stories within stories, as the protagonist, Chiyoko Fujiwara, relives her past through the interview. It's a fitting structure for a complex, thought-provoking film about love, memory and cinema.
Looking at the actual nominees from 2003, Finding Nemo and The Triplets of Belleville were both worthy contenders, but it's appalling both Kon films got snubbed in favor of Disney's utterly formulaic and unremarkable Brother Bear. The fact it was nominated over the two Kon films shows how lazily the Oscars default to nominating Disney films.
Another Madhouse Production (see a pattern yet?), Summer Wars was submitted and snubbed in 2010. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, Summer Wars is a stylized science-fiction film about a computer-simulated virtual reality world called Oz and one of its part-time moderators, Kenji Koiso. Kenji soon finds himself in the fight of his life as Oz gets hacked and he is framed for it. The design of Oz is extremely detailed and visually stunning, and the story cleverly combines family drama and science fiction concepts into a winning original story.
Summer Wars' Oscar campaign was a struggle because of 2010's lack of submissions limited Best Animated Feature to only three nominees. Both How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 were obvious locks and The Illusionist had the critical hype to take the third slot. Although Summer Wars deserved a nomination (if not the win), it was faced with an obstacle that was difficult to surmount.
The Boy and the Beast
Submitted and snubbed in 2015, Mamoru Hosoda's The Boy and the Beast was a film that was definitely deserving of an Oscar nomination. It combined the elements of shonen anime with a delightful father/son dynamic crossing the boundaries of species. After the loss of his mother, young Ren decides to become the disciple of Kumatetsu, a beast that is poised to inherit the title of Grandmaster in the Beast Kingdom. The plot follows their relationship as it grows and faces challenges, including meetings with his real father. Despite the seemingly childish premise, it's quite a potent film with many layers.
On top of the story, the animation is excellent, especially in the fighting scenes. With its combination of excellent form and content, it absolutely deserved an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, the only anime to be nominated that year was Ghibli's When Marnie Was There. Inside Out was an extremely deserving winner, but The Boy and the Beast deserved a nom.
Your Name broke box office records in Japan and made director Makoto Shinkai a household name. It follows two protagonists, Mitsuha and Taki, who wind up switching bodies and as such get to know one another on a more intimate level. This romantic comedy plotline transforms into both a heartbreaker and a thrill ride once it comes time for Taki to save Mitsuha from a natural disaster.
Your Name was submitted for the Oscars in 2016 but didn't get nominated. The fact that the movie didn't receive any significant theatrical release in America until after the Oscar ceremony probably hurt its chances. The line-up of nominees was a solid one: Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, My Life as a Zucchini, the Studio Ghibli co-production The Red Turtle and the ultimate winner Zootopia. While these films range from good to excellent, Your Name was truly something special.
Hopefully, now that the popularity of anime is on the rise and Hosoda's Mirai has broken the barrier for non-Ghibli anime nominations, more anime films will be submitted and nominated for the Oscars, considering the high quality of so much of the Japanese animation industry's output.