Under the radar: Animation with meaning and hand-drawn beauty


Our annual compilation of overlooked films. Each reviewer chose five films to highlight.

“The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales”: This delightful, slapstick comedy won a Special Jury Award at the inaugural Animation Is Film Festival for its “celebration of the joys of traditional cartoon animation.” (Full disclosure: I was a juror.) Patrick Imbert and “Ernest and Celestine” Oscar nominee Benjamin Renner have crafted a hilarious film that recalls the great Warner Bros. cartoons. It’s slated for a U.S. release in the spring.

“In This Corner of the World”: Sunao Katabuchi’s intimate account of a talented but insecure young woman dealing with the shortages and suffering of World War II won the 2016 Japan Academy Prize for animated film. Gentle and understated, “This Corner” suggests a flower on the grave of civilians who endure wars they neither instigate nor understand.


“Napping Princess”: Diffident high school junior Kokone finds herself caught up in two intertwined adventures that juxtapose childhood fantasy with adult reality. “Princess“ delivers a more convincing message of female empowerment than the feel-good tales of spunky girls in many American features.

FULL COVERAGE: Under the Radar 2017 »

“One Piece Film: Gold”: One of the most popular animation franchises in the world, “One Piece” mixes pirate adventures and slapstick comedy. The 13th theatrical feature also offers a blunt critique of economic inequality and the contemporary culture of greed.

“A Silent Voice”: Naoko Yamada refuses to settle for facile solutions in her unflinching depiction of school bullying. Bad boy Shoya mercilessly torments his shy, deaf classmate Shoko — and has to live with the consequence. It takes years of effort for Shoya to forgive himself and earn the forgiveness he sincerely desires.

Yes, please: Drawn animation. These features, along with “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” the English dub of “Your Name” and the Glen Keane/Kobe Bryant short “Dear Basketball” reminded viewers of the warmth and strength of traditional animation.


No more: The every-blade-of-grass-rendered-within-an-inch-of-its-life look of many recent CG features: When did photorealism become the aim of animation?

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