Anime is big business these days. Netflix has anime in 100 million households across 100 countries. Funimation just spent a billion dollars acquiring streaming service Crunchyroll. HBO Max is still a growing service, but is upping its anime game with a batch of six new films from GKIDS Films coming to the service this month.
The list includes four films and two documentaries, all of which are intriguing in their own right.
Weathering With You comes from director Makoto Shinkai, whose painterly backgrounds and sad stories have made him a favorite among anime fans. The film tells the story of a Japan buffeted by constant torrential downpours, and a boy who runs away from his home to Tokyo, where he meets a young girl who can manipulate the weather. Shinkai’s most critically-acclaimed and financially successful work is Your Name, which became somewhat of a crossover hit and surpassed Spirited Away as the highest-grossing anime film of all time.
Promare, from Studio Trigger, takes place in a world where over half the population died in mass spontaneous human combustion, and a massive surge of magma threatens to finish the job. Staffers on the team include Hiroyuki Imaishi, Kazuki Nakashima, Shigeto Koyama, and Hiroyuki Sawano, who have worked on shows and films like Gurren Lagaan, Redline, Kill la Kill, and Panty & Stocking. The same studio is also working on Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, based on the Cyberpunk 2077 video game.
Ride Your Wave and The Night is Short, Walk On Girl both come from legendary anime director Masaaki Yuasa, who has worked on anime like Mind Game, Devilman Crybaby, Kaiba, Ping Pong, and even American productions like the Adventure Time episode “Food Chain.” Ride Your Wave is about a young woman and her relationship with her deceased boyfriend’s ghost, while Walk On Girl follows a young woman through a strange, chaotic night.
Finally, two documentaries about Hayao Miyazaki and his animation house, Studio Ghibli, are coming to the service. Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki focuses on Miyazaki himself, while The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness looks more at Studio Ghibli as it works on two animated films.
Weathering With You is already available on the service, though notably without its Japanese dub. Only the English-language track is available at this time, where HBO Max’s mostly-Ghibli library offers both the English and original Japanese tracks. Though common at one point, an anime without its Japanese voice track is almost unheard of these days. Weathering With You’s voice cast includes Alison Brie, Riz Ahmed, and Lee Pace among others. Whether the other films will include their Japanese voice tracks is unknown at this time. The other five films hit the service in just a week, on January 12, 2021.