Harmony dir. Michael Arias & Takashi Nakamura (2015) Feature-length anime postulating a dystopia based on total healthcare. Padded to bursting point with information dumps (in faux-philosophical voice-over), Harmony tries at once for a SF thriller vibe, a teenage rebellion/right-to-die terrorism plot and an epic tragedy/romance, achieving only a confused mess.
Psycho-Pass, Season 1
Psycho-Pass, Season 1 (Fuji TV, 2012-2013) Japanese anime that postulates the cyberpunk-esque tracking down and stamping out of latent criminals by state-sanctioned deviants and their police handlers. Dark, stylised, and graphically violent, Psycho-Pass spurns all hint of cutesy to deliver on its premise. A disturbingly plausible near-future dystopia.
Robotics;Notes by Jukki Hanada; dir. Kazuya Nomura (Fuji TV, 2012-2013) Set on the Japanese island of Tanegashima, this coming-of-age anime adventure story juxtaposes a high-tech conspiracy plot with the innocent wonder of high-school students building a giant robot. The characters (even the minor players) develop nicely over the course of the series.
Steins;Gate by Jukki Hanada; dir. Hiroshi Hamasaki & Takuya Satō (2011) Viewers are dropped without exposition into a character-rich scenario that encompasses both fantasist imaginings and SF disruptions to the timelines. Beyond the shock of immersion, Steins;Gate unfolds as a serious (though frequently funny) and ever-more-tangled thriller turned love story. Classic Japanese anime.
Your Name dir. Makoto Shinkai (CoMix Wave Films, 2016) [Japanese; available dubbed or with subtitles] A sharply cut anime SF feature film, combining an eerie sense of mystery with poignant love story and abstruse time travel paradox (by way of body-swapping). Writer-director Makoto Shinkai makes clever use of minor characters and takes the story in unexpected directions.
Tales from Earthsea
Tales from Earthsea dir. Gorō Miyazaki (2006) Those expecting an Earthsea plot from this Japanese anime film will find themselves disappointed, although director Gorō Miyazakid does convey some of the requisite pathos. With simple animation but grandiose landscapes, the English-dubbed version features Timothy Dalton, Mariska Hargitay and Willem Dafoe.