Top 5 anime short films that you shouldn’t miss

A collage of Cat Soup and The House of Small Cubes.

The world of anime short films is filled with gems that are rarely visited and explored. While a lot of these stories are surreal and attempt to explore pressing and critical human conditions, they also manage to present the crisis of being in a very jovial and steady-paced manner. In this article, we shall look at the top 5 anime short films and why you shouldn’t miss them in this lifetime!

Here are 5 Anime Short Films you must watch

5. Summer Ghost

Summer Ghost animated short film
A scene from Summer Ghost. (Image credit goes to IMDb)

IMDb – 7.3/10
Dir. loundraw
Total Runtime: 40 mins

Summer Ghost is a brief but difficult film and is one of the best anime short films out there. Three extremely different high school students who are going through their challenges are at the center of the story: Tomoya Sugisaki, Aoi Harukawa, and Ryou Kobayashi.

Tomoya’s overbearing mother wants him to concentrate solely on his education and disapproves of his wish to paint. Ryou learned that he doesn’t have much time left to live, and Aoi is being bullied at school and has made one attempt at suicide.

However, they all have a shared interest in encountering the purported summer ghost—rumored to be the spirit of a lady who committed suicide. After some time lighting fireworks, they meet the summer ghost, a red-haired woman named Ayane Satou.

Summer Ghost is a hopeful reminder of life. It constantly reminds the viewer of the true essence of being alive, and the meaning of it. While the interrogation of one’s problems makes up for a  very valid argument and substantially provides a ground for the intersection of the same, it reminds us that all problems are validated and shall pass soon. It is a testament of all things that can go wrong, yet fit into their own spaces in our life.

4. The Garden of Words

Makoto Shinkai's short film - The Garden of Words
A still from Shinkai’s The Garden of Words. (Image credit goes to IMDb)

IMDb – 7.4/10
Dir. Makoto Shinkai
Total Runtime: 46 mins

The Garden of Words revolves around the two main characters (Takao and Yukino), both of whom are socially isolated and lonely, with no close friends (as shown in the film). They bonded via their comparable circumstances and discovered a potent synergy—which, in my opinion, is the same as love. Their unwavering support for one another is extremely touching, especially after Takao made shoes for Yukino to wear frequently while she was relearning how to walk on the path of life.

  • The basic idea of this magnificent work of art is meeting someone when you’re alone. Because rain can be a symbol of melancholy or even loneliness, the narrative’s main theme of “rain” serves to further emphasize the idea of finding love amid loneliness.
  • The rain, which stands in stark contrast to the sunshine, serves as a reminder that not everything can be discovered on sunny days and that often the very thing we are hoping for can be found in the very place that makes us feel most alone and depressed, such as in the “rain.”

These intricately woven metaphors and themes make it one of the best anime short films under 60 minutes.

3. Cat Soup

Nyako and Nyatta in cat Soup
A scene from the animated short film – Cat Soup. (Image credit goes to IMDb)

IMDb – 7.6/10
Dir. Tatsuo Sato
Total Runtime: 34 mins

Tatsuo Satō’s 2001 animated experimental short film Cat Soup is based on a manga by Nekojiru. In an attempt to preserve his sister’s soul, the anthropomorphic kitten Nyatta travels to and from the land of the dead in this unusual movie. It’s an abstract animation that does a fantastic job of capturing the emotions of nightmares and dreams.

The music is frequently whimsical, making the audience wonder if what they are witnessing is indeed as serious as they think it is. This movie contains a lot of repeated imagery, which has an odd effect on viewers. There’s a lot of symbolism as well.

The characters in Cat Soup are made up of a variety of imaginative, haphazardly presented animals, some of which are human. The tale usually revolves around the two sister cats who are the primary characters. While the entire plot is a unique sensation, these characters frequently act in a way that seems forced and that you wouldn’t have expected them to based on the material you have already read. They also don’t always act consistently or logically.

But when the unpredictability increases, it all starts to make sense because Cat Soup’s primary objective is the interpretive experience.

2. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light

Gin in Hotarubi no Mori e
A scene from Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light. (Image credit goes to IMDb)

IMDb – 7.8/10
Dir. Takahiro Omori
Total Runtime: 45 mins

Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light is based on the life of six-year-old Hotaru Takegawa gets lost in a forest that is thought to be haunted by spirits while on summer vacation at her grandfather’s house.

Hotaru is calling out in distress when a mystery boy in a mask named Gin approaches her and offers to assist. Hotaru, ecstatic to see someone else, rushes to greet Gin, only to be brusquely repelled. But she soon discovers the serious reason for his actions: Gin has been cursed horribly. He will vanish permanently if he comes into contact with a human.

Hotaru performs the exact opposite of what Gin asks, and soon long, despite his precarious condition, the two become good friends. Gin wants her to never return. However, as the years go by and their affections for one another deepen, Hotaru and Gin begin to battle the limits that fate has placed between them.

The endearing tale “Hotarubi no Mori e” depicts the growing friendship between a small child and her magical friend and how, as Hotaru grows older, Gin stays the same and they are always pursued by an unfulfilling longing. It’s a gentle, mellow, and soothing fairy tale. Technically speaking, the film features incredibly clear, precise, and crisp artwork that captures the carefree summers that Hotaru and Gin have as well as Hotaru’s typical life outside of the forest inhabited by youkai.

With its muted hues and harmoniously blended backdrops, it looks like a watercolor painting in motion.

1. The House of Small Cubes

Academy Award winning animated short film - The house of small cubes
A scene from The House of Small Cubes. (Image credit goes to IMDb)

IMDb – 8.2/10
Dir. Kunio Kato
Total Runtime: 12 mins

Being the shortest anime on this list, The House of Small Cubes is also the only short film in this listicle to have won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. The universe in which the short is set is one in which humans must constantly add stories to already-existing structures due to the rising water level.

The main character is an elderly man who is creating a new story. He puts his pipe into the water as he changes from one story to the next. In the end, the old man chooses to pursue the pipe instead of having it replaced. So he puts on his diving gear and sets out to fetch the pipe through his house.

His mind “floods” with memories of the past as he makes his way down through the structure, especially ones involving his wife. This short film explores memory, life, and loss in a very sensitive and skillful way. This is one of the best anime short films you will watch, a narrative that focuses a lot on aging, memory, home, and belonging. The idea of longing and belonging is also closely associated with the idea of home and memory, making the tale a gripping narration of sentimental and emotional turmoil.


We have seen how the top 5 anime short films in this listicle address diverse themes and topics, and how each of them is a treat for the visuals. Moreover, these anime short films under 60 minutes are only the cherry on the cake and one will explore everything that lies beneath the water once they actually set foot onto this iceberg. For more anime updates, subscribe to our newsletter at Spiel Anime!

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