10 Best Anime Directors of All Time, Ranked

Anime directors are the face of an anime production. While it’s incorrect and unfair to only praise the director when he talks about the greatness of a show, there’s no denying that they play a huge part in its creation. They lead the creative vision of the show. In the end, they decide what the storyboard will be, the overall pace of the show, and the final draft while editing. Their impact on an anime is incredible.


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There are some directors who really stand out among their peers. Their signature is so strong that it propels an author-director’s story forward. It would be impossible to separate them from the amazing works they have created. Due to the strengths of their direction and the overall quality of the anime they produce, they are remembered as one of the greatest of all time.

Most fans may know Kunihiko Ikuhara as the director of Sailor Moon Sbut his crowning achievements are: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguin Drum. Both shows make effective use of his signature tool in storytelling: symbolism. Ikuhara is obsessed with giving meaning to the symbols of the anime.

Of the princes and roses in utena to the circles and apples in Mawaru Penguin Drum, some themes are explored in the story’s metal layers, rather than on the surface. This approach does not always work out perfectly. Later works as Sarazanmaic tend to lose themselves in the surreal chaos of the approach, but it certainly shines with its other anime. Ikuhara’s directing is stylish, complex and endlessly interesting.

9 Shinichiro Watanabe combines music with genre action

One of the most beloved modern directors in the medium, Shinichiro Watanabe’s works include: Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Children on the slopeand Space Dandy. His most obvious trademark is his inclusion of music in an anime. He brings the songs to the forefront of the story, rather than letting them rest in the background.

Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo would lose all their style if the music wasn’t so outspoken. Children on the slope and Carol & Tuesday are explicitly about music. While the latter end of his career is weaker than the former, there is no better director when it comes to using music.

8 Yoshiyuki Tomino was the father of a new wave of anime

Yoshiyuki Tomino revolutionized anime when he created and directed groundbreaking work. Mobile suit Gundam. It has taken the sci-fi community by storm. Mecha anime was given an anti-war edge that reflected the irrational and unjust actions of those in power. Progress from his pre-2000s gundam anime proved that he is a dynamic and innovative director.

Not every great director could switch from the original Mobile suit Gundam until Spin a Gundam. The depth of his oeuvre did not stop at gundam. His other works as Space runaway idea showed that its commitment to scale, themes, and action didn’t change across franchises. Anime would be a drastically different medium without his influence.

7 Hideaki Anno engages in fanaticism and fear in his shows

Hideaki Anno’s works are a celebration of his love of the medium, regardless of the general tone of some of his more notable shows. Neon Genesis Evangelion is an introspective look at the loneliness and shortcomings of characters in anime stories. Anno grew up watching early Tezuka anime, as well as the super robot mech of the 1970s. His works build on their traditions and evolve them.

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His biggest trademark concerns teenagers dealing with anxiety and trauma. Even in a grounded show like His and her circumstances, the two leads are introspective about their emotions and what they might be missing as humans. Anno fundamentally mixes human emotions with fanaticism for the medium.

6 Masaaki Yuasa prefers expression by letting art be loose and dynamic

One of the most prolific and beloved directors of modern times, Masaaki Yuasa’s works are strange and charming. His debut film thinking game is one of the more surreal films within the medium, proving that his outspoken voice has always been part of his directing style. Ping pong: the animation is based on a manga, but the episode is expressive enough to read like a Yuasa work.

His diversity, while maintaining his voice, is one of the most impressive things about Yuasa. A director who can range from Devilman crybabyuntil kaiba until Stay away from Eizouken, his clear vision is ahead of its time. Fans will still be talking about his works decades from now.

5 Isao Takahata’s oeuvre is enormous

Most anime fans may see Isao Takahata as the other half of Studio Ghibli, but he’s more than just the director of Tomb of the fireflies and the Story of Princess Kaguya. Prior to founding the legendary studio, Takahata was already a senior director whose tender and humanistic style created some of the best anime-style anime. Heidi: Girl of the Alps and Anne of Green Gables.

He also directed the historical film Horus: Prince of the Sun. It can be said that anime without Takahata would not be as successful as it is. His individual achievements and his influence on Hayao Miyazaki have led to many of the great talents of the last 3 decades. No one directs intimate human emotions as well as he does.

4 Osamu Dezaki is the king of drama and soap

With the exception of mecha anime, the 70’s and 80’s anime were dominated by Osamu Dezaki’s melodramas. Rose of Versailles, Target Ace, Nobody’s Boy Remiand treasure island are some of the shows most characteristic of its type of drama. Even the legendary sports manga Joe of tomorrow got a huge amount of extra drama when he adapted it. The best part was that his leadership was so effective.

It was campy to an extent, but not enough to lessen the intensity of the show’s conflicts. His static frames, etched in pencil, were iconic. They emphasized the drama and emotions of the characters, allowing the audience to enjoy the grand expressions. It is an approach to drama that defined two generations.

3 Mamoru Oshii is meticulous, cerebral and contemplative

Mamoru Oshii is one of the most outspoken directors of all time. All his works revisit motifs and images essential to his overarching themes. It doesn’t matter if the film he is working on is an adaptation, he will incorporate his own vision and themes into it. Tanks, reflective water and ruminations about metaphysics and politics dominate movies like Urusei Yassura: Beautiful dream, Ghost in the shelland Patlabor: the movie.

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His works are fantastic, despite the rigidity of his vision. He wants his films to represent only his thoughts and themes. This could be disastrous for other anime directors, but Oshii is talented and intelligent enough to make it work.

2 Satoshi Kon gets acquainted with the human mind on a literal level

Satoshi Kon has no rivals when it comes to his genius imagination. All his works deal with human psychology. The mental out-of-body experience that fame can cause, the nostalgia of memory and art, the destructive nature of stress, and the fluid landscape of dreams, Kon forces those concepts to manifest on a superficial level.

Viewers get to see the thinking process of the characters, rather than having to feel it. His works have influenced other media. Black Swan and Startare products of Kon’s influence. He is a visionary mind who has found ways to realize his imagination in a commission-driven industry like anime. There will never be another like him.

1 Hayao Miyazaki is the face of anime directors

Hayao Miyazaki is the medium’s best-known and best-loved director. His works are synonymous with anime film. Fans grow up watching movies like Kiki’s delivery service, Howl’s Moving Castleand My neighbor Totoro.

His films show strong anti-war themes, advocating the magnificence of nature and children at important moments in their lives. Its aesthetic is incredibly clear, detailed and fluid. Even his running sequences are clearly Miyazaki. When fans think of all-time greats, Miyazaki always qualifies as the best among the best.

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