On Tuesday, January 15, the Nippon Academy-Sho Association announced the nominees for this year’s Japan Academy Prize. Within the Animation of the Year Nominees are films DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY, PENGUIN HIGHWAY, OKKO’S INN, MIRAI, and DETECTIVE CONAN: ZERO THE ENFORCER. The Association will announce this year’s winners at a ceremony held in Tokyo on March 1.

Poster for DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY, featuring Goku, Vegeta, and Broly.
Poster for DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY. | Image: Funimation

Not used to keeping up on Japanese film awards? The Nippon Academy-Sho Association functions like the Oscars’ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Association selects the winning films and individuals in each category. Only movies released between December 16, 2017, and December 15, 2018, are considered for this year’s Academy Prize. However, all nominees will receive an Award of Excellence. And they’re sure to deserve it too! Take a peek at the Prize’s history and see what you have to look forward to in March!

A Film Lover’s Prize

Despite Japan’s long history of great anime, the Japan Academy Prize didn’t always have an award for it. The Animation of the Year category was created in 2007. Its first winner was THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME. Before that, though, animated films had received other nominations. For example, the first animated film to win Picture of the Year was PRINCESS MONONOKE, followed a few years later by SPIRITED AWAY. For the most part, though, anime films had been overlooked before the Animation of the Year Award. Since then, winners of the Animation of the Year Award have included favorites like WOLF CHILDREN and NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL.

A poster from PENGUIN HIGHWAY, featuring the main characters.
A visual from this year’s nomination PENGUIN HIGHWAY. | Image: Anime News Network

In addition to the animation nominees, several figures in anime will be recognized for their skill. Animator Yasuo Otsuka of LUPIN III: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO will receive an Association’s Special Award for Lifetime Achievement. Chairperson’s Awards for Lifetime Achievement will go to director Junya Sato of the live-action GOLGO 13 and actress Keiko Kishi of the live-action GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES. Director Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli will receive a Posthumous Chairperson’s Special Award. Other recipients of the Posthumous Lifetime Achievement awards include producer Mitsuru Kurosawa of OTOKO MESHI, actress Yuriko Hoshi of GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, and actress Kirin Kiki of THE SECRET WORLD OF ARIETTY.

Meet This Year’s Nominees

DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY features a history of the Saiyan race and a fight between Goku, Vegeta, and Broly. Akira Toriyama took part in updating the character Broly for the movie. Next, PENGUIN HIGHWAY follows a young boy investigating the sudden appearance of penguins in his village. It includes a song by famous musician Hikaru Utada.

OKKO’S INN tells the story of an orphan girl who goes to live in her grandmother’s country inn. While there, she finds the inn haunted by friendly spirits only she can see. Then in MIRAI, we meet a little boy jealous of his new baby sister. But when time travelers arrive, he finds himself on an adventure with his baby sister from the future. Lastly, there is DETECTIVE CONAN: ZERO THE ENFORCER. A classic crime thriller, Conan searches for the truth behind an explosion that occurs on the opening day of a Tokyo resort.

Poster for DETECTIVE CONAN: ZERO THE ENFORCER from the TMS Twitter.
Poster for DETECTIVE CONAN: ZERO THE ENFORCER. | Image: TMS Entertainment

Want to Watch These Films?

You’ll have your chance soon enough! DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY releases in theaters in the U.S. on January 16. PENGUIN HIGHWAY will arrive in Winter 2019. OKKO’S INN comes to the United States in April 2019. However, MIRAI already released in the U.S. in November 2018. Though you might be able to find it at some theaters, your best bet now may be to pre-order it on Blu-Ray or DVD for its early April release. Unfortunately, DETECTIVE CONAN: ZERO THE ENFORCER hasn’t announced a United States release just yet. But based on its popularity in Japan, it should be coming soon.

No matter which of these movies wins, you’re sure to find that they’re all great films in their own right! Which movie are you most excited for?

Featured image from MIRAI, courtesy of GKIDS Films.

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