Masaaki Yuasa’s Best Works (Ranked)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Masaaki Yuasa has been a beloved director of mine for a large portion of my life now.
He’s brought a gonzo artistic sublimity to his projects that has not yet lost its charm, and calls to mind directors of the 80’s and 90’s with his thematic idiosyncrasies.
In the 2010s he’s pumped out hit after hit alongside his recently established studio Science SARU, to offer some of the best and most enjoyable anime.
And in this list I’ll be going over the best of the best from all of his works. Let’s check ‘em out!
The Shokujinki are a species of monster that can resemble humans and have lived among humans for centuries.
A secret organization, the Kifuuken, were established to counter the threat of the human-eating creatures.
The future successor of the Kifuuken falls in love with a Shokujinki called Kamitsuki.
Now he must choose between his heart and responsibility.
Kemonozume is a wacky horror set across a stylish backdrop. It takes the Romeo and Juliet basis and runs with it without stopping.
9. Ride Your Wave
Hinako has always found the ocean intoxicating and so decides to move to a coastal town for university.
While there, she incidentally meets a firefighter and they strike up an intimate connection.
She decides to teach the brave man how to surf, and he teaches her how to be a braver person.
Though it’s not remarkable in any sense, Ride Your Wave is a short and sweet love story with some of the most eye-meltingly beautiful visuals to come out of Studio SARU.
It’s a touching tale of letting go and finding your way in a strange, infinite, and frightening world.
8. Japan Sinks 2020
Japan Sinks 2020 is the newest project (as of this writing) by Yuasa and Studio SARU.
It’s set in the current year and follows a devastating earthquake that begins to sink the country.
Two siblings, Ayumu and Gou, and their dedicated parents must traverse their way to freedom and safety.
Japan Sinks 2020 is a tonal disaster, missing the mark completely on numerous occasions and generally doesn’t have a clue what it is. However, I enjoyed it immensely.
This is a B-movie disaster flick brought to animation, and I’m all for it.
7. Mind Game
One day, Nishi managed to run into his high-school crush, Myon, and discovers she’s engaged.
He reluctantly agrees to meet her fiancé at a restaurant when the Yakuza rush in suddenly and murder him.
He wakes up to a mocking God, but promptly rushes past him to reincarnate minutes before the attack.
In a hurry, Nishi goes on the run with Myon and doesn’t look back at those following him.
Mind Game was the directorial debut of Masaaki Yuasa and pioneered his cinematic style perfectly.
It’s absurd and bizarre, but thematically mature, tackling coming-of-age topics such as sex, existentialism, and ambition with finesse.
In Kaiba, memories are maintained in little memory cards that can be swapped in and out of bodies.
Immortality is possible, and the nature of the Self is constantly called into questions.
Kaiba wakes up one day with no memories, in a body he doesn’t recognize, with only a small locket on his person.
He decides to search for understanding of his identity and purpose and find the girl whose photograph is in the locket along the way.
This is all set across a galactic backdrop rife with inequality and authoritarian corruption, telling a love story and philosophical exploration of duality.
5. Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
One endless night, a girl with black hair decides to go on a bender.
She sets out to experience as many things as possible, saying yes to any opportunity. Completely driven by her want to engage in the world.
Meanwhile, an ordinary nameless man is earnestly trying to get her attention but failing repeatedly.
Once more, Masaaki Yuasa tells a gorgeously animated and infectiously enthusiastic story about seizing the day.
It’s absurd, but rooted in a mature tangibility. With the only downside being that there’s not more of it, and just a film.
Except… Maybe one day?
4. The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy is an expanded rendition of Night is Short, Walk on Girl.
It discusses the same basic ideas with greater understanding and a further rooted scenario.
Watashi is about to finish his university years and is filled with remorse at how he’s spent them. He didn’t seize the day, never confessed to his love, refused to full socialize or join activities.
He’s bitter, which makes it all the sweeter when he’s sent back in time to his first day and given a chance to try it all over again.
It’s emotionally riveting, stylistically gorgeous, and never stops being entertaining.
This is an incredible anime that will go down as an all-time classic.
3. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Asakusa’s life was changed forever when she first watched anime.
Immediately she knew she wanted to become an artist, and so when she entered High School, she sets up an animation club.
Two girls, Kanamori and Mizusaki, accompany her. Each with their own unique talents, they attempt to create their own anime.
This offers an incredible take on childhood imagination and artistic ambition that never stops impressing.
The lack of dissonance between the themes of the show and the way it’s presented, by being an artistically vibrant story of artistic vibrance, is a stroke of pure genius.
It’s a love letter to anime, and definitely worth a watch for any fan of the medium.
2. Ping Pong
Smile and Peco are two boys bonded over their enjoyment of Ping Pong.
Peco has dreams of being the best player in Japan, always enthusiastic and driven.
Smile, on the other hand, is a calm and ambitionless boy who’s along for the ride.
Though this all changes when they decide to enter the inter-high table tennis competition for global success.
Ping Pong embodies resolve and determination as concepts, all in a gorgeously animated sports anime rife with symbolism and metaphorical undertones.
It’s got a catchy soundtrack and a well-written cast of characters, given its remarkably length.
Short, sweet, and complete. Check out Ping Pong if you get the chance.
1. Devilman Crybaby
Lurking hidden since the dawn of humanity are the Devils, parasitic creatures driven to sinful hosts.
Ryo Asuka is an elusive genius keen to hunt down and expose the monsters. And so he enlists his best friend, Akira Fudou, to assist him.
But in the process, the weak and naive Akira is possessed and merged with the great devil Amon, yet due to his kind nature he retains his mind.
Thus, the Devilman is created.
Devilman Crybaby is a complete story of despair.
It adapts the original work wonderfully, improving and modernizing many aspects to make it the definitive version.
It’s a faithful anime that revels in its violence, disturbing content, and nihilistic approach towards inhumanity and war. A must-watch.