I love anime! Like most people, I got into it when I was younger and I've been watching it ever since. Yes, I do indeed love the new stuff like Demon Slayer and Attack On Titan. But if you were to ask me if I’d rather watch Eren Yaeger take over the world, or Goku from Dragon Ball Z fame become a Super Saiyan, then I’m going to pick the latter a million, bajillion times over the former since I loooove ‘80s and ‘90s anime.
That’s because I grew up with Dragon Ball Z and the other shows on this list. I’ve already covered some of the great anime you can catch on Netflix right now. But this list is going way, way back to the ‘90s and (gasp!) even the ‘80s. So, if you’re into the older, rougher looking anime, then this is the list for you!
Dragon Ball Z
Following Dragon Ball, which is just okay (please don’t hurt me), was the massive Dragon Ball Z, which actually started as an anime back in 1986. In Japan, of course. It wouldn’t come stateside until a whole decade later. Lasting for 291 episodes, Goku and his Z Warrior friends took on aliens and androids for the fate of the world. If you love anime, then you've seen Dragon Ball Z or maybe even the more recent Dragon Ball Super. Either way, you know what I’m talking about.
Dragon Ball Z is legendary because it’s so unique. The fireballs, the power levels, the soap opera-esque drama when it comes to characters like Vegeta’s insecurities, or Goku’s poor parenting skills. It just all comes together so well in a mishmash of violence and humor that just can’t be beat. Dragon, Dragon, Ball, Dragon, Dragon Ball Z! Or… if you’re purist: Cha la, Head cha la! You know you love it.
Fist Of The North Star
Do you like Mad Max? Do you like Bruce Lee? Then you are going to love Fist of the North Star, which, as I just described it, Mad Max meets Bruce Lee. Sort of. Basically, the premise is about a wanderer named Ken who has seven scars on his chest that enable him to deliver terrible death blows to people once he finds their pressure points. His enemies, who all look like they came right out of Mad Max 2, explode in gooey glory. It’s great.
The anime goes all the way back to 1984, and it’s legendary since it was such a trendsetter in the medium. You can look at it and definitely see its inspiration on a show like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. And the concept of the wandering warrior comes up a lot in anime in general, like in Berserk (RIP, Kentaro Miura) which I might cover at some later date. But either way, FotNS is bad ass, and if you like DBZ and haven’t seen it yet, then give it a try. You’ll definitely dig it. Plus, I just love that ending theme.
I once said that Sailor Moon is better than Dragon Ball Z, and I stand behind that comment. The story of a 14-year-old girl named Usagi (or Serena if you’re a dub watcher), banding with other sailor scouts to fight evil by daylight and find love by moonlight, was the gateway anime for many kids of the ‘90s, myself included.
The anime started in 1992, and it’s been around in some form or other ever since. It’s legendary since you wouldn’t think a show about teenage girls would be as pulse pounding as Dragon Ball Z, but it is, and as I said before, I like it better.
Only the cool kids know about Initial D. This high speed series is about a teenager named Takumi Fujiwara who helps his dad sell Tofu, but also engages in street races. It’s kind of like Kung-Fu Panda (With Po selling Mr. Ping’s dumplings) meets The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. If that sounds awesome to you, that’s because it is.
Initial D is legendary because it wasn’t like most other anime at the time, at least not stateside. Debuting in 1998 in Japan, the idea of racing hadn’t really been explored to this capacity in an anime since Speed Racer, and that’s from the ‘60s. Do you want me to talk about ‘60s anime next? Because I will. Don’t think I won’t.
The coolest show on this list, Cowboy Bebop is about a small crew of bounty hunters led by the impossibly cool, Spike Spiegel. They go on a series of adventures together tracking down nefarious (and often very lively) criminals, and that’s about it. Think Firefly, but with jazz and a lot less of a western-vibe, and you’re not too far off.
Debuting in 1998, Cowboy Bebop is one of the most acclaimed and popular anime on this list. I’m still looking forward to the live-action version starring John Cho, whenever that’s coming out.
I thought I would end this list with the most obscure anime. You’ve probably never even heard of this one (I don’t even think it’s around anymore), but there was this little show back in the ‘90s called Pokemon that was kind of popular. It’s about these animals with special powers and these trainers who try to capture them to use them in battle. I know it sounds like a crazy premise, but it was pretty cool. I guess you just had to be there.
But seriously, Pokemon is the biggest media franchise OFF ALL TIME (grossing more than Mickey Mouse and Star Wars, believe it or not) so you’d have to be living underneath a Geodude not to have heard of it. Debuting in 1997, the anime series has been going strong ever since and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. You can’t even stream Pokemon on any of the major platforms. Oh, no. Pokemon has its very OWN streaming platform called Pokemon TV, because you know… Pokemon.
And those are just a few of the great anime from the ‘80s and ‘90s. But what do you think? Out of the ones mentioned here, which one is your favorite? Make your voice heard in the poll below. And for more current (And American) television, make sure to check out our 2021 Summer TV schedule. Because life’s not only about anime, you know!
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Lover of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue people), video games, and anything 90s, he will talk your ear off about Godzilla, so don't get him started.
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