2022 has been another big year for anime, with various TV series like Mob Psycho 100 and Chainsaw Man about to premiere, and the recent Dragon Ball Super: Super heroes film which was a huge success at the box office. The genre enjoys a big chunk of the mainstream spotlight with a bright future, but there are some all-time classics worth revisiting.
Although the genre wasn’t as popular globally at the time, the 1990s was a big decade for anime. Colorful shonen like dragonball and Pokemon dominated pop culture and some exciting mature anime, like cowboy bebop and ghost in the shell hold up remarkably well to nostalgic flashbacks.
Yu Yu Hakusho (1992 – 1995)
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Writer Toshihiro Togashi is best known for his work on the famous Hunter X Hunterhis Yu Yu Hakusho The series has received strong critical acclaim in its own right. The series follows the protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, after he is killed in a car accident, but is taken back to the afterlife as an underworld detective.
Yu Yu HakushoThe premise of evolves into a creative mix of supernatural and martial arts action. It manages to balance those appealing concepts for a shounen with equally compelling character development across the main cast, and animation studio Pierrot’s animated adaptation is arguably the best way to experience it – d especially since it is a real full story.
Cowboy Bebop (1998 – 1999)
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Often cited as one of the best anime of all time, cowboy bebop was an original animated series that masterfully blended sci-fi and western genres. The series follows a crew of space bounty hunters consisting of Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed and their corgi, Ein, as they navigate a world where humanity has been forced to live off the earth after that corporate greed and evil have made the planet almost… inhospitable.
cowboy bebop is superb at creating atmosphere, with sleek art direction and an acid-jazz/blues-inspired score that complements the immersive world and cast of characters. The series is structured primarily in an anthology/episodic format to make the most of its space bounty hunter premise, but it also tells a thematically deep overarching story about the human condition.
Berserk (1997 – 1998)
Not currently available to stream
Although it is a pity that the excellent late Kentaro Miura Berserk manga hasn’t had its story adapted beyond a single attempt at Conviction arc, the ’97 animated series from studio OLM is one of the best seinen of this decade.
This 25-episode show covers condensed versions of the black swordsman and Golden age arcs, telling a dark and harrowing fantasy epic of mercenary Guts tearing apart a world in a quest for revenge after the betrayal of his former brother-in-arms Griffith. And even though it starts out as a revenge story, Berserk evolves into a tale about healing, psychological and physical, while being punctuated with heart-pounding action.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996)
Stream on Netflix
Neon Genesis Evangelion is another important series in the history of the anime genre. The sci-fi series was partly responsible for anime’s resurgence in the ’90s, spawning a collection of four films that were retellings of the original 26-episode show.
The plot follows the story of Shinji, a boy recruited by his father as a soldier in the mysterious Nerv organization, to pilot the titular Evangelion mechas against an alien invasion. It’s not a typical mecha anime fanfare, as the series deconstructs it to tell a complex exploration of moral ambiguity, the human psyche, and the effects of depression.
Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 1996)
Stream on funimation
Without a doubt one of the most influential anime series of all time featuring some of the most iconic anime characters of all time, Dragon Ball Z was a juggernaut for the genre as it helped solidify its influence westward. Akira Toriyama’s original dragonball was critically successful on its own, but Z catapulted the franchise as a whole into the mainstream, with the concepts of “Super Saiyans” and characters like Goku and Vegeta almost instantly recognizable in pop culture.
Z picks up with Goku following his Budokai Tenkaichi victory over King Piccolo, with the story and world-building now expanding significantly with Saiyans, power levels, new stylized forms and even more high-octane action raised. Dragon Ball Z dominated many childhoods in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, with its influence palpable today.
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It didn’t get as much spotlight as the aforementioned sci-fi classic, but Madhouse’s animated adaptation of Trigun is a great anime for fans of cowboy bebop to consult. At a time, TrigunThe brilliance of the storytelling allows him to stand firmly on his own feet.
The series arguably leans a bit more into the “Western” element of its sci-fi/western setting, opening with the episodic adventures of wanted protagonist Vash the Stampede as he is pursued for the destruction of a city he does not remember. Beginning with a lighter tone, it gradually delves into an emotionally deep exploration of Vash’s origins, relationships with his supporting cast, and the effects of his actions.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Stream on the Roku Channel
On the cinema side, the 1995 ghost in the shell the film rubs shoulders with the tastes of Akira as one of the driving forces of the anime genre in the West. It helped give anime the attention it deserved as a legitimate art form – and animation as a whole – and made for one of the most memorable cyberpunk-themed productions around. in pop culture.
Set in 2029, ghost in the shell tells the story of cyborg Motoko Kunasagi, a public security agent, who tracks down a dangerous hacker in neo-noir Japan. Explore themes of identity and computational self-awareness, ghost in the shell is an admirable tribute to people like Ridley Scott blade runner.
Sailor Moon (1992 – 1997)
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The tastes of Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon certainly took the lion’s share of the spotlight throughout the 90s, but the impact of Sailor Moon. What the aforementioned anime series did for the shounen demographic, Sailor Moon achieved the same for the shoujo.
The series was important in expanding female audiences in anime, with a clever combination of typical shoujo plot devices with a superhero “magical girl” theme, following the adventures of Usagi Tsukino and the rest of the soldiers. sailors as they defend the land from a variety of villains. Sailor MoonThe influence of can also be seen today, as the franchise has been praised for its unique cast of characters and exploration of their respective personalities.
Pokemon (1997 – )
Stream on Amazon Prime
It has long since become the world’s highest-grossing multimedia franchise of all time, with Pokemon spanning beloved video games, collectible card games, and anime. The animated television series is still ongoing to this day, and while it may feel like it has overstayed its welcome to some degree, the show’s classic days after Ash, Misty, Brock and co. across the Kanto and Johto regions are practically nostalgia personified.
Pokemon was part of countless childhoods arguably as much – or more – than Dragon Ball Z. Given the premise of meeting, catching, training, and befriending unique supernatural animals, the “monster of the week” formula was perfectly suited to make the anime an addictive watch.
One Piece (1999 – )
Stream on Pluto TV
While it’s certainly been pushing the boundaries of its timeline since its inception in 1999, it would still be hard to overlook. A play as one of the most important anime of this decade. Eiichiro Oda’s sprawling manga began publishing just two years before Toei Animation adapted it and is still running today, much like its source material.
With over 1,030 episodes to his credit, A play has proven as a franchise to be one of the most enduring anime/manga in the industry, and arguably the best of the “Big Three” Shonen Jump era. What begins with Monkey D. Luffy aspiring to be a pirate after his model Shanks morphs into a colorful pirate-themed odyssey with excruciating attention to detail in lore, world-building, and character arcs.
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