Top Ten Anime from the 80’s & 90’s

As the decade comes to a close, I figure that I would join in on the best decade listing. I was born in the late 80’s so many of the anime I grew on are from that period. I decided to combine the two decades. Looking back at the anime on the lists, I would say all of the anime on this list stand the test of time. That doesn’t necessary mean that they’re superior to anime that has come after, but they still are magnificent. The animation was more grainy and the colors were muted. The plots were more mature that the current top series. Most of these series are considered to be among the “most influential” of all time.



10. Rurouni Kenshin – 1996

Himura Kenshin is a wandering swordsman that was formerly the assassin Hitokiri Battosai. The creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki want to make a different kind of shonen series. One that was more serious, focusing on themes like atonement, peace and romance. The anime series is one of the most popular, with a sophisticated plot and epic action scenes. It took a while for me to warm up to this series, but the series grew on me. The anime only adapts the series up to the Shishio fight, then focuses on material that’s new.


9. Tenchi Muyo (Tenchi Universe) – 1995

Generally I don’t like harem series, but Tenchi Universe was an exception. Based on the six episode OVA series, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, the series focuses on Tenchi. The grandchild of legendary warrior and prince of the the Juraian Empire, Yosho. Tenchi’s life changes after a series of intergalactic women arrive in his life. There’s the space pirate Ryoko, snobbish princess Ayeka, her sister Sasami, Goddess Tsunami, the clumsy Galactic Officer Mihoshi and her partner Kiyone and finally the legendary mad scientist Washu. As the ladies bicker with one another over trivial matters and Ryoko and Ayeka battle for Tenchi’s love, they group become fugitives. Together the evade detection and manage to save the Juraian Empire from the control of Kagato.



8. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – 1995

There are some many different Gundam series it can be difficult to tell them apart. However, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is credited with “globalizing the franchise.” The first Gundam series to air in American and the sixth anime in the series, Gundam Wing focuses on the war between Earth and it’s orbital colonies. The series introduces us to five pilots, Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, Quatre Raberba Winner and Change Wufei. They are tasked with using their Gundams attack the Organization of the Zodiac (OZ) and free the colonies from oppression.


7. Yu Yu Hakusho – 1992

Adapted from the manga series of the same name, Yu Yu Hakusho follows 14 year old, Yusuke Urameshi. In an act of heroism he sacrifices his life to same the life of little boy. He learns that the after life is real and is given a chance to redeem himself. He becomes an Underworld Detective, tasked with investigating supernatural activity in the Human World. Yu Yu Hakusho was twice voted “anime of the year” in 1994 and 1995 by Animage Anime Grand Prix. The series has been featured on many lists of the all time greatest anime series ever. Yu Yu Hakusho remains one of the most influential anime series.



6. Sailor Moon – 1992

Lazy crybaby Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) meets a magical talking cat Luna and is asked to save the universe. Joined by Sailor Soldiers, Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter), Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) and supported by the mysterious Tuxedo Mask. They learn that in their past lives that they Usagi was Princess Serenity, the Sailor Soldiers were her friends and bodyguards and she was in love with a prince from Earth. However they were all killed by the Dark Kingdom. Queen Serenity sent the fallen to the future to be reborn.


5. Pokemon – 1997

With over 1,000 episodes to its credit, Pokemon is one of the most watched anime series of all time. Pokemon is credited with mainstreaming anime in the United States. Since then it has been released in over 169 different countries. The series generally focuses on the eternally youthful Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu. The first season of Pokemon, follows Ash, as he travels the Indigo League collecting eight badges. He’s joined by Misty and Brock. The series featured the iconic OP, “Pokémon Theme Song,” and the PokeRAP that ended every episode. Watching Ash battle each gym leader and enter the League is some of my fondest memories period.



4. Akira – 1988

Regarded as one of the greatest animated movies of all time, Akira is a must see anime for any fan. Considered a “landmark” anime film, responsible for increasing anime’s popularity and it’s manga art (by Katsuhiro Otomo) influencing many authors like Naruto’s Masashi Kishimoto. Featuring many sci-fi elements, Akira is held by many as being one of the best sci-fi movies as well. Bloody and violent, Akira is set in a dystopian 2019. It tells the story of Shotaro Kaneda, a biker gang leader. His childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima, acquires telekinetic abilities after a motorcycle accident. Tetsuo eventual threatens Neo-Tokyo, rampaging through the city in search for Akira.


3. DBZ – 1989

Dragon Ball Z debuted in 89, but it wasn’t until the 90’s that the series really took off. A sequel to Dragon Ball, like Akira before and Pokemon after marked a tipping point in anime relevance and popularity. Following the now adult Goku and his family and friends as they battle search for the Dragon Balls and battles intergalactic aliens, androids and other creatures. The original Dragon Ball focuses on Goku’s his childhood, Dragon Ball Z focuses on Gohan’s (Goku’s son) childhood. DBZ was so popular that it outperformed shows like Friends and X-Files. Dragon Ball Z remains one of the most important anime series of all time.



2. Cowboy Bebop – 1998

The iconic anime neo-noir series, praised for it’s jazz soundtrack, production values and a all star voice cast. Cowboy Bebop has to be among the most popular and significant anime series ever. Highly praised by critics, Cowboy Bebop, follows the bounty hunting trio, Spike Spiegel, Jet Black and Faye Valentine. They are joined by eccentric hacker, Ed and Welsh Corgi (a dog) that has been genetically engineered to have human-like intellect. Cowboy Bebop follows the aftermath of Spike escape from the criminal enterprise, Red Dragon Syndicate. He also hopes to flee his former friend, now enemy Vicious.


1. Neon Genesis Evangelion – 1995

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most controversial and acclaimed anime series. A deconstruction of the mecha genre, Evangelion is stated to have “led to the rebirth of the anime industry.” The series features many complex themes, touching on mental illness, philosophy and religion. Evangelion manages to embed religious symbolism. Like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered to be a masterpiece. Personalty, I always found the main protagonist, Shinji, to be incredibly annoying. However, he is one of the most nuanced characters in anime history. Evangelion can be seem too complex at first and probably requires several viewings, but once you understand it, you’ll get the praise this series receives.

Want more: Top Ten Anime and Manga Franchises

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The Top Ten highest grossing anime or manga media franchises (Part 2)

5. Gundam – $26 Billion

Gundam is one of the most storied anime series. The franchised originated in 1979 with Mobile Suit Gundam. A series that defined the “real robot” mecha genre. Gundam has spawned television series, OVA’s, films, manga, novels, video games and Gunpla (model robots). Gunpla is 90 percent of the Japanese character plastic model market. The majority of Gundam’s revenue comes from retail sales (25 Billion).


4. Jump Comics (Shonen Jump) – $40 Billion

Cover of Shonen Jump

Primarily a line of manga magazines, Jump Comics, are created by Shueisha. Beginning in 1968 it was renamed Weekly Shonen Jump. Now including anime and video games, Shonen Jump has become a massive franchise. Most of it’s revenue is generated from manga magazines and manga sales.


3. Anpanman – $60 Billion

Anpanman is a Japanese children’s superhero picture book written by Takashi Yanase. It ran from 1973 until Yanase death in 2013. It has been adapted into a popular anime series for young children in Japan. Anpanman is a superhero with a anpan for a head. He battles against an evil germ Baikinman. Appearing on children products, from clothing to snack foods to toys. Anpanman has inspired One Punch Man and K-pop song “Anpanman” by BTS.


2. Hello Kitty – $80 Billion

Hello Kitty is a fictional character created by Sanrio. A female Japanese Bobtail, with a red bow and no mouth. She’s a third grade student, that lives outside of London. With a media franchise that includes a product line, clothing apparel, toy-line, manga and anime series. Created in 1974, Hello Kitty is worth about $8 billion dollars a year.


1. Pokemon – $95 Billion

The top media franchise is Pokemon. Created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995 the franchise became a video game in 1996. The original video games series is the second highest selling behind Nintendo’s Mario, selling 340 million copies and 1 billion mobile downloads. It’s anime series has over 20 seasons and 1,000 episodes. The Pokemon franchise includes the top selling trading card game (27.2 billion cards sold), books, manga, music, anime films and a theme park.