For some people who were raised in the nineties, they associate that decade with grunge, Nickelodeon, Power Rangers, TLC, Beverly Hills 90210, Beanie Babies and so on. For others, it was a golden period of anime. Hand-drawn and unique animation styles, iconic theme songs, and the rise of Megumi Hayashibara can all be traced back to that era. So, dust off your VHS fansubs, open some Pocky and take a short stroll down memory lane. Here are twenty anime that are already beloved or are in need of some attention. The list excludes some obvious series (Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon) because of their familiarity.
Lina Inverse and her dim sidekick Gourry provide laughs and thrills in this comedic fantasy series. As well as several movies and OVAs, there were two follow-up TV seasons known as Slayers Next and Slayers Try. An English dub was supposed to air on Fox, but that fell through once they realized how much editing they'd have to do.
|Boys Over Flowers (1997)|
Fans of the Korean and Japanese tele-dramas of the same name will know that those series were both based on a manga (Hana Yori Dango). Back in 1997, an anime adaptation was released. The plot, over time, differed greatly from the comic stories. The basic premise was that a girl, Tsukushi, from a poor family is given a scholarship so she can attend a prestigious school. There, she experiences bullying instigated by a quartet of rich guys collectively known as the F4. It isn't long before she's caught in a love triangle with two of her bullies. The anime was dramatic and at times quite tedious. However, it was a change of pace from the typical shoujo anime airing around the same time.
|New Cutie Honey (1994)|
Sailor Moon and every anime about a superpowered magical girl were all undoubtedly inspired by Go Nagai's Cutie Honey (also spelled "Cutey Honey"). The '70s manga was about an android who could transform into almost anyone (with limits of course). She battled a gang of demonic criminals called Panther Claw. During its debut, the manga was popular with young boys as nudity regularly accompanied Honey's transformations. The first anime adaptation was in 1973. Two decades later, a direct sequel series in the form of OVAs was put out on home video. The animation was higher in quality and the ecchi-ness was kicked up a notch. Despite her gimmicky appeal, Cutie Honey is a splendid heroine with a heart as big as her bosom. Another '90s incarnation, Cutie Honey F, took over Sailor Moon's timeslot. They even shared the same animation staff.
|Ranma 1/2 OVAs (1993)|
The original TV series, based on Rumiko Takahashi's manga, aired in 1989. It was initially a flop until the second season. The anime's crowning achievement, though, is the OVAs from the early to mid-nineties. Firstly, Ranma 1/2 is about Ranma Saotome, a young martial artist cursed to become female whenever he came in contact with cold water. Warm water would reverse the effect. His father and various characters are all stricken with similar afflictions, but they change into other living things (i.e., panda, cat, duck, piglet, etc.). Ranma and his dad move into the Tendo residence, which Ranma is destined to inherit with the youngest Tendo daughter, Akane. The OVAs didn't come out until the TV show ended, and all but one of the stories are from the manga. Top notch animation, catchy music and inane plots make this collection memorable.
|Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)|
Director Kunihuko Ikuhara worked on this series after leaving Sailor Moon at the end of the fourth season. Ikuhara's unused concept for the Sailor Moon SuperS movie (Sailor Uranus would ride a black Pegasus to the end of the world to save a sleeping Sailor Neptune) partially inspired the animated version of Chiho Saito's manga. Utena revolves around a teenager who enters a series of sword duels where the prize is the power to revolutionize the world. This underrated shoujo anime is heavy on symbolism and metaphors so pay close attention as you watch.
|Vampire Princess Miyu (1997)|
The manga of Vampire Princess Miyu was first printed in 1988. A four episode OVA series followed that same year. A very different television reboot aired in 1997. In the latter variation, Miyu is half vampire, half human. She attends high school and has human friends. Her servant is Larva, a grim reaper-looking figure that appears instantly when Miyu is in trouble. Miyu's general role is to send monsters called Shinma back to the darkness. Miyu's rival is Reiha, an ice Shinma with a grudge. The two have a messy history as Reiha blames Miyu for her tragedies. The TV Miyu plays out like a very, very dark magical girl show with anthology-like filler episodes in between the mythology. The overarching story doesn't come to fruition till near the end.
|Marmalade Boy (1994)|
Miki and Yuu learn that their parents switched partners while on vacation. To make it more awkward, the children develop romantic feelings for one another. And that is basically the premise for this angsty teen drama. The manga was considerably shorter than the 76 episode anime so they had to create a lot of filler (including a hilarious arc where Yuu goes to study in America). If you can stomach the drama and have time to kill, Marmalade Boy is a messy treat.
|Wedding Peach DX (1996)|
The character designer, Kazuko Tadano, for the first Sailor Moon anime moved on to another magical girl series called Ai Tenshi Densetsu (Legendary Love Angel) Wedding Peach. It was more than less a strong homage to Sailor Moon. Four teenage girls are given powers in order to fight a demonic queen named Reine Devila. Sound familiar? The four part OVA sequel titled Wedding Peach DX is more enjoyable. Why? Better art, cool new attacks and outfits, and a strong lack of serious story. In the case of Wedding Peach, that last part is for the best. Plus, someone finally gave the heroine a gun.
|The Vision of Escaflowne (1996)|
Avid watchers of Fox Kids will remember the dub of this shoujo-mecha hybrid. Hitomi Kanzaki is transported to the planet Gaea, which is targeted by an invading empire known as Zaibach. Her psychic powers are enhanced on Gaea, and she becomes an important part in saving the kingdom from the enemy. Anyone who likes adventure, romance, and giant robots should visit Escaflowne. You might want to the avoid the very boring movie, though.
|Magic Knight Rayearth (1994)|
If you like a little more action in your majokko, Clamp's Magic Knight Rayearth is for you. Three girls from different schools are mystically drawn into the parallel world of Cephiro. To get home, they must save a pillar from an evil priest named Zagato. The anime plays out like an RPG - the protagonists regularly receive power upgrades as they come across new villains and challenges. The television series lasted two seasons (the second noticeably different from the manga) and there was an OVA series simply titled Rayearth.
|Devilman Lady (1998)|
One of Go Nagai's more well known projects is Devilman. It spawned a spin-off called Devilman Lady (retitled Devil Lady in North America). The manga is incredibly violent, which isn't unusual for Nagai. The anime toned that down significantly. Jun Fudo is a model who is revealed to be a Beast Hunter, one who tracks down humans who have unfortunately reached the next stage of evolution. Fans of gore, monsters and pansexuality should seek out this hidden gem.
|Serial Experiments Lain (1998)|
Lain was a brooding and creepy approach to the emerging online community of the nineties. The anime is so involved that its synopsis cannot be explained in a single sentence. With that being said, this is one of the weirdest shows you'll ever experience.
|Digimon Adventure (1999)|
Were you a Digimon kid or a Pokemon kid? That is the question. Digimon was undoubtedly a more convoluted series. The only glaring similarity between the two franchises is an array of cute critters that can instantly transform into other forms. The English version that aired on Fox was one of the better dubs as it kept the major changes to a minimum. Digimon concerned a group of kids sent to the Digital World. With guardian animals known as Digimon, the children set off to find a way home and save the world from evil Digimon. Netflix has the original Japanese series for instant streaming - just be aware of the sloppy translations.
|The Mysterious Play (1995)|
Like The Neverending Story, The Mysterious Play (better known as Fushigi Yuugi) is about a mystical book that sends someone to another world. Miaka Yuuki is an obnoxious teenager who journeys into the reality set within the book called "The Universe of the Four Gods." The whole thing is loosely based on the Four Symbols - the blue dragon of the east, the red firebird of the south, the white tiger of the west, and the black turtle of the north. Anyway, Miaka is believed to be the priestess that is destined to save the Suzaku Kingdom. To gain three wishes from the god Suzaku, she must find her seven Celestial Warriors. Matters are worsened when Miaka's friend from the human world, Yui, becomes a rival kingdom's priestess. The main two protagonists are beyond annoying, which may hinder your viewing experience. Putting that aside, The Mysterious Play is a great fantasy epic full of cliffhangers, twists and colorful supporting characters.
|The Guyver: Bio-Booster Armor (1989)|
This shounen OVA ran from 1989 to 1992. It was the second animated incarnation of Yoshiki Takaya's manga. In 2005, a 26-episode TV series was produced. Guyver basically entails a high school boy named Sho who becomes the unwilling host to a symbiotic bio-unit called Guyver. As Guyver, Sho fights Zoanoids from the evil corporation Cronos. This testosterone driven serial is perfect for anyone who likes sci-fi, drama, and bloody action.
|Excel Saga (1999)|
If there was ever an award for most asinine anime, it would rightfully go to Excel Saga. This outlandish comedy centers around Excel, an agent from the organization ACROSS. She and her partner Hyatt are assigned tasks that will supposedly help ACROSS dominate the world. Instead, the duo end up in ridiculous situations that don't accomplish much of anything. As you keep watching, you'll notice more and more parodies of other anime. By then, you'll be laughing so much that you won't even care how plot-less this show is.
|Cyber Team in Akihabara (1998)|
Ever wish that your favorite toy could turn into a buxom avatar warrior? Probably not, but that's basically what happens in this obscure mecha shoujo. The hottest item in Akihabara is a Pata-pi. Hibari can't afford her own, but she later receives one out of thin air (literally). Soon, her Pata-pi transforms into a fighting Diva when danger approaches. Other girls' Pata-pies undergo similar changes and they join Hibari's in the war against the enemy Rosenkreuz. The art is a bit crude and stylistic, even by anime standards. Yet the combination of cutesy comedy, action and Greek mythology overshadows that.
|Blue Seed (1994)|
Based on legends including Susanoo (the Shinto god of the sea) and the Yamata no Orochi (8-headed dragon), Blue Seed is a contemporary spin on Japanese folklore. Momiji's ordinary life ends once she learns that she is the next Kushinada, a priestess whose death could make all revived Aragami monsters go to sleep. She's taken to a government agency, TAC, that uses her budding priestess powers to help track down Aragami threats. In the meantime, she falls in love with a strange man, Mamoru Kusanagi, who kind of wants to kill her. To add more drama, Momiji's twin sister Kaede, the previous Kushinada, returns to side with the Aragami. This overlooked anime is a lost treasure in the sci-fi/drama genre.
|Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)|
People have recently compared the movie Pacific Rim to this apocalyptic anime. Superficial elements aside, Evangelion and the aforementioned film have little in common. In the future, the organization NERV uses bio-machines known as Evangelions to battle monsters called Angels. The complex series, notable for its rich religious imagery, doesn't end with its 26-episode TV series. The conclusion can be seen in a pair of movies called Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion. Starting in 2007, a tetralogy of films was released.
|Cowboy Bebop (1998)|
It's pretty common to hear from random people, who don't even like anime, that they enjoy Cowboy Bebop. The post-modern sci-fi noir chronicles the misadventures of a group of space bounty hunters. The characters are well developed, the music is unique and jazzy, and each episode is so distinct. If anime in general has yet to entice you, let Cowboy Bebop be the exception.
What are your favorite '90s anime?