The 12 BEST 90s Anime of All Time to Satisfy Your Nostalgia
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The 90s were the starting years of what we are today. Some people say it was one of the golden ages of our time.
After all, it was when the internet started to happen. Back then, we could barely watch anything like the anime we know now. Yet, the 90s were not only the younger years of the internet. It was also the time where great anime series and movies were made. It was a good time to be a fan then.
Some of the best classics we know now come from the 90s. Many stories we see today were inspired by a lot from that time.
Plus, the vibes from 90s anime shows are different compared to today. The art was very unique. When you watch an anime series from the 90s, you would most definitely know that it was from the 90s. You can tell just by the looks of it alone.
Are you feeling nostalgic about the past? Do you have memories of your own about the 90s anime? Perhaps you remember your collection of anime VHS tapes.
Perhaps you remember the feeling of sitting down in front of the TV. If you feel nostalgic, then try watching (or rewatching) the top 90s anime at the time. Read this list to find out what these are.
What is Considered the Best 90s Anime?
We have to rank them based on their quality and pick the crop of the cream. Yet rankings will probably be subjective if done personally. I have my personal favorites, but many people might not like them, right?
So, we need to get what the majority of the public loves. Public opinion can be considered one of the best ways to know. How can we get this?
MyAnimeList’s ranking has a pretty good understanding of that. They have collected millions of reviews from millions of people. With the data they have collected, we can see what most of the anime industry loves watching. This list then collates the top picks of that data. Ready? Here we go!
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
- Other Titles: N/A
- Studio: Sunrise
- Release Date: April 3, 1998, to April 24, 1999
- Score: 8.77 among 730k reviews
Cowboy Bepop was one of the best shows in the United States. It had a big influence on how anime was viewed by the general public. The cool aesthetic and character designs brought a good reputation for the series. The story is invigorating and exciting.
Many people have entered the anime landscape thanks to Cowboy Bepop. It only has one season, which aired from April 3, 1998, to April 24, 1999. It contained 26 episodes.
The year is 2071. Humanity has reached further into space, having colonized the planets and moons of the solar system. As a result, they have left Earth uninhabited. Crime is present and runs rampant even among the stars.
The Inter Solar System Police is formed to counter these forces with the help of outlaw bounty hunters. These bounty hunters are known as “Cowboys.” The two-man crew of the spaceship Bepop is part of these “Cowboys.”
These two are Spike Spiegel, a calm and laid-back individual, and Jet Black, his spirited and pragmatic partner. They live their lives by chasing down criminals in return for bounties from the police. They are suddenly thrown off their course as they meet new people.
The crew gets larger with the addition of an extremely intelligent Welsh Corgi named Ein, a mysterious trickster with memory loss named Faye Valentine, and a child knowledgeable in computers named Edward Wong. Together, they go on even more thrilling adventures.
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
- Other Titles: Princess Mononoke
- Studio: Studio Ghibli
- Release Date: July 12, 1997
- Score: 8.69 among 662k reviews
Studio Ghibli has built a reputation for itself. That reputation is known for making anime masterpieces all across the board, be it the story, visual aesthetics, etc.
One of the anime shows that helped build that reputation is Mononoke Hime, also known as Princess Mononoke. Aired on July 12, 1997, this movie has two hours and 13 minutes of content for you to enjoy.
The story opens up with a peaceful village among the forests. However, the peace of Emishi village is disrupted as a fierce, demonic boar attacks it. Desperate to defend his tribe, the young prince Ashitaka fights the boar to death.
Yet when the boar died, the prince was cursed using its demonic powers. The curse is slowly weakening his life. The village elders advise him to travel west to cure his curse. And so, he sets off on a journey and stumbles upon Tatara, the Iron Town.
He learns that Tatara is at war. Lady Eboshi, who leads Tatara, is warring against Princess San. Tatara is destroying the forests for progress. In the eyes of the princess, it was dishonorable. The forests are sacred to the land.
Humanity’s destruction of nature brought about her rage. Caught between the conflict, Ashitaka tries to find a way to resolve the two sides. As he does, he is slowly affected by the boar’s demonic curse.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
- Genres: Avant-Garde, Drama, Action, Sci-Fi, Mecha, Psychological
- Other Titles: Shinseiki Evangelion Gekijouban: The End of Evangelion
- Studio: Gainax, Production I.G
- Release Date: July 19, 1997
- Score: 8.54 among 478k reviews
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a wonderful and amazing series. However, many felt that the ending of the series was not as good as the early episodes. The truth is, they did not have any budget during the last episodes. So, things felt a little metaphorical and symbolistic.
The creative minds behind the story decided that they were going to make a movie. It replaces episodes 25 or 26 of the original anime. If you have not watched the original series, do not watch this yet. Be sure to watch the original first, or else this would not make sense. It runs for one hour and 26 minutes.
The death of Shinji Ikari’s dear friend made him a shell of a person, and he was left emotionally comatose. Meanwhile, the race between
NERV and the shadow organization SEELE goes on. They race to who can achieve their ultimate plan first. SEELE wants to make a being of ultimate power. They want to achieve this through the fusion of the Evangelion unit and their souls. Meanwhile, Gendou, NERV’s commander, also wants a godlike being for other reasons.
Gendou’s godlike being would reunite him with his dead wife, Yui. As the conflict goes on, SEELE sends out its military forces. Their objective is to invade NERV headquarters.
When SEELE forces go deeper into NERV, Asuka Langley pilots the Evangelion Unit-02. Her actions are a desperate move to fight off SEELE. While all of this goes on, Shinji hides. Captain Misato Katsuragi is chasing time to find him. The fate of the world now rests in Shinji’s hands.
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Sports, School, Shounen
- Other Titles: N/A
- Studio: Toei Animation
- Release Date: October 16, 1993, to March 23, 1996
- Score: 8.53 among 103k reviews
Are you hungry for some sports? Slam Dunk is probably one of the most influential anime in the sports genre. It was iconic.
A lot of young adults now have probably seen this series. This was widespread in television among many countries. It has only one season with a massive 101 episodes. It aired from October 16, 1993, to March 23, 1996. It is an anime adaptation of a manga with the same name.
Hanamichi Sakuragi is a massively tall man with a short temper. His iconic feature is his red hair. He enrolls in Shohoku High with hopes of finding a girlfriend. Previously, he had been rejected 50 times in a row during middle school.
He aims to break this humiliating record. However, he finds himself being avoided. After certain events, he has concluded that he is desperate in his quest to find a girlfriend. He also tells himself that he hates basketball.
Suddenly, one fateful day, a girl with no knowledge about Sakuragi’s infamy approaches him. This girl is Haruko Akagi, and she wants him to do a slam dunk.
Immediately falling in love with her, Sakuragi obliges. Yet, he fails his shot in an attempt to impress her. Still, Haruko tells the school’s basketball team about Sakuragi’s sudden interest in basketball and impressive physical abilities. Slowly but surely, he is dragged into the friendship and comradery of the team.
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Demons, Military
- Other Titles: Kenpuu Denki Berserk; Berserk: The Chronicles of Wind Blades; Sword-Wind Chronicle Berserk
- Studio: OLM
- Release Date: October 8, 1997, to April 1, 1998
- Score: 8.52 among 259k reviews
Even today, Berserk‘s influence still shines. After the recent death of its author, Kentaro Miura, the story is put in the spotlight once again.
The manga series the anime is based on has become one of the best-selling manga series of all time. Its first season has 25 episodes which aired from October 8, 1997, to April 1, 1998. It has multiple alternative versions and even a sequel in 2016.
In the cruel world of Berserk, Guts’ only means of survival is by fighting on the battlefield. He is a young yet skilled mercenary. Every day, he risks his life to spill blood just to keep afloat. One day, he encounters a daunting group of mercenaries called the Band of the Hawk. The charismatic leader of this group is Griffith, also known as the White Hawk. He recognizes Guts and immediately recruits him into his troops.
As it turned out, Guts was a valuable asset to the team. He was powerful and skilled in the ways of the mercenary. He cements his usefulness after he takes Midland by storm.
He quickly climbs the ladder of hierarchy within the group and eventually leads the offensive faction of the group. Yet as their group of mercenaries slowly gets famous, he learns a lesson. He figures out that the world is not simply black-and-white.
- Genres: Avant-Garde, Drama, Horror, Psychological
- Other Titles: N/A
- Studio: Madhouse
- Release Date: February 28, 1998
- Score: 8.51 among 270k reviews
Perfect Blue is said to be one of the best-animated films of all time. It was all thanks to its art, direction, storytelling, and realistic depiction of a mental breakdown. It garnered a lot of praise from film festivals around the world.
It even won Best Asian Film and Best Animation Film at the Fant-Asia film festival in Montreal. This movie runs for one hour and 21 minutes. It was released on February 28, 1998.
Mima Kirigoe has been a member of a J-Pop idol group named “Cham!” for two years. Now, she wants to move on from this chapter of her life. She decides to leave the group and focus on her acting career. Some were dismayed by the decision, yet she has hopes that her fans will support her in this new career.
She takes part in a crime drama series, hoping this will move her image from the idol scene. However, her life slowly gets into disarray after leaving the group.
Pressure awaits her in her acting career. Mima and her manager Rumi Hidaka stresses out from its taxing demands.
To make matters worse, an obsessed stalker is after Mima. He is a fan of hers and is distraught when he finds out that Mima is moving on to acting. In his eyes, her innocent image is tattered by the series.
The situation worsens as she finds a website impersonating her life in detail. Soon, she cannot tell apart the fantasy she is trapped in from reality.
Yuu Yuu Hakusho
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Supernatural, Demons, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Other Titles: Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files; Ghost Fighter; Poltergeist Report
- Studio: Studio Pierrot
- Release Date: October 10, 1992, to January 7, 1995
- Score: 8.45 among 251k reviews
Yuu Yuu Hakusho is another influential anime similar to the other entries in this list. You can expect a wonderful story from this series.
Why? Because the author of this story is also the author of another brilliant show, Hunter x Hunter. This series has multiple side stories, and the show has a whopping 112 episodes. It ran for two years and a few months from October 10, 1992, to January 7, 1995.
Yuusuke Urameshi is a 14-year-old delinquent without a clear future in mind. Yet he is given one more chance as fate turns to his side. One day, he sacrifices himself by going in front of an oncoming car to save a young lad. The authorities of the spirit realm were shocked by this move. They believe that what he did was out of character for him. So, they give him one more chance in life. However, there is a catch.
He gets to live once more, but he must become a Spirit Detective. His objective is to fight away evil spirits to regain peace, and he is guided by the god of death Botan. However, he believes that he cannot do this job alone. So, he enlists the help of other individuals, namely his ex-rival Kazuma Kuwabara and two demons, Hiei and Kurama. With their forces joined together, they battle against foes who threaten the peace of society.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Genres: Avant-Garde, Drama, Action, Sci-Fi, Mecha, Psychological
- Other Titles: Shinseiki Evangelion
- Studio: Gainax, Tatsunoko Production
- Release Date: October 4, 1995, to March 27, 1996
- Score: 8.34 among 831k reviews
Neon Genesis Evangelion was so influential in Japan, it prompted a ban on anime for a while due to its graphic violence. The story it brings is fantastic and twisted in its way. Much like other titles enlisted here, it is one of the shows that introduced a lot of people into the anime landscape.
It only has one season yet has multiple alternative versions, a movie detailing a different ending, and more. The show aired from October 4, 1995, to March 27, 1996, and has 26 episodes.
A disastrous event known as the Second Impact had ruined the world. 15 years later, humanity is face-to-face to new threats. Monstrous beings from space called “Angels” have invaded Tokyo-3, and mankind is having problems defending itself from their offenses.
Still, there is hope. A mysterious organization known as NERV operates the attack against these beings using giant robots called “Evangelions.”
Led by the cold mastermind Gendou Ikari, he equips these robots with advanced military powers and protective barriers. Shinji Ikari is his son. He has been traumatized by the death of his mother and the uncaring nature of his father.
He is invited to Tokyo-3 by his father so that he can pilot a new unit, the Evangelion Unit-01. Shinji is successful in controlling this robot and defending the city. However, Gendou has hidden and dark motivations in mind.
Initial D First Stage
- Genres: Action, Drama, Sports, Cars
- Other Titles: ID
- Studio: Gallop, Studio Comet
- Release Date: April 19, 1998, to December 6, 1998
- Score: 8.30 among 140k reviews
Are you a fan of cars? Are you a fan of anime? Are you a fan of the 90s? If you answered yes to all of these three questions, then you will love Initial D First Stage.
This anime series was nominated for a lot of different awards and has won many too at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards. Overall, it has six seasons. Its first season has 26 episodes which aired from April 19, 1998, to December 6, 1998.
Takumi Fujiwara is an outlier among his friends. Cars are not of his interest, and neither is the world of street racing. Yet, he drives along the mountain of Akina to deliver tofu. Every morning, he does this as his duty being the son of a tofu shop owner.
Because of this repetitive duty every morning, talking about cars would only tire him. Unbeknownst to him, his skills in driving caught the attention of an infamous team of street racers.
This team called themselves the Akagi Red Suns, and one night, they went to the town of Akina. Upon arriving, they challenge the area for a race.
The leaders of the band, Ryousuke, and Keisuke Takahashi have a plan. They want to dominate all the racing courses in Kanto and build themselves up as the fastest within the region. They are shocked to learn that one of their skilled members got beaten by a mysterious driver up in the mountain of Akina.
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Historical, Samurai, Shounen
- Other Titles: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan; Samurai X
- Studio: Gallop, Studio Deen
- Release Date: January 10, 1996, to September 8, 1998
- Score: 8.30 among 195k reviews
For years, Rurouni Kenshin has proven itself to be a great work of art. According to various polls, they have consistently placed among the top 100 anime shows. They have been enjoyed by many teens and adults alike.
It has amassed a total of 94 episodes which aired from January 10, 1996, to September 8, 1998. It also has four side stories, an OVA sequel, and some alternative versions. Its prequel was made after this and was aired from February 20, 1999, to September 22, 1999.
During the later part of the Bakumatsu era, people feared a single individual: Hitokiri Battousai. He was a deadly and skilled assassin capable of killing his enemies without mercy. His frightful skills were no match for anyone in the entire country.
Yet one day, he disappeared as if he simply vanished out of thin air. Ten years have passed, and the land is peaceful. Still, even in these peaceful times, simply hearing his name strikes fear among the hearts of men.
However, Battousai still lives on, albeit on a different name. Now, he takes up the name of Kenshin Himura. He disappeared and left the path of bloodshed to atone for his sins.
He now vows to never kill another person ever again. He swears to himself to defend the weak. One fateful day, he encounters a kendo dojo and a girl named Kaoru Kamiya. He defends the girl from an impersonator of Battousai. She invites him to stay, and so he does.
Ghost in the Shell
- Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Mecha, Police, Psychological
- Other Titles: Koukaku Kidoutai
- Studio: Production I.G
- Release Date: November 18, 1995
- Score: 8.28 among 278k reviews
Another brilliant masterpiece is Ghost in the Shell, one of Japan’s most recognized anime films. It even was the first to reach Billboard magazine’s #1 spot in the video best-seller list. It is so influential. It served as inspiration for the creation of the hit film the Matrix.
This film is an adaptation of the manga with the same name. Some aspects are different. They compressed it, and the setting is in modern Hong Kong instead of Japan. It aired on November 18, 1995, and runs for one hour and 22 minutes.
The year is 2029. Technology has advanced so much that people can change their limbs with robotic parts. Thanks to this evolving technology, the world has become more interconnected than the previous years.
In Niihama City, they fight against corruption, terrorism, and other dangerous threats to the public using its Public Security Section 9. Among the crimes committed within the city, the strong-willed Major Motoko Kusanagi spearheads a certain case.
The case involves an enigmatic hacker with the alias “Puppet Master”. When he commits a crime, he leaves a trail of memory-wiped victims. Furthermore, almost all of this hacker’s body has been replaced by robotic parts.
As the case progresses, more factions get caught in the trouble. Section 6 themselves have been involved in the case. Meanwhile, Motoko slowly realizes that the person who has the answers to her burning questions is the master hacker himself.
Whisper of the Heart
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
- Other Titles: Mimi wo Sumaseba; If You Listen Carefully; Ghibli Movie 10
- Studio: Studio Ghibli
- Release Date: July 15, 1995
- Score: 8.22 among 155k reviews
Much like Mononoke Hime, Whisper of the Heart is its work of genius. As always, Studio Ghibli delivers yet another fine piece of art. It is so good that it became the highest-grossing Japanese movie in 1995. If you want to feel butterflies in your stomach, this one is for you.
The romance will surely convince you of its high quality. Whisper of the Heart was released on July 15, 1995, and runs for one hour and 51 minutes.
Reading and writing poetry during her spare time are Shizuku Tsukishima’s hobbies. One day, the energetic 14-year-old girl notices something weird about her library books.
A certain boy by the name of Seiji Amasawa is regularly checking them out. Filled with curiosity, she aims to find the boy with the same passion for literature. Her quest comes to an end when he encounters a weird cat on the train.
Bewildered at how the cat wound up on the train, she follows it. The cat eventually leads her to a simple antique shop.
There, she learns of a cat statuette from an old man in the shop. The cat’s name is “Baron”. While inside, she meets the boy she has been looking for. Soon, they become friends and get to know each other.
The relationship between these two teens grows stronger as the show progresses. Both of them wish to fulfill their dreams too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: The 90s anime refers to the anime shows and films released between 1990 to 1999. If you read the list, all of them are between the indicated period. 90s anime has a distinct feel to it, and it is beloved by many.
Answer: When you compare the 90s to now, our technology has advanced greatly. Back then, studios had very few resources to use. So, they must use older tech. For Studio Ghibli, much of the art is hand-drawn. Due to this, their art styles become different.
Answer: Some prefer the visual style of the 90s anime. The details of the character design were intricate, and their movement feels fluid and real. If you like the way 90s anime looks instead of modern anime, then it is not a bad thing at all. If you think it is better, it probably is because of the factors mentioned.
There are even more shows that deserve recognition as well. Yet so far, here are the 12 anime movies and series in this list:
- Cowboy Bepop
- Mononoke Hime
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
- Slam Dunk
- Kenpuu Denki Berserk
- Perfect Blue
- Yuu Yuu Hakusho
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Initial D First Stage
- Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan
- Ghost in the Shell
- Whisper of the Heart
They are very diverse in terms of genres. For instance, if you want a lot of romance, then it is best to watch Whisper of the Heart.
If you want to see some riveting action, you cannot go wrong with many in this list, such as Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Initial D, and Rurouni Kenshin. If you want some sports, you can watch Slam Dunk for basketball. Initial D is also a sports anime, albeit for car enthusiasts.