30 Of The Best 80’s Anime You Need To Watch Today


It’s not easy to be an anime lover in this day and age. You have people trying to tell you that Japan doesn’t make good cartoons anymore, parents who are terrified of your hobby, the kids at school who stare at you like you’re some kind of freak. But anime has a rich history and is a very entertaining way to teach values and impart lessons.

Many people consider the ’80s to be the golden age of anime. Then, Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation, J.C. Staff, and Daicon Films (now Gainax) were founded, and producers began making films of a more diverse range of genres. The 80s were the heyday of anime. These were quirky characters with fun stories that often turned out to be action-packed. Let’s take a look at some of these classics that are worth revisiting!

Dragon Ball

An anime adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, it covers the adventures of Gokuu Son, a boy living in the woods all by himself until he meets a girl named Bulma seeking a set of magical items called Dragon Balls. Bulma hopes to collect all seven artifacts and wish for a perfect boyfriend since they grant one wish to whoever collects all seven. Bulma knows that Gokuu has a dragon ball, but he refuses to part with it, so she offers him a deal: if he lets her borrow the power of the dragon ball, he can accompany her on her journey. As a result, they set out on a lifetime journey.

The journey isn’t a solo endeavor. During their journey, they meet Muten-Roshi and his wannabe disciple Kuririn, who help Gokuu become a stronger martial artist in preparation for the upcoming World Martial Arts Tournament. In any case, it is not all fun and games; the ability to grant wishes is powerful, and there are plenty of people who would do far worse than just wish for a boyfriend. They train to become stronger fighters so that those who would abuse the power will not be able to take advantage of it. They also use their newly found strength to help those around them along the way. 

Check Out: 22 Of The Best Anime Duos Of All Time

Ginga Hyouryuu Vifam (Space Castaways Vifam)

ginga hyouryuu vifam space castaways vifam best 80s anime

Originally broadcast in 1983, this anime has 46 episodes. Also, it was one of the first animes to feature mecha characters. This original anime was produced by Studio Sunrise and directed by Kanda Takeyuki. The aliens suddenly raided the 3rd planet of the Ypserlon system, which is 43 light-years from EarthEarth, in 2058. The emigrants had to leave the planet. Children were separated from their parents during the escape and ended up in Janous, the training spaceship. Despite many sacrifices, they managed to reach the fourth planet, Belwick. Belwick, however, had already been at war. As a consequence, the 13 children travelled to EarthEarth on their own. 


touch best 80s anime

The three main characters of the story are Uesugi Kazuya, his twin older brother Tatsuya, and Asakura Minami. Kazuya is known as one of the most talented and hardworking middle school baseball players in his town. As a slacker, Toshiya has resigned himself to this life of letting Kazuya have the spotlight, despite the fact that Toshiya may be more gifted than Kazuya. Minami is the kind and beautiful childhood friend who, for all intents and purposes, is the sister from next door that treats both of them equally.

Tatsuya, as well as the public, generally believe Kazuya and Minami will be a perfect couple. Yet, as time goes on, Tatsuya realizes he is willing to give up anything for his brother, except to lose Minami to Kazuya. As a result, the story tells of the struggle between Tatsuya and his younger brother, as well as how the siblings are trying to fulfill Minami’s dreams.

Check Out: 30 Of The Best Sports Anime Of All Time 

Captain Tsubasa

Captian Tsubasa tells the story of a young boy obsessed with soccer whose life revolves almost entirely around it. Despite being mainly just a recreational sport for his friends, Tsubasa Oozora developed a deep passion for the sport when he was just 11 years old.

For Tsubasa to fulfill his dream at the highest level, his mother moves the family to Nankatsu, a city renowned for its excellent elementary school soccer teams. While Nankatsu may have been the best in his old neighborhood, he faces a bunch of new competition, so he has to make sure that he stands out among this new group.

In addition to rivals, Tsubasa meets new friends, such as Sanae Nakazawa and Genzo Wakabayashi, a goalkeeper who shares the same passion as him and will help him pursue his dreams. Tsubasa’s dream is to represent Japan at the FIFA World Cup, but it will take more than talent to make it happen.

Check Out: Best Anime Every Year From 1960s To 202 

Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac

saint seiya knights of the zodiac best 80s anime

In the classic anime from Toei Animation, men from ancient times dedicated their lives to protecting Athena, the Goddess of War and Wisdom. With just a swing of their fist, these men were able to rip through the sky and shatter the ground beneath them. Since they could summon the power of the Cosmos, these brave heroes became known as Saints.

In the present day, a new generation of Saints is about to emerge. Seiya has a tough fight ahead of him to acquire the Sacred Armor of Pegasus, and he isn’t about to let anything stand between him and his goal. The hard work and training he has put into becoming one of the Saints of Athena pays off with his victory and title. Seiya’s undertaking doesn’t end there, however. Throughout the series, he and the Saints face plenty of perils and dangerous enemies.  

Wicked City

wicked city best 80s anime

This stylish eroticism and graphic horror action thriller anime is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, adapted from the work of Hideyuki Kikuchi and published by Tokuma Shoten. In Wicked City, there is a familiar world called EarthEarth, as well as a parallel dimension known only to very few people as the Black World.

In order to remain in relative harmony, we must establish, renegotiate, and renew the pact between the two worlds that has been in place for centuries. It appears that this time, a militant faction is fighting tooth and nail to prevent another treaty for interdimensional peace from being signed. Keeping the balance between the two worlds is the responsibility of two agents of the elite organization known as the Black Guard. 


bocchan best 80s anime

During Botchan’s first teaching job, he has no idea what he will have to face. He has to deal with nosy students and a landlord who is constantly trying to sell him useless antiques. Taking a fishing trip to lift his spirits, Botchan becomes suspicious of Hotta, his one friend in the village.

He now faces a number of problems following a meeting to discuss the students’ lack of respect towards Botchan; the proposed punishment is surprisingly light considering the severity of the offense. Yet Botchan’s supposed adversary defends him! What was the truth about Hotta? Soon Botchan will arrive at the truth, as evidence of the dean’s activities will surface, and he and Hotta must work together to corner the dean in the midst of his own scandal! 

Dirty Pair

dirty pair best 80s anime

The protagonist of our show is a pair of gals, who have an 80s tone and vibe. They’re also known as the Dirty Pair for being notorious trouble consultants that break stuff more than they fix it. It’s a fun and silly cop show you would expect in the 80s. 

Vampire Hunter D

vampire hunter d best anime like berserk

In the years following its release, Vampire Hunter D became known as a cult classic, partly because it was among the first anime films to be released in the United States during the early ’90s. It was a direct anime adaptation of the source material, the Vampire Hunter D novel, published only two years prior. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed farm girl named Doris Lang hires the vampire hunter to kill the vampire noble who bit her and attacked her. Similarly to Marvel’s Blade, D is a half-blooded vampire with few of the usual vampire vulnerabilities.

Forbes reports that Vampire Hunter D was deemed a major success upon release. With its combination of sci-fi and high fantasy settings, the film was a hit everywhere, and people still talk about it today. The macabre classic was revisited by Bloody Disgusting in 2019, which declared it “delightful” for its combination of “cheese and gore”. Vampire Hunter D’s world is truly unique, the horror website noted, from D’s robotic horse to Gothic castles to beings with psychic abilities. One can enjoy the 1985 film without having an in-depth knowledge of the series.

Check Out: Top 20 Vampire Anime Of All Time 

Maison Ikkoku

maison ikkoku best 80s anime

The old boarding house, Maison Ikkoku, is located in the town of Clock Hill. Even though the home is pretty normal, many of its residents aren’t. Yuusaku Godai, the oldest and quietest tenant, has now reached his limit due to his neighbors’ constant partying and disruptions. He prepares to move away, seeking a quieter place to live so that he can spend time studying.

As he makes plans to leave, he is suddenly interrupted by Kyoko Otonashi, the new manager of the boarding house. Affectionately falling in love with her, he realizes that the boarding house may not be such a bad place after all. Unfortunately for him, Kyoko also has trouble in the romantic department: She is a widow whose husband died six months after their marriage. She believes no other man can ever fill the void left by her husband, despite her blossoming feelings for Godai. Nevertheless, Godai’s perseverance and the other eccentric tenants have the potential to help her experience love once again. 

Glass Mask

glass mask best 80s anime

The reclusive actress Tsukikage discovered 13-year-old Kitajima Maya, who had a natural talent for acting. Throughout the story, Maya grows up, undergoes intense training, overcomes challenges, and ultimately blossoms into one of the most renowned actresses of her generation (she is almost 20). Maya’s greatest rival is the beautiful daughter of a well-known movie couple, Himekawa Ayumi. Ultimately, they vied for the most coveted role – the “Crimson Goddess”. A separate subplot revolves around Maya’s relationship with Hayami Masumi, an entertainment mogul who became a secret fan of hers, but misunderstandings and bad timing stalled their romance.

Check Out: 41 Of The Best Shoujo Anime Of All Time: From The 70’s To The Present 

Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise

royal space forcethe wings of honneamise best 80s anime

A classic anime film from 1987. This film was directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga and animated by Studio Gainax. This story is about Shirotsugh “Shiro” Lhadatt, a man who has dreamed of flying jets in the Royal Air Force of Honneamise. However, he failed to meet the required grade point average. The Space Force is a pretty obscure organization, however. After his failure, he is no longer interested in this training.

Then he meets Riquinni Nonderaiko, a young and ambitious woman with a talent for exploring space and seeking the knowledge of its limits. Following their meeting, Shiro realizes he has a new purpose in life and thus begins the journey of Shiro to Space. Unfortunately, the government has set up various obstacles in his way. Is he going to make it through this? A military and space-themed inspirational movie. This movie will certainly please you if you enjoy these themes.

Check Out: 18 Of The Best Space Themed Anime For Your Inner Geek 

Kiki’s Delivery Service

kikis delivery service best anime movies

Witch-in-training Kiki, 13, must spend a year by herself in a faraway town before she is able to become a real witch. Atop the broomstick she rides with her black cat Jiji, Kiki leaves her family and friends and ventures out into the open world.

Kiki struggles to adapt to life in the coastal town of Koriko. She wanders the streets and is desperate for shelter until she meets Osono, who offers her accommodation in exchange for doing deliveries for her small bakery. In no time at all, Kiki starts her own broomstick courier service, making her one step closer to independence. Kiki learns the meaning of responsibility as she struggles to find her place among the townspeople. An anime adaptation of a novel is Kiki’s Delivery Service. Director Hayao Miyazaki directed the anime back in 1989.

Check Out: 21 of The Best Anime for Kids 

Kimagure Orange Road

kimagure orange road best 80s anime

After moving to a new city, Kyousuke Kasuga falls in love with Madoka Ayukawa, but she treats him coldly even though she was friendly when he caught her red straw hat on the stairs their first time meeting. In addition, Yousuke must attempt to avoid breaking the heart of Hikaru Hiyama, who became infatuated with him after watching him make an impossible shot with a basketball and who loves to shower him with affection. As an added twist, Kyousuke, his sisters, his grandfather, and his cousins all possess diverse abilities (teleportation, hypnosis, time travel, personality transference), which the rest of his family cannot resist using in public. 

The Mysterious Cities of Gold

the mysterious cities of gold best 80s anime

A 12-year-old foundling, Esteban is called the “Child of the Sun” because he has the mysterious power to order the Sun to appear. When Esteban’s adoptive father dies, he discovers he was saved from a sinking ship when he was a baby. Apparently, Esteban’s mysterious medallion traces back to a city in the New World called Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Esteban leaves Spain in search of his parents and to discover his identity. He meets Zia on the way, who, years ago, was kidnapped from her people and possesses the same medallion as him. Eventually, Tao, a robinson from the Galapagos, joins them. Tao is a descendant of the Heva Empire, the empire that built the Cities of Gold. They travel to the new world following Coyolite, the shining star symbolized by the medallions, believing that this path will lead them to their lost parents. 

Urusei Yatsura

urusei yatsura

There isn’t much to discuss about the lecherous Ataru Moroboshi, except his extraordinary bad luck. During an invasion of aliens known as the Oni, Ataru is picked to represent humanity against one of them. A stroke of good fortune for Ataru finds him engaged in a tag game with Lum, the daughter of the Oni’s leader, who places her pride above victory-as Ataru discovers after securing Lum’s bikini top and thriving with its victory.

Nevertheless, misfortune strikes once again when Lum mistakenly interprets Ataru’s offer to marry his girlfriend, Shinobu Miyake, as a wish for her to marry him. The alien princess uses her influence to move in with him. Ataru is forced to confront the consequences of womanizing while keeping Lum happy and must balance the crumbling relationship with Shinobu while also flirting with other women.

Check Out: What Is Harem Anime: What You Need To Know About This Anime Genre 

Sakigake!! Otokojuku

sakigake otokojuku best 80s anime

Originally broadcast in 1988, the series consisted of 34 episodes. The anime adaptation of the manga follows the same plot. The author and illustrator of the manga is Miyashita Akira. The private school Ottojuku educates juvenile delinquents. Having been expelled from the normal schools, these people end up here. This school teaches Japanese Chivalry using feudal and military principles. As shown in a lot of movies, the classes are filled with violence and brute force. Those who surpass these things are considered true men. Check out this series if you like action comedies with great fights. 

Barefoot Gen

barefoot gen best 80s anime

This historical drama might be of interest to those who like historical dramas. The anime version of Barefoot Gen aired in 1983. Nakazawa Keiji wrote and illustrated the manga. The movie is by the animation studio Madhouse. The story is based on the war between Japan and the U.S. at the time.

We see our protagonist, Gen, doing everything possible to make sure his family survives. He, along with his pregnant mother, is malnourished as a result of food scarcity. During these tough economic times, Shinji and Gen in Hiroshima must work hard to provide for their families. Nevertheless, his life is likely to undergo a major change in the coming days, as Hiroshima will suffer its unfortunate fate.

A Mainichi Film Awards honor presented to this film in 1983 was the Oufuji Noburou Award. Those who enjoy drama should watch this movie due to its compelling award and realistic expression. 

Angel’s Egg

angels egg best 80s anime

Tenshi no Tamago’s surrealist world is atmospherically desolate and devoid of traditional daily life. We are instead faced with ominous phenomena like floating orbs decorated with figures of goddesses, gargantuan army tanks that seem unmanned, armies of fishermen who pursue phantom fish, and glass-enclosed caverns.

One young girl is caring for a large egg in this rundown world and scavenging for food and drink. She meets a mysterious man with a cross on his shoulder, who becomes intrigued by her and what she is carrying. In addition to exploring the lost and broken landscape together, they both wonder about their lives and the meaning of faith. 

Armor Hunter Mellowlink

armor hunter mellowlink best 80s anime

Here we have Armor Hunter Mellowlink, another anime about mecha. The original 12 episodes of this Original Video Animations series aired back in 1988. Kanda Takeyuki directed the series, and Shinichiro Watanabe directed the episodes. The story revolves around Mellowlink Arity, who is the sole survivor of a squad.

A squad of these men were sacrificed and killed as scapegoats. The goal was to conserve resources for the 100-year war. The idea of vengeance drives Mellowlink to swear vengeance upon every police officer who has betrayed his comrades. He may uncover the real reason behind this plot on this revenge mission. Mecha anime explores itself really well with a serious tone. Take a look if it sparks your interest. 


akira anime like tokyo revengers

If you’re looking for something really revolutionary, maybe you should check out the movie Akira. Originally broadcast in 1988, this movie lasted for two hours. This anime is an adaptation of the manga written by and illustrated by Otomo Katsuhiro. After winning the 1992 Silver Scream Award, Akira was nominated for 2007’s American Anime Awards for Best Anime Feature. This movie remains a favorite among critics and audiences today. Consequently, if you are emotionally attached to classics, Akira is a movie you can’t miss right now.

1988 in Japan. As a result of an explosion caused by a young boy with psychic abilities, World War III is ignited, and the young boy is captured to prevent any further damage. Currently, in the year 2019, a rebuilt version of Neo-Tokyo stands in its place — a region filled with gang violence and terrorism directed against the current government. A group of misfits referred to as “the Capsules” ride large, custom motorcycles and are constantly at odds with their rivals, “the Clowns.” Shoutarou Kaneda is the leader of the group.

During one of the battles, Shoutarou’s closest friend Tetsuo Shima encounters a recently escaped esper who has been living in the streets of Tokyo since having escaped confinement from a government institution. This encounter leads Tetsuo to develop his own mysterious abilities. Meanwhile, the government tries to quarantine this latest psychic in a desperate attempt to prevent him from releasing the destructive force that could once again bring the city to its knees.

Check Out: 13 Anime Like Tokyo Revengers 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

legend of galactic heroes 18 of the best space themed anime for your inner geek

Ladies and gentlemen, another classic movie is on its way. This is indeed the Legend Of The Galactic Heroes. In 1988, Legend Of The Galactic Heroes was released as an OVA series of 110 episodes. Based on the same-named novel by Tanaka Yoshiki, illustrated by Katou Naoyuki and Kamoshita Yukihisa.

This story is centered on two organizations: the Empire of the Galactic and the Free Planets Alliance. As a result of the new generation of leaders, the war between these organizations has finally come to an end. During his rise to power in the Galactic Empire, Reinhard von Lohengramm held the belief that humanity should have one ruler. Yang Wenli argues, however, that democracy is the ideal way to rule, while aristocracy is not.

Each of these two geniuses needs to know the true reason for all this chaos and war when their ideologies clash. A critically acclaimed series, Legend Of The Galactic Heroes is known for its extraordinary storylines. Both critics and casual viewers appreciate it. In addition, MyAnimeList ranks it at #6. In other words, if this series has been on your watchlist for a while, I think now would be a great time to watch it.

Check Out: 13 Must Watch Anime If You Love Irregular At Magic High School 

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

mobile suit zeta gundam best 80s anime

Gundam is a classic mecha franchise. 1985 marked the first year of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, a television series that aired for 50 episodes. The anime is directed by Tomino Yoshiyuki and animated by Studio Sunrise. In the story, the year is 0087 in the Universal Century. Finally, the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon is over. As a result, EarthEarth has formed an elite task force called the Titans to eliminate the rest of the Zeons. It backfires, though, and another group emerges.

They are known as the Anti-Earth Union Group. In addition to attacking a Titan Officer, Kamille Bidan also steals a Gundam. He becomes involved in some very painful conflicts as a consequence of these acts. Mecha franchises like Gundam have always held a lot of promise. For those of you who want to enjoy some of their works from the 1980s, this series is a must-see. 

Grave of the Fireflies

grave of the fireflies a top 20 list of the best drama anime for your viewing pleasure

Directed by Isao Takahata, the film is an adaptation of Akiyuki Nosaka’s book: Grave of the Fireflies that tells the story of two siblings during the closing stages of the Second World War in Kobe, Japan. Early in the movie, their mother succumbs to burns suffered during an air raid, and later in the movie, they learn that their naval captain father is probably at the bottom of the ocean with most of the Japanese fleet. At the beginning of the movie, Seita and his sister, Setsuko, struggle to stay alive, but by this time, the audience knows there is no hope. At the beginning of the film, Seita dies from starvation and joins his sister’s spirit before jumping back in time.

Check OUt: A Top 20 List of The Best Drama Anime for Your Viewing Pleasure 

Fist of the North Star

fist of the north star best anime like berserk

‘Omae Wa Mou Shinderu’! Being a fan of Japanese animation, I’m sure you’ve heard this at least once. Maybe even a million times. What is the origin of this phrase? It is from a true classic series called Fist of the North Star. A 109-episode T.V. series aired in 1984. This anime was adapted from a manga named the same.

Originally written by Buronson and illustrated by Hara Tetsuo, the story takes place in the year 199X, the EarthEarth has been wiped out by nuclear war. Currently, most species on the planet are extinct, the seas have dried up, and the land has cracked. Yet, humanity still struggles in a world without civilization or a system.

Strong people rule the weak, and food & water are of greatest value. In this hellish world, Kenshirou, a mysterious man with a deadly martial art, appears. Will a man like this be able to save the weak in a world where justice is never served properly? When the series first came out, it was really well received by the western audience, and it is still talked about today. Watch this series if you want to enjoy some original classic shounen.

Check Out: Best Martial Arts Anime Of All Time 

Space Adventure Cobra

space adventure cobra best 80s anime

Space Adventure Cobra is another space adventure series from 1982. The 1hr 40min movie is based on a manga by Terasawa Buichi titled Cobra. The story focuses on a notorious space pirate known as Cobra. The bounty hunter Jane has enlisted Cobra’s help. He is asked to save Jane’s sister from a strange entity named Crystal Boy. When Cobra gets involved in this, he is unexpectedly entangled in something else. Suddenly, he has to decide what will become of the wandering planets. Where does his destiny lead him? Add this to your never-ending watchlist if you love sci-fi and space pirates. 

Patlabor The Movie

patlabor the movie

The release of Patlabor: The Mobile Police in 1989 was followed by Kidou Keisatsu Patlabor the Movie. Director Oshii Mamoru created a work of original art for this movie. The story centers around Metropolitan Police Division 2. Their mission is to find out why the laborers in Tokyo are going berserk. Yet, despite such an ongoing issue, most people are focused on the Babylon Project. For some reason, the architect took his own life. In the midst of such chaos, can the Metropolitan Police Department deal with berserk laborers? There is a lot of technology in the series, as well as an interesting plotline. 


daicon best 80s anime

There’s something interesting about this entry. We have Daicon’s opening animations. Both of these special episodes originally aired in 1981. The animation was done by Studio Gainax and directed by Yamaga Hiroyuki. It involves an unnamed girl who has been trusted with a glass of water.

The glass and water were for a radish. There are, however, numerous fictional beings involved in this simple task, such as lizardmen, mecha, etc. She is in a dangerous situation! Will she survive? The next episode will be about the same girl as a young adult. Using her lightsaber, she fights monsters across the galaxy and saves the day. The Daicon III and IV were conceived as a grand tribute to science fiction. I see no reason why you shouldn’t watch it if you are a fan of this genre. 

My Neighbor Totoro

my neighbor totoro best anime movies

The story follows two sisters who’ve just moved to the country to be closer to the clinic treating their mother. The girls grow accustomed to rural life when they encounter a bunny-like creature in the yard. As she chases it into the forest, she encounters “Totoro” – a gigantic tree spirit. Satsuki soon meets Totoro, too, and the two girls soon get sucked into a magical world full of woodland creatures and adventures in nature.

The announcement that Miyazaki was to make a 1950s-set film about two girls and a forest spirit named Totoro reportedly alarmed investors, but the film (and the character) would come to define Studio Ghibli for decades to come.

Check Out: 40 Best Anime for Beginners By Genre & Type Of Anime

Castle in the Sky

castle in the sky best shoujo anime from 70s to today

Here’s another Ghibli movie that’s achieved a high ranking. We are now discussing Castle In The Sky. In 1986, Castle In The Sky aired as an original romance movie. The film was directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It tells the story of Sheeta, a girl who is kidnapped by the government for her crystal amulet.

Sheeta escapes the kidnapping through a hijacked airship set in motion by pirates. She meets Pazu shortly after escaping. Pazu is dreaming of the flying castle Laputa, and Sheeta will join him in his dream. Sheeta and Pazu have now begun their journey to reach the castle in the sky that brought them together. It won the 1986 Animage Anime Grand Prix. Another fantastic Disney movie from Japan. The video should be at the top of your watchlist if it isn’t already.

We’ve narrowed it down to 30, but there are so many more retro and classic anime out there. If we missed your favorite show, let us know in the comments section below! What’s your favorite 80s anime?

Written by Charlie

I've watched a lot of anime in my days, but that doesn't stop me from watching more. Whether it be new or old, I'll give it a run-through and tell you what I think about it. We're currently living in the golden age of anime with so many great shows out there to watch.

Some are better than others for sure, but they're all worth checking out at least once. My beautiful daughters also love watching animes...well not as much as their dad does!

Anime Like Hero Return (Yingxiong Z...
Anime Like Hero Return (Yingxiong Zai Lin)