The 1990s was the decade that brought anime to the wider world. It was the decade that saw the mainstreaming of one of the most beloved genres of animation. The 90s were the decade of Pokemon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. The decade was filled with iconic characters, series, and moments that have since become a staple of anime itself. The 1990s was truly an amazing time for anime.
If you’re looking to get into some great anime from the 1990s, you’ve found the right article. For the purposes of this list, we’re focusing on anime that aired between 1990 and 1999 and which have held up over the years.
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Roujin Z ( 1991 )
ROUJIN Z is a classic feature-length anime by director Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of AKIRA. Unlike AKIRA, ROUJIN Z is a comedy. An experimental computerized sick bed malfunctions and goes on a rampage through Tokyo with an invalid old man aboard. (Roujin means old man in Japanese.) The out-of-control atomic-powered bed adds other machines to itself and grows to gigantic proportions. (much like Tetsuo’s out-of-control body in AKIRA.) There’s plenty of action and laughs with teens in trouble, bumbling bureaucrats, and giant fighting robots.
Roujin Z is a futuristic, satirically funny morality tale written by the renowned Otomo Katsuhiro, more well known for the classic manga and anime Akira. The movie was directed by Kitakubo Hiroyuki (Blood: The Last Vampire, Black Magic M-66) and received a great degree of critical acclaim, partly because it was written by Otomo Katsuhiro, but mainly because it was a movie that showed how anime was able to deal with themes that conventional filmmakers would find extremely difficult to cope with, especially given the time of its release.
Great Teacher Onizuka ( 1999 )
Twenty-two-year-old Eikichi Onizuka—ex-biker gang leader, conqueror of Shonan, and virgin—has a dream: to become the greatest high school teacher in all of Japan. This isn’t because of a passion for teaching, but because he wants a loving teenage wife when he’s old and gray. Still, for a perverted, greedy, and lazy delinquent, there is more to Onizuka than meets the eye. So when he lands a job as the homeroom teacher of Class 3-4 at the prestigious Holy Forest Academy—despite suplexing the Vice Principal—all of his talents are put to the test, as this class is particularly infamous.
With 43 episodes, GTO is filled with the perfect mix between amazing comedy and emotional moments and everything in between. The show is dated, but it hasn’t lost any of its charm.
Serial Experiments Lain ( 1998 )
Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide.
Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another.
Strange men called the Men in Black to begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.
Serial Experiments Lain is a truly unique piece of anime. Everything from its narrative style to the art direction is phenomenal, and it’s easily one of the best and boldest anime series out there.
Berserk ( 1997 )
Berserk is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. Set in a medieval Europe-inspired dark fantasy world, the story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the “Band of the Hawk.”
Setting out on a dreadful quest riddled with misfortune, Guts, armed with a massive sword and monstrous strength, will let nothing stop him, not even death itself until he is finally able to take the head of the one who stripped him—and his loved one—of their humanity.
Berserk is another classic anime you should watch—an adaptation of an amazing manga of the same name. Berserk is truly one of the most powerful anime series of the decade. It tells a harsh story with brilliant character writing intention. We definitely recommend this one over the movie.
Check Out: 14 Gruesome Anime Like Berserk
Cowboy Bebop ( 1998 )
In 2071, the accidental explosion of an experimental gate device that allows for hyperspace travel seriously damages the Moon, causing a drift of a swarm of meteorites and asteroids to bombard the surface of the planet Earth, wiping out much of the population.
As new generations grew up with no memories of the Earth, and ethnic groups and nations gave way to planetary allegiances.
The increase in criminal activity established a “Bounty Reward Scheme” similar to the Wild West. Bounty hunters are often called “Cowboys.”
Cowboy Bebop has aged beautifully over the years and has remained one of the must-watch anime of all time. With a combination of an amazing blend of directing and visual styles Cowboy Bebop is one of the biggest anime that struck a chord with American viewers.
Trigun ( 1998 )
The main protagonist Vash Stampede, A man with a $60,000,000,000 bounty on his head because of his actions that lays waste to all those that oppose him and ravages entire cities for fun, bestowing him the title “The Human Typhoon.”
If you enjoyed Cowboy Bebop, then I’m sure you will enjoy Trigun. It blends multiple genres to create a unique anime. It’s not as hard-hitting as Cowboy Bebop, but it does have its fair share of serious moments.
Neon Genesis Evangelion ( 1995 )
In the year 2015, the world stands on the brink of destruction. Humanity’s last hope lies in the hands of Nerv, a special agency under the United Nations, and their Evangelions, giant machines capable of defeating the Angels who herald Earth’s ruin. Gendou Ikari, head of the organization, seeks compatible pilots who can synchronize with the Evangelions and realize their true potential. Aiding in this defensive endeavor are talented personnel Misato Katsuragi, Head of Tactical Operations, and Ritsuko Akagi, Chief Scientist.
Possibly one of the most talked-about anime series of all time. Neon Genesis Evangelion was incredibly innovative for its time and still is today. It almost single-handedly saved the anime industry and sparked a whole artistic movement of anime. With an amazing combination of great storytelling and character development that bounces off each other is satisfying to watch.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is an anime series every anime fan should watch before calling themselves an anime fan. It showcases a unique experience regardless of your age and taste.
Ghost In The Shell ( 1995 )
Primarily set in the mid-twenty-first century in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture, otherwise known as New Port City, the manga and the many anime adaptations follow the members of Public Security Section 9, a task-force consisting of various professionals at solving and preventing crime, mostly with some sort of police background. Political intrigue and counter-terrorism operations are standard fares for Section 9, but the various actions of corrupt officials, companies, and cyber-criminals in each scenario are unique and require the diverse skills of Section 9’s staff to prevent a series of incidents from escalating.
The main character of Ghost in the Shell, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is such a cyborg, having had a terrible accident befall her as a child that ultimately required her to use a full-body prosthesis to house her cyberbrain. This high level of cyberization, however, opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who will hack a person to bend to their whims.
Ghost in the shell is one of the smartest movies ever made. It’s got an amazing mixture of some of the best dialogue in anime and best action scenes. Another must-watch piece that any anime fan should watch.
It mixes philosophical content with some awesome sci-fi action scenes and an out-of-this-world environment.
It will continue to remain as one of the greatest Japanese animation pieces ever released
Our Final Thoughts
The ’90s was a time of great change. While music and fashion have certainly evolved since then, there’s no denying that the 90’s had their own flare. For anime fans, this was a time when a lot of the best titles were released.
The 1990s was a time of anime that stirred the imagination and probably influenced the many great anime shows and movies being created today. Since the anime canon is so extensive, this list is by no means all-inclusive. (If we missed something good, be sure to let us know in the comments!)
it is important to remember that our opinions are only our opinions. If you have a different opinion that is fine, and we encourage you to share it in the comments.