The Ace Is Yours! Although anime classics like A Certain Scientific Railgun and Rose Of Versailles are now decades old, their quality has not diminished.
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Beginning in the 1960s, the first anime series aired on television, and as with any medium, each subsequent piece had a profound impact on the work that came after it. What are the origins of the cliches that are so prevalent in romantic comedies? In the 1980s, what was shounen anime like? From whence did some of today’s most influential anime creators come?
This is an excellent show even for those who aren’t interested in the history of anime as a business. If you’re prepared to go back a few decades, you’ll find a wealth of fantastic anime that you may have missed out on otherwise.
By Tanner Fox on the 26th of January 2022, this page has been updated: There are certain classic anime that not only give viewers background for today’s practices, but also have designs that are still aesthetically appealing decades later. Time moves on and old-school anime icons that were once current classics have become must-watches for those who want to experience the whole spectrum.
1. Space Battleship Yamato (1974 – 1975)
As far as anime space operas go, the original 1974 Space Battleship Yamato is the most important. The battleship Yamato and her crew are sent into space to secure a gadget that may be able to restore Earth’s damage after humanity has been decimated by an extraterrestrial adversary’s relentless attacks.
Space Battleship Yamato, the creation of Leiji Matsumoto, is a true space opera. There are heroic acts of self-sacrifice here, as well as the inherent nobility of a single ship tasked with preserving humanity in the face of insurmountable odds.
2. Yu Yu Hakusho (1992 – 1994)
In order to experience personally the surprising impact his death has on the people he knew, street criminal Yusuke Urameshi jumps in front of an oncoming car to save a child’s life. Returning him to his body, the underworld sends an emissary to retrieve him.
However, it also showed that shonen could be more than just a compilation of overly dramatic fight scenes, as Yu Yu Hakusho did. Even now, it’s widely regarded as one of the most significant television series to launch in the early 1990s.
3. Top Wo Nerae!! Gunbuster (1988 – 1989)
As far as 1980s anime go, Gunbuster is likely to win any competition to choose the best of the decade. This one has it all: robots, training montages, and awesome sunglasses. Even if it appears to be little more than Top Gun for robots in the 1980s, the plot eventually goes to some dark places.
Gunbuster, Hideaki Anno’s first directorial effort, is also worth noting. Even if you’re not a fan of his stuff, you should absolutely check this one out. For one thing, this anime series is only six episodes long, so there’s no excuse not to give it a shot.
4. Fist Of The North Star (1984 – 1987)
Everyone who has ever made a “omae wa mou shindeiru” joke has a legal obligation to watch Fist of the North Star as punishment. This post-apocalyptic ’80s classic epitomizes the shounen manga zeitgeist of the period, which was characterized by gruesome kung-fu bouts between enormous men in a Mad Max-style wasteland.
The structure of Fist of the North Star is straightforward. Kenshiro, the protagonist, is the heir of a deadly martial arts system that he has passed down for generations. In order to rid the wasteland of evil, he employs a unique method of blowing up baddies’ skulls. This is a must-see shounen action classic, thanks to the inclusion of both antagonists and allies.
5. Speed Racer (1967 – 1968)
Speed Racer, one of the first anime series to be localized for Western audiences, is sometimes likened to Jonny Quest, one of the most significant works of children’s media from the 1960s. The series, which starred the Racer family, was recognized for its slapstick humor and its fast-paced plot.
In spite of how ridiculous it is today, there’s something appealing about Speed Racer’s original run. Despite its archaic appearance, anime lovers may find it fascinating to relive a significant moment in the genre’s history. In 2008, the Wachowski sisters directed a noteworthy live-action film adaptation of the novel.
6. Legend Of Galactic Heroes (1988 – 1997)
LoGH, which began airing in 1988, is a space epic that covers 110 episodes as well as a number of movies and side-stories. The choice of the term “epic” here is purposeful. Shifting loyalties, interplanetary politics, and exciting tactical fleet battles abound in this War and Peace-like tale.
There’s no better place to find a novel with a plethora of characters and factions than in this book. However, don’t expect the weight of interstellar conflict to come at the expense of the people, since LoGH has an exceptionally memorable ensemble of well-developed characters.
7. Urusei Yatsura (1981 – 1986)
In the worlds of anime and manga, Rumiko Takahashi can be credited for basically inventing the rom-com as we know it today. Aside from Ranma 1/2 and Inuyashi, the previous anime adaptations of her manga need to be highlighted as well.
Urusei Yatsura, a romantic comedy about a bad guy who finds himself the focus of attention from alien women, is particularly intriguing. As a result, mischief is afoot. In many ways, Urusei Yatsura is the first anime rom-com, and many of the current cliches can be traced back to this precursor.
8. Astro Boy (1963 – 1966)
After a brief run as a manga series, Astro Boy made the transition to television in 1963, becoming one of the earliest anime shows. Anime and science fiction genres were both influenced by Astro Boy, a hero story with a fairytale-like mythos and an atomic age effect.
Without Astro Boy, anime as we know it today may not be possible. Many of the medium’s greatest blockbusters owe a debt to this ’60s classic, from mecha classics like Mobile Suit Gundam to contemporary shonen staples like My Hero Academia.
9. Aim For The Ace! (1973 – 1974)
In Aim For The Ace!, an untalented tennis player rises up the ranks through the power of hard effort and determination, making it one of anime’s iconic sports storylines. Assisting in the protagonist’s demise are a ferocious coach, distant role models, and a slew of vengeful rivals.
If you’re looking for a game that’s both simple and heartfelt, Aim For The Ace! is the one for you! This is a show about how hard work pays off, and as the audience sees Hiromi’s struggle, they’ll come to believe in the process as well.
10. Future Boy Conan (1978)
In 1978, Future Boy was the name of the game. Conan is a post-apocalyptic story about a protagonist in a world where war and climate catastrophe have decimated the majority of humanity. When a mystery girl washes up on their island sanctuary, Conan’s idea that he and his grandfather are the last humans standing is shaken.
When discussing Future Boy Conan, it’s impossible to avoid bringing up the fact that Hayao Miyazaki’s now-legendary work as a director was his first credit on the series. One can clearly see the distinctive imagination and feeling of place that Ghibli films are known for in this early work. This is a must-see for anyone interested in Miyazaki or Ghibli films in general.
11. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982 – 1983)
When an alien spaceship crashes on Earth, humanity enters a new technological era. As a result, the residents of Macross are transferred light-years away and must battle to return home when an alien species attempts an invasion years later.
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross is a hybrid of huge mech animation and tense romance that helped popularize numerous characteristics of the shonen genre. This series laid the framework for the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Code Geass, both of which were based on this series’ story.
12. Mobile Suit Gundam (1979 – 1980)
The fact that Mobile Suit Gundam changed how people viewed mecha anime in the future, even if it isn’t technically the “first mecha anime,” is well-deserving of praise. It was pioneering in 1979 to use a science-fiction environment consisting of enormous robots to depict a war drama full of tragedy, action, and space politics that was amazingly grounded.
There were several hiccups in production that resulted in some shaky animation, though, and the show’s budget was limited. Despite this, the tale and characters are still enjoyable to watch decades later.
13. Ashita No Joe (1970 – 1971)
One of the most important and influential anime of all time is Ashita no Joe. With inspiration from the same-titled manga series, a boxer named Joe fights his way to popularity in this 1970 television anime series. He must also contend with society and the system in order to carve out his own place.
It’s a harrowing tale of a man’s quest to find his place in the world, and it struck a chord with Japanese audiences in the 1960s and 1970s as their country went through economic and political change. Joe is a figure who, despite his tumultuous surroundings, is able to move on on his own path for young Japanese viewers of the time.
14. Lupin the 3rd Part I (1972 – 1973)
With influences from both French and Japanese crime novels from the turn of the twentieth century, Lupin the 3rd follows a company of mercenaries led by the titular figure in search of treasure, excitement, and mystery. A detective on their trail is determined to put an end to their pranks.
Lupin the 3rd was a game-changer for anime animation at the time because of its incredibly high quality. Anime culture was also affected by Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy, two of the most successful anime series of all time.
15. Rose Of Versailles (1979 – 1980)
The epic tale of love, conflict, drama, and intrigue that is Rose of Versailles is considered by many to be Osamu Dezaki’s greatest work. It follows a diverse range of characters as the French Revolution approaches, and the anime makes excellent use of this period setting. As Paris descends even closer into chaos, the story’s characters are forced to adapt to the changing conditions.
As a result of its masterful combination of narrative drive and character development, Versailles has become a modern masterpiece. Revolutionary Girl Utena creator Kunihiko Ikuhara is one of its most prominent admirers, and it is widely considered to be one of the most important works in Japanese animation history.