The era of 24 frames per second. It was a real special time for everyone. We millennials and gen z were growing up and having a very different kind of fun. Be it outdoor or indoor, food and clothing. Entertainment in those times differed greatly from what generation x grew up with.
The anime of the 1980s were made with such quintessential shounen troupes, that there hasn’t been a kid who grew up watching the anime who hasn’t yelled “Kamehameha” or said “Omae Wa mo Shindeiru” and “Pikachu I choose you”.
Best 1980s anime to watch:
The 80s was not a time where there were many slices of life or anime that were too emotional in the genre spectrum. But that was a boon in disguise in hindsight. Some of the greatest minds of anime movie-making found this absence and went on to take on some of the best movies ranging from end to end on the genre spectrum.
So the period was definitely a bridge that transcended the world of anime into something new, for the better of course.
There is so much to see in the anime produced during those times, the drawing, the colors, the consistency, and in the case of some anime, the never-ending plot [ What!!?? None of us are complaining here].
Bearing in mind the nostalgic times of our past, let us take a trip down memory lane and revisit the anime that we rewatched the countless number of times with the same smile and satisfaction in our hearts.
15. Dr. Slump: Arale Chan
Studio: Toei Animation
Number of Episodes: 243
Released on: 8 April 1981
Filled with deadpan humor with more than a dash of toilet humor, we begin our list of best 80s anime with Dr. Slump: Arale-chan. The anime tells the story of a genius scientist Senbei Norimaki who creates the perfect android named Arale Norimaki whom he considers to be his daughter too.
Like how Professor Utonium made the happy mistake of dropping Chemical X while making the Powerpuff girls, Professor Norimaki also made some errors while making Arale that could not be considered so happy.
Set in the penguin village, the manga is the telling of the (mis)adventures of Arale. While she is the most powerful in the series (probably more so than Goku. There I Said it), she is the most naive and clueless person in the world. The anime also has so many different elements that are taken from real life and portrayed in a hilariously funny way. Watch the show to find out.
14. Gunbuster (Top wo Nerae)
Number of episodes: 6
Released date: 7 October 1988
From the creator of the Neon-Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno, we have the 6 part OVA as the second title of the list – Gunbuster/Top wo Nerae. Set in the future, the sci-fi anime tells the story of the selection of battle-suit-worthy candidates who will man the RX-7 in the battle of humanity versus the space monsters.
While Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered to be an iconic anime, one can also argue that the anime would not have existed in the first place if it wasn’t for Top wo Nerae.
There are so many elements that Hideaki has adopted from Top wo Neare, and so many influences from American movies too. With its beautiful story, fast-paced fights, and incredible animation, Neon Genesis Fan or not, people should watch Gunbuster for themselves. It definitely is one of the top anime from the 1980s.
13. Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Studio: Nippon Sunrise
Number of Episodes: 52
Released Date: 1 April 1983
Next up on the list is yet another mecha anime that is considered to be the best ‘realistic mecha’ anime of all time. Directed by Ryosuke Takahashi and written by the duo Soji Yashakawa and Jinzo Toriumi, this anime was years ahead of the Gundam series.
The series is very well known and loved in the community for the realism that is portrayed through the series – be it the simplistic yet real story, or the design of the mecha which is so true to the robots that we know and love. The four part anthology series tells different stories – some connected, some not with a constant backdrop of the mech, robots, and utilization of robots in warfare.
There is no a single instance where the robots achieve god-level transcendence and become something huge than the big bang itself (you know what I mean). Even though it’s a show featuring robots, somewhere, the creators were able to keep the essence of life in the series, making it one of the top recommended mecha series of all time.
12. Captain Tsubasa
Studio: Tsuchida Production
Number of Episodes: 128
Released Date: 13 October 1983
The OG Blue Lock. Captain Tsubasa is also a football-related sports anime from the 1980s that evokes a lot of emotions from soccer fans all around the world who grew up watching it.
The story is on the life of Tsubasa Oozara, a football prodigy in his town who goes to a bigger city to get formal training with hopes of playing at FIFA. Upon arriving, Tsubasa learns that the world is vast and there are so many players who are better than him and he has to outperform them to be the best.
Captain Tsubasa is not widely known for its great story or animation, in fact I’ll go on a limb and say that it’s okay at the best.
But man the anime invokes such nostalgia, especially in the European countries where the anime has a massive following. So many soccer/football players are fans of it, and some even say they started to play the sport after watching the anime. If you love Blue Lock, go ahead and watch Captain Tsubasa, you’ll like it.
11. Saint Seiya
Studio: Toei Animation
Number of Episodes: 114
Released Date: 11 October 1986
Saint Seiya is that one anime that everybody has seen somewhere or the other, but can’t quite place their finger on, unfortunately. Coming in at 11, the longest-running series out of the above four, Saint Seiya is the telling of the story of protectors of humanity who swear their allegiance to Goddess Athena.
The main character is ‘Seiya’ who dreams to be a part of the knights that protect humanity in the name of Athena from the onslaught of other Gods. The knights have a unique power system called ‘cosmos’ even before the idea of a particular unique power became very popular in the Big 3, which came in the following years.
Seiya was one of the first to have fit into the quintessential shonen troupe of a bright, cheery, idealistic protagonist who sees the inherent good in everybody. Saint Seiya became very popular in Latin American countries than in Japan, where there is an ardent following for the anime even now.
The anime might not appeal to this era of fast-paced, insane animation – but this was one of the anime that started everything that you know and love today. For those who are familiar with it, Saint Seiya’s status as one of the best 80s anime is unchallenged.
Studio: Tatsunoko Production
Number of Episodes: 36
Release Date: 3 October 1983
Subverting all the known anime troupes and flying itself into number 10 on the list is Macross – the mecha anime that aired right after Gundam finished airing. Macross had pretty big shoes to fill, and boy it did deliver.
The anime is a sci-fi series that begins when an alien ship crash lands on earth. The scientists reverse engineer the spacecraft, only for it to cause an Intergalactic war; with Humanity coming under the banner of the United Nations against a space race.
Thrown into the midst of this is Hikaru Ichijou, a pilot, and Minmay Linn, an aspiring singer. Despite being a space/mecha-themed anime, concepts of humanity like love, and empathy play a vital role in the anime which is in contrast to Gundam where technology is everything.
I called the anime subverting tropes as the characters are so easy to relate with, be it the average MC or the genius who is not cold and collected, but a cool guy who is approachable, something that anime even today don’t follow. The music is great, the fights are great, and if you like something along the lines of Mecha, go ahead and watch it. You’ll not be disappointed.
9. Kimagure Orange Road
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Number of Episodes: 48
Released Date: 6 April 1987
Cited as the anime that introduced Europe to the world of Japanese animation, Kimagure Orange Road is a beautiful romance anime that tells the story of an esper kid Kyosuke Kasuga. The Kyosuke family relocates everytime, when someone sees them using their power, making him shift from schools frequently.
It is in one such shifting encounter that he meets Madoka Ayukawa, a delinquent who he falls in love with at first sight. But due to both of their awkward nature, he ends up dating her best friend Hikaru Hiyama. Kimagure Orange Road is a classic love triangle where the main characters really shine and are aptly matched by a great ensemble of supporting characters.
If you don’t let the old animation style bother you and sit through, this anime will provide you with one of the best endings in any anime. This is an anime that can be considered as a true classic and deserves to be enjoyed by lovers of true romance anime enthusiasts.
Studio: Group TAC
Number of Episodes: 101
Release Date: 24 March 1985
There is storytelling in anime and then there is storytelling in anime. Touch definitely falls on the latter end of the spectrum with its incredibly beautiful storytelling. Touch is a very slow-paced anime with 101 episodes that tells the story of Uesugi Tatsuya, the elder twin brother of Uesugi Kazuya.
Contrary to Tatsuya, the younger Kazuya is the baseball prodigy and the sweetheart of both the family and the school where he studies. The only common factor the two brothers have is the affection that they have for their friend Minami.
The plot might seem very unoriginal to you all while reading this, but the storytelling is what drives the plot forward. The anime has such beautiful character development for Tatsuya making him change his ways for the love of his life. It is slow paced with the first 26 episodes seeming like a drag, but it is worth the watch in hindsight.
7. Urusei Yatsura
Studio: Studio Pierrot and Studio Deen
Number of Episodes: 195
Released Date: October 14 1981
Taking 7th place on the list is the episodic anime of Urusei Yatsura. The anime follows the life of the most lecherous and perverted boy Ataru and an alien girl named Lum who falls in love with him. The plot begins with Ataru saving the world from an alien invasion by winning a game of tag against the alien baron’s daughter and in a series of misunderstanding the alien falls in love with him.
This forms the foundation of the long anime that encompasses all the themes from Japanese mythology to space and science fiction. The story does not make Ataru seem like a good guy at all but give him some time and he’ll grow on you, you’ll like the guy – maybe he ignores and chases all the girls other than Lum because he does not want to get settled, we’ll never know.
Urusei Yatsura may not be the best anime out there, because being an episodic anime there are not many character developments as such, but I promise you, the anime will grow on you ( like Doremon, but 100 times better).
6. Ranma ½
Studio: Studio Deen
Number of Episodes: 161
Release Dates: 15 April 1989
Falling into the 6th on our list is the comedy-action and fantasy written by Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma ½. The anime tells the story of the strongest warrior named Ranma Saotome of the ‘Anything goes Martial arts School’, The prologue for the episodic anime begins when the protagonist gets cursed with the Jusenkyo curse that gets placed on him when he falls into the spring of the drowned girl.
This makes Ranma turn into a woman when cold water hits his body and back to the boy version when hot water falls on his body – hence the ½ part.
The plot is self-explanatory following this, the series of mishaps and misunderstandings form the later part. The anime stays true to the martial arts part, without going into different realms of power. I think the bizarreness of the plot as it continues to develop with the introductions of whacky side characters contributes to why it is ranked so high on the list.
If mindless anime with a good story, a harem, with no proper ending, good ost, anything-goes humor, tons of great side characters, and really good artwork is your thing, then Ranma ½ will hit hard.
5. Fist of the North Star
Studio: Toei Animation
Number of Episodes: 109
Release Dates: 11 October 1984
‘Omae Wa Mo Shindeiru’ – This is one line that everyone has heard, but the irony is that not many know from where the line has come even. Set in the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world, the anime tells the story of Kenshiro of the Hakuto Shinken who is forced to battle evil forces in the wastelands against his arch nemesis Shin to rescue his lover whom he abducted.
The simple plot of the MANime( i heard someone call it this, and I’m never going back) is driven by the sheer manliness of Kenshiro and his famous one hit K O’s. Will watching it provide the same kind of feel you might have gotten in the 80’s?? Probably not – because this anime is one of the earliest to have so much testosterone in one series which has been tried and tested again.
But watch it for the love of sheer manliness of the stoic characters, the annoying 2 little kids, and for some really unredeemable, yet well-written villains. It will be hard to watch it in one stretch, with some fillers, but push through, the Mad-Max-esque MANime is worth it.
4. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z
Studio: Toei Animation
Number of Episodes: Dragon Ball -153; Dragon Ball Z – 291
Release Date: 26 April 1989
This is one anime for which I don’t think there needs to be a recommendation written. Akira Toriyama’s magnum opus is something everyone should just cherish without having to ponder upon. This was the anime that started it all for some ardent anime fans along with Pokémon, us included.
With the progression from having tournaments on earth to fighting and being the strongest in the world, things have escalated to the intergalactic level, people diss that, but what people are forgetting is that this is a series that gave some of the best storylines. From the World Martial Arts Tournament, the story only progressed into Dragon Ball Z’s Saiyan Saga, Frieza Saga, and the opus Cell saga.
The anime gave us some of our fondest childhood memories, the ideas of masculine stoic men who put their life on the line for their loved ones and for the safety of the world. Come on, what more do you need to watch the OG anime?? Just watch it – one watch equals one energy for Goku’s next Spirit Bomb.
3. Ashita no Joe
Studio: Mushi Production
Number of Episodes: 79
Release Date: 1 April 1970
is Probably the oldest anime on the list, Ashita no Joe is the old Japanese version of Rocky or the Karate Kid. The anime features the theme of Boxing and the protagonist’s goal of becoming the best boxer in the world. The main character Joe Yabuki is an unruly orphan kid with really good instincts for boxing and is found by a drunk boxing trainer Danpei Tange.
The anime has spectacular art – at least for me, I love how the characters are drawn into the anime, it’s very unique. Falling on the lines of a sports theme, this is arguably one of the firsts that started it all, and we have to thank Takamori Asao and Chiba Tetsuya for the banger anime that started it all.
The old art style and the mid-opening and closing may not be for the fast-paced anime viewers of this day and age. But anime is more than just animation, its about the connection it can make to you and make you feel things, and Ashita no Joe is definitely going to make you feel for Joe as he makes his development from the unruly kid to the boxer his master aspires him to be. People who like martial arts and sports do give it a watch.
2. Maison Ikkoku
Studio: Studio Deen
Number of Episodes: 96
Release Date: 26 March 1986
Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi has to be the most complex and the most human anime on the list. It’s such a simple story with beautifully written characters who are explored to bring out the best in them. The simple story starts with Godai, a tenant of Maison Ikkoku, a boarding house, getting ready to leave the place in search of another. In a chance meeting, he meets the new manager of the Maison – the beautiful Kyoko Otonashi.
Like every teenager, he decides to continue to stay at the boarding house to woo her and marry her. Godai is like every teenager, he wants to get into a good college and has tons of porno lying in his room but there is a complex change in the character who tries to be a man for Kyoko. Kyoko herself too has a past that does not let her be with Godai even though she wants to, and that forms the story.
The side characters, even though not fully explored, are very well written and explored beyond the point where normal anime do so. This is a beautiful romance anime, a beautiful escape from the masculine, action-packed, sci-fi series that we have been recommending for some time now. You’ll be happy, watch it.
1. Legend Of The Galactic Heroes:
Studio: K-Factory, Kitty Film Mitika Studio
Number of Episodes: 110
Release Dates: 8 January 1988
The Legend of the Galactic heroes is one of those anime I have come across with the most mixed reviews. It’s either fiercely loved, or heavily disliked. If you ask me, the anime is a behemoth when it comes to storytelling.
It is set in a far future where the world is divided into two camps. One is led by the aristocratic Galactic Empire and the other by the Democratic Free Planets Alliance. This 110-episode anime is a non-filler, detailed treat to fans who love to get into the intricacies of the plot.
The ideas of philosophy and politics that incite and sustain war are explored in the anim. Knowing that 2 great leaders are behind their backs is enough for soldiers to give up their lives for a cause. It provokes a discourse on the dictatorian concept of a leader who can do no wrong. And this actively comes into play with the protagonists every now and then.
The side characters are barely explored in the series except for one.
Fans who love star wars and star trek would definitely have a treat watching it, with its different perspectives of the war and its changing dynamics. The anime is definitely a slow burn as it takes time for you to get personally involved, unlike the modern anime that makes you involved from the get-go.
Legend of Galactic Heroes is definitely deserving of its title of being the number one on the list for the way the storytelling was done back in the 80s with having no filler and making it such a grand telling of an intergalactic war. While it might not be for everyone but the ones who take time off and watch it, will definitely not stop talking about it.