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16 Retro Anime With Best 90s Anime Aesthetics!

“You’re gonna carry that weight”

In anime’s vibrant history, the 90s stand as a golden era that laid the groundwork for many of the beloved genres, storytelling techniques, and artistic styles that continue to captivate audiences even today.

A decade that witnessed an explosion of creativity, innovation, and cultural impact, the 90s anime scene left an indelible mark on the medium, shaping the tastes and preferences of generations of anime enthusiasts.

As we journey back to this era, we unveil a treasure trove of anime that embodies the distinctive 90s anime aesthetics and makes us a tad bit nostalgic about the times gone by.

16. InuYasha

InuYasha

InuYasha is a story about a modern-day schoolgirl who is transported to the Sengoku period of Japan. There, she encounters the half-demon Inuyasha and embarks on a quest to retrieve the shards of the Shikon Jewel. From there on, InuYasha blends action, adventure, romance, and fantasy elements, weaving a wonderful tale of friendship.

But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about its 90s anime aesthetics. In that sense, InuYasha is an amalgamation of different stylization elements we associate with the 90s – bright-colored character art styles, designs using bold and sharp lines, and a sort of washed-out filtered look we associated with older media.

It has a beauty of its own that’s reminiscent of the 90s anime. And to add to that, InuYasha is complemented by a beautiful soundtrack that’s diverse and complex and fits in very aptly to the period the show is set in.

15. Dear Brother

Dear Brother

Dear Brother, also known as ‘Oniisama e…’, revolves around the lives of students at the Seiran Academy, a prestigious all-girls school. It focuses on focusing on the intricate relationships, dramas, and secrets among a group of girls.

Dear Brother presents a more realistic and subdued art style typical of shoujo anime from the 90s. The character designs are elegant and detailed and they focus on conveying emotions through subtle expressions. This anime uses a softer color palette and visual metaphors to emphasize on the complexity of relationships among the characters.

Dear Brother has the vibe of an elegant and introspective show and it tries to navigate the drama and conflicts within a school environment with a mature tone and contemplative tone. And to top it off, it has a great soundtrack, something you will be seeing pretty often in this list.

14. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue

What can I possibly say about Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece that I haven’t already? The story of Perfect Blue revolves around an actress and her slow descent into the madness known as psychosis. The film’s art style employs a realistic approach with detailed character designs.

The animation is intricate, utilizing cinematic techniques such as perspective shifts, symbolic imagery, and intense visual sequences to blur the lines between reality and delusion. Satoshi Kon’s mastery of such techniques solidified him into a directorial legend.

The overall vibe of Perfect Blue is haunting and disorienting. It creates a sense of unease as it explores themes of perception and trauma. The OST does a phenomenal job of heightening the unsettling nature of the movie. It amplifies the legitimacy of fear, not of the known or the unknown, but the fear our minds can trap us into.

13. Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell is one of the earliest Cyberpunk anime to exist and it has shaped the genre as a whole. The movie presents itself as a futuristic world where humans can merge their consciousness with technology and narrates a detective story about chasing a phantom hacker.

The art style showcases a gritty, urban setting with detailed cityscapes and intricate cybernetic designs. The animation is fluid, highlighting action sequences and intricate technological elements. The artwork within the film was produced using an innovative mix of cel animation and digital effects.

The visuals and the artwork are very impressive even to this day. The movie’s atmospheric soundtrack and visually striking cyberpunk aesthetics create a captivating experience for the viewers. Ghost In The Shell has ingrained itself as one of the pillars of the dystopian cyberpunk formula and I believe that reputation speaks for itself much more than any praise possibly could.

12. Vision of Escaflowne

Vision of Escaflowne

Vision of Escaflowne is a fantasy mecha anime that blends elements of romance, adventure, and intricate world-building with a beautiful style. We follow Hitomi Kanzaki, an ordinary schoolgirl with an interest in tarot cards, who is transported to a mysterious world, and she, along with her friends, must fight off against a tyrannical empire.

Visions of Escaflowne is famous in the anime fandom for its 90s anime aesthetics. It features a beautiful art style with detailed character designs, lush landscapes, and imaginative mech designs. Character designs are given the perfect amount of detail and include all the different races on Gaea, the mechs, and just about everything looks gorgeous.

As for the music, well, need I say anything more than that it is done by the extremely talented Yoko Kanno. Unlike her later works which are more jazz-focused, for Escalflowne she focuses on more orchestral work here, beautiful string work with special emphasis on the cello, and excellent choral arrangement.

11. Angel’s Egg

Angels Egg 1

Angel’s Egg is an enigmatic and visually striking anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii, the genius behind Ghost in the Shell, with amazing 90s anime aesthetics. I am cheating a little bit here with this entry since it aired well before the 90s, but it is on this list because it has some seriously sick and eerie-looking backgrounds.

The art style features detailed and surreal landscapes, hauntingly beautiful character designs, and intricate, symbolic imagery. The animation is deliberate and atmospheric, utilizing slow pacing and meticulous attention to detail to convey a sense of eerie beauty.

The overall vibe of Angel’s Egg is mysterious and introspective, with minimal dialogue and haunting visuals. It’s the sort of experience you cannot put into words. Every frame is packed with detail and to add to the experience, the orchestral score further encapsulates and reaffirms the dark atmosphere of the film.

As Mamoru Oshii himself said, “When it comes down to it, I think the director doesn’t know everything about the movie. Everyone always thinks if you want to know something, talk to the director. I don’t think that’s true. I think the answer lies inside every single viewer.”

10. Akira

Akira 2

No 90s anime aesthetics list is complete without this entry!

Akira is a landmark in the anime industry, the thing that revolutionized the genre by injecting fresh spirit and creativity into it. It is renowned for its groundbreaking animation and dystopian cyberpunk narrative. The only correct way I can describe Akira is that it’s a masterpiece of cinema.

The art style showcases detailed and gritty cityscapes of Neo-Tokyo, with intricate character designs and explosive action sequences. The animation is fluid and dynamic, especially during the film’s intense motorcycle chases and psychic-powered confrontations.

From the perspective of Sound Design, Akira’s use of Silence to convey emotions and build an atmosphere is remarkable. And when sounds are used, they are highly dynamic industrial beats with the careful layering of corresponding leitmotifs. The spot-on usage of sound and ambiance further enhances their impact.

Akira blends visceral, high-octane action and a compelling, if flawed, storyline that’s often considered a masterpiece. The movie’s thematic depth and cinematic impact indeed transcend the boundaries of anime, making it a must-watch for enthusiasts and casual movie lovers alike.

9. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion 1

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a deceptively complex anime. In the beginning, it feels similar to a lot of the Gundam shows that aired during the era. But what it stands out for is its complex narrative and psychological depth. It lures you in by fighting gigantic monsters but essentially explores identity, trauma, and existentialism.

The art style combines well-detailed character designs with surreal and apocalyptic settings and also explores the styles of liminality. As good as the intense Mech battles and enemy design look, the introspective character moments of Evangelion are what stand out.

If you have browsed through the 90s anime aesthetics tag online, there’s no way you didn’t come across a depressed Shinji image!

The magic of Evangelion lies in how experimental it is with mecha designs and in that, it has forever engraved its name in the anime industry. The music excels at setting the mood and tone in the anime. And what can I possibly say about the last two episodes?

Though they are the most controversial moments of the series, they radiate nothing but dazzling creativity and the most reflective moments in the anime. Evangelion is not something that everyone can enjoy but to those that do, it will always be something very special to them. And for that, I implore you all to give it a watch.

8. Yuu Yuu Hakusho

Yuu Yuu Hakusho

Yuu Yuu Hakusho is an action-packed supernatural anime featuring detailed character designs and highly dynamic fight sequences and it is simply iconic. The story focuses on Yuusuke Urameshi and his adventures as a Spirit Detective.

The art style, even though a bit dated by the 90s standards, captures both the intensity of the battles and the personalities of the diverse cast. The most important thing that Yuu Yuu Hakusho does as a shounen anime is that it IS DRIPPING with style and that by itself makes it so much of a joy to watch.

Yuu Yuu Hakusho’s style is so iconic that it feels remarkably similar to Jojo, although I am not sure if one was influenced by the other. But in its way, Yuu Yuu Hakusho was revolutionary for the battle shounen demographic.

7. Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena, as the name indicates, is nothing short of revolutionary. It is a Magical Girl anime, the first in our list, that challenges traditional gender roles and storytelling conventions. The art style of the show is simply elegant! There’s no better word to describe it.

The anime features really elegant character designs that stand out to this day and it uses heavy symbolic imagery to represent the theme of the show. The color palette of the anime is bright and gorgeous, with each character having a particular stand-out color. The animation is beautiful with abstract visuals and it makes the anime feel surreal.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a seriously underrated show but its artistic presentation has earned it very well-deserved praise for its depth and creativity in the medium and it continues the capture the attention of future artists. It’s a mysterious and allegorical show and I think it’s worth watching for its artistic values alone.

6. Maison Ikkoku

Maison Ikkoku 90s anime aesthetics

Maison Ikkoku is a romantic comedy anime series from the 80s about a group of people living in a boarding house in Tokyo. The main plot of the series revolves around the furthering of the relationship between one of the tenants of the house Yusaku Godai and the manager of the house Kyoko Otonashi.

Both these characters face problems of their own and the series shows how they face their problems and how it affects their relationship. The art style embodies a classic 80s/90s aesthetic, featuring charming character designs and nostalgic settings.

The animation captures the everyday lives of the characters, balancing comedic situations with heartfelt moments. Maison Ikkoku presents a timeless narrative that resonates with audiences, regardless of the era they belong to and that alone speaks volumes about the show’s storytelling and universal themes.

Ultimately, the charm of Maison Ikkoku lies in its portrayal of human emotions and experiences, making it a classic that remains relevant and captivating across generations.

5. Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2

With Ranma 1/2, we now have three entries in the list that are all written by Rumiko Takahashi, the rest two being Maison Ikkoku and InuYasha. It’s safe to say that her title of ‘Manga Princess’ is more than just well deserved. Ranma 1/2 is a comedic martial arts anime that follows the misadventures of Ranma Saotome.

Ranma has a weird curse, where he can transform into a girl when splashed with cold water and revert into a boy with hot water. The art style of the show is very similar to Maison Ikkoku’s, featuring many exaggerated expressions, and humorous character designs coupled with a side of Karate chops and slapstick humor.

The animation captures the comedic essence of the series, highlighting the chaos that ensues from Ranma’s transformations and the martial arts competitions. The overall vibe of Ranma is that it is very light-hearted and humorous. It is these elements that have made it a classic in the realm of anime comedy.

4. Whispers of The Heart

90s anime aesthetics in Whispers of The Heart

If I had to use one word to describe Whispers of The Heart, that would be heartwarming. This is a coming-of-age anime film that follows Shizuku, a young girl with a passion for reading and writing. Of the myriad of Ghibli films we could have chosen, why did we settle on this one in particular?

Whispers of the Heart is probably the most humble and grounded movie in the Ghibli catalog and it is a very simple story. A simple story about a girl discovering what she wants to do and following her dreams and passion. The second reason is that the vibes of the movie are immaculate.

The scene you see above has served as the main inspiration behind the creation and design of the Lofi girl. It induces a warm and comfortable feeling and that’s the entire movie. The art style captures the charm of everyday life in a suburb of Tokyo, featuring detailed and realistic character designs in typical Ghibli fashion within a tranquil setting.

The animation emphasizes the beauty of mundane moments in our day-to-day life and it puts a lot of focus into exploring the emotional states of the characters. The film’s gentle storytelling and sincerity make it a captivating watch that viewers can resonate with.

3. The Ocean Waves

The Ocean Waves

It’s time for our second Ghibli Film on the list and this one is quite underrated. The Ocean Waves, also known as I Can Hear the Sea, is a Studio Ghibli film that revolves around the relationships and experiences of three high school students in Kochi, Japan.

The art style features simple yet expressive character designs within a realistic and tranquil coastal setting. The animation captures the subtleties of daily life and the emotions of the characters as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.

The film’s serene storytelling and understated visuals offer a quiet and contemplative viewing experience. It’s just a charming and relaxing story that will make you smile. You’ll often find a lot of screenshots from this movie in the 90s anime aesthetics vibe channels!

2. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon

There is a single anime that encompasses the entirety of the 90s anime industry and it is Sailor Moon. The art style features ICONIC character designs with a blend of elegance and whimsy, which particularly shines in the myriad of transformation sequences and magical battles.

This IS the anime that invented the entire concept of Magic Girl Transformation and it has influenced so much of the anime industry that really does feel magical. Sailor Moon uses a gorgeous and vibrant color palette and the animation is full of dynamic action sequences that enthrall you in place.

Sailor Moon is the anime that defined the genre of magical girl. It’s simply beautiful and it feels so nostalgic to look at it, even if you have never watched it before. Sailor Moon’s blend of action, romance, and friendship has made it a classic and enduring favorite among the magical girl genre fans.

Sailor Moon is not just a 90s anime, it is something that showcases the evolution of anime itself throughout multiple generations.

1. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop aesthetic

To describe it in a single word, Cowboy Bebop is iconic. It stands out as a masterful blend of various genres and artistry, creating a distinct and captivating viewing experience. The fusion of noir, western, and sci-fi elements is reflected not only in its storytelling but also in its visual aesthetic.

The show uses a darker color palette and the art style feels like it’s inspired by Renaissance paintings and that adds an atmospheric quality to it. Character designs are a noteworthy aspect of the show as the main characters are drawn realistically, while the side characters often carry a more caricatured look, many of which are reminiscent of real-life celebrities from the 90s.

The music in Cowboy Bebop is a standout feature, predominantly jazz-infused, which contributes significantly to the series’ mood and atmosphere. The soundtrack, with its blend of jazz, 60s/70s vibes, and a touch of the 90s, adds a timeless quality to the show, enhancing the storytelling and setting the tone for each episode. Yoko Kanno never misses, does she?

The episodic nature of the series allows for a diverse range of narratives and it almost feels like an anthology. It draws inspiration from all forms of media to provide an engaging viewing experience. The series’ unique blend of genres and its memorable characters have solidified its place as a timeless classic in the realm of anime.

Finishing Notes

Coming up with this list of best anime with 90s anime aesthetics and working on it has been incredibly challenging. But now that I have finally finished working on it, I am enveloped by a feeling of pride and contentment. There’s a lot more anime that I wanted to include here, but then it would not remain a list, it would become a compendium.

The captivating aesthetics, innovative storytelling, and diverse themes introduced during this period have left an enduring imprint, influencing subsequent generations of creators and captivating new audiences eager to explore the roots of this beloved medium.

As we cherish the memories of these timeless classics and celebrate the creativity that defined the 90s, we honor an era that not only shaped anime history but also continues to inspire and enchant, standing as a testament to the timeless allure of the art form.

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