The 1990s marked a significant turning point for the anime industry. It was a time of creative explosion and innovation, with numerous iconic series and films being produced. This era witnessed the global spread of anime and the emergence of a dedicated fanbase outside Japan.
Even decades later, the anime from the 90s continues to captivate audiences worldwide. Its enduring appeal lies in the compelling stories, memorable characters, and groundbreaking themes that continue to resonate with viewers of all ages.
In this blog post, we’ll take a nostalgic journey back to the 90s and shine a spotlight on 10+ must-watch anime series and films from that era. Whether you’re a seasoned anime enthusiast or just getting started, these classics are essential viewing, offering a glimpse into the magic of 90s anime that has stood the test of time. So, get ready to explore the anime gems that define a generation.
Table of Contents
Amazing Anime from the 90s
Only Yesterday (1991)
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama
“Only Yesterday” is a Studio Ghibli anime film that falls under the genres of Slice of Life and Drama. This emotionally touching movie follows Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old woman from Tokyo, as she takes a break from city life to work on a safflower farm in the countryside. Through flashbacks to her childhood, Taeko reflects on her past, first crush, school days, and family, leading to a heartfelt journey of self-discovery and nostalgia. The film beautifully weaves together the past and the present, making it a must-watch for fans of thoughtful, character-driven storytelling.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi, Action
“Ghost in the Shell” is a groundbreaking cyberpunk anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii. Set in a future where humans and technology merge, it follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg agent investigating the enigmatic hacker known as the Puppet Master. The film explores deep philosophical questions about identity and technology against a visually stunning cyberpunk backdrop, making it a must-watch for fans of thought-provoking sci-fi.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
“Princess Mononoke” is a visually stunning 1997 anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Set in Japan’s Muromachi period, it tells the story of Ashitaka, a cursed young prince. He becomes entangled in a conflict between Iron Town, a human settlement, and the forest spirits, including Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves. The film explores themes of nature, industrialization, and morality, offering a visually breathtaking and thought-provoking cinematic experience.
Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Space, Drama
“Cowboy Bebop” is a genre-blending masterpiece set in a futuristic world of bounty hunters and interstellar crime. It follows the diverse crew of the spaceship Bebop as they chase bounties and confront their own troubled pasts. With stylish animation, complex characters, and a jazzy soundtrack, this series is a timeless classic that combines elements of film noir, Westerns, and detective stories. It’s a must-watch for any anime enthusiast.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
Genre: Mecha, Psychological, Science Fiction
“Neon Genesis Evangelion” is a groundbreaking mecha anime from 1995. In a post-apocalyptic world threatened by mysterious beings called “Angels,” teenagers pilot giant robots to protect humanity. The series follows introverted teenager Shinji Ikari as he battles both external and internal demons. With intense mecha battles, psychological exploration, and deep themes, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a thought-provoking classic that left an indelible mark on anime and pop culture.
Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
Genre: Psychological, Cyberpunk, Mystery, Supernatural
“Serial Experiments Lain” is a thought-provoking anime in the psychological, cyberpunk, and mystery genres. It follows the story of Lain Iwakura, a high school girl who becomes immersed in a virtual reality known as “The Wired” after a classmate’s suicide. The series explores deep themes of identity, reality, and technology, offering a surreal and intellectually stimulating viewing experience.
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Western
“Trigun” is a classic 90s anime known for its action, science fiction, and Western themes. Set in a post-apocalyptic desert world, it follows Vash the Stampede, a pacifist gunslinger with a mysterious past. Despite his reputation, he avoids killing and uses his incredible marksmanship to disarm opponents. The series explores themes of redemption and morality as Vash encounters various conflicts and unravels his enigmatic past. With action, humour, and character development, “Trigun” is a must-watch 90s anime.
Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1993)
Genre: Animated, Mythological, Adventure
“Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama” is a 90s anime, mythological adventure film that retells the classic Indian epic, the Ramayana. It follows the journey of Prince Rama as he seeks to rescue his kidnapped wife, Sita, with the help of divine allies. This collaborative masterpiece between Japanese and Indian animators is celebrated for its stunning animation and faithfulness to the timeless tale of duty, honour, and the triumph of good over evil. It’s a must-watch for those interested in world mythology and captivating storytelling.
Golden Boy (1995)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi
Golden Boy is a 6-episode OVA 90s anime series from 1995. It follows the adventures of Kintaro Oe, a quirky 25-year-old dropout on a quest to learn about life by taking on bizarre jobs. Hilarity ensues as he faces comical challenges and encounters beautiful women along the way. With slapstick humour and ecchi elements, Golden Boy is a cult classic that combines comedy and self-discovery in a memorable and entertaining package.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
“Pokémon” follows the adventures of Ash Ketchum, a young Pokémon Trainer, and his loyal Pikachu. Together, they journey through various regions, capturing Pokémon, battling rivals, and thwarting the schemes of Team Rocket. With themes of friendship and determination, Pokémon has become a beloved, long-running series, inspiring fans of all ages and popularizing the Pokémon franchise.
Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
Genre: Action, Historical, Samurai
“Rurouni Kenshin” is a 90s anime series set in the Meiji era of Japan. It follows the journey of Himura Kenshin, a former assassin who has sworn never to kill again. Kenshin wields a reversed-edged sword and, alongside his friends, seeks to protect the innocent and bring justice to a country transitioning from war. The series is known for its gripping sword fights, deep character development, and exploration of themes like redemption and pacifism, making it a must-watch classic.
The Vision of Escaflowne (1996)
Genre: Fantasy, Mecha, Romance, Adventure
“The Vision of Escaflowne” is a 90s anime series that combines fantasy, mecha, romance, and adventure genres. The story follows high school girl Hitomi Kanzaki, who is transported to the mystical world of Gaea. There, she discovers unique powers and becomes involved in the world’s conflicts, forming bonds with key characters. With stunning animation and a captivating blend of romance and action, it’s a must-watch for fans of 90s anime.