Best Older Anime: Classics You Can’t Miss – Even In 2024!

I’ve always had a soft spot for anime, and there’s a special charm in the best older anime that modern series sometimes miss. These classics, with their hand-drawn animation and captivating storylines, stoked the hearts of fans long before the digital era transformed the medium. From the grainy, yet expressive art to the masterful storytelling, each frame from these series seems to be infused with a distinct magic of its era.

My discovery of these timeless pieces started with the iconic character designs and fluid action sequences that classic anime like “Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam” showcased back in 1985. The nostalgia of the 70s, 80s, and 90s anime not only brings back memories but also highlights how much the animation industry has evolved over the years. There’s something inherently rewarding in revisiting the shows that laid the groundwork for today’s anime scene. These narratives often explored complex themes and built intricate worlds that remain engaging for fans of all ages, proving that great storytelling truly is timeless.

Defining ‘Older’ Anime

When I explore the realm of the best older anime, I’m journeying through titles that hail from a previous era, featuring distinct animation styles and storytelling techniques compared to modern-day series.

Timeframe for Older Anime

The term “older anime” typically refers to series released in the 1980s and 1990s. This period saw anime grow in both style and substance, establishing many of the genres and tropes cherished by fans today. Some fans stretch this definition to include shows aired through the end of 1999, as this marks a pivotal moment before the turn of the millennium introduced a new age of animation technology.

Characteristics of Older Anime

The characteristics of older anime often include grainier texturesless refined animation, and a strong emphasis on hand-drawn art. Stories from this era might lack the sleekness of today’s digital effects, but they compensate with a certain charm and attention to detail that’s become synonymous with the time. Many of these series, known for their rich storylines and memorable characters, have set a foundation for the anime we enjoy now.

Genre Breakdown

As a fan of some good oldschool anime, I’ve noticed that they’re more than just nostalgic treasures; they’re the pillars that have shaped what we watch today. Let’s get right into the various genres where these classics made their indelible mark.

Classic Mecha Anime

Mecha anime soared in popularity during the 80s and 90s. These series often revolved around giant robots, usually piloted by humans, and were a staple of science fiction anime. A prime example is Mobile Suit Gundam, which not only defined the mecha genre but also introduced the concept of a realistic war drama in space.

Pioneering Shoujo Anime

Shoujo anime, targeting a young female audience, often focus on romance and relationships. A trailblazing series in this genre is The Rose of Versailles, set during the events leading up to the French Revolution. It combines historical drama with powerful characterization, paving the way for future shoujo narratives.

Foundational Shounen Series

Shounen, targeted primarily at younger males, emphasizes action, adventure, and camaraderie. Classics like Dragon Ball Z set a high standard for the shounen genre with its intense battles, power-ups, and unforgettable hero’s journey that many other series have drawn inspiration from ever since.

Culturally Iconic Series

When I think of the best older anime, I’m instantly reminded of the series that resonated across the globe and still evoke nostalgia and admiration.

Internationally Renowned Titles

Anime That Defined a Generation

  • Dragon Ball Z
    • Aired: 1989-1996
    • Genre: Action, Adventure
    • Epic battles and power-ups that captured the imagination of a generation, inspiring countless other works.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
    • Aired: 1995-1996
    • Genre: Mecha, Psychological
    • Influential storytelling and character depth that set new standards for anime narratives.

Best 10 Old Anime

When I reminisce about the golden age of anime, certain classics immediately spring to mind. The charm of best older anime isn’t diminished by time; instead, it grows, acquiring a nostalgic sheen that feels both comforting and exhilarating. Allow me to guide you through a curated list of the top ten old anime that have left an indelible mark on the genre.

  • Astro Boy (1963) Genre: Sci-Fi, Action Although not the first anime ever made, “Astro Boy” is a pioneering series that introduced many to the medium, embodying the spirit of innovation and the potential of technology.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) Genre: Mecha, Sci-Fi This franchise ignited the mecha genre, offering not just epic robot battles but also complex war-related themes that resonated deeply with its audience.
  • Dragon Ball (1986) Genre: Action, Adventure Goku’s adventures brought together humor, Martial arts, and the timeless quest for personal growth. Its influence is colossal, spanning various sequels and extensive merchandise.
  • Saint Seiya (1986) Genre: Fantasy, Adventure A story that combines Greek mythology with martial arts, “Saint Seiya” is a stirring tale of valor and friendship that has remained beloved by fans.
  • Akira (1988) Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi Often hailed as one of the greatest anime films, “Akira” is a visually stunning and deeply philosophical exploration of dystopian themes.
  • Sailor Moon (1992) Genre: Magical Girl, Romance This series not only popularized the magical girl genre but also championed the message of female empowerment to a global audience.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) Genre: Psychological, Drama A groundbreaking series that blends mecha action with profound psychological and existential questions.
  • Cowboy Bebop (1998) Genre: Space Western, Noir With its stylish blend of genres and unforgettable jazz soundtrack, “Cowboy Bebop” is a cornerstone of anime that’s as cool as it is profound.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka (1999) Genre: Drama, Comedy An ex-gang member turned teacher, Onizuka tackles the Japanese school system with unorthodox methods, delivering heartwarming lessons and comedy.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) Genre: Adventure, Fantasy The Elric brothers’ quest for redemption takes us through a world of alchemy and intrigue, all the while exploring deep philosophical themes.

These series not only paved the way for future genres and trends but also captivated audiences with their rich storytelling and characters. They remain the flag bearers of the anime world, reminding me how the medium has evolved over the decades.

My opinion on the best older anime

When we talk about the best older anime, we’re diving into a sea of classic titles that have shaped the world of animation. I’ve always been fascinated by the storytelling and creativity found in anime from the past, so let’s walk through my personal favorites.

  • Lupin the Third (Part I)
    Released: 1971
    Genre: Action, Comedy
    I find the enduring appeal of Lupin the Third remarkable. Its mix of heist-driven plots and humorous exploits makes it a timeless series that continues to entertain.
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
    Released: 1985
    Genre: Action, Mecha, Military Sci-Fi
    For mecha anime aficionados, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam’s intricate designs and the deeper thematic content are standout features that also provide a glimpse into older anime’s approach to storytelling and world-building.

As someone who cherishes the unique charm and artistry of historical anime, discovering these gems and others like them feels like unearthing treasure. Each series offers something special, whether it’s the hand-drawn animation or the narratives that are as relevant today as they were when first released.

Remember, while new anime have their own allure, these darlings from the past hold an integral place in the anime lexicon and are certainly worth your time.


What counts as “older” anime?

Typically, anime from 1999 and before is considered “old-school.” These shows have a distinct style and quality that set them apart from modern animation.

Where can I watch these classic anime series?

Streaming services like Crunchyroll and Funimation often have libraries of older titles. Additionally, DVDs and Blu-rays can be found for many of the classics.

Are the themes in older anime still relevant?

Yes! Themes like friendship, love, and the battle between good and evil are timeless. You might find the storytelling approach different, but the core messages often resonate strongly even today.

Which older anime are considered must-watch?

RankAnime TitleDebut Year
1The Rose of Versailles1979
2Cowboy Bebop1998
3Mobile Suit Gundam1979
4Lupin the Third1971

Remember that this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty more gems to discover!

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Nesrin Müstak
Articles: 5

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