35+ Best Old School Anime Shows

Old-school anime shows to start watching include Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, and Yu Yu Hakusho. Anime series first hit the screens in the 1960s, each paving the way for the next, shaping the medium uniquely and significantly.

These shows don’t just cater to history buffs keen on the evolution of the anime industry. They’re phenomenal standalone pieces too.

Sure, the 90s marked a major anime explosion in Western countries, yet delving deeper into the past uncovers a treasure trove of brilliant content waiting to be explored.

Unforgettable Charm of Old-School Anime

Did you manage to catch all these early classics listed below? Use this list as your handy guide to discovering some vintage anime gems. Remember, some entries like Akira and Grave of the Fireflies are movies, not TV series.

We present our curated list of the all-time best old school anime.

Trigun (1998): Gunslinging on a Desert Planet

Trigun - anime wild west

Roam the wastelands with Trigun (1998), a gem among 90’s old-school anime. This series mixes post-apocalyptic sci-fi, fast-paced gunfights, and surprisingly deep philosophical musings. It’s not just an old anime show; it’s a wild, western journey with heart.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995): Politics and Mecha on the Battlefield

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Launch into the intricate universe of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995), an iconic 90’s old-school anime. This series offers a complex narrative interweaving politics and warfare, set against the backdrop of giant mechas. It’s not just a good old anime; it’s a deep dive into the gray areas of war.

Detective Conan (Case Closed, 1996): The Mind of a Sleuth in a Child’s Body

Detective Conan - classic old school anime

Dive into the intriguing world of Detective Conan, also known as Case Closed (1996). This best old-school anime places a brilliant detective in a child’s body, leading to mind-boggling mysteries. It’s not just an old anime show; it’s a puzzling adventure that keeps you guessing.

Great Teacher Onizuka (1999): Unorthodox Lessons in Life

Great Teacher Onizuka - old school anime color palates

Enroll in the unconventional class of Great Teacher Onizuka (1999), an old-school anime that marries comedy with meaningful life lessons. It’s not just good old anime; it’s a heartfelt ode to the impact of educators and the trials of adolescence.

Serial Experiments Lain (1998): Delving into the Wired

Serial Experiments Lain

Connect with the enigmatic world of Serial Experiments Lain (1998). This old anime show dives deep into the mysterious ‘Wired,’ questioning reality and identity in a digital age. It’s not just an aesthetic old-school anime; it’s a cybernetic exploration of consciousness.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990): Adventure on the High Seas

Nadia The Secret of Blue Water

Set sail for adventure with Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990), a thrilling old anime show. This steampunk tale of friendship, intrigue, and adventure is not just another anime; it’s a riveting journey across the seven seas.

Rurouni Kenshin (1996): The Wanderer with a Past

Rurouni Kenshin (1996) - list of old school anime

Step into the Meiji era with Rurouni Kenshin (1996). This best old-school anime follows a wandering samurai seeking atonement for his past. With thrilling swordplay and deep character development, it’s not just an old anime show; it’s a gripping tale of redemption.

Yu Yu Hakusho (1992): Spirit Detective at Work

Yu Yu Hakusho (1992) - old school anime karate

Leap into the spirit realm with Yu Yu Hakusho (1992), one of the best old-school anime. This series perfectly blends supernatural action, memorable characters, and emotional depth. It’s not just an old anime show; it’s a thrilling afterlife adventure that tugs at your heartstrings.

Martian Successor Nadesico (1996): Sci-Fi Comedy Like No Other

Martian Successor Nadesico

Blast off into the cosmos with Martian Successor Nadesico (1996), a 90’s old-school anime that humorously mashes up sci-fi tropes with a comedic spin. It’s not just an anime; it’s a delightful space comedy that defies expectations.

Macross Plus (1994): Mecha, Music, and a Love Triangle

Macross Plus

Soar into the skies with Macross Plus (1994), a mini-series from the expansive Macross franchise. This 90’s old-school anime blends thrilling mecha battles, a futuristic AI pop idol, and a complex love triangle. It’s not just an anime; it’s a space opera that hits all the right notes.

Golden Boy (1995): Learning Never Was So Fun

Golden Boy (1995)

Dive into the hilarious escapades of Golden Boy (1995), a rollicking old anime show that offers life lessons amidst the laughter. Our protagonist’s peculiar adventures in the world of part-time jobs isn’t just an anime – it’s a masterclass in comedy.

Perfect Blue (1997): A Thrilling Dive into Stardom

Perfect Blue (1997) - old school anime

Plunge into the mesmerizing world of Perfect Blue (1997). This 90’s old-school anime film presents a captivating and chilling exploration of identity in the spotlight. It’s not just good old anime; it’s a suspenseful psychological thriller with a twist.

Record of Lodoss War (1990): Dungeons, Dragons, and Anime

Record of Lodoss War

Step into the fantasy realm of Record of Lodoss War (1990). This best old-school anime adapts the magic and adventure of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign into an aesthetic old-school anime. It’s not just an old anime show; it’s an epic tale of swords and sorcery.

Magic Knight Rayearth (1994): Magic, Mecha, and Girl Power

Magic Knight Rayearth (1994) - Best Old School Anime Shows

Embark on an adventure with Magic Knight Rayearth (1994), a 90’s old-school anime that delivers a hearty blend of magic, mecha, and female empowerment. It’s not just an old-school anime; it’s a magical journey you’ll want to join.

Marmalade Boy (1994): Sweet and Sour Love

Marmalade Boy (1994)

Taste the bittersweet saga of Marmalade Boy (1994). An old anime show that explores young love and complicated family dynamics in a uniquely charming manner. This isn’t just another romance; it’s a slice-of-life story with a delicious tang.

Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1989): Robots at Work and Play

Patlabor The Mobile Police (1989)

Meet the diligent officers of Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1989), an old-school anime where gigantic robots, called ‘Labors’, are a part of everyday life. With the perfect blend of comedy, action, and slice-of-life, it’s not just a mecha show – it’s a delightful day in the life of a Labor pilot.

Initial D (1998): Drifting into the Night

Initial D (1998)

Speed into the world of Initial D (1998), where tofu delivery and nocturnal street racing collide. This 90’s old-school anime, with its unique aesthetic revs up an engrossing narrative about finding one’s passion.

It’s not just an old anime show; it’s a high-octane ride through Japan’s mountain passes.

Saint Seiya (1986): Mythology Armor-Plated

Saint Seiya Champions of the Zodiac

Step into the mythic arena of Saint Seiya (1986), where ancient Greek mythology meets martial arts. With high-stakes battles and shiny armor, this best old-school anime is an epic saga that’ll keep you hooked.

It’s not just good old anime; it’s a celestial showdown of heroic proportions.

Fushigi Yuugi (1995): The Magical Book and the Unwitting Heroine

Fushigi Yuugi (1995)

Enter the magical realm of Fushigi Yuugi (1995), an old anime show where a mystical book transports two friends to a world filled with magic and danger. A staple in the isekai and shojo genres, it’s not just good old anime – it’s an immersive tale of friendship and courage.

Bubblegum Crisis (1987): Cyberpunk with a Pop

Bubblegum Crisis (1987)

Venture into the techno world of Bubblegum Crisis (1987), an old-school aesthetic anime blending cyberpunk elements with a catchy pop soundtrack. With its mecha suits and neon-drenched cityscapes, it’s not just an anime – it’s a techno-rocking spectacle!

Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997): Swords, Roses, and Revelations

Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)

Dive into the dramatic world of Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997). This 90’s old-school anime blends action, romance, and psychological twists. Its unique aesthetic and complex storytelling make it a trailblazer amongst the best old-school anime.

Tenchi Muyo! (1992): A Cosmic Harem Comedy

Tenchi Muyo! (1992)

Experience the chaos of Tenchi Muyo! (1992), a pioneer in the harem genre. It’s not just a funny old-school anime; it’s a romantic comedy of cosmic proportions! This old anime show mixes comedy, romance, and space adventures.

Ninja Scroll (1993): The Blade of the Ninja

Ninja Scroll (1993)

Step into the shadowy world of Ninja Scroll (1993). A definitive old-school anime film showcasing the mysterious life of ninja Jubei, laden with deadly fights and intriguing characters. It’s not just good old anime; it’s a dark, feudal fairy tale.

Escaflowne (1996): Mecha, Fantasy, and a Girl from Earth

Escaflowne (1996)

Journey into the world of Escaflowne (1996), an enchanting old-school anime where mecha meets high fantasy. A young Earth girl finds herself in a strange land with war and destiny on the horizon. This isn’t just an old anime show; it’s a beautifully orchestrated symphony of fantasy.

Ranma ½ (1989): A Splash of Hot Water Never Did So Much

Ranma ½ (1989)

Plunge into the hilarious universe of Ranma ½ (1989), a unique blend of martial arts and comedy in 90’s old-school anime. With its clever use of transformations and the right amount of romantic confusion, it’s not just an anime – it’s a laugh-out-loud riot.

Outlaw Star (1998): Interstellar Swashbuckling

Outlaw Star (1998)

Zoom into the cosmos with Outlaw Star (1998), a 90’s old-school anime that blends space opera with samurai action.

This old anime show is a delightful cocktail of high-octane space battles and intriguing interstellar politics. It’s not just a good old anime, it’s a thrilling space odyssey!

Slam Dunk (1993): Hoops and Dreams

Slam Dunk (1993)

Bounce into the realm of sports with Slam Dunk (1993). This best old-school anime slam dunks right into the heart of high school basketball, offering unforgettable matches and heartwarming camaraderie. It’s not just a sports anime; it’s a testament to team spirit and determination.

Princess Mononoke (1997): An Epic Nature Saga

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Delve into the mystical world of Princess Mononoke (1997). This old-school anime film weaves an aesthetic old-school anime tapestry of nature, gods, and humanity. It’s not an average animated film; it’s an epic, environmental fable.

Cardcaptor Sakura (1998): The Magical Girl with a Heart of Gold

Cardcaptor Sakura - Anime About Baking and Cooking

Cardcaptor Sakura (1998) holds a special place in the realm of magical girls. This charming and wholesome old-school anime follows Sakura, a young girl tasked with collecting and preventing magical cards from wreaking havoc.

With its beautiful animation, engaging storylines, and themes of friendship and love, it’s no wonder this show still casts a spell on viewers.

Pokémon (1997): Gotta Catch ’em All!

Pokémon (Ages 7+) - Best Anime For All Ages

Set your sights on becoming a Pokémon master with Pokémon (1997), an old-school anime that’s become a global phenomenon. With a loveable cast of characters, exciting Pokémon battles, and a sense of adventure as infectious as a Jigglypuff’s lullaby, Pokémon isn’t just another old anime show; it’s a delightful journey that keeps on giving.

Prepare to embark on a nostalgic trip down memory lane because the Pokémon world awaits!

Berserk (1997): Swords, Demons, and Destinies

Guts Berserk - Anime Soldier Boy

Experience the dark fantasy world of Berserk (1997), where epic battles and horrifying demons go hand-in-hand with deep psychological explorations.

Following the stoic mercenary Guts, this old-school anime explores themes of fate, friendship, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Prepare for an intense and sometimes harrowing journey because Berserk isn’t just an anime; it’s a tale of survival against insurmountable odds.

Yu-Gi-Oh! (1998): Cards Have Never Been So Powerful

Yu-Gi-Oh! (1998)

Shuffle into the mystical world of Yu-Gi-Oh! (1998), where card games hold the key to incredible power and unimaginable adventures. This best old-school anime is a captivating mix of strategy, friendship, and suspense. It’s not just an old anime show; it’s a thrilling duel that’ll keep you wanting more.

Sailor Moon (1992): Moon Prism Power, Make Up!

Sailor Moon - 90's cartoon characters

There’s no list of best old-school anime that could dare exclude the magical girl revolution ignited by Sailor Moon (1992). Sailor Moon is a spectacular flight into the magical realm, whether you’re in it for the cosmic battles against nefarious forces, the spellbinding friendships, or just the nifty transformation sequences.

It’s old-school aesthetic anime at its finest. Trust me; you’ll scream, “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!” before you know it.

Ghost in the Shell (1995): The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Plunge into the cybernetic future with Ghost in the Shell (1995), where cyborgs and questions of humanity coexist in a complex web of intrigue. This old-school anime is a testament to how anime can address profound philosophical questions while simultaneously unleashing a barrage of high-tech action.

With Ghost in the Shell, you’re not just watching an old anime show but engaging in an intellectual battle within the expanse of the human (and cyborg) condition.

Cowboy Bebop (1998): Space Cowboys and Jazz

Cowboy Bebop - Space Anime

From the realms of the 90s old-school anime golden age, we jet-set into the heart of the cosmos with Cowboy Bebop (1998). A rollicking space western, the show crafts an unforgettable aesthetic old-school anime universe that pulsates with a jazz-infused soundtrack.

With each episode, our ragtag band of bounty hunters serves up enough action, drama, and existential rumination to keep you at the edge of your starship seat.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995): Mechs, Monsters, and Mind Trips

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Best Anime Shows About The Apocalypse

Take a detour to the apocalyptic yet riveting world of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), where monstrous “Angels” threaten Earth, and our last hope is a bunch of angsty teenagers piloting colossal mechs.

A trailblazer of its time, this old-school anime series expertly blends cosmic horrors, poignant human drama, and uncanny psychological depth. As you navigate this good old anime labyrinth, remember: It’s not just a show – it’s an emotional expedition.

Dragon Ball Z (1989): Over 9000 Power Levels Ahead

Best Dragon Ball Z Episodes

Revisit the heart-thumping grandeur of Dragon Ball Z (1989), the old anime show that redefined global perceptions of the anime medium. From Goku’s sky-splitting Kamehameha waves to Vegeta’s prideful monologues, this series is the pinnacle of explosive action and unyielding willpower.

It’s not just an old-school anime; it’s the training ground for all shounen anime heroes. To quote Vegeta, its entertainment value is “over 9000!”

Akira (1988): Post-Apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo on a Motorbike

Akira (1988) - best old school anime cartoons show

Feel the thrills of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, and peel down the streets of Neo-Tokyo with Akira (1988). This old-school anime film defies the notion of ‘good old anime’ and propels you into an action-packed narrative with spine-chilling body horror and mind-bending psychokinetic powers.

It’s not just a ride; it’s an adrenaline-rushing, biker-gang riot on a cosmic scale!

Astro Boy! 

Astro Boy - Cartoons Who Can Fly

Top Old Anime From The 60s

  1. “Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom)” – 1963: Often considered the father of modern anime, this series follows the adventures of a robotic boy in a future world.
  2. “Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Taitei)” – 1965: This series is a touching story about a white lion cub named Kimba who aspires to create a peaceful kingdom for animals.
  3. “Speed Racer (Mach GoGoGo)” – 1967: A high-octane series featuring the thrilling adventures of a young race car driver named Speed Racer.
  4. “Cyborg 009” – 1968: This classic anime tells the story of nine humans converted into cyborgs, battling for their freedom against those who created them.
  5. “GeGeGe no Kitaro” – 1968: A supernatural series that introduces viewers to the fascinating world of Japanese folklore and mythical creatures, known as Yokai.
  6. Star of the Giants (Kyojin no Hoshi)” – 1968: A riveting sports anime that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a young boy striving to become a professional baseball player.
  7. “Sazae-san” – 1969: Recognized by the Guinness World Records as the longest-running animated television series, it showcases the everyday life of the Isono family.
  8. “Himitsu no Akko-chan” – 1969: Known as the first magical girl anime, this series follows Akko-chan, a girl who can transform into anything she wishes with a magical mirror.
  9. “Tiger Mask” – 1969: A compelling wrestling anime that narrates the story of a professional wrestler who fights evil and injustice in and out of the ring.
  10. “Attack No. 1” – 1969: This groundbreaking series is one of the first sports anime focusing on a female protagonist’s journey in competitive volleyball.

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