15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (2023)

The earliest anime series debuted in the 1960s, and, like any medium, each successive work influenced the next in a number of interesting and important ways. Where do the tropes emblematic of slice-of-life rom-com series come from? What did shounen anime look like in the '80s? Where did some of the most influential creators in today's anime industry find their start?




Even for those who aren't interested in the history of anime as an industry, these are great shows in their own right. Anime may have experienced a major boom in the '90s in Western countries, butthere's a ton of excellent material for those willing to dig just a little bit deeper into the past.

Updated on January 26th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: The best old anime can not only provide viewers with a lot of context for the traditions of today but they're also filled with designs that are still striking and inspiring after several decades. As time marches on,shows that were once considered modern classics have turned into old school anime icons, becoming cemented as much-watches forpeople seeking to encompass the entire medium.

Space Battleship Yamato (1974 - 1975)

15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (1)

The original 1974 Space Battleship Yamato is without a doubt anime's most seminal space opera. Devasted by unrelenting attacks from an alien adversary, humanity sends its last hope into space—that being the battleship Yamato and her crew, who are tasked with securing a device that might yet be able to reverse the devastation on Earth.

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The brainchild of Leiji Matsumoto; Space Battleship Yamato is a space opera in the truest sense of the term. This is at its core a nautical adventure with a transplanted setting featuring acts of great heroism and self-sacrifice, honor, and the inherent nobility of a lone ship tasked with saving humanity against impossible odds.

Yu Yu Hakusho (1992 - 1994)

15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (2)

When street thug Yusuke Urameshi dives in front of an oncoming car to save a child's life, he's killed and revived as a ghost in order to see firsthand the surprising effects his death imparts on those he knew. He is then returned to his body to serve as an envoy of the underworld.

Yu Yu Hakusho helped to establish now-staple shonen tropes, but it also proved that the genre could be more than collections of highly-dramatized fight scenes. The series persists in some form to this day, but it's best remembered as one of the most important series to debut in the early '90s.

Top Wo Nerae!! Gunbuster (1988 - 1989)

If there were ever to be a competition to identify the most iconic '80s anime ever made, it's probable that Gunbuster would emerge victoriously. Robots, training montages, and badass sunglasses—this one has it all. The '80s camp can be deceiving; although it might appear to be little more than Top Gun with robots, the story ventures to some dark places later on.

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It's also worth mentioning that Gunbuster is the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno of Evangelion fame. Fans of his work will definitely want to check this one out, but its appeal for general audiences shouldn't be understated as well. Finally, this anime series only six episodes long, meaning that there simply isn't a good reason not to give it a look.

Fist Of The North Star (1984 - 1987)

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Everyone who's ever made an "omae wa mou shindeiru" joke is actually contractually obligated to watch Fist of the North Star. This post-apocalyptic '80s classic absolutely embodies the zeitgeist in shounen manga at the time, that beinghuge dudes in a Mad Max-style wasteland beat each other up in gory kung-fu battles, and it really doesn't get any better than that.

Fist of the North Star is structurally simple. The protagonist, Kenshiro, is the inheritor of a secret style of deadly martial arts. He takes it upon himself to cleanse the wasteland of evil by way of blowing bad guys' heads up using a special technique. Villains and allies join the fray along the ride, making this a shounen action classic that isn't to be missed.

Speed Racer (1967 - 1968)

15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (5)
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Often compared to Jonny Quest, one of the most influential pieces of 1960s children's media, Speed Racer was among the first anime series to receive localization for Western audiences. Starring the Racer family, the series was known for its instances of slapstick comedy and for its breakneck narrative pace.

As silly as it is today, there's something remarkably endearing about the original run of Speed Racer. It comes across as terribly dated, but anime fans may well enjoy experiencing such a seminal part of the genre's history. It also received a notable live-action movie adaptation helmed by the Wachowski sisters in 2008.

Legend Of Galactic Heroes (1988 - 1997)

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Debuting in 1988,Legend of Galactic Heroes is a sprawling space epic, and the use of the term "epic" is deliberate here., asLoGH spans 110 episodes, as well as a handful of movies and side-stories. It's a War and Peace-esque story full of shifting loyalties, complex interstellar politics, and engaging tactical fleet battles.

Those looking to sink their teeth into amassivestory with loads of characters and factionscan end their search here. Don't expect that the weight of interstellar war comes at the expense of the characters, though; LoGH features an extremely memorable cast of well-developed characters.

Urusei Yatsura (1981 - 1986)

15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (7)

One of Japan's preeminent manga artists, Rumiko Takahashi, can be credited for essentially inventing the rom-com as we currently know it in the worlds of anime and manga. Her works, like Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha, have been wildly successful in their own right, but the earlier anime adaptations of her manga deserve attention as well.


Of particular interest is the lighthearted romantic comedy Urusei Yatsura, which features a no-good guy who unexpectedly finds himself at the center of extraterrestrial female attention. Hijinks ensue. In many ways, Urusei Yatsura is the prototypical anime rom-com, and many of the tropes that pervade the genre today can be traced back to this common ancestor.

Astro Boy (1963 - 1966)

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Considered by some to be the first-ever anime series, Astro Boy began life as a moderately-successful manga series before making the jump to television in 1963. A hero story that combined a fairytale-like mythos with influence from the atomic age, Astro Boy was as influential to the world of anime as it was to the rapidly-expanding genre of science fiction.

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Without Astro Boy, anime, as it's known now, may not exist. From mecha classics like Mobile Suit Gundam to modern-day shonen staples like My Hero Academia, many of the medium's all-time greatest hits owe something to this '60s classic.

Aim For The Ace! (1973 - 1974)

15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time (9)

Aim For The Ace! is one of anime's quintessential sports stories; it's a classic tale of an untalented tennis player who's able to rise through the ranks by the power of hard work and perseverance. Along for the ride are an intense coach, aloof role models, and a gaggle of jealous rivals who conspire to bring about the protagonist's downfall.

Despite the straightforward premise and themes, Aim For The Ace! manages to be thoroughly endearing on account of how earnest it is. This is a show about how perseverance works out in the end, and, as the audience watches Hiromi struggle to improve, they'll come to trust the process, as well.

Future Boy Conan (1978)

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1978's Future Boy Conan chronicles the adventures of a titular protagonist in a post-apocalyptic future in which war and climate change have obliterated most of humanity. Conan believes he and his grandfather to be the last humans alive, but this preconception is shattered when a mysterious girl washes ashore on their island refuge.

It's impossible to mention Future Boy Conan without stressing that this is the first anime project that the now-legendary Hayao Miyazaki is credited as the lead director on. Despite being an early work for him, the characteristic imagination and sense of setting that his Ghibli films are beloved for shine through. Anybody interested in Miyazaki's work—or in Ghibli movies in general—should definitely check this one out.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (1982 - 1983)

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When an alien ship crashlands on Earth, humanity enters a new age of technological achievement. But, when an alien species attempts to invade years later, the citizens of the Macross are teleported lightyears away and must fight to return home.

One part epic mech anime and one part tense romance, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross is responsible in part for popularizing multiple aspects of the shonen genre. Both an otherworldly space opera and a very human tale of struggle, this series helped to lay the groundwork upon which series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Code Geass would build.

Mobile Suit Gundam (1979 - 1980)

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Although Mobile Suit Gundam doesn't hold the title of "first mecha anime," it does deserve a lot of credit for revolutionizing the way that audiences going forward would view the subgenre. The 1979 series was groundbreaking for using its science-fiction setting populated with a healthy dose of giant robots to tell a remarkably grounded war story, full of tragedy, action, and space politics.

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The show was inhibited by its modest budget, though, and a variety of mishaps during production resulted in some occasionally janky animation. Yet, the excellent storyboarding and character designs make it a worthwhile watch decades later.

Ashita No Joe (1970 - 1971)

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Ashita no Joe is indisputably one of the most important and influential anime ever produced. Adapted from the manga of the same name, the 1970 television anime tells the story of a boxer named Joe rising to fame from nothing, struggling not only against his opponents but against society and the system itself to eke out his own niche.

It's a gritty story of one man's struggle to stake out his place in the world, and it resonated with the Japanese audiences of the '60s and '70s as their country weathered a period of economic and political transition. Young Japanese viewers at the time may have seen a bit of themselves in Joe, a character who, despite his chaotic surroundings, is able to forge ahead on his own path.

Lupin the 3rd Part I (1972 - 1973)

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An amalgamation of popular French and Japanese crime novels from the early twentieth century, Lupin the 3rd sees the titular character, a master thief, band together with a group of friends in pursuit of treasure, adventure, and intrigue. All the while, they are pursued by a detective hellbent on putting a stop to their antics.

Incredibly well-animated for the time, Lupin the 3rd set a new standard for anime. It also helped to establish anime culture and influenced hugely popular anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy.

Rose Of Versailles (1979 - 1980)

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Considered by many to be legendary director Osamu Dezaki's masterwork; Rose of Versailles is an operatic tale of love, war, drama, and intrigue. The story follows a cast of characters from different walks of life in the build-up to the French revolution, and the anime leverages this setting marvelously. The audience can feel the mounting dread in the air as Paris creeps closer and closer to its descent into chaos, and the story's characters must adapt.

Exceptional pacing, well-constructed characters, and passionate melodrama have made Versailles a classic for the ages. It's also one of the most enormously influential works in the world of shoujo anime, being credited as a primary influence for creators like Kunihiko Ikuhara in his work on Revolutionary Girl Utena.

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NEXT:15 Most Underrated Anime Of The Last 20 Years


15 Best Old Anime That Stand The Test Of Time? ›

The earliest anime that was produced in Japan to have survived into the modern day, The Dull Sword, was released on June 30, 1917, but there it is disputed which title was the first to get that honour.

What are good old animes? ›

The 25 Essential Anime Series To Watch Now
  • Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979) (Photo by Toei Animation) ...
  • Ranma 1/2 (1987-1992) (Photo by Studio Deen) ...
  • Dragon Ball Z (1989-1996) ...
  • Patlabor: The TV Series (1989-1990) ...
  • Sailor Moon (1992-1997) ...
  • Tenchi Muyo! ...
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996) ...
  • Pokemon (1997-present)
Dec 7, 2020

What is the most old anime? ›

The earliest anime that was produced in Japan to have survived into the modern day, The Dull Sword, was released on June 30, 1917, but there it is disputed which title was the first to get that honour.

What anime can a 15 year old watch? ›

25 Kid-Friendly Anime Shows
  • Naruto.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura/Cardcaptors.
  • My Neighbor Totoro.
  • Haikyu!!
  • My Hero Academia.
  • Hikaru No Go.
  • A Silent Voice.
  • Little Witch Academia.
Sep 13, 2022

Which is the #1 anime? ›

1 Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball Z.

What are the big 3 anime? ›

The Big Three was a term used to describe the three most popular running series during their golden age in Jump - One Piece, Naruto and Bleach. All three series got their common title due to their worldwide popularity and length.

Who is the strongest old anime? ›

Old man Yama” is the captain of the 1st Division of the Gotei 13 and also the Captain-Commander of the whole Gotei 13. He is not only the strongest old man in anime, but he's also one of the top fighters in all of Bleach.

Why old anime is better? ›

In contrast, old-school anime has much more variety. No two titles are the same, so stories feel a lot more original and exciting. Since the medium was still finding its footing years ago, series often explored many different stories and themes, many of which fans could never hope to see in a modern series.

What are the 4 biggest anime of all time? ›

In the Shonen anime community, there are four main series that have helped to define the Shonen genre. Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach are known as the “Big Four.”

What is the 2nd longest anime in the world? ›

Televised series
No.Program nameEpisode count
2Nintama Rantaro2,321
4Oyako Club1,818
63 more rows

Is anime age restricted? ›

The age listed is the starting age the anime publisher thinks is the most appropriate. For example, ALL is for all ages, 16+ is for people 16 and older, 17+ is for adults, etc.

What age is for anime? ›

Here are some tips on age-appropriate anime: Anime seen on the Cartoon Network (or other channels that show children's cartoons) before 9pm is probably safe for most children younger than 13. If it is on after 9pm, then you know it isn't appropriate for children younger than 13.

Is anime inappropriate for 10 year olds? ›

The age rating of anime can range from kid-friendly to adult content, even pornographic in nature. Some types of anime aren't appropriate for kids because they have sexually explicit content while others include, mature themes that your child might not understand.

Which anime has most fans? ›

1) One Piece

One Piece, one of the most popular shonen anime series based on Eiichiro Oda's manga, premiered in 1999. The story follows Monkey D. Luffy, who wants to become the Pirate King, and his crew as they journey around the world in search of the legendary treasure known as One Piece.

What is the No 1 anime in Japan? ›

One Piece. It's no surprise that One Piece would end up on a list like this. After all, it's one of the most well-known anime of all time. The series has been on air since 1997, along with a manga series accompanying the show ever since as well.

Who is 001 anime? ›

001, also known as the Princess of Klaxosaurs, is a character in DARLING in the FRANXX. She is a Klaxo-Sapien and is presumed to be the last surviving member of her kind.

What is the Big 5 anime? ›

Any manga reader as well as many other people could name you the names of the 5 largest names in the manga industry. Fairy Tail, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. But how much of what we read is influenced by these iconic mangas and the elements they include?

Why is DBZ not in the Big 3? ›

The first Big Three anime to launch in North America was One Piece in 2004, with Naruto following in 2005 and Bleach in 2006. Therefore, Dragon Ball stemmed from the era before the Big Three in both the East and West. It should also be noted that while the internet was around at this point, streaming wasn't a thing.

Where is anime most popular? ›

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Japan is the country in which anime is the most popular. Approximately three-quarters of everyone in Japan either watches anime regularly or reports having seen anime recently.

Who is the number 1 best anime character? ›

1. Goku — Dragon Ball. This Saiyan warrior is the quintessential shonen hero, having inspired many iconic anime heroes that followed him. Sent to Earth as a baby to destroy humanity, Goku ends up becoming its greatest protector.

Was there a golden age of anime? ›

The 1980s: The Golden Age. The 1980s are considered the “golden age” of anime and saw a huge explosion of genres and interest.

What was the first anime to become popular? ›

The history of anime in the United States began in 1961, when Magic Boy and The Tale of the White Serpent became the first and second anime to receive documented releases in the country. Anime has since found success with a growing audience in the region, with Astro Boy often being noted as the first anime to receive ...

When did anime get good? ›

In the 1980s, anime became mainstream in Japan, experiencing a boom in production with the rise in popularity of anime like Gundam, Macross, Dragon Ball, and genres such as real robot, space opera and cyberpunk.

Which anime is king of anime? ›

1 Bojji - Ranking Of Kings

There is no doubt that Bojji is not only one of the strongest anime kings of all time but also the most intelligent and kindest one. He was the tiny crown prince of the Bosse Kingdom who became king after defeating his mighty father King Bosse.

Which anime has the biggest plot? ›

Here are the anime that managed to pull off plot twists that no one saw coming!
  • 8 Darwin's Game.
  • 7 Tower of God.
  • 6 Chainsaw Man.
  • 5 Assassination Classroom.
  • 4 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
  • 3 Death Note.
  • 2 Attack on Titan.
  • 1 Naruto: Shippuden.
Jan 22, 2023

How old is One Piece? ›

The first volume was released on December 24, 1997. By March 3, 2023, a total of 105 volumes have been released.

What is Japan's longest running anime? ›

The longest-running anime TV series is Fuji TV's Sazae-san (Japan), which was first broadcast on 5 October 1969 and has run for 53 years 58 days, as of 2 December 2022. Produced by the studio Eiken, the animation features Sazae and her family focusing on day-to-day life in the suburbs.

Which anime has made the most money? ›

9 Highest-Grossing Anime Of All Time
  • 8 Sailor Moon.
  • 7 One Piece.
  • 6 Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • 5 Gundam.
  • 4 Dragon Ball.
  • 3 Spirited Away.
  • 2 Demon Slayer.
  • 1 Pokémon.
Apr 21, 2023

What is the least popular anime? ›

15 Most Underrated Anime Series You Shouldn't Miss Watching
  • 15 Gugure! Kokkuri-san.
  • 14 Hell Girl.
  • 13 Kemonozume.
  • 12 Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou.
  • 11 91 Days.
  • 10 Daily Lives Of High School Boys.
  • 9 Last Exile.
  • 8 Paranoia Agent.
Dec 15, 2022

Who won anime of the year? ›

But Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was not the only winner of the night. The final season of Attack on Titan took home Best Drama and Best Opening, while Spy x Family was awarded Best Comedy and Best New Show. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 won Best Film, showcasing the wide range of anime styles that were celebrated during the ceremony.

What are 3 of anime from the 90s? ›

From Cowboy Bebop to Yu Yu Hakusho and Neon Genesis Evangelion, some of the best anime were born in the '90s.

Can a 40 year old like anime? ›

No, no one is too old for anime.

Can a 12 year old watch Baki? ›

Parents need to know that Baki is an action/martial arts-themed anime series with graphic violence and bloody, gory imagery. Fighters and even civilians are often killed in brutal combat, and characters are shot, dismembered, and beaten.

Can an 11 year old watch demon slayer? ›

It was a pretty violent show but is not as gory as other animes. I think it deserves it's MA15+ but would be okay for some children if they are mature and have watched other animes. And besides the anime is not that graphic in violence. 4 people found this helpful.

What is anime for adults called? ›

Seinen is anime aimed at older men than shounen, usually those over the age of eighteen. With this more mature audience, the content will often be far more mature as well - for example, the anime, Highschool of the Dead, is filled with explicit sexual content and graphic violence.

Is demon slayer kid friendly? ›

Lots of fantasy violence, including bloody injuries and corpses, including those of young children. It also features disturbing images of people turning into demons or eating human flesh. Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Is anime for mature people? ›

Unlike most Western cartoons, anime is something that appeals to any age group. It covers a broad range of topics, even going as far as to include content that only adults can understand. The only setback is how some of them have a plot that continues to drag on, without any proper conclusion or message.

Can a 25 year old watch anime? ›

One is never too old to watch anime! Anime has multiple genres that cater to the tastes of the young and the old. I started watching anime when I was 7 and I never looked back. I started watching Shoujo and Shounen anime.

Is One Piece a kid show? ›

There is some cursing and violence. There's bloody scenes but nothing gory. In the anime the sexualization of female characters is extremely tamed at first. Starting in the 200's and later it gradually gets worse to the point where as an adult you're rolling your eyes.

Is there any kid friendly anime? ›

Doraemon (ドラえもん) is one of the most popular anime among children ever, which has been aired on TV all over the world for a long time. The plot is simple and each story is easy for children to understand.

What is the number 1 longest anime? ›

Chibi Maruko-Chan (1,359 Episodes)

Is One Piece the best anime of all time? ›

In conclusion, One Piece is a fantastic anime series that has held viewers' attention for more than 20 years. It stands out among top anime series of all time, thanks to its unique world-building, powerful characters, distinctive art, and humor.

Why anime is greatest? ›

One big reason why anime is so much better than western animation is because of the strong, relatable characters. Anime characters have such a wide range of personalities and appearances to make them more realistic and relatable for real people.

What is the 2nd longest running anime? ›

Televised series
No.Program nameEpisode count
2Nintama Rantaro2,321
4Oyako Club1,818
63 more rows

What is the number 2 anime in the world? ›

Top 100 Most Popular
#titlenb. votes
1Fullmetal Alchemist (TV)13517
2Death Note (TV)13095
3Cowboy Bebop (TV)12425
98 more rows

Which is the top 5 anime in the world? ›

Best Anime Series & Movies of All Time According To Fans Around The World
  • Naruto. ...
  • The Monogatari Series. ...
  • Spirited Away. ...
  • Jujutsu Kaisen. ...
  • Attack on Titan. ...
  • One Piece. ...
  • Gintama. ...
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Action, powers, philosophical themes, a rollercoaster ride on relatable human emotions, and the list.
Mar 6, 2023

Who is the most popular character in anime? ›

10 Most Popular Anime Characters Of All Time
  • Saitama (One-Punch Man) ...
  • Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul) ...
  • Eren Yeager (Attack On Titan) ...
  • Monkey D. ...
  • Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass) ...
  • Gojo Satoru (Jujutsu Kaisen) ...
  • Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto) ...
  • Light Yagami (Death Note)
Jul 6, 2022

Which anime is more popular than One Piece? ›

1 Yu Yu Hakusho — The Greatest Shonen Anime

At around 140 episodes, Yu Yu Hakusho is a shonen anime that encompasses amazing characterizations, wickedly entertaining story arcs, and meaningful moments in a short span.


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