12 Essentially Nostalgic 90s Anime Series Everyone Should Have Already Watched

It’s a monumental challenge to select just a few of the best anime from the 1990s, especially given how many underappreciated classics and untranslated gems there were during that time. These were simpler days, though, for millennials. The majority of kids were dependent on their local TV network while seated in front of a fat-backed CRT with a bowl of cereal. The fortunate may watch a campy English dub on Saturday mornings to get a look into the mystical realm of Japanese animation. The genuinely committed would programme the VCR to record the full Toonami block on Cartoon Network.

Although there were some wonderful international contributions to the animation form in the 1990s, such as North American’s “On Flux,” the programme must have its roots in Japan in order to be considered a conventional anime. Additionally, we’ll evaluate each show’s IMDb ratings.

Cardcaptors (Cardcaptor Sakura)

IMDb score: 8.0

available for Netflix streaming

As dynamic female characters grabbed centre stage in the 1990s, Magical Girls ruled the Shjo market. Ten-year-old Sakura Kinomoto unintentionally unleashes a set of magical cards from a book in her basement in the video game Cardcaptors (CCS). When the guardian of the cards, Kero, shows up, he tells the girl that only someone with magical abilities can open the book, therefore it is now her responsibility to find the missing cards. The personification of each card must be defeated, while Syaoran Li, a descendent of the Card Master, must be dealt with multiple times.

When Cardcaptors attracted a sizable male fanbase, its humour, artwork, and animation reinforced the diversification of the Magical Girl subgenre and attracted international appeal. Later, the designs of Sakura and Syaoran were modified by CCS creators and manga artist collective Clamp for a new series called Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, a fusion of their earlier works in one world.

Cowboy Bebop

IMDb score: 8.9

available for streaming on Hulu and Netflix

This anime game was eternally altered by this neo-noir space western. Under the direction of the Inter Solar System Police, bounty hunters on the spacecraft Bebop searched the universe for criminals in the year 2071. They all had histories to escape and a desire to find salvation. A fantastic soundtrack framed everything.

Shinichir Watanabe managed to produce a transcendent hit and an enduring legacy in just 26 episodes, something that many have aimed for but few have managed to do. One of the most stylistically complex and menacing stories ever told, Cowboy Bebopi still elicits lively discussion and will do so in perpetuity because it is genuinely ageless.

Digimon: Digital Monsters (Digimon Adventure)

the month of August 1999

IMDb score: 7.4

Hulu offers a streaming version

Seven kids who were accidentally taken to a digital realm while at summer camp were the main characters of the Digimon anime. The young people are able to Digivolve their ally creature into a stronger form and engage in battle after making friends with various Digimon, the creatures that inhabit the environment.

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Due to the emphasis on fighting to become stronger, Digimon, which was originally intended to be a more “masculine” alternative to Tamagochi, was frequently likened to Pokémon. The primary difference between them was that Digivovling was just transitory. After beating an adversary, Digimon were able to revert to their “cute” native form (often corrupted by a demonic Digimon named Devimon). Digiworld’s technological features also made sure that there were strong product sales.

Dragon Ball Z

IMDb score: 8.8

Streaming is possible on Funimation

A list of 90s anime wouldn’t be complete without the legendary Dragon Ball Z, after all. The second overall series depicts Son Goku as an adult defending the planet from several dangers including as robots, mystical beings, and aliens. His son Gohan’s existence is paralleled in the anime, which also pits Piccolo and Vegeta against one another.

The 2005 redub aimed to correct previous errors, but the original Funimation dub’s heavyhanded editing left story holes and contradictions galore. In either case, the crowd didn’t appear to mind. Due to its possession of the Largest Kamehameha attack move Guinness World Record, Dragon Ball maintains its hegemony over the fandom (achieved at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con).

Gundam Wing (Shin kidô senki Gundam Wing)

IMDb score: 8.0

available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu

Gundam Wingquickly blew its seasoned competition out of the water on Toonami and briefly overtook The Simpsons as the most watched show on Cartoon Network since it was the first of the Gundam series to be broadcast on US television (although it was really the sixth iteration). Five scientists go rogue from their organisation and seek vengeance with the aid of five teenage boys and the highly advanced mobile suits known as “Gundams” that they have been taught to pilot in a far-off future in which man has colonised space.

Utilizing Toonami’s wonderful “Midnight Run,” an unedited version of the programme was broadcast to a mature audience while the more family-friendly version was broadcast during the day. Profanity, blood, and atheism were all changed, and the term “kill” was changed to “destroy.” Gundam Wing’s enormous financial success helped make the entire Gundam series (and all of its numerous spinoffs) well-known to western viewers. This franchise has enough material to last for days!

Hunter X Hunter

IMDb score: 8.6

not yet available on streaming services

A young kid named Gon Freecss learned that his absent father is a world-famous hunter who specialises in finding rare creatures, undiscovered treasures, and lawless characters in a universe that served as the inspiration for several RPGs. Gon sets out to become a great hunter himself and find his father after realising that this must be his fate.

Despite the enormous economic success of the original 1999 anime series, the 2011 version (which more closely resembles the manga source) is regarded as one of the best anime of the decade. Another interesting tidbit is that Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi and Hunter X Hunter manga author Yoshihiro Togashi are wed. What a creative power couple!

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Neon Genisis Evangelion

IMDb score: 8.5

available for Netflix streaming

It’s safe to suppose that when this mecha anime was first produced, young minds didn’t understand its complex, sinister idea. A teenage kid is persuaded by his father to join a shadowy group called Nerv in future Tokyo-3, fifteen years after a catastrophic global disaster. He is about to command a massive biomechanical robot dubbed “Evangelion” in battle with Angel-like alien creatures.

Neon Genisis Evangelion can be as profound or surface-level as the audience chooses to perceive it, and it will reveal something new with each viewing. It has strong themes of religion, psychology, and many layers of subversive commentary to analyse. When The End of Evangelion was released later, it provided additional context for the original ending, which had received harsh criticism for being overly ethereal. If you truly despised the ending, a quartet of movies titled Rebuild of Evangelion, which were released between 2007 and 2021, essentially rebuilt the original and provided a different resolution.

One Piece

IMDb score: 8.8

available for streaming on Funimation and Netflix

Who would have guessed that a programme about pirates would rank among the most popular anime ever? Monkey D. Luffy, who sadly has clumsy legs, is on a quest to become the next Pirate King. He cruises the Grand Line with his Straw-hat Pirate crew in search of his fantasy in the form of the ultimate treasure: One Piece.

Before FUNimation acquired the rights to redubbe the first 143 episodes, those who grew up with the 4Kids dub had no idea what they were missing. Another film that suffered from extensive editing (and a shoddy rap theme song), 4Kids took out any references to dying or smoking and added a lot of needlessly offensive humour. Apart from nostalgia, we believe we’ll continue to watch FUNimation movies.


IMDb score: 7.5

available for streaming on Hulu and Netflix

Like Pokémon, no other fanbase has ever taken the world by storm. In the anime, Ash Ketchum, age 10, traverses the globe in pursuit of his dream of becoming a Pokémonmaster. Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, which were initially created as a pair of videogames by Nintendo and Gamefreak for the Gameboy and were known in Japan as Pocket Monsters: Red and Green, are hailed as innovative for being both user-friendly and incredibly long-lasting.

While Nintendo attracted gamers and the cards attracted collectors, it was the anime that turned 90s kids all over the world become devoted trainers. In its social commentary, Pokémon inspired a generation to care for one another and the environment they inhabit in. The show frequently descended to emotional depths that western cartoon viewers weren’t anticipating. Additionally, the soundtrack and combat scenes were awesome.

Ranma 1⁄2

IMDb score: 7.9

available for streaming on Peacock and Hulu

A teenage martial artist with a secret, Ranma Saotome. Following a mishap on one of his training expeditions, he is cursed to turn into a girl when exposed to cold water. He can only become a man by submerging himself in warm water. While Ranma spends the majority of the series trying to break the curse, he also manages to take advantage of it, leading to many humorous mistakes along the way.

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Many western viewers first saw anime and manga thanks to Ranma 1/2, one of the first anime series Viz Media (the pioneering American anime/manga distributor) acquired. Jason DeMarco, a co-creator of Toonami, acknowledged in 2020 that Ranma 1/2 is one of his favourite anime and that he had attempted to include the offbeat comedy in their block. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out because “there’s too much nudity,” as the saying goes.

Sailor Moon (Bishôjo senshi Sêrâ Mûn)

IMDb score: 7.7

Hulu offers a streaming version

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, which is entirely to blame for the astrology nerds of today, centres on the hesitant hero Serena (Usagi Tsukino), who is helped by a mystical cat named Luna and her equally unqualified fellow sailor soldiers to accept her destiny as a guardian of Earth. Little girls all across the world now have a heroine to aspire to thanks to Serena’s volatile, emotional character and the different personalities of her pals as they attempt to juggle middle school and fighting evil.

With its unwavering focus on multifaceted women and female friendships, Sailor Moon has remained one of Japan’s most popular media series over the years. The sexual bond between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, a trailblazing example of inclusion for the time, was disappointingly removed from the English dub. Thankfully, the sapphic couples are widely praised within the community and give female LGBTQ+ members some much-needed representation.




Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin)

IMDb score: 8.5

Hulu offers a streaming version

Samurai X, another Toonami mainstay, may have taken a while to reach western audiences, but the wait was well worth it. Set in 1878, a manslayer-turned-pacifist moves in with the proprietor of a nearby dojo after becoming friends with him. They had no idea that his fame would attract a large number of enraged warriors to their door.

This accidental folktale gains a lot of humour and depth from the clever yet straightforward notion. The dynamic ensemble of characters and their development over the series propel this old favourite to the top of most “best of” lists, despite the fact that most of the violence was toned down for the Toonami time slot (and a portion of episodes wiped altogether).






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