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Top 20 Best Animes From The 80s You Need To Watch

The 80s marked a golden era for anime, with numerous groundbreaking series and films that continue to captivate audiences to this day. From action-packed mecha adventures to heartwarming dramas, the best animes from the 80s have left an indelible mark on the industry and shaped the medium's evolution.

Cecilia Jones
Jun 03, 2023279 Shares39803 Views
The 80s marked a golden era for anime, with numerous groundbreaking series and films that continue to captivate audiences to this day. From action-packed mecha adventures to heartwarming dramas, the best animes from the 80shave left an indelible mark on the industry and shaped the medium's evolution.
This era introduced iconic franchises, unforgettable characters, and innovative storytelling techniques that continue to inspire and influence modern anime.
In this article, we will explore a selection of the top animes from the 80s that showcase the creativity, imagination, and cultural impact of that time.
Join us as we embark on a journey through the vibrant and nostalgic world of 80s anime, celebrating the timeless classics and hidden gems that have stood the test of time.

Urusei Yatsura (1981-1986)

Official Trailer | Urusei Yatsura – 2022 | English Sub

  • Overview -Urusei Yatsura is a comedic romance anime series that aired from 1981 to 1986, based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi. The series follows the misadventures of Ataru Moroboshi, a hapless high school student, and his encounters with Lum, an alien princess who has fallen in love with him. The series combines elements of science fiction, comedy, and romance, providing a humorous and lighthearted viewing experience.
  • Highlights -Urusei Yatsura is known for its zany humor, imaginative storylines, and a colorful cast of characters. The series blends traditional Japanese folklore with modern-day comedy, creating a unique and entertaining atmosphere. It features comedic misunderstandings, slapstick humor, and a touch of romance, capturing the essence of Rumiko Takahashi's comedic style.
  • Legacy -Urusei Yatsura has become a classic anime series, beloved for its humor and its influence on subsequent romantic comedies. It has spawned numerous spin-offs, movies, and OVAs, solidifying its place in anime history and inspiring future generations of comedic anime creators.

City Hunter (1987-1991)

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  • Overview -City Hunter is an action-comedy anime series that aired from 1987 to 1991, based on the manga by Tsukasa Hojo. The series follows Ryo Saeba, a skilled and suave sweeper (a combination of detective and bodyguard), as he takes on various missions and solves cases in Tokyo. With his sharpshooting skills and charming personality, Ryo becomes entangled in dangerous situations while also encountering romance along the way.
  • Highlights -City Hunter is renowned for its stylish action sequences, clever humor, and Ryo Saeba's charismatic character. The series combines thrilling gunfights, comedy, and a touch of romance, creating a captivating and entertaining narrative. It features memorable supporting characters, intricate mysteries, and Ryo's trademark catchphrase, "Get Wild," which has become iconic.
  • Legacy -City Hunter has gained a dedicated fan base worldwide and has become one of the most popular action-comedy anime series. It has inspired spin-off manga, anime adaptations, live-action adaptations, and movies, solidifying its status as a beloved franchise with a lasting impact.

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies - Official Trailer

  • Overview -Grave of the Fireflies is a heartbreaking war drama anime film released in 1988, directed by Isao Takahata. The film tells the story of Seita and Setsuko, siblings who struggle to survive in Japan during World War II. It portrays the harsh realities of war, the loss of innocence, and the devastating consequences on civilians, particularly children.
  • Highlights -Grave of the Fireflies is known for its emotionally gripping storyline, beautiful animation, and its ability to evoke deep emotional responses from viewers. The film delves into themes of loss, resilience, and the power of family bonds. It presents a poignant and realistic portrayal of the effects of war on innocent lives, leaving a lasting impact on its audience.
  • Legacy -Grave of the Fireflies is regarded as a masterpiece in the world of animation, praised for its powerful storytelling and its exploration of the human spirit in times of adversity. It has received critical acclaim and has become a touchstone for anime fans and film enthusiasts alike. The film continues to resonate with viewers, reminding us of the enduring tragedies of war.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Official Trailer

  • Overview -Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a post-apocalyptic fantasy anime film released in 1984, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and based on his own manga. The film takes place in a future where humanity struggles to survive in a world polluted by toxic forests and giant insects. The story follows Nausicaä, a young princess and skilled pilot, as she strives to bring peace and harmony between humans and nature.
  • Highlights -Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind showcases Hayao Miyazaki's signature storytelling, breathtaking animation, and environmental themes. The film blends action, adventure, and philosophical elements to create a thought-provoking and visually stunning narrative. It explores the themes of ecological balance, the consequences of human greed, and the inherent connection between humans and nature.
  • Legacy -Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is considered a groundbreaking film and a precursor to the renowned Studio Ghibli. It exemplifies Miyazaki's talent for creating immersive worlds and complex characters. The film's environmental message and Nausicaä's iconic character have left a lasting impact on the anime industry and continue to inspire audiences around the world.

Rose Of Versailles (1979-1980)

Rose of Versailles (fan-made) Trailer

  • Overview -Rose of Versailles, also known as Lady Oscar, is a historical drama anime series that aired from 1979 to 1980, based on the manga by Riyoko Ikeda. The series is set in 18th-century France and follows the story of Oscar François de Jarjayes, a young noblewoman raised as a man to become the commander of the royal guards. The series explores themes of gender identity, love, and political intrigue against the backdrop of the French Revolution.
  • Highlights -Rose of Versailles is renowned for its captivating storyline, intricate character development, and its portrayal of complex historical events. The series blends romance, drama, and political intrigue, offering a unique perspective on the lives of both fictional and historical figures. It features lavish costumes, beautiful animation, and emotional storytelling that immerses viewers in the tumultuous era of the French Revolution.
  • Legacy -Rose of Versailles is considered a classic in the shoujo genre and has had a significant impact on subsequent historical and romance anime series. Its strong and charismatic protagonist, Oscar, has become an iconic figure in anime. The series has inspired adaptations, stage plays, and merchandise, solidifying its place as a beloved and influential work of art.

Fist Of The North Star (1984-1987)

Fist of the North Star (VHS trailer)

  • Overview -Fist of the North Star, also known as Hokuto no Ken, is a post-apocalyptic action anime series that aired from 1984 to 1987, based on the manga by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. The series is set in a world devastated by nuclear war and follows Kenshiro, a martial artist with the power of the divine martial art Hokuto Shinken. Kenshiro travels through the wasteland, seeking justice and protecting the weak against various villains.
  • Highlights -Fist of the North Star is known for its intense action sequences, brutal violence, and its iconic catchphrase "You are already dead." The series combines martial arts, supernatural powers, and a dystopian setting to create a thrilling and visceral experience. It explores themes of honor, redemption, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity.
  • Legacy -Fist of the North Star has become a legendary and influential series within the action genre. It has inspired numerous spin-off media, video games, and adaptations, solidifying its place in popular culture. The series' unique art style, memorable characters, and its depiction of explosive martial arts battles have left a lasting impact on the anime industry.

Akira (1988)

Akira (1988) Legendary Trailer

  • Overview -Akira is a groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction anime film released in 1988, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in a futuristic Neo-Tokyo, the film follows the story of Kaneda, a biker gang leader, and Tetsuo, his friend who develops incredible psychic powers. As Tetsuo's powers spiral out of control, Kaneda must confront a secret government project and the destructive forces threatening the city.
  • Highlights -Akira is renowned for its stunning animation, dystopian setting, and its exploration of complex themes such as power, identity, and societal decay. The film combines breathtaking visuals, intense action sequences, and a thought-provoking narrative to create an unforgettable cinematic experience. It pushes the boundaries of traditional animation and delves into philosophical questions about humanity and the nature of power.
  • Legacy -Akira is considered a landmark film in the anime industry and has had a profound influence on the cyberpunk genre and animation as a whole. Its impact on popular culture is undeniable, inspiring future filmmakers, artists, and storytellers. The film's iconic imagery, gripping storyline, and its themes of technological advancement and human nature continue to captivate audiences worldwide.

Dragon Ball (1986-1989)

Dragon Ball (1986) Trailer

  • Overview -Dragon Ball is a legendary anime series that aired from 1986 to 1989 and is considered one of the most influential and iconic franchises in anime history. It follows the adventures of Goku, a young martial artist with incredible strength and a pure heart, as he embarks on a quest to collect the seven magical Dragon Balls.
  • Highlights -Dragon Ball introduced audiences to a captivating blend of action, humor, and adventure. It showcased epic battles, character growth, and a vibrant cast of memorable characters. The series seamlessly blended martial arts, fantasy elements, and a touch of comedy, captivating both children and adults alike.
  • Legacy -Dragon Ball's popularity skyrocketed, leading to numerous sequels, spin-offs, and movies. It is credited with popularizing the shonen genre, inspiring a new generation of anime and manga creators, and leaving a lasting impact on pop culture worldwide.

Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-1980)

Mobile Suit Gundam Trailer

  • Overview -Mobile Suit Gundam, also known as Gundam 0079, is a seminal mecha anime series that aired from 1979 to 1980. Set in a futuristic universe, it tells the story of the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, with the focus on the young pilot Amuro Ray and his struggles in the conflict.
  • Highlights -Mobile Suit Gundam revolutionized the mecha genre by introducing realistic and gritty storytelling, complex characters, and intense battles. It explored themes of war, morality, and the human cost of conflict, elevating the series beyond simple robot fights. The iconic giant humanoid robots, known as Gundam, became a staple in anime and inspired numerous spin-offs and sequels.
  • Legacy -Mobile Suit Gundam sparked a franchise that continues to thrive today. Its success paved the way for a new era of mecha anime, setting the standards for intricate narratives, political intrigue, and compelling character development.

Saint Seiya (1986-1989)

Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary Full Trailer English Subbed [1080p]

  • Overview -Saint Seiya, also known as Knights of the Zodiac, is an action-packed anime series that aired from 1986 to 1989. It follows a group of young warriors known as the "Saints" who wear mystical armor called "Cloths" and protect the reincarnated Greek goddess Athena in her battle against the forces of evil.
  • Highlights -Saint Seiya captivated audiences with its blend of mythology, fantasy, and intense battles. The series showcased epic duels between the Saints, each representing a different constellation, and explored themes of friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. Its distinctive character designs and stylish action sequences left a lasting impression on viewers.
  • Legacy -Saint Seiya became a global phenomenon, with a dedicated fan base that continues to grow. It has inspired spin-offs, movies, and video games, and its impact can be seen in subsequent anime series that feature teams of warriors battling against powerful adversaries.

Captain Tsubasa (1983-1986)

Captain Tsubasa: Sekai Daikessen!! Jr. World Cup Trailer (1986)

  • Overview -Captain Tsubasa is a sports anime series that aired from 1983 to 1986, based on the manga by Yoichi Takahashi. The series follows the story of Tsubasa Oozora, a talented young soccer player with a passion for the sport. It chronicles his journey as he strives to become a professional soccer player, facing challenges, forming rivalries, and showcasing his exceptional skills on the field.
  • Highlights -Captain Tsubasa is known for its exhilarating soccer matches and dynamic animation that brings the sport to life. The series features intense gameplay sequences, strategic tactics, and memorable characters with unique playing styles. It captivates viewers with its energetic atmosphere and showcases the power of teamwork, determination, and the pursuit of one's dreams.
  • Legacy -Captain Tsubasa has left a lasting impact on the sports anime genre, influencing subsequent soccer-themed anime and inspiring a passionate fan base around the world. It has spawned numerous adaptations, sequels, spin-offs, and video games, solidifying its status as a beloved classic.

Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro (1979)

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) Original Trailer [4K]

  • Overview -Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is an anime film released in 1979, based on the manga by Monkey Punch. It follows the adventures of the gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin III, as he and his companions navigate a thrilling heist involving a counterfeit money operation and a mysterious princess. The film combines elements of action, comedy, and romance, showcasing Lupin's cunning, wit, and his pursuit of justice.
  • Highlights -The Castle of Cagliostro is lauded for its stylish animation, masterful direction by Hayao Miyazaki, and its engaging storyline. It showcases exhilarating action sequences, witty dialogue, and a charming cast of characters. The film strikes a balance between light-hearted moments and high-stakes escapades, leaving viewers entertained and enthralled.
  • Legacy -The Castle of Cagliostro is recognized as one of the standout entries in the Lupin III franchise and is often regarded as one of the greatest anime films of all time. It introduced a wider international audience to the iconic character of Lupin III and paved the way for future adaptations and spin-offs.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985-1986)

Mobile Suit Z Gundam Trailer

  • Overview -Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is a mecha anime series that aired from 1985 to 1986, serving as a sequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Set in a futuristic universe, the series explores the conflict between the Earth Federation and the rebel group known as the Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG). It follows the story of Kamille Bidan, a young pilot caught in the midst of the war as he becomes involved with the AEUG.
  • Highlights -Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is renowned for its intricate storytelling, complex characters, and its exploration of political and social themes. The series delves into the consequences of war, the struggles of identity, and the price of fighting for one's beliefs. It features intense mecha battles, dramatic character arcs, and a thought-provoking narrative that challenges traditional notions of heroism and villainy.
  • Legacy -Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is highly regarded as a landmark series in the mecha genre, praised for its mature themes, character development, and its impact on the Gundam franchise. It has influenced subsequent entries in the Gundam universe and has garnered a dedicated fan base for its engrossing story and its exploration of the human condition during times of conflict.

Macross (1982-1983)

MACROSS – Anime Trailer.1 | AFENBO ✤O•G•P•A•F✤ | [HD–1080|60.FPS] [Fall 1982].

  • Overview -Macross, also known as Robotech in some regions, is a mecha anime series that aired from 1982 to 1983. The series follows the story of a group of humans aboard the massive transforming spaceship Macross as they navigate a war against giant alien invaders known as the Zentradi. It combines mecha action with elements of romance, music, and interstellar conflict.
  • Highlights -Macross stands out for its iconic transforming mecha designs, its memorable soundtrack, and its blend of action and romance. The series explores themes of love, cultural exchange, and the impact of war on individuals and society. It features intense aerial battles, engaging character dynamics, and a compelling narrative that captivates viewers from start to finish.
  • Legacy -Macross has achieved significant popularity and has become a long-standing franchise with numerous sequels, spin-offs, films, and merchandise. It is recognized for its influential role in the mecha genre and its ability to combine different elements to create a captivating and memorable story.

Ranma 1/2 (1989-1992)

Ranma 1/2 English DVD Trailer (VIZ Media LLC)

  • Overview -Ranma 1/2 is a romantic comedy anime series that aired from 1989 to 1992, based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi. The series revolves around Ranma Saotome, a young martial artist who, due to a curse, turns into a girl when splashed with cold water. The series follows Ranma's humorous and often chaotic adventures as he navigates his complicated relationships with a variety of quirky characters.
  • Highlights -Ranma 1/2 is known for its blend of comedy, romance, and martial arts. The series features hilarious misunderstandings, wacky situations, and a host of colorful characters. It explores themes of identity, love, and self-acceptance while maintaining a lighthearted and comedic tone. Ranma 1/2 offers a unique twist on the traditional romance genre, incorporating elements of gender-bending and supernatural curses.
  • Legacy -Ranma 1/2 has garnered a dedicated fan base and has remained a beloved classic in the anime community. It has inspired spin-off media, including OVAs and films, and has solidified Rumiko Takahashi's reputation as a prominent manga artist and storyteller. The series is celebrated for its humor, memorable characters, and its ability to create a charming and entertaining romantic comedy experience.

Hokuto No Ken 2 (1987-1988)

Hokuto no Ken (1986) Trailer (Remastered HD)

  • Overview -Hokuto no Ken 2, also known as Fist of the North Star 2, is the second season of the post-apocalyptic action anime series that aired from 1987 to 1988. It continues the story of Kenshiro, the master of the deadly martial art style Hokuto Shinken, as he battles against ruthless warlords and seeks to bring justice to the lawless wasteland.
  • Highlights -Hokuto no Ken 2 maintains the intense action and dramatic storytelling of its predecessor, showcasing Kenshiro's unwavering determination and his deadly martial arts techniques. The series further explores the dystopian world, delving into the intricate web of political intrigue and personal vendettas. It features epic battles, memorable villains, and moments of emotional depth.
  • Legacy -Hokuto no Ken 2 solidified the franchise's status as a classic in the action genre, building upon the success of the original series. It contributed to the popularity of the Fist of the North Star franchise, inspiring subsequent adaptations, spin-offs, and video games.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes (1988-1997)

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Official Trailer

  • Overview -Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a space opera anime series that aired from 1988 to 1997, based on the science fiction novels by Yoshiki Tanaka. Set in a distant future, the series depicts a vast interstellar conflict between two opposing forces: the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. It follows the perspectives of key military figures on both sides and explores themes of politics, war, and human nature.
  • Highlights -Legend of the Galactic Heroes stands out for its grand scale, intricate plotlines, and well-developed characters. It offers a thought-provoking narrative that delves into the complexities of war, governance, and ideology. The series combines strategic space battles with philosophical debates, exploring the moral dilemmas faced by its characters. It boasts a large cast of compelling personalities and addresses themes of power, leadership, and the consequences of one's actions.
  • Legacy -Legend of the Galactic Heroes is considered a masterpiece of science fiction anime, praised for its depth and storytelling. It continues to be regarded as one of the greatest anime series of all time, influencing subsequent space opera and military-themed anime. It has garnered a dedicated fan base and has been praised for its nuanced exploration of political and social issues.

Gunbuster (1988-1989)

Gunbuster (trailer)

  • Overview -Gunbuster, also known as Aim for the Top!, is a mecha anime series that aired from 1988 to 1989. It tells the story of Noriko Takaya, a young girl with aspirations of becoming a mecha pilot, as she trains to fight against a mysterious alien threat known as the Space Monsters. Guided by her mentor, Kazumi Amano, Noriko faces numerous challenges on her journey to protect humanity.
  • Highlights -Gunbuster combines mecha action with coming-of-age elements, exploring themes of determination, friendship, and sacrifice. The series showcases intense battles, stunning animation, and character-driven storytelling. It explores the personal growth of Noriko and her struggles to overcome her limitations, both in and out of the cockpit. Gunbuster's epic conclusion is particularly noteworthy for its emotional impact.
  • Legacy -Gunbuster is highly regarded as a classic in the mecha genre, known for its influence on subsequent anime series. It showcased the directorial talent of Hideaki Anno, who later went on to direct Neon Genesis Evangelion. Gunbuster's impact can be seen in its memorable characters, innovative mecha designs, and its exploration of the human condition in the face of overwhelming odds.

Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1989-1990)

Patlabor - The Mobile Police TV Series Available Now on DVD

  • Overview -Patlabor: The Mobile Police is a mecha anime series that aired from 1989 to 1990, based on the manga by Masami Yuki. The series is set in a near-future Tokyo where giant robotic suits called Labors are commonly used for construction purposes. However, when rogue Labors and other technological threats arise, the Special Vehicles Section 2, a division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, is tasked with maintaining law and order.
  • Highlights -Patlabor offers a unique blend of mecha action, police procedural, and comedy. It showcases the daily lives and adventures of the diverse team of police officers and their Labor units. The series combines lighthearted moments with intense action sequences, often with a focus on problem-solving and teamwork. Patlabor also explores themes of technology, ethics, and the impact of advanced machinery on society.
  • Legacy - Patlabor has gained a dedicated following for its realistic portrayal of a near-future world and its emphasis on character development. It spawned multiple sequels, films, and OVAs, further expanding its universe. The series is recognized for its detailed animation, strong storytelling, and its ability to balance humor and drama.

Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? (1984)

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  • Overview - Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love? is a science fiction anime film released in 1984. It serves as a retelling of the original Macross series, condensing the story into a theatrical format. The film follows the conflict between humanity and a race of giant humanoid aliens known as the Zentradi, centering around the love triangle between pilot Hikaru Ichijyo, aspiring singer Lynn Minmay, and skilled pilot and commander Roy Focker.
  • Highlights -Do You Remember Love? is notable for its breathtaking visuals, mesmerizing animation, and its iconic soundtrack featuring Lynn Minmay's songs. The film offers an enhanced and condensed version of the original Macross storyline, emphasizing the themes of love, war, and the power of culture. It showcases intense mecha battles, emotional character moments, and explores the impact of music on the characters and the conflict.
  • Legacy -Do You Remember Love? has become a cult classic, praised for its stunning animation, memorable music, and its ability to capture the essence of the original Macross series. It has influenced subsequent anime films and has remained a beloved entry in the Macross franchise, further cementing the series' status as a seminal work in the mecha genre.

Final Thoughts

The 80s was a remarkable decade for anime, giving birth to some of the most beloved and influential series and films in the medium's history. The best animes from the 80s continue to hold a special place in the hearts of fans, as they paved the way for the evolution of storytelling, animation techniques, and genre exploration.
These timeless classics showcase the talent, creativity, and vision of the artists and creators who crafted them. Whether you're a long-time anime enthusiast or new to the medium, exploring the best animes from the 80s is a journey that offers a glimpse into the rich heritage and foundation upon which modern anime is built.
So, dive into the vibrant world of mecha, fantasy, romance, and adventure that defined the 80s, and discover the magic and nostalgia that continues to enchant audiences to this day.
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