Wednesday, May 17, 2017

100 Accessible Anime Guide for Fans (Part 3)

And now we get to the part most people would be interested in. Around the mid-90s was when Japanimation outgrew its underground roots and invaded the mainstream, eventually becoming a staple on popular television blocks and in the late night arena. In Japan itself, anime was also booming. Creative idea men were given the reins to write, design, and direct many of the most popular series that are still referenced to this day.

This was also the era of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the toy-show craze, which allowed anime and manga to explode on a wide scale--a scale it would never hit again. This was when anime was at its peak.

Suffice to say, this is where anime hit worldwide critical mass, and where you are likely to see many favorites of your own.

So dive in to part three, and enjoy:

51. You’re Under Arrest! (1994)
Genre: Action Comedy
Length: 51 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN, Bandai Visual
Writer: Kosuke Fujishima (original manga), Hiroshi Watanabe
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Plot: The story revolves around Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, two female members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the protagonists of the show as they are stationed at the fictional Bokuto Police Precinct located at Sumida, Tokyo. The series is largely episodic, and much of it focuses on the interaction between the main characters and the humorous supporting cast.

Opinion: There are sequel series to this, but the original is the best. It was originally an OVA before bleeding over into TV (with the same staff) which makes it quite unique considering it's a buddy cop show. This is by the creator of Oh! My Goddess, which is harder series to recommend, however You're Under Arrest! is funnier and far more consistent overall. They don't make them like this anymore.

52. El-Hazard: The Magnificent World (1995)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 7 episodes
Studio: AIC
Writer: Ryoe Tsukimura
Director: Hiroki Hayashi

Plot: The story focuses on three high school students, Makoto Mizuhara, Katsuhiko Jinnai and Nanami Jinnai, and the History teacher Masamichi Fujisawa, who are mysteriously transported to the fantastical world of El-Hazard. El-Hazard is threatened by a possible war between the human nations and the insectoid Bugrom tribe.

Opinion: There are many versions of this franchise, but the original OVA is the one to go for. Directed by the co-creator of the Tenchi franchise, this series has fallen under the radar in recent years despite its status. However, it does represent much of the appeal of anime in the '90s and is absolutely recommended.

53. Slayers (1995)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Comedy
Length: 100+ episodes
Studio: E.G. Films, J.C. Staff
Writer: Hajime Kanzaka (original novels) / Takao Koyama (first series) / Jiro Takayama
Director: Takashi Watanabe

Plot: Slayers follows the adventures of teenage sorceress Lina Inverse and her companions as they journey through their world. Using powerful magic and swordsmanship they battle overreaching wizards, demons seeking to destroy the world, and an occasional hapless gang of bandits.

Opinion: I've written about this before, but Slayers is one of the reasons anime became popular here in the first place. It's wacky, it's exciting, it's got memorable characters, and a great world design and background. If you're a fantasy fan you probably already know this series. If you don't, then what are you doing? Get to it!

54. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 82 minutes
Studio: Kodansha, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment, Production I.G.
Writer: Masamune Shirow (original manga), Kazunori Ito
Director: Mamoru Oshii

Plot: The film's plot follows the hunt by the public-security agency Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Motoko Kusanagi tracks and finds their suspect, only to be drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master.

Opinion: This movie is one of the reasons anime even has a presence overseas at all. Though it is different from the original manga, this movie also kick-started a franchise that has since blown up and become much bigger than its humble beginnings would allow for it. That said, this is quite a good film with some stellar animation and direction. It's well worth seeing even twenty years since its release.

55. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Gainax, Tatsunoko Production
Writer: Hideaki Anno
Director: Hideaki Anno

Plot: Evangelion is an apocalyptic anime, set in a futuristic Tokyo fifteen years after a worldwide cataclysm. The story centers on Shinji, a teenage boy who is recruited by his father into the shadowy organization NERV to pilot a giant bio-machine mecha called an Evangelion in combat against monstrous beings known as Angels.

Opinion: I had to list this even if I've fallen far out of this series over the years. It's deconstructionist and it has an abysmal ending, but it does still work as a typical mecha show with ideas of its own outside of that. There's decent action and some clever fights to be found within. There's a reason it's the only outright subversive show on here. It still works on a surface level.

56. Martian Successor Nadesico (1996)
Genre: Space Opera, Mecha, Comedy
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Xebec
Writer: Sho Aikawa
Director: Tatsuo Sato

Plot: The series takes place in the year 2196. Earth is at war with a race of alien invaders called the "Jovian Lizards". A company called Nergal designs a space battleship, the ND-001 Nadesico. While the ship is powerful and its crew consists of the top civilian experts in their fields, these individuals tend to have "some slight personality disorders".

Opinion: One of the problems with Neon Genesis Evangelion was that it had scores of imitators perfectly content to smash the mecha genre into bits and revel in the pieces. It's much like the affect Watchmen had on the Western comic book industry. Nadesico is part reconstructionist and part parody. It goes all the way back to Space Battleship Yamato to try to remind everyone what made mecha (and space opera) anime so great in the first place while having fun with itself since NGE and its successors sucked joy dry from giant robots. Of all the many series to come in the wake of NGE's success, this is the best and the one that holds up the strongest. It still pokes fun at itself, and it has some warts of its own, but it is far more enjoyable than NGE.

57. Those Who Hunt Elves (1996)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Comedy
Length: 24 episodes
Studio: Group TAC
Writer: Yu Yagami (original manga)
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama (season 1) / Hiroshi Fukutomi (season 2)

Plot: The Elf Hunters seek five spell fragments that have been placed on the skin of elves, similar to tattoos, throughout the magical world they have been transported to. When they find them, they will be able to return to Japan.

The Elf Hunters travel by means of a Type 74 tank, which has been transported to the magical world with them.

Opinion: One of the series that started the late night anime boom, Those Who Hunt Elves is as strange and risque as it is unique. I won't lie, this show is flat out bizarre. But there's also nothing like it--if it were made now it would be unfettered trash. If you can find this show, definitely give it a shot.

58. The Vision of Escaflowne (1996)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure, Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Shoji Kawamori
Director: Kazuki Akane

Plot: The series focuses on the heroine, Hitomi Kanzaki, and her adventures after she is transported to the world of Gaea, a mysterious planet where she can see Earth and its moon in the sky. On Gaea, Earth is known as the Mystic Moon. Hitomi's latent psychic powers are enhanced on Gaea and she quickly becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the Zaibach Empire and the several peaceful countries that surround it.

Opinion: Initially conceived by Shoji Kawamori as the fantasy answer to Macross, Escaflowne is the rare mecha anime from the '90s that completely ignores the existence of Evangelion. And that's to its benefit. You get swashbuckling, romance, and giant robots smashing each other to bits. This is one of the most unique fantasy anime out there and still holds up excellently today. If you haven't seen it, then get on it!

59. Saber Marionette J (1996)
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Harem
Length: 25 episodes
Studio: Hal Film Maker
Writer: Mayori Sekishima
Director: Masami Shimoda

Plot: After having drifted ashore in a small pond, Otaru finds himself at a rural athenaeum, the Japoness Pioneer Museum. He curiously explores the decrepit building, falling through a trapdoor and into a secret underground basement where he finds and awakens an encapsulated marionette. She introduces herself as Lime, embracing the dumbfounded boy with a laugh and revealing an unprecedented ability to express emotion. This is where the adventure begins.

Opinion: One of the few Harem series to come along after Tenchi to not be utterly disposable, SMJ is worth your time. There is also a sequel series that ends the story and has many spin offs of its own. However, it's the original anime that is considered the best. If you enjoyed Tenchi and want something similar that actually attempts a story, then this is what you'll be looking for.

60. Detective Conan/Case Closed (1996)
Genre: Mystery
Length: 800+ episodes
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Writer: Gosho Aoyama (original manga), Junichi Iioka
Director: Kenji Kodama / Yasuichiro Yamamoto / Masato Sato / Kojin Ochi

Plot: Shinichi Kudo is a high school detective who sometimes works with the police to solve cases. During an investigation, he is attacked by members of a crime syndicate known as the Black Organization. They force him to ingest an experimental poison, but instead of killing him, the poison transforms him into a child. Adopting the pseudonym Conan Edogawa and keeping his true identity a secret, Kudo lives with his childhood friend Ran Mouri and her father Koguro, who is a private detective. Throughout the series, he tags along on Koguro's cases, and helps him to solve them without his guardian being any the wiser.

Opinion: One of Japan's longest running mystery series, Conan is insanely popular over there running over two decades and still counting. It's got a bit of a unique concept, but mystery series with unique protagonists have been a thing since Father Brown and, before him, Sherlock Holmes. However, if you're looking for an anime version of Murder, She Wrote or Monk then you'll get it here. Just don't expect to catch up any time soon.

61. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 134 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: The story follows the young Emishi prince Ashitaka's involvement in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources.

Opinion: This was the first Miyazaki film released over here to actually get push and attention. You could complain about the obvious man vs nature set up, however neither side is treated as altogether bad or evil. They are both trying to survive, only one has the firepower to win. The animation and action in this movie is some of Miyazaki's best and highly worth seeing. It's not my favorite Miyazaki film, but I do think it is one of the best made ones.

62. Berserk (1997)
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Length: 25 episodes
Studio: OLM, Inc
Writer: Kentaro Miura (original manga), Yasuhiro Imagawa
Director: Naohito Takahashi

Plot: The story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the "Band of the Hawk" and how their reputation grows to become a force to reckon with.

Opinion: Berserk is a rarity for me in that it is a dark fantasy that works. Essentially the tale of the man who sold the world to make himself king, Berserk is a tragedy of a band of brothers that are separated by greed and the powers of the dark. This anime tells the tale of how demons came to roam the land and how the legendary Black Swordsman came to be in this desolate age. It's a good watch though the ending is a downer. Just be wary of the newer anime continuing the story which has abysmal CG, terrible animation, and fusses a lot with the story.

63. Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Keiko Nobumoto
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe

Plot: In 2071, roughly fifty years after an accident with a hyperspace gateway made the Earth almost uninhabitable, humanity has colonized most of the rocky planets and moons of the Solar System. Amid a rising crime rate, the Inter Solar System Police (ISSP) set up a legalized contract system, in which registered bounty hunters (also referred to as "Cowboys") chase criminals and bring them in alive in return for a reward. The series' protagonists are bounty hunters working from the spaceship Bebop. The original crew are Spike Spiegel, an exiled former hitman of the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate, and his partner Jet Black, a former ISSP officer. They are later joined by Faye Valentine, an amnesiac con artist; Edward Wong, an eccentric girl skilled in hacking; and Ein, a genetically-engineered Pembroke Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.

Opinion: Regularly regarded as the best anime ever made (among westerners), you've probably already seen this. It's one of 1998's fan-named Space Western trilogy and is fairly close to perfect. Full of excellent animation, direction, music, and writing, it encapsulates the best of '90s anime. Make no mistake, this deserves ever bit of praise it has. But it's not my favorite of the Space Western trilogy. The best would be . . .

64. Trigun (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Madhouse
Writer: Yasuhiro Nightow (original manga), Yousuke Kuroda
Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Plot: Trigun revolves around a gunslinger known as "Vash the Stampede" and two Bernardelli Insurance Society employees, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who follow him around in order to minimize the damages inevitably caused by his appearance. Throughout his travels, Vash tries to save lives using non-lethal force while looking for a paradise of his own. He is occasionally joined by a priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, who, like Vash, is a superb gunfighter with a mysterious past.

Opinion: Well, this blog is named after this anime so you should expect it here. The original manga was a rip roaring action adventure, but the anime wanders off into its own story halfway through leading to a much more powerful ending than the source material. An action show obsessed with life, death, and eternity, there is very little Trigun does not cover that truly matters to us all. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best anime ever made, and I'm still waiting for something to come close. If you haven't seen it, don't believe the revisionism that only Cowboy Bebop is worth seeing of the big three--they're lying. Trigun is absolutely an anime every fan should see at least twice.

65. Outlaw Star (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Takehiko Ito (original manga), Katsuhiko Chiba
Director: Mitsuru Hongo

Plot: The series takes place in the "Toward Stars Era" universe in which spacecraft are capable of traveling faster than the speed of light. The plot follows protagonist Gene Starwind and his motley crew of an inherited ship dubbed the "Outlaw Star" as they search for a legendary outer space treasure trove called the Galactic Leyline.

Opinion: The most forgotten series of the Space Western trilogy, Outlaw Star is more of a straightforward action adventure show than the previous two. Though it does involve a possible meeting with God, ancient forgotten magic, and enough swashbuckling to shake a stick at, it regularly gets overlooked despite its qualities. But don't let it pass you by. Outlaw Star is one of the best anime series of the '90s. Also, it continues with the odd trend of the trilogy being far more popular overseas than in Japan. If you haven't gotten the point by now, you really should see all three.

66. Sorcerous Stabber Orphen (1998)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 24 episodes
Studio: J.C. Staff
Writer: Yoshinobu Akita (original novels), Masashi Kubota
Director: Hiroshi Watanabe

Plot: Orphen is the greatest sorcerer that the tower has ever seen but he is more interested in chasing the Bloody August, an infamous and very mysterious dragon. Along with his apprentice Majic and their companion Clio he heads off on a quest with the Sword of Baltanders, the only thing that can free the Bloody August or 'Azile' from the spell she is under.

Opinion: I listed the first season of 24 episodes. Orphen has two separate seasons which do a good job showing how designs and animation changed so abruptly in only a few short years. That said, the first season is the better of the two and is a good 'ol fashion adventure. The first 24 episodes is the best Orphen has to offer. Unfortunately, they really don't make them like this anymore.

67. Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 13 episodes
Studio: Triangle Staff, Pioneer LDC
Writer: Chiaki J. Konaka
Director: Ryutaro Nakanura

Plot: The series focuses on Lain Iwakura, an adolescent middle school girl living in suburban Japan, and her introduction to the Wired, a global communications network which is similar to the Internet. Her life becomes upturned by a series of bizarre incidents that start to take place after she learns that girls from her school have received an e-mail from a dead student, Chisa Yomoda, and she pulls out her old computer in order to check for the same message. Lain finds Chisa telling her that she is not dead, but has merely "abandoned her physical body and flesh" and is alive deep within the virtual reality-world of the Wired itself, where she has found the almighty and divine "God". From this point, Lain is caught up in a series of cryptic and surreal events that see her delving deeper into the mystery of the network in a narrative that explores themes of consciousness, perception, and the nature of reality.

Opinion: Lain has a reputation for being an odd series. It is. But unlike most weird anime, this was headed by Chiaki J. Konaka who got his start on the Digimon kid's franchise and made the surprisingly good Digimon Tamers in the process. In other words, he knows how to present complex ideas without talking around or down to his audience. I'm only disappointed that he doesn't have a bigger output than he does.

68. The Big O (1999)
Genre: Mecha, Noir
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise, Cartoon Network Studios (Season 2)
Writer: Chiaki J. Konaka
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama, Lia Sargent (Season 2)

Plot: The story takes place forty years after a mysterious occurrence causes the residents of Paradigm City to lose their memories. The series follows Roger Smith, Paradigm City's top Negotiator. He provides this "much needed service" with the help of a robot named R. Dorothy Wayneright and his butler Norman Burg. When the need arises, Roger calls upon Big O, a giant relic from the city's past.

Opinion: This might actually be the most controversial inclusion on this list. The ending to The Big O is extremely divisive, but the quality of the show as a whole is why it still retains its fanbase. The art style is a throwback to both classic anime and western animation as well as Batman: The Animated Series, and the action and music are both stylish and top notch. There isn't anything like Big O. The second season only exists because of western fans, which might have been a hint that tastes between western and eastern fans were starting to splinter off around this point.

69. Hajime no Ippo: Fighting Spirit (2000)
Genre: Sports Drama
Length: 76 episodes
Studio: Madhouse
Writer: George Morikawa (original manga), Tatsuhiko Urahata
Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Plot: Hajime no Ippo follows the story of high school student Makunouchi Ippo, as he begins his career in boxing and over time obtains many titles and defeats various opponents.

Opinion: There have been multiple series past this original anime, but this is the one that hits the mark. Hajime no Ippo is one of the most popular and influential manga in Japan, and this adaption by the director of Trigun is well worth your time. Join Ippo as he learns the basics and becomes a fighting powerhouse. There is a reason it is the second most popular boxing series behind the already listed Ashita no Joe. It's only a shame that it is out of print over here and hard to find.

70. Spirited Away (2001)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 125 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

Opinion: The most popular Miyazaki film is definitely one of the best. It's also the only anime to ever win an Academy Award, too. Despite that stain on its reputation, it's a clever fantasy adventure film like most of Miyazaki's works. I'm just going to assume anyone reading this has seen this, but if you haven't . . . well, I can't help you.

71. GetBackers (2002)
Genre: Action Comedy
Length: 49 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN
Writer: Shin Kibayashi (original manga), Akemi Omode
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi, Keitaro Motonaga

Plot: The series tells the story of Ginji Amano and Ban Mido, a pair of super powered individuals known as the "GetBackers". The duo operates a freelance repossession service out of one of the seedier areas of Shinjuku, Tokyo. For a fee, they will recover any lost or stolen item for a client with "an almost 100% success rate". The GetBackers' job often leads them into bizarre and dangerous situations in order to "get back what shouldn't be gone". Their targets range from lost video games to misplaced components of an atomic bomb. The plot mostly revolves around their adventures, often complicated by the pair's convoluted, individual pasts and a mysterious place known as the Infinity Fortress.

Opinion: One of the most popular of the buddy cop style of anime series, GetBackers is also the last of its breed. The story goes down both comedic and mysterious paths depending on the job the heroes get lending a bit of wonder and mystery to the action and comedy. The anime also has the distinction of not having a horrible ending like the manga does. If you're an older fan of anime, chances are this was one of the last series you watched before your interest faded. It's not because of a lack of quality on this series' part. GetBackers is still a lot of fun nowadays.

72. Full Metal Panic! (2002)
Genre: Mecha, Military Science Fiction, Comedy
Length: 50+ episodes
Studio: Gonzo / Kyoto Animation / Xebec
Writer: Shoji Gatoh, Fumihiko Shimo (season 1 only), Koichi Chigira (season 1 only)
Director: Koichi Chigira / Yasuhiro Takemoto / Katsuichi Nakayama

Plot: The series follows Sousuke Sagara, a member of a covert anti-terrorist private military organization known as Mithril, tasked with protecting Kaname Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school girl. He moves to Japan to study at Chidori's school, Jindai High School, with assistance from his comrades Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao.

Opinion: After years in purgatory, FMP is finally getting a final season to end it off. Being one of the last anime that hasn't jumped on the CG mecha bandwagon, FMP felt like a throwback even when it was new. Part mecha, part military science fiction, part comedy, but all exciting, this is a show most anime fans have heard of but have never seen. If you're one of them, you really should remedy that error.

73. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 52 episodes
Studio: Production I.G.
Writer: Masamune Shirow (original manga), Kenji Kamiyama
Director: Kenji Kamiyama

Plot: The series centers on the members of an elite cybernetic law enforcement unit known as Public Security Section 9 as they investigate cyber-crime and terrorism cases; these cases often are connected to their pursuit of an elite "Super Class A" hacker and corporate terrorist known as "The Laughing Man".

Opinion: For many people this is the definitive Ghost in the Shell product, eclipsing both the original manga and the movie. A slower and more thought-provoking series, it has also established a niche of its own in the franchise. This has advantages the movies simply do not. The longer length allows for the characters to breathe and grow in a way they simply weren't in the older stories, and thereby makes it a favorite to many. If you're a fan of the franchise this is a must see. It also might be getting a third season soon, so heads up on that.

74. RahXephon (2002)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Bones
Writer: Yutaka Izubuchi
Director: Yutaka Izubuchi

Plot: RahXephon is about 17-year-old Ayato Kamina, his ability to control a mecha known as the RahXephon, and his inner journey to find a place in the world. His life as a student and artist in Tokyo is suddenly interrupted by a mysterious stalker, strange planes invading the city and strange machines fighting back.

Opinion: RahXephon is more or less the final word on the philosophical mecha series trend that Evangelion started. Modeling it closer to older series like Megazone 23 and Brave Raideen, the series manages a more coherent ending that wraps everything up neatly than most of its ilk had. I would wager it's a better series than most of those sorts of shows of the era, though your mileage may vary. Nonetheless, it's the last mecha anime of its type that really deserves to be seen.

75. Mermaid Saga/Forest (2003)
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Length: 13 episodes
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Writer: Rumiko Takahashi (original manga), Yunichi Miyashita
Director: Masaharu Okuwaki

Plot: According to an ancient legend, mermaid's flesh can grant immortality if eaten. 500 years ago, Yuta unknowingly ate a piece of mermaid's flesh. For centuries, he travels across Japan, hoping to find a mermaid, thinking she may be able to make him a normal human again.

Opinion: This series is relatively unknown despite its famous creator. I'm not sure why. This short series was adapted into 13 episodes featuring some disturbing speculation on the horrors of immortality. It really is a shame Takahashi doesn't do works like these more often, because she is quite good at them.

Since this entry of the list covered a decade of shows, there are clearly a lot missing, and there are sure to be series missing that many would decry. But that is what the comments are for. So if you have a favorite anime of this era and wish to share it, please post it below. I would appreciate it.

Next time we will enter the final stretch, and I suspect it will be the most controversial. As is well known, the industry made a deliberate change in focus around 2006 which hobbled much of its appeal to non-otaku fans. This will make the pickings not only slim, but awkward. You'll see when we get there.

For now, enjoy the list. Hopefully there are some series you missed out on that you'll enjoy. There's quite a good bit to choose from.

Until next time!


  1. Any list that contains El Hazard and Those Who Hunt Elves is automatically alright.

    I'd might push for Fushigi Yugi, Card Captor Sakura, and Magic Knight Rayearth (TV, not OAV), but the list is pretty solid. There's also a host of fun niche anime from the same time like Lost Universe, Azumanga Daioh, Fruits Basket, and Mahou Tsukai Tai for those who might want to explore this time period more. I think that the honorable mention list for this time period might be as long as the main one.

  2. This was the part where I had a harder time narrowing it down. The mid-90s through the early '00s has a ton of great content to choose from, including those series.