We are definitely in a golden era of anime when it comes to the amount of content being produced. This is especially the case when you think about how high level of quality, both in story and animation, a lot of the shows that we’re getting are. However, one era of anime that will always be beloved by the anime community is the 90’s anime era.
With so many classics, both in terms of beautiful stories, amazing characters and gorgeous animation, there are so many to choose from and it’s a big task. However, we did our best and have put together a list of what we think are the best anime from the 90’s. For this list, we are sticking with shows that both started and ended airing in the 90s, so no shows like Pokemon that started in the 90’s but are still going today. In no particular order, let’s get into it!
Starting off this list with the queen of anime, especially the 90’s, Sailor Moon. The original series aired from 1992 to 1997 and is undoubtedly one of the main reasons that Sailor Moon is one of the icons of the anime industry that she is. This show is also a big reason that the magical girl genre even got off the ground so you can thank it for that as well.
The 90’s Rurouni Kenshin anime ran from 1996 to 1998 and despite its short overall run, its titular character has managed to become one of the shonen anime’s most popular characters. The show follows Himura Kenshin a samurai whose very name strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents and after trying to leave that life behind him, he is pulled back in when he meets a young woman who is struggling with her martial arts dojo.
Yu Yu Hakusho
Airing from 1992 to 1995, Yu Yu Hakusho focuses on Yuusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old delinquent with a dim future who gets a supernatural chance to turn his life around, ironically after he dies saving a young boy from getting hit by a car. With this sacrifice, he gets to become a spirit detective and work to stop evil presences on earth while becoming a 90’s anime staple at the same time.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
The 90’s had a ton of different Gundam series start and end within it but for us, the best one and the one with the longest-lasting legacy has to be Gundam wing. Known in Japan as New Mobile Report Gundam Wing, the series takes place in the franchise’s “After Colony” timeline in the year AC 195 and focuses on the war between Earth and its orbital colonies in the Earth-Moon system.
How could we have a 90’s anime list with mentioning at least one of the several classics from Studio Ghibli. Princess Mononoke hits this list for its combination of jaw-dropping animation and beautiful story, along with it shaking up the Studio Ghibli formula a bit. Instead of being a story by Hayao Miyazaki that everyone could watch, this film was aimed at a much more adult audience. The movie’s story focuses on Prince Ashitaka who kills a possessed boar, which ends up giving him a curse that he has to go on a quest to get rid of.
Remember how we said we couldn’t have a 90’s anime list without mentioning one Studio Ghibli movie, well we actually have to mention two, there were just too many to choose from. This film is the masterpiece work of Isao Takahata is a beautiful journey of self-discovery and a captivating commentary on human existence.
The series focuses on single career woman Taeko Okajima as she takes her first real trip outside of her home in Tokyo to visit a rural area of Japan to see her sister’s family during the annual safflower harvest. This trip causes her to think about her life as a young adolescent and she begins to question if the life she has made for herself is the one that her younger version would really want.
Ghost in the Shell
If you like the cyberpunk genre, then you should probably check out and also give your thanks to Ghost in the Shell for more than likely influencing all of the works in that genre that you have seen. The series features several cyberpunk themes that you might already be familiar with, including what makes someone human and transhumanism.
The series is seen through the eyes of Major Motoko Kusanagi who leads Public Security Section 9 in their efforts to stop Techno-terrorists. Naturally, it can never be that simple and plenty of dark truths come to light in this detail and sub-text rich series.
Saddle up space cowboys, because this 90’s anime is a fun space romp that gets deep real fast and real quick. An overall short series, Cowboy Bebop aired from October 24, 1998, to April 24, 1999, and was set in a space-faring future where the series protagonist, Spike Spiegel takes several jobs to get by. Over the course of the series he adds a few new members to his crew, including an absolutely adorable dog named Ein, and his less than liked past eventually catches up to him in the form of his old friend turned enemy Vicious.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
What could we say about this 90’s anime that hasn’t already been said? It’s a seminal work of not just 90’s anime, but the entire anime genre that came after it. It’s been referenced so much that we could honestly make a list of the top Evangelion references in anime. The series focuses on something that a lot of mecha anime avoid, the psychological effects of having literal children nearly die from fighting against giant monsters in giant mechs on a near-daily basis.
Add in some religious and philosophical themes, stellar animation and actually good mecha fights and you have a recipe for one of the best and most influential 90s animes to ever hit a screen.