'90s anime series to watch

Top 10 Anime Series To Check Out from The ‘90s

Anime really started to make its mark outside of Japan in the 1990s as numerous franchises made their first appearances on screens outside of their home country. While new anime continues to stream out of Japan at high speed (pun intended), it’s important not to forget the older shows. Here’s a list of 10 anime series, in no particular order, not to be missed for geek girls!

Cardcaptor Sakura

“Cardcaptor Sakura” / Credit: CLAMP, Funimation

In this CLAMP masterpiece, Sakura is tasked with capturing Clow Cards which are both of monsters of the week and also tools that she can then use to capture more cards. She is aided by a large cast of characters, including her voyeuristic friend and costume designer Tomoyo, as well as Kero-chan who is one of the best “animal” sidekicks I’ve seen. In addition to vivid animation and quality character designs, the show also features Sakura going into battle in a new outfit each time. The heroine also gets to use strategy which isn’t something always found in magical girl battles. Available on Crunchyroll. Extra: If you love Cardcaptor Sakura, you can enjoy the fun of its 2018 sequel series, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc!


“Patlabor” / Credit: Madman Entertainment

A sci-fi and comedy series that may be hard to find but is worth tracking down. Patlabor takes us into an alternate but recent future, where large mechanized suits called “Labors” are developed by society for productive tasks. Problem is this spurs some people using Labors for crime and as such the police need to respond. However, this results in neither an elite team, nor a bunch of teenagers being the heroes. Instead a ragtag group including very competent pilot Noa Izumi is assembled. The outcome is a hilarious, although fairly realistic series. There is a TV version and several OVA incarnations floating around, as well as movies. The TV series is the best place to start.

Tenchi Muyo

“Tenchi Muyo” / Credit: Funimation”

While the franchise pops up with new content every few years or so, the two earliest series in the Tenchi Muyo are the best. It’s a harem comedy, so take that for what it is, though in practice only two of the women present are actually in competition for the beau of the show. Space pirate Ryoko and apparently dignified Princess Ayeka’s rivalry is the stuff of legend. The show took form as an OVA and then as a TV series with a different plot line. The animation was very good for the time, and Ayeka’s race of people has unique tree based technology which still to this day holds up. Plus there’s Washu, the scientist who is delightfully amoral. The OVA is available on Funimation and Crunchyroll. The first TV series is also available on Funimation and Crunchyroll.

The Vision of Escaflowne

“The Vision of Escaflowne” / Credit: Funimation

Hitomi ends up pulled from modern Japan into a magical medieval world, where her own powers will be critical. This world however is filled with a variety of mecha including the stunning Escaflowne piloted by her ally Van. The twist of mechs in a past setting is just fascinating. The show is bolstered by good animation and a stirring soundtrack. Available on Funimation and Crunchyroll.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

“Revolutionary Girl Utena” / Credit: Nozomi Entertainment

There are definitely some trigger warnings associated with this show so definitely check into that first, but if you proceed on, Utena is an amazing series. The show’s visual presentation in both design and execution is something else. The music is some of the best one can find in anime series, as it is both ominous and fantastic. Plus there’s a heck of a lot of sword fights as the heroic Utena navigates the strange school she has arrived in. Gender and sexuality are also prominent themes in the adventure. Available on Youtube from Nozomi Entertainment.

Sailor Moon

“Sailor Moon” / Credit: Toei Animation

The series featuring Usagi and her friends battling evil as magical girls is iconic. The animation is great for the time, especially the attacks, and the show had a great deal of comedy. The theme of unlikely friends coming together to save the world and face life together is not necessarily unique, but is done so well. There’s a reason why this franchise has taken off! Available from Viz. Extra: There is also the Sailor Moon Crystal series!


“Slayers” / Credit: Funimation

Lina Inverse is arguably one of the most powerful magic-users in the realm, she also has a chaotic good alignment and a mischievous streak. Along with her various allies, she wanders through a swords and sorcery world exploding things and causing trouble. The humor is quality and the battle scenes are well done. Available from Funimation.

Excel Saga

“Excel Saga” / Credit: Funimation

The ridiculous parody series is a classic. Excel and Hyatt are trying to take over the world, kinda…and things go downhill from there. The show manages to parody much of the anime tropes of the shows that came before and it is very good at it. Also, there is Space Butler. Available from Funimation.


“Pokemon” / Credit: OLM Inc., The Pokemon Company

POKEMON? What is that? Ok, Pokemon is well-known but considering the original episodes began in the nineties, many may not have taken them in. It’s worth firing up the first season to see the arrival of the original Pokemon in the plot line. It’s a quality group including Squirtle with sunglasses (Squirtle Squad!!!), Charizard being a jerk (*shakes head*), or the magical Bulbasaur garden. Available on Hulu and possibly elsewhere.

Yu Yu Hakusho

“Yu Yu Hakusho” / Credit: Funimation

Yusuke Urameshi leads a team of spirit detectives dealing with supernatural crimes by engaging in magical combat. The franchise was quite popular when it came out though has not maintained a deserved role in the consciousness nowadays. Of important note: Yusuke can launch attacks from his finger gun and Kurama uses a rose whip. What more do you need? Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

That’s a really good place to start. When one does a top 10 list of anything, there are going to be valid series that get left off. Honorable mentions Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, Inuyasha, Ranma ½, and Magic Knight Rayearth are some that come to mind, but the article would soon be the length of an encyclopedia volume at that point. (We had encyclopedias that filled bookshelves back in the 90’s.) So enjoy these anime series from the ‘90s!


Featured image credit: Nozomi Entertainment

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