When we think of the 1980s, chances are you don’t think of 80s anime, however the decade produced some of the most legendary ones. Anime has a wide and varied history that spans over a hundred years back at this point, covering every genre you could think of and a few dozen you may not even have known existed. Anime has been wildly popular for several decades, and it’s worth exploring now that it has become so mainstream in the past few years.
The 1980s was a great decade for anime shows, producing some iconic ones whose legacy continues on even today, and whose influence can be felt everywhere in the industry.
Anime shows from the 1980s are still celebrated and remain very popular. Most even may have names or phrases you may recognize, despite never having seen them or being relatively new to the world of anime.
So what were the best 80s anime shows ever? Here are our picks:
1. Dragon Ball (1986)
One of the most well-known anime, Dragon Ball (and Dragon Ball Z) started airing in the 1980s and continues even today, 40 years later. Also Dragon Ball Super is planning on returning to air sometime in 2022 with an upcoming movie as well.
Dragon Ball features a rag-tag group of characters out in search of 7 elusive and magical items called Dragon Balls, of which if one manages to collect all 7, will grant a wish. Along the way the group faces enemies who wish to gather the Dragon Balls for sinister purposes and must defeat them to continue their quest.
2. Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
Even though this anime was first released in 1979, the series bled over into 1980 and is definitely worth mentioning because of its wild popularity. While Mobile Suit Gundam was not the pioneer of the mecha anime genre, it heavily popularized and influenced the genre once it aired.
Mobile Suit Gundam follows the journey of a teenage boy who is placed in charge of piloting a new weapon for his government in the war they are currently fighting. Their enemy has had the upper hand when it comes to advanced weaponry and technology, but this new weapon called a Gundam, which is a giant robot piloted by a human is sure to change the tide and help their country win the war.
3. Touch (1981)
If you are looking for a classic anime that combines the slice of life genre with sports, romance, and drama, Touch is the anime for you. Touch focuses on three teenagers, one girl, and two twin brothers. The older twin is viewed as the perfect successful child of the town and is hardworking, talented, and the star pitcher for his school’s baseball team. The younger twin, however, is viewed as lazy and unaccomplished in comparison to his brother.
The childhood friend of these twin brothers is their neighbor and the girlfriend of the older twin. Over time, the younger twin grows to realize his love for her and sets out on a journey to prove himself worthy of dating her and that he is just as good as his older brother.
4. Ranma 1/2 (1987)
Ranma 1/2 is a comedic anime which centers on the character Ranma, who has spent his life training in martial arts. During one of his training journeys, he accidentally becomes cursed. When you think of curses, horrible situations come to your mind.
However this one is a little different than your average curse, as Ranma becomes cursed to turn into a girl whenever splashed with cold water, but can turn back into a boy when splashed with hot water.
This leads to all sorts of goofy, awkward, and adventurous situations for Ranma, who may or may not use his ability to change genders to his advantage at times. Ranma 1/2 has incidentally pioneered a “gender-swapping springs” category or trope, offering a convenient way for characters to change genders.
5. Fist Of The North Star (1983)
Fist of the North Star is an action-adventure anime which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. The main character has found himself on a journey to track down his greatest rival who has kidnapped his beloved girlfriend. However, in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, heading anywhere is no easy task and enemies abound at every turn.
As the main character puts his fighting skills to use, word of his feats travels and he is forced to face greater enemies as he travels to rescue his girlfriend. This anime is still quoted 40 years later, with the phrase, “Omae wa mou shindarue” being a very noteworthy phrase, translating to, “You are already dead.”
Should You Watch 80s Anime?
If you’re new to the whole anime scene you should definitely start with 80s anime. It was a great decade for some of the most legendary shows, and you won’t go wrong with any of the aforementioned choices.
The best decade ever wasn’t just great for fashion, movies, and music. It was also great for anime, so if you haven’t already, or are interested in getting started, definitely consider these 80s anime shows as a starting point.