Exploring the Nostalgia: A Comprehensive Look at the Anime of the 80s

9 min

-1 points

Anime has become a global phenomenon, captivating audiences of all ages with its unique style, compelling stories, and imaginative characters. However, for many anime fans, there’s nothing quite like the anime of the 80s. This era was a formative time in the history of anime, where many of the most beloved shows and characters were born, shaping the genre for decades to come. In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the anime of the 80s, exploring its major themes, iconic series, and enduring legacy. Join us on a journey through time, as we delve into the nostalgia and uncover the magic of this legendary era in anime history.

Exploring the Nostalgia: A Comprehensive Look at the Anime of the 80s
Exploring the Nostalgia: A Comprehensive Look at the Anime of the 80s

Nostalgia Tripping: Revisiting the Classic Anime of the 80s

The Golden Age of Anime: A Deep Dive into the 80s Anime Scene

  • Explosive growth of the anime industry in the 80s
  • Diverse range of storytelling styles and genres
  • Birth of legendary franchises and cult classics

Time Capsule: Understanding the Influence and Legacy of 80s Anime

  • Influence on fashion, music, and technology
  • Themes and characters that resonate with audiences
  • Legacy that has influenced generations of storytellers

Rediscovering the Charm: Examining the Magic of 80s Anime

  • Unique charm that captures the imagination
  • Tactile quality missing from modern CGI
  • Complex and relatable themes and characters

From Akira to Dragon Ball: Exploring the Diversity of 80s Anime Culture

  • Diversity in storytelling styles and genres
  • Variety in art styles
  • Experimental works that pushed the boundaries of anime

Exploring the Nostalgia: A Comprehensive Look at the Anime of the 80s

Advantages and Disadvantages of Anime of the 80s

  • Pros:
    • Rich History – Anime from the 80s represents the earliest form of the modern anime industry we see today, providing fans with an insight into the beginnings of anime.
    • Unique Animation Styles – Unlike the modern-day anime which heavily relies on computer-generated graphics, the traditional hand-drawn techniques gave anime of the 80s its unique and distinctive look that cannot be replicated.
    • Nostalgia – Fans of anime who grew up in the 80s would appreciate the anime shows of the era as it would bring back the memories of their childhood.
  • Cons:
    • Outdated animation – Anime of the 80s may seem dated and old-fashioned to those who are accustomed to today’s cutting-edge technology and animation.
    • Limited Audience – Unfortunately, the genre of anime was not popular globally in the 80s. Therefore, the audience for anime of the 80s is relatively limited compared to its modern-day counterparts.
    • Accessibility – Given that the anime of the 80s is relatively old, it may be difficult for fans to find reliable sources to stream or purchase such content.

The Significance of Anime of the 80s in the Growth of Japanese Animation

The anime of the 80s marked a remarkable period in the history of Japanese animation, owing to its immense popularity and global success, which laid the foundation for the anime industry as we know it today. The decade was marked by unique storylines, iconic characters, and distinctive animation styles, which set a new standard for the anime industry.

Today, the anime industry continues to thrive on the legacy of the anime of the 80s, as it explores and celebrates the nostalgia of the decade. The impact and contributions of the anime of the 80s to the growth and development of anime worldwide cannot be overemphasized. Its influence can be seen in the evolution of animation techniques, advanced storytelling, and creative world-building.

In conclusion, the anime of the 80s remains a significant period in the history of Japanese animation, representing a golden era that transformed the anime industry and introduced it to the world.

Anime series of the 80s

16Igano Kabamaru

Igano Kabamaru anime intro
Japanese Title Igano Kabamaru
Studio Group TAC
Where to Stream N/A

Raised as a ninja by his strict grandfather, Igano Kabamaru knows nothing outside the mountain life, which leads to a bit of a culture shock when the protagonist suddenly finds himself attending a school in Tokyo. Puppy love, rival schools, and fish-out-of-water humor define Igano Kabamaru, an anime that is charmingly silly and a lot of fun.

Igano Kabamaru feels dated beyond its animation as its premise and characters are quite basic. However, the anime does its shonen tropes well.

Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura Trivia- Oni Lum
Japanese Title Urusei Yatsura
Studio Studio Pierrot, Studio Deen
Where to Stream N/A

Urusei Yatsura is arguably the most influential anime comedy of all time, and the property is still popular to this day. In 2022, Ataru and Lum made a comeback in the form of a well-done reboot, and that series is a good entry point for people who never experienced the 1981 version. That said, even though the latter is unquestionably dated in its animation, the show’s humor holds up reasonably well, which serves as a testament to its characters’ timelessness.

Despite carrying the “sci-fi” banner, Urusei Yatsura casts a far wider net than just one genre. The anime essentially parodies Japanese culture, both historical and of its era; consequently, the show can feel like something of a time capsule for the early 1980s. However, so many of its gags are still relevant to this day, making the ride fairly easy to enjoy when viewed through a modern lens.

Saint Seiya: Knights Of The Zodiac

saint seiya anime
Japanese Title Saint Seiya
Studio Toei Animation
Where to Stream Crunchyroll

Outside of Dragon BallSaint Seiya is perhaps the most popular ‘80s anime as it managed to crossover from Japan into western countries. Inspired by Greek mythology, Saint Seiya revolves around a group of teenagers who are given magical powers so they can protect Athena and take on other gods from the pantheon.

A classic battle shonen series, Saint Seiya moves along at a blistering pace compared to other anime from this era. Good animation, simple but effective storytelling, and an epic soundtrack combine to create one of the best anime of the ‘80s.


gunbuster anime
Japanese Title Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster
Studio Gainax
Where to Stream N/A

A 6 episode OVA series, Gunbuster is a brilliant mecha anime that has aged amazingly. Gainax’s animation is a notch above most ’80s shows, but what cements this anime as a classic are its characters. Gunbuster boasts an irresistible cast of fully developed personalities, including an endearing lead in Noriko Takaya.

When not engaging in epic mecha battles, and there are plenty of those, Gunbuster devotes its time to fleshing out its pilots and villains. The show is also consistently funny, perhaps even more so than most comedies.

Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball Z

Young Goku and Arale together.
Japanese Title Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball Z
Studio Toei Animation
Where to Stream Crunchyroll

It is impossible to ignore the impact Dragon Ball has had on all anime. Both it and its sequel Dragon Ball Z premiered in the ’80s and won over fans in the East before being brought over to Western audiences.

Akira Toriyama was absolutely on fire during the ’80s, with Dr. Slump & Arale-Chan also being adapted to great success. The main character Arale even featured in an episode of Dragon Ball making it an adorably hilarious fictional crossover.

City Hunter

A man and woman standing together dramatically.
Japanese Title City Hunter
Studio Sunrise
Where to Stream Crunchyroll

City Hunter was massively popular throughout the ’80s with three separate seasons coming out as well as several movies based on the series. The show follows a mercenary group called City Hunter as they face the perils that come with their dangerous line of work. While it has a lot of focus on action and drama, there are plenty of lighthearted moments for viewers to enjoy as well.


A group of students walking while in uniform.
Japanese Title Touch
Studio Gallop
Where to Stream N/A

Touch is a fantastic slice-of-life story that shows how simple themes like growing up and finding one’s place in the world can be incredibly compelling. There is a romantic triangle of drama between Tatsuya, Kazuya, and Minami that anyone who remembers the struggles of being young and in love identifies with immediately.

With an epic twist in the middle of the show, things change drastically. We don’t want to give out any spoilers, but we promise Touch is an anime worth still worth watching despite being over 30 years old.


The entire crew of the Macross ship.
Japanese Title Choujikuu Yousai Macross
Studio Tatsunoko Production
Where to Stream N/A

What happens when the human race learns it is no longer truly alone? In the world of Macross, an alien ship that crashes on Earth is repurposed by the United Nations to try and become a defense force for the planet. During the ship’s first voyage, tragedy strikes and the crew sparks a galactic war before being transported to the far reaches of space.

While the series came out in the ’80s, it still is receiving new sequels to this day including Macross Frontier in 2008 and Macross Delta in 2016. Those wanting to check out the new shows should check out the original to see where the story started.

Ranma ½

Ranma ½ Cast Standing Together
Japanese Title Ranma ½
Studio Studio DEEN
Where to Stream Hulu

Ranma ½ follows the story of Ranma, a boy who gets a curse that makes him turn into a girl whenever he is splashed with cold water. With warm water turning him back into a boy, hilarious antics ensue as Ranma has to deal with a variety of wacky situations.

The show is still highly regarded by queer anime fans to this day for its themes of gender fluidity and breaking the norms of gender roles.

Ikkoku House

Two lovers staring longingly at each other
Japanese Title Maison Ikkoku
Studio Studio DEEN
Where to Stream N/A

Maison Ikkoku is one of the greatest slice-of-life animes of all time and its influence on that genre of anime can still be seen today. It follows the love story between Yuusaku and the new manager of his boarding house Kyoko. The eccentric tenants that live with Yuusaku create some hilarious moments that really add to the lighthearted nature of the show.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes
Japanese Title Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu
Studio Magic Bus, Artland
Where to Stream HIDIVE

Legend of the Galactic Heroes aired most of its content during the ’90s, but the show’s legacy commenced in 1988. Generally regarded as anime’s great space opera, Legend of the Galactic Heroes lives up to that reputation. Rather than focusing on action, the series is entirely driven by its character interaction and political and social themes.

As such, the story moves at a rather slow pace when compared to other sci-fi anime from the 1980s (let alone subsequent decades), which can make the early episodes difficult to get through. However, Legend of the Galactic Heroes‘ scope, ambition, and writing are second-to-none.

(Source: https://gamerant.com/best-80s-anime/#tomorrow-39-s-joe-2)

Anime of the 80s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What are some popular anime series from the 1980s?
A: Some popular anime series from the 1980s include “Dragon Ball,” “Mobile Suit Gundam,” “Saint Seiya,” “Fist of the North Star,” “Lupin III,” “Macross,” “Captain Tsubasa,” “Urusei Yatsura,” “City Hunter,” and “Sailor Moon.”

Q: What is the significance of the 1980s in the history of anime?
A: The 1980s are often considered a golden age for anime because it marked a period of significant growth and influence. Many iconic and long-running anime franchises were born during this time, and the industry expanded both domestically and internationally. The 1980s also saw advancements in animation techniques, storytelling, and the introduction of new genres and themes in anime.

Q: What are some notable movies from the 1980s anime?
A: Some notable anime movies from the 1980s include “Akira” (1988), “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988), “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” (1984), “Castle in the Sky” (1986), “Ghost in the Shell” (1995), “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989), “Vampire Hunter D” (1985), and “Project A-Ko” (1986).

Q: Were OVAs (Original Video Animations) popular in the 1980s?
A: Yes, the 1980s were a significant period for the rise of OVAs. OVAs were direct-to-video releases that allowed for more creative freedom and experimental storytelling. Many popular anime series of the 1980s, such as “Bubblegum Crisis,” “Megazone 23,” and “Gunbuster,” started as OVAs before becoming television series.

Q: Which genres were popular in 1980s anime?
A: The 1980s saw the emergence of various popular genres in anime. Some of the prominent genres during this period included mecha (giant robot) anime, such as “Mobile Suit Gundam” and “Macross”; sports anime, like “Captain Tsubasa” and “Touch”; fantasy and adventure, such as “Dragon Ball” and “Saint Seiya”; and romantic comedies like “Urusei Yatsura” and “Kimagure Orange Road.”

Q: Were there any influential anime creators or studios in the 1980s?
A: Yes, the 1980s saw the rise of influential anime creators and studios. Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli gained prominence with films like “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” Other notable studios included Sunrise, known for “Mobile Suit Gundam,” and Toei Animation, which produced “Dragon Ball” and “Saint Seiya.” Directors like Mamoru Oshii and Yoshiyuki Tomino also made significant contributions during this time.

Q: How did anime influence Western pop culture in the 1980s?
A: Anime gained popularity in Western countries during the 1980s, primarily through localized adaptations and broadcasts. Shows like “Robotech” (an adaptation of “Macross”) and “Voltron” (an adaptation of “Beast King GoLion” and “Armored Fleet Dairugger XV”) introduced many Western viewers to the world of anime. The distinct art style, complex storytelling, and unique themes of anime influenced Western animation and pop culture, leading to the growth of fandoms and the subsequent localization of more anime in the following decades.

Next: 49+ The Evolution of Bugs Bunny Memes: From Classic to Modern Hilarious Interpretations

Like it? Share with your friends!

-1 points

With over a decade of writing obituaries for the local paper, Jane has a uniquely wry voice that shines through in her newest collection of essays, which explore the importance we place on legacy.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *