Retro Anime Classics You Can’t Miss

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It’s hard to picture anime without over the top transformations, lovely ladies, and eccentric hair. But all of it began with a few retro anime classics.

But how did these trends spread? If you’re an anime fan, you need to know the classic titles that helped anime reach across the world!

You’ve probably seen bits of these shows around the internet. Now it’s time to get acquainted with them!

These titles shaped anime into what we know and love today.

Dragon Ball

retro anime classics


Dragon Ball follows the story of Goku, an alien sent to destroy Earth. Goku, with a serious case of amnesia, ends up looking for mystical relics known as Dragon Balls. He encounters a plethora of memorable characters, villains, and friends in his journey.

Dragon Ball was created by Akira Toriyama. The original manga released in 1985 and ran until 2006.

In 1986, the Dragon Ball anime debuted. The series would later see new shows, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Kai, and Dragon Ball Super.

In 2017, Dragon Ball still holds up as an epic retro anime classic. The world Akira Toriyama built is immense, imaginative, and one of the most memorable universes I’ve ever encountered. The characters are well defined, even if they are sometimes forgotten—I’m lookin’ at you Launch.

Dragon ball set the table for “monster of the week” anime. In inspired many favorite titles, including One Piece and Toriko. It’s hilarious and colorful. If you’ve never seen the series, it’s definitely a classic worth watching.

Ranma ½

retro anime classics


Back in 1987, we didn’t have hundreds of harem anime to binge watch on Crunchyroll. No, we had Rumiko Takahashi, and she had a vision. And that vision helped validate the confused sexuality of late 1980’s youth.

Rumiko Takahashi is the mastermind behind Ranma ½.

Ranma Saotome is a guy—most of the time.

Thanks to a mishap with martial arts and ancient curses—Ranma turns into a girl when he gets wet. If the water’s cold, he transforms into a beautiful lady. When he’s doused in hot water, he turns back into his original male self.

Ranma is betrothed to a young lady—not that he has any say in the matter! What will she think of Ranma’s…features?

Even in 2017, this anime is very watchable. The characters are given enough depth that I actually cared about their struggles, shortcomings, and victories.

Ranma opened up the floodgates for a new genre of anime—a la Tenchi Muyo.

Urusei Yatsura / Lum

retro anime classics


This is Urusei Yatsura, also created by Rumiko Takahashi. The original manga run lasted from 1978 – 1987.

Urusei Yatsura follows Ataru Moroboshi. A misunderstanding with the alien, Lum, leads to unforeseen hilarity. Lum mistakenly believes Ataru has proposed to her and shenanigans ensue.

Urusei Yatsura, or Lum as it’s known in North America, still stands as an entertaining classic. It’s still recognized today for its aesthetic appeal. The imaginative plot and unique character design helped shape anime into what it is today. As far as retro anime goes, Lum is a must watch series.

Sailor Moon

retro anime classics


Sailor Moon hit mainstream culture like a tidal wave. In the mid-90s, Sailor Moon was huge—thanks to its counter release on Toonami. American audiences were finally given the chance to explore the new series.

Sailor Moon follows your everyday girl, Serena. But Serena just happens to have mystical powers!

Serena teams up with other girls who have their own respective powers. Each girl has a title relating to a celestial body (Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, etc). The team takes on baddies and learns to use their powers for the greater good.

Sailor Moon was created by Naoko Takeuchi in 1991. The manga lasted for 6 years, ending in 1997.

Naoko Takeuchi took the “Magical Girl” genre to a whole new level.

Sailor Moon is a staple for anyone looking to explore classic retro anime.

Lupin The 3rd

retro anime classics


Lupin the 3rd is the oldest title on this list. The original manga ran from 1967-1969. The series lasted for decades, spawning many TV adaptations and movies.

The creator is known as Monkey Punch.

Lupin the 3rd follows Lupin Sansei—a master thief. He has a gang of supporting characters that follow him on his adventures.

The manga is notably much darker than the anime adaptations. The anime tends to sway away from extreme content, in favor of a family-friendly presence. In both, Lupin is an eccentric and unforgettable character.

He always seems to be one step ahead. You know he’ll get out of whatever mess he’s in, but you can’t wait to see how.

Lupin set the bar 50 years ago for modern anime. Monkey Punch showed the world that cartoons weren’t for kids, and they could be wonderful.

Why These Titles Matter In 2017

These tiles made waves in modern anime. They refined genres or created their own.

If you haven’t seen these before, maybe give one a try. Didn’t find anything new? They’re still worth a rewatch, even in 2017.

All of them deserve credit where credit is due—50 years of watchable media is a feat to recognize.

If you enjoyed this post, do me a favor and share it with your friends. It helps support the blog and helps bring retro anime to a new generation of otaku.

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