The best ’90s anime, ranked

Image via The Pokémon Company

Anime in the ’90s has brought out iconic titles that resonated with our childhood as for most anime fans, these shows were part of our daily morning routine. From the 9am cartoon block to the 6pm anime block in channels such as Cartoon Network, nothing beats the excitement of rushing to the nearby television to watch our favorite shows. And some of these shows are still ongoing to this day, with a handful receiving modern reboots.

Out of all the anime released in the ’90s, only a handful remained iconic to anime fans and they still recommend them to those new to the genre. These anime are iconic and well-loved for a reason. They either told new and engaging stories, or retold a classic in a new light. They have memorable characters and story beats that fans still remember to this day. Hence why these titles are deemed to be the best.

Here are the top 10 best anime released in the ’90s, ranked.

10. SLAM DUNK

SLAM DUNK was a shonen sports anime back in 1993 about a Japanese high school basketball team. The anime only had 100 episodes and told a story of a high school delinquent who was asked to join the basketball team. This anime was an underdog story of a guy with no previous sports experience, yet he seems to be naturally talented despite his temper. It was announced in early July 2022 that this anime will receive a reboot film titled The First Slam Dunk which is scheduled to be released in December 2022.

9. Case Closed

Case Closed (aka Detective Conan) is an ongoing mystery anime that was released in 1996 and has over 1000 episodes. The show was about Shinichi Kudo, a teenager who was transformed into a kid by the Black Organization. With the help of his childhood friend and her father, they solve different cases to dig deep into the crime syndicate, as well as form the Junior Detectives in his elementary school. The show is so well-loved by fans that it became an attraction at Universal Studios Japan.

8. Speed Racer X

Speed Racer X is a remake of the 1960s anime Speed Racer. The story of the ’90s remake is slightly different from the original as Rex Racer is presumed to be dead rather than he just ran away. The anime also had a time-traveling arc after the main race storyline during the first 25 episodes of the series. While the show changed some details of the characters, the anime was a success in Japan as it was praised for how well-executed this remake was.

7. Digimon Adventure

What started as a masculine counterpart of the Tamagotchi became a well-loved anime series. Digimon Adventure is an anime series released in 1999 based on the popular Japanese toy line. The show was about a group of kids who were transported to the Digital World and befriended several monsters known as Digimon. The kids learned that they were destined to save the digital world from evil and needed to stop evil monsters to return home. It’s a fun children’s show filled with adventure and friendship, not to mention, an actual competitor to Pokémon. The show is still ongoing to this day with new stakes, characters, and Digimon to meet.

6. Yu-gi-oh

Before the popular card game was released, Yu-gi-oh was an anime based on the manga of the same name. The anime follows a young boy named Yugi who solved an ancient Egyptian puzzle that caused a nameless Pharaoh to live within his body. The anime was so popular that it launched multiple spin-off series and the card game is still loved by fans today, with a majority of the old cards banned from tournament play.

5. Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z was the sequel to the ’80s anime Dragon Ball and takes place five years after the first series. The sequel introduced Goku’s long-lost brother Raditz, revealing that he’s part of an alien race called ‘Saiyans’. When Goku rejects his brother’s offer to conquer other worlds with him, the main hero teams up with his arch-enemy Piccolo to save Gohan. It’s an action-packed continuation of the main series filled with new stakes and characters as well as multiple new story arcs spread throughout the series.

4. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is a science-fiction anime that follows a bounty hunter crew in space. The show had over 26 episodes and takes inspiration from western and heavy noir genres. The film takes place in the future where crime is rampant and the police hire contract-based bounty hunters to catch wanted criminals. The show found such success with both Japanese and English audiences that a Netflix live-action adaptation was created. However, unlike the anime, the Netflix series was canceled after one season due to negative reviews from both fans and critics.

3. Whispers of the Heart

Whispers of the Heart is a well-loved Studio Ghibli film released in 1995. It follows a young girl named Shizuku with dreams to become a writer, who slowly falls in love with a young boy who wants to become a violin maker. This anime film is a wholesome slice-of-life with a relatable story about growing up, friendship, and our aspirations for the future. The film also sparked a spin-off title based on the Baron titled The Cat Returns, with fans theorizing that the film is based on Shizuku’s first fiction story.

2. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon is a popular magical girl anime filled with colorful characters and a fun story to follow. The anime originally ran from 1992 to 1997, before receiving a reboot in 2014. The anime is about a young Japanese girl destined to save the Earth from evil. The show has a mix of action-packed scenes alongside some comedy, with multiple story arcs that expand the Sailor Moon universe. To this day, characters from the show are still recognized by fans.

1. Pokémon

Pokémon became one of the most iconic anime titles in the ’90s after the popularity of the GameBoy games and is still ongoing to this day. The anime follows the story of Ash Ketchum, a 10-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a Pokémon Master. Alongside his partner, Pikachu and his friends, he travels across the region, meets new Pokémon, and stops Team Rocket and other evil teams from destroying the world. And it seems like his dream is about to come true as he’s been invited to the Masters’ Tournament, where he faces the toughest trainers across every region in the Pokémon franchise.

These anime are well-loved by fans to the point of them coming back for a modern audience. And what’s great about these shows is that they’re still accessible to newer audiences if they’re interested to give it a watch. These titles will always remain iconic, even if they’re part of a sequel or a remake from an older title.