The ’80s as well as’ 90s are often deemed anime’s golden age. A variety of different reasons, from the advent of VHS to the power of the Japanese economy, led to significant growth in the consumption and production of anime during the ’80s as well as’ 90s. This age was extremely fruitful, creatively speaking, bringing us some of the best anime series and films ever made. In reality, to this day, people still talk about 1980s and 1990s anime. The action and excitement of the whole story, be it the characters, the fights, or the stunts, are the highlight of these shows. Quite often, this genre is known for the excitement and hype being brought in. For the longest time, action series have become a bridge into anime, stirring the curiosity of new audiences through exciting confrontations. They are an exhibition of animations of eye-candy and highly-engaging action. In this video, we are going to have a look at the best action anime from the ’80s and’ 90s, from classics to cyberpunk.
1. Cyber City Oedo 808 – 1990
The year of 2808 is here. Three inmates are hired to keep major crime in Oedo in place as part of the Cyber Police. In return, for every task completed, their prison sentences will be shortened by a few years. However, the police have installed special collars on their necks to guarantee that these inmates are doing their tasks. The collars can self-destruct if they try to remove their collars or refuse to reach their mission’s time limit.
The characters are all fun to watch and there is never a dull moment, with each plot containing elements of greed and manipulation while being identifiable from each other. One of the criminals focuses on each episode, which means that none of them go without being featured in the spotlight. As a consequence of each episode concentrating on a new character, each one has its own atmosphere, playing off each character’s attributes. Cyber City Oedo 808 could come from a different anime age, but it was one of the standout titles from that period when several more interesting titles could be produced by the anime boom.
2. Berserk – 1997
A young mercenary known only as Guts, born from his mother’s corpse, embraces the frontline as his only way of survival. Day in and day out, he shifts from one bloodshed to the next by throwing his life on the line only to make enough to get by. Guts is hired by their ambitious chief Griffith, dubbed the “White Hawk.” after a run-in with the Band of the Hawk, a fearsome mercenary troop. As he rapidly ascended the ranks to become the head of the offensive faction, Guts proves to be a strong addition to Griffith’s strength, getting a hold of Midland by storm. Guts slowly discovers that the world is not as black-and-white as he once thought, while the band’s search for recognition continues.
Berserk, set in the medieval period, is a grim, gritty tale that follows the quest of one man to pursue his own path while promoting the thirst for control of another and the incredible catastrophe that begins to spin the wheels of destiny. Much of the past creation of the characters is highly based on Guts, while the other main characters only get a few spotlights on their backgrounds. It is really amazing, though, to feel that Berserk provides all the characters throughout their present life as mercenaries.
3. Dragon Ball – 1986
Goku Son is a young boy who lives in the woods all alone, that is until a girl called Bulma runs into him in her search for the “Dragon Balls” a collection of mysterious objects. Since the artefacts are supposed to give someone gathering all seven a wish, Bulma wishes to gather them and wish for a perfect boyfriend. Goku happens to have a dragon ball in his hands, but unfortunately for Bulma, he refuses to part ways with it, so she gives him a deal: if he lets her use the strength of the dragon ball, he can go along on her quest. The two began on the adventure of a lifetime with that.
Dragonball is an incredible show. It’s friendly, funny, and stylish. The characters are created wonderfully and the battle scenes are also choreographed nicely. In Dragon Ball, the characters are all likeable. The size of their role in the story does not matter. Over time, they are all fleshed out and you’ll either enjoy or hate them. Goku is always a pleasure to see in particular and is very simply the staple for all other heroes in shounen anime. Along with the comedy elements, the battles are the key driving points of this anime.
4. Fist of the North Star – 1984
Brave-hearted hero Kenshirou wanders a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the year 19XX, after being betrayed and left for dead, on a mission to hunt down his enemy, Shin, who abducted his beloved fiancée Yuria. Kenshirou makes use of his lethal battle form, Hokuto Shinken, during his quest to save the vulnerable from bloodthirsty ravagers. It’s not long until his exploits begin to draw the interest of larger rivals, such as warlords and competing martial artists, and Keshirou finds himself more involved than he had initially contended bargained for.
The graphics are top-notch, and the action is swift and smooth. It is possible to watch the sword battles frame-by-frame and your awe of the production of this film will only grow. The plot and characters, however, are the main focus of this film, where each battle, duel, and other conflict helping to drive the story forward, create, expose, or remove the characters all of whom are unveiled in a thrilling way. It’s a straightforward tale of good winning over bad, but it holds a great deal of emotion.
5. Akira – 1988
Japan, in 1988. An earthquake triggered by a young boy with psychic abilities tears through Tokyo and ignites the spark that leads to World War III. In order to escape further damage, he is arrested and taken into custody, never to be seen again. Now, in 2019, the restored version of the city known as Neo-Tokyo—an region fraught with gang warfare and terrorism against the new government—is in its place. Here, Shoutarou Kaneda leads “the Capsules,” a group of misfits notorious for riding big custom bikes and infrequent confrontation with their rivals “the Clowns.”
Akira is enjoyable, interesting, aggressive and original. Furthermore, this anime is notably the first and very early example of an animation with all the characters with perfectly matching and synchronous mouth animations, which is an accomplishment for the fictional and full-length film. Akira isn’t for everyone. There is strong language in the first twenty minutes, attempted rape and the violent war between the competing biker gangs. With an animated film, some will probably not tolerate this.
6. Vampire Hunter D – 1985
The planet has become a very different place 10,000 years in the future; monsters openly wander the earth, and humans, while armed with high tech weapons and cyber horses, live a simple existence more suited to centuries past. Count Magnus Lee, a wealthy vampire lord who has governed the world for thousands of years, focuses on a small hamlet ravaged by monster attacks and trapped in the threat of rulership. As a young girl is bitten by the Count and picked as his new plaything, she seeks aid from a quiet roaming stranger, D. So it happens that D is one of the strongest vampire hunters in the world, and he takes it upon himself to cut through the many minions of Magnus Lee and to bring an end to the reign of the Count.
The setting, symbolism, and complexities it aims to insinuate are utterly nailed by this film. The universe is viewed as frightening, but survivable-it takes competence to be alive in this age as an individual. Comparatively, the damsel portrayed in this movie is not a dainty flower, she instantly confronts the main protagonist and only exposes her real or more insecure self when assured of his ability. The animation is rendered with very dark brooding colors and the tone just fits really well.
7. Wicked City – 1987
There’s our familiar world, Earth and then there’s the Black World, a parallel dimension that few people know about. An agreement between the two worlds to preserve peace has been practised for decades, and terms need to be agreed and renewed soon to continue relative stability. There is a conservative group this time around that will stop at nothing to discourage the negotiation of a new Inter-Dimensional Peace Treaty. The success of the treaty is assured by two members of the prestigious group known as the Black guards-defenders of the equilibrium between the two worlds.
Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri mixes eroticism, pulse-pounding action and graphic horror, as these two races consummate the peace deal in time. Having an anime filmed like a film is somewhat rare, with much effort being poured into lighting and camera angles. Wicked City shines with a knack for lighting and camera placement, ironic for a film that takes place mostly at night. The use of shadow and reflection was one of the most striking things. Much work was put into painting out a scene with both background and idle animation in 1987, a complete 10 years before a computer was first used to render animation, along with people speaking and even their reflections animated.
8. Ninja Scroll – 1993
As an itinerant swordsman-for-hire, Jubei Kibagami roams feudal Japan. He has no more patience with warring political forces and their plans after a previous betrayal left him masterless. Unfortunately, as he encounters and protects a female ninja called Kagero from a man with the power to turn his body as hard as iron, both political and intrigue clash. Kagero, the lone survivor of a ninja clan, continues the last mission of her team: to investigate a mysterious plague that has wiped out an entire village. Jubei wants to have nothing to do with this, but this choice is made impossible by the stone-like allies man’s allies, a group of ninjas with mystical abilities known as the Devils of Kimon.
Ninja Scroll’s concept arose from the fascination of the director with ninjas and the fact that they often try to trick each other. The film is a homage to the writings of Futarou Yamada, a Japanese author who authored many historical novels about ninjas in the sixties. The fluidity is amazing, the character models and landscapes are gorgeous, and the cinematography and direction are both top-notch. Jubei and Kagero are so well written that you’ll feel a real emotional interest in them and where they’re taken by the plot.
9. Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture – 1994
Young millionaire Laocorn Gaudeamus is on a mission to retrieve six pieces of armor said to grant the user, the abilities of Mars the ancient God of War. Fearing that for every armor piece he finds, his twin brother is increasingly losing his mind, Sulia runs to Andy, Terry, Mai and Joe to form their own global mission to stop Laocorn from opening a possible Pandora’s Box and launching an uncontrollable form of devastation.
It is based on the popular Fatal Fury video game series. Masami Obari is the director of Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. It is a film that is fundamentally well made and genuinely amusing. Although it’s based on a game and two OVAs join the plot, don’t let that put you off—you don’t need any backstory to enjoy the film, and it’s far more of a grand-scale adventure story than a street-fighting action movie. The plot is solid, the characters are more than the stereotypes of your average musclehead, and it’s an appealing all-around film. Recommended to everyone who wants a nice yarn adventure.
10. Battle Angel – 1993
In the hellish, postapocalyptic Scrapyard, Doc Ido, a doctor and mechanic who lives and works, discovers the miraculously intact remains of a female cyborg in a scrap pile. The preternaturally powerful, amnesiac Gally starts to forge a life for herself in a world after he revives and rebuilds her, where every day will bring a fight for life.
A deep and stunning work, full of charming and intrinsic characters, a strong and driving plot, and a cosmogony as magnificent as it is grim, Battle Angel Alita proves to be a dystopia of a fallen world until one has delved into it. In Gally, as she becomes a Hunter Warrior, we found the drive and courage of a cyborg girl looking for her childhood memory, the gore and goosebumps over the skin among exceptional battles. The sprawling path of blood and strength, and the shadowy fraud concealed in life. This is an anime film that is able to offer so much more passion and energy than many films of live-action. The animation is extremely swift and fluid, the colors are seamlessly dark and sharp, and the music is wondrously gloomy and foreboding. Although the storyline and characters which seem familiar and overdone superficially, there are parts of this anime that certainly shine.
11. Ghost in the Shell – 1995
Niihama City became a highly sophisticated metropolis in the year 2029. Its people are able to replace their limbs with robotic parts thanks to great advances in cybernetics. The planet is now more integrated than ever before, and in the midst of this move towards globalization, the city’s Public Security Section 9 is responsible for battling fraud, crime, and other dangerous challenges. A case involving an enigmatic hacker identified only as the Puppet Master, leaving a trail of victims robbed of their memory, is spearheaded by the strong-willed Major Motoko Kusanagi of Section 9. The Puppet Master’s body, like many in this futuristic world, is almost completely artificial, giving them tremendous strength.
The stunningly realistic view of the world by Masamune Shirow makes the jump from manga to anime exceptionally well. Characters would at least blink in ordinary anime to establish the feeling of being animated, but Motoko’s eyes deliberately remained unblinking several times in this film. The intention of director Mamoru Oshii was to represent her as a doll. The vision of the director, was evident, vibrant, and projected as such. Even after 25 years, the crisp animation from Creation IG still retains its own, coming out in 1995. To bring the tradition of anime to the west, this was one of the starting pieces.
12. Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma-1989
The world was destroyed by a horrific battle, and now, fuelled by the blood of countless fallen warriors, the Yoma, the demons of hell, are emerging again. A professional ninja tries to end the bloodshed inflicted on mankind by these demons, but he must fight against his undead former best friend and fellow ninja who was killed in the war and revived to represent the Yoma. Hikage, concerned about his pull between service and friendship, travels the countryside looking for his friend. He faces a host of demons along the way and others that can hurt him, all the while attempting to protect his girlfriend, Aya. What makes this anime interesting is the link between the main protagonist and the villain.
The anime is split into two OVAs, both of which are about 30-40 minutes long. One of them reflects on the village, and the other on the quest of our protagonist for his former friend. For a reasonable end, it’s a long and bloody journey. Although the designs of the characters, animation, and style of production are all especially dated, that may not be such a bad thing. The use of strong shadows, dim hues, and clear but powerful settings just helps to express the show’s eerie feeling.
13. Trigun – 1998
Vash the Stampede is a guy with an immense bounty on his head. The reason: he is a ruthless villain who, for fun, lays waste to everyone who opposes him and flattens whole towns, earning him the Humanoid Typhoon tag. Wherever he goes, he leaves behind a trail of death and ruin, and anyone should consider themselves dead if they make eye contact, or so the stories claim. Vash is really a big softie who appears never to have taken a life and opposes abuse at all costs. Vash traverses the wilderness of the world Gunsmoke with his mad doughnut addiction and buffoonish personality in tow, all the while pursued by two insurance brokers, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are attempting to mitigate his effect on the public.
Since Vash has three weapons, the series is called Trigun. His revolver, his gun-housing prosthetic arm, and his angel arm. It blends some of the funniest and ridiculous physical and intellectual humor with a strong drama. Trigun presents a really friendly atmosphere that was initially fascinating. And a satisfactory settlement of events at the end. All of the music, character designs and environment help to create the world, shape the rules and give some characters a starting intent, metaphorically, of course, to jump off.
14. Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files – 1992
One tragic day, as he throws himself in front of a speeding vehicle to rescue a teenage child, Yuusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old delinquent with a bleak future, gets a miraculous opportunity to turn it all around. His final sacrifice is so far out of character that it is not yet time for the officials of the spirit world to let him pass on. Koenma, the successor to the throne of the spirit world, presents a chance for Yuusuke to reclaim his life by completing a series of tasks. He is to combat evil presences on Earth as a Spirit Detective, with the help of the death god Botan. Yuusuke enlists ex-rival Kazuma Kuwabara as well as two demons, Kurama and Hiei, who have a criminal history, to support him in his plan. Together, they prepare and defend against enemies that can challenge the very life of mankind.
Yu Yu Hakuso is still a staple, still, a shounen genre blueprint and the storylines of protagonists are also neatly wrapped up where the lead characters find harmony despite their inner chaos. Yu Yu Hakusho has a very strong storyline, where the protagonist has gone from becoming a rebellious teen to the most dominant demon ever. That’s a lot of changes Yusuke has made in his life. One of the ways Yusuke made some friends, it often brings up these characters’ intense relationships.
15. Angel Cop – 1989
Crime in Japan has become normal sometime in the future, and the police have become just as ruthless as criminals. The best among the best is a Special Security Force member known as Angel, who fails at nothing in her fight for justice. When they begin investigating a series of murders in which the victims were known suspects, executed in very unpleasant ways, things get interesting for Angel and her husband, Raiden. Described as Hunters, this gang of killers is a gang of psychics who have banded together to track down the lowest dirtbags in the city and bring them to justice.
Two of the psychics began to assume after just a few meetings with the police that maybe they’re not the good guys after all, but the third prefers killing to morals. Angel is a very ruthless agent, and even if one of her own men gets injured, she doesn’t cry on several rivers. The aspect that made this film notorious is the OVA’s abrupt final act. And people with strong politically correct views are unlikely to approve of this film. The animation quality is very high, a necessary prerequisite for any animated form of feature. For gunfights as well as other great explosions and effects, blood effects are top-notch.