The major push that anime has received over the past decade has been exciting to see. For anime working its way worldwide, the ’90s were a pivotal time in America, but it was also seen as a niche property with just a fraction of series and films making it to America. Today, there are many online sites for anime and the medium is recognized properly. Some major releases in Japan are now bound to make it over to America, and occasionally with a dubbed version, too. There are lots of new anime that are heralded as modern classics, but for anime, the ’80s was also a pivotal point, but some forgotten cinematic gems slip through the cracks. 80s anime is getting popular, but no one seems to realize that there are already some criminally underrated titles. Here are the 10 Underrated 80s Anime Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen.
1. Demon City Shinjuku (1988)
Demon City Shinjuku starts with a war between former friends, the wicked Rebi Ra and the short-lived Genichirou hero. In order to attain the immense powers of evil, Rebi Ra has enabled himself to be possessed and plans to summon demons to destroy the earth. Having defeated Genichirou and destroyed Shinjuku, a part of Tokyo, becomes a demon-haunted wasteland with a destructive earthquake. Ten years later, the World President, established to preserve world peace, is targeted by Rebi Ra with cursed plants to keep his old master, Aguni Rai, busy as the president’s protector.
Demon City Shinjuku, directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, is a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi which was adapted into an OVA in 1988. A hallmark of the ’80s was gratuitous horror anime, and although Demon City Shinjuku’s activities are far from original, the film still does a lot with the premise and offers some impressive graphics and battle sequences. For people desperate for power and generational grudges, there are some compelling materials here that add a helpful underlying theme to all of the monster-slaying chaos.
2. Angel’s Egg (1985)
In an unknown building near a deserted city, Angel’s Egg follows the life of an unidentified teenage girl living alone. She takes care of a huge egg that she hides under her dress, shielding it when scavenging for food, bottles and water in the decrepit Neo-Gothic cityscape. In the prologue, in militant attire, an unknown boy watches an orb-shaped vessel surrounded by thousands of goddess-like statues descend from the heavens. The girl starts her day of scavenging, awoken by the whistles of the orb, but quickly crosses paths with the boy on a wide street travelled only by biomechanical roving tanks.
Angel’s Egg is an OVA art film from Japan written and directed by Mamoru Oshii. Released on 15 December 1985 by Tokuma Shoten, the film was a collaboration between the artists Yoshitaka Amano and Oshii. It contains very little spoken dialogue. Rather than a story, its minimal storyline and visual style have contributed to it being described as animated art. Angel’s Egg is a vital segment of animation that speaks of how much Mamoru Oshii was a powerhouse during the ’80s. Angel’s Egg gives preference over a specific plot to aesthetics and themes, and that’s what makes it worth watching.
3. Appleseed (1988)
Appleseed occurs in the aftermath of World War III, where the experimental city known as Olympus was built by the General Management Control Office. Olympus, constructed to be a heaven on Earth, is populated by cyborgs, humans, and bioroids, who are genetically modified humans designed for enhanced physical abilities and diminished emotional abilities. Many of Olympus’ administrative tasks are run and regulated by bioroids, ensuring that the city maintains the utopian society it was supposed to be for all its people. Yet the city has become less of a home and more of a prison for those individuals living in Utopia.
Along with Ghost in the Shell, the other production of Masamune Shirow’s works is the 1988 OVA adaptation by Studio Gainax. It significantly departs from the plot of the manga, sharing only the characters and setting. While not as famous as Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed is still undoubtedly a strong companion piece to those more familiar with Shirow’s more famous work, exchanging elements related to post-humanism, the idea of a utopia and being an overall cyberpunk crime thriller.
4. Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986)
Sheeta is a young girl who has been abducted by government officials searching for her enigmatic crystal amulet in a world overflowing with aeroplanes and airships. She finds herself without hope when trapped on an airship, that is before the ship is raided by pirates. Sheeta manages to escape from her captors, taking advantage of the resulting confusion. She encounters Pazu, a boy who dreams of reaching the fabled flying castle, Laputa, upon her escape. The two plan to go on a quest to explore this castle in the sky together. They soon find the government agents back on their trail, though, as they also attempt to enter Laputa for their own personal gain.
This was the first film produced by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten. Each of Miyazaki’s films is pure magic, but it can be simple for Laputa: Castle in the Sky to fall between the cracks due to the extreme quality of the productions from Studio Ghibli. The benchmark for steampunk anime is recognized as Castle in the Sky and it tells a moving tale set in the 19th century that intertwines fantasy alongside militaristic oppression. Castle in the Sky connects with its viewers with powerful characters, stunning graphics, and a heartfelt narrative.
5. Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (1988)
Universal Century 0093 is the year. Char Aznable has taken charge of Neo Zeon, the outer-space rebels. He strongly believes that by relocating to space, humanity can only find peace. Thus, the giant asteroid Axis is preparing to crash into Earth and send the world into an uninhabitable winter. Char is also enthusiastically awaiting this chance to resolve a 14-year Amuro Ray rivalry. At times, the two became reluctant allies, but Char never forgave Amuro for causing one of his comrades to die during the One Year’s War. Only the Londo Bell Unit of the Earth Federation has the ability to deter Char from completing his hazardous goal.
Char’s Counterattack is the continuation of the initial storyline that started in Mobile Suit Gundam and continued through Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, making its theatrical debut in 1988, marking the final conflict of the 14-year rivalry between the characters Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. For the Gundam franchise, Char’s Counterattack was the very first completely original film. Compared to the others, with the main characters on both sides now grown men, there’s a totally different atmosphere to this film.
6. 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.
For Japan Home Video, Wicked City is a 1987 Japanese OVA film created by Video Art and Madhouse. The film is the solo directorial debut of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also worked as a character designer, storyboard artist, animation director and main animator, based on Black Guard, first in a series of six novels with the same name by Hideyuki Kikuchi. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri mixes eroticism, pulse-pounding action and graphic horror, as these two races consummate the peace deal in time. It’s the incredible animation that makes Wicked City really shine. In this film, there’s so much terrifying body horror that is sure to cause nightmares.
7. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987)
Shirotsugh Shiro Lhadatt may have been a cadet in the Royal Space Force of the Kingdom of Honneamise, but he’s not in space before. The Royal Space Force is frequently seen as a disappointment by both the people of the world and a government that is more focused on instigating a war with a neighboring country than scientific advancement. An unmotivated Shiro is wandering in the city one night after a fellow cadet’s funeral when he runs into Riquinni Nonderaiko, a beautiful, pious woman truly enthusiastic about the relevance of space exploration. Riquinni’s motivation encourages Shiro to volunteer as a pilot for a prospective rocket ship as the two eventually bond, potentially to become the first man in space for Honneamise.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise is a Japanese science fiction animated film directed and written by Hiroyuki Yamaga in 1987 and composed by award winner Ryuichi Sakamoto, making an anime story that is a coming of age tale packed with personal strife. A fun fact about this anime is that it was Studio Gainax’s first production, the same studio that made the hugely successful Neon Genesis Evangelion and later Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
8. Golgo 13: The Professional (1983)
Codenamed Golgo 13, professional contract killer Duke Togo is hired to kill Robert Dawson, the son of oil tycoon Leonard Dawson and the heir to Dawson Enterprises. Later, after targeting a wealthy mafia lord in Sicily, Golgo is unexpectedly targeted by the U.S. military and learns the Snake, a genetically engineered assassin, has murdered his informant, the clockmaker. Dawson, aided by the Pentagon, the FBI, and the CIA, is determined to destroy Golgo and avenge the death of his son.
Based on the Golgo 13 manga series by Takao Saito, Golgo 13 is a 1983 Japanese animated action film. The film was produced by Nobuo Inada’s Osamu Dezaki and was written by Shukei Nagasaka from a screenplay. It is the first manga-based film and the third overall, and the first CGI animated film to incorporate CGI. It provides ample sex, mystery, plot twists and aggression to adult audiences, all carried out with taste. The pace of the film is ideal for a nice flow of events with some dramatic pauses here and there.
9. Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
Meek salaryman Johnson learns that, with a new face and changed memory, he is really the notorious space pirate Cobra. Cobra’s special Psychogun is implanted in his left arm, a prominent device driven by his own will. He flies through the cosmos for adventure, having retrieved his past, his partner-in-crime, Armaroid Lady, and his spaceship. He will hunt for the greatest weapon of the galaxy on his adventures, rob museums, bust into and out of high-security prison, penetrate a drug cartel in Rugball’s violent and lethal sport, engineer a coup on an alien planet, challenge the most formidable leaders of the Pirate Guild, and do much more besides-smoking cigarettes, pursuing women and cracking jokes all the while.
Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie is a Japanese animated science fiction action film by Osamu Dezaki in 1982, based on the 1978 manga Cobra by Buichi Terasawa. There is certainly an abundance of science fiction anime and space series, especially from the ’80s, but features such as Space Adventure Cobra helped to create a lot of the genre’s modern standards. In this film, it’s easy to see references from Star Wars and even Barbarella, but other science fiction anime, such as Outlaw Star, was also influenced by it.
10. Patlabor: The Movie (1989)
The Babylon Project is a major reconstruction of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, along with the construction of artificial islands in the Bay. Utilizing Labors, or robots built for the sole purpose of doing work, engineers and construction crews are able to more effectively progress the development of the renovation. When a central figure in the development of the Project is found dead under suspicious circumstances after committing suicide, the Patlabor police unit of Captain Kiichi Gotou is charged with getting to the bottom of the bizarre case. When many Labors start to go haywire and then a hacked AI program jeopardizes the people of Tokyo, young pilot Noa Izumi and her Patlabor Alphonse work under Gotou’s orders to rescue the city and the whole country from a major biblical conspiracy.
Patlabor: The Movie is a manga-based 1989 anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii and written by Kazunori Ito. The team behind the Ghost in the Shell movie. Patlabor takes place in a technologically advanced Japan set during the year 1999, similar to Ghost in the Shell. The film was a part of a series that included several light novels, OVAs and sequel films, one of the earliest works done by Production I.G.