Tons of new anime series are coming out every year, but the world of modern anime is vastly different from the old-school anime series that pioneered the genre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Animation techniques have improved over the decades. We have better art, stronger characters, more imaginative worlds, and we’re moving away from tired tropes and cliches of the past.
But newer isn’t always better. There are plenty of old-school anime series that are just as good today as they were when they first debuted—even if they feel dated in some ways.
Here are the best old-school anime series you should check out. They may be old, but they’re still gold. Even if you’re an avid anime fan, many of these series may have flown under your radar!
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From the Japanese manga of the same name, which is written and illustrated by Nobuyuki Ainza, Flame of Recca centers on a high school teen Recca and his friends, as well as Yanagi Sakoshita, a girl who has the ability to heal wounds and injuries.
As the story goes on, his friends come across mysterious yet powerful items called madōgu (or “mystical weapons” in the English version). The series features a tournament and a death battle organized by the main antagonist, who wants Yanagi and her powers to gain immortality.
One interesting thing about this anime series is the timeline, where Recca discovers his true identity and a twisted family line as the narrative progresses. There’s also the mystical weapons and Recca’s flame dragons, with their own name and special moves.
Don’t blame yourself if you get hooked on this old-school anime series, along with its flame dragons and weapon names!
6. Tenjho Tenge
Tenjho Tenge (sometimes Tenjo Tenge) is a 24-episode anime series with a heavy dose of high school rumbles and violence. The anime is based on a manga written and illustrated by Ito Ōgure (under the name Oh! Great), who’s known for his not-for-kids works and tastes.
The story involves Souichiro Nagi and Bob Makihara, who intend to rule over a school using violence but not know that the Toudou Academy is a school that’s founded upon and teaches different fighting styles.
As the storyline develops, they meet a couple of beautiful but deadly allies who teach them more about fights. Soon enough, the characters discover that they’re caught in a feud that’s older than they thought.
Remember Cardcaptor Sakura? It’s one of the cuter anime series with even cuter characters, centering on the protagonist of Sakura, a young girl who accidentally awakens and scatters the Clow Cards. She’s given the duty to capture and seal them again.
Guided by Cerberus, nicknamed Kero, they team up to capture the cards that were altered and return them to their original form. It’s a simple premise, but fitting for this old-school anime.
Cardcaptor Sakura is based on a manga written and illustrated by Clamp, an all-female group of manga artists. The anime features sad flashbacks, fun fights, love triangles (at a very young age), and even some same-sex relationships.
Fun fact: Around the time it aired, the character Sakura became a primary guide for teaching teens how to draw anime art.
4. Slam Dunk
Before we got Kuroko no Basuke in the late 2000s, we had Slam Dunk the anime series. It’s the story of a teenage student named Hanamichi Sakuragi and his journey to becoming a basketball player.
Tagging himself as the Shohoku team’s secret weapon (Coach Anzai only calls him that to stop his tantrums), he manages to help the team while learning from his experiences and embracing teamwork.
The Slam Dunk anime series features romance, sports action, and a hefty dose of comedy. It was based on the manga of the same name, which was written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue (who was himself a big fan of basketball).
3. Hell Teacher Nūbē
Hell Teacher Nūbē is an anime series based on the eponymous manga written and illustrated by Takeshi Okano. It centers on a school teacher, his students, and their encounter with yokai and monsters.
The plot starts with Meisuke Nueno, also known as Nūbē, an elementary school teacher at Domori Elementary and the homeroom adviser of class 5-3, who also happens to be an exorcist.
We’re not immediately aware of the monsters’ motivations, but they keep targeting his students and causing all sorts of conflicts.
Magic Knight Rayearth is an anime series that mixes fantasy magic with robotic mecha. It takes place in a parallel world where three girls—who are the chosen ones—are magically taken.
This anime series features three mecha Rune Gods: Rayearth (piloted by Hikaru Shidou), Selece (piloted by Umi Ryuuzaki), and Windam (piloted by Fuu Houoji). The narrative is filled with romance, action, fights, and mysteries right up to the end.
This old-school anime is based on the manga of the same name, which was written and illustrated by Clamp, the same all-female group who worked on the Card Captor Sakura manga.
Inuyasha, based on the manga written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi, is one of the most iconic anime series of all time.
The story begins with Kagome Higurashi, who’s magically transported to a distant past timeline of her modern world. There, she meets the half-dog demon Inuyasha, who helps her gather the Shikon jewel’s pieces after it was shattered and scattered across Japan.
Over the course of their quest, they encounter allies who help them with their goals and villains who seek the jewel fragments for their own nefarious purposes. And just like many other old-school anime series, Inuyasha features plenty of romance and action!