All The Best 80s Anime, RANKED

80s was an era of genre mashups, superfans, and rising budgets that produced some real classics. Here are some of the best anime.

Best Anime From 80s Featured

In many ways, the ’80s were the heyday of anime, when the likes of Kyoto Animation, Studio Ghibli, and what would become Gainax began. It was the decade the genre boxes blew open and the Japanese demand for VHS content rocketed. The result was a one-upmanship war between anime producers to see who could create the next big thing.

It was an era of genre mashups, superfans, and rising budgets that produced some real classics. Here are our top picks for the best 80s anime.

Stuidio Ghibli is iconic in the world of 80s anime. Check out their best films here.

6. Royal Space Force

The studio that would go on to give us Neon Genesis Evangelion began with a movie named Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, and it was quite the outing. Written and directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, the film follows Shiro through an alternate future in which humankind hasn’t yet been to space. Shiro is inspired by an encounter with a girl to become the world’s first astronaut.

Best Anime 80s Royal Space Force

An ambitious and gritty tale, it didn’t quite take off when it was first released but has gone on to become a firm favorite.

5. Sherlock Hound

If you love Sherlock Holmes, steampunk, and series that don’t take themselves too seriously, this 80s gem is definitely for you. With the first six episodes directed by Miyazaki Hayao, and the remaining taken over by Mikuriya Kyosuke, the visual style of the series is very 80s, yet they’ve technically aged very well. Beautiful landscapes, funky machinery, motorbikes, and airships galore – all mixed together with an air of whimsy.

Best Anime 80s Sherlock Hound

As the name suggests, the series follows the titular Sherlock Hound (a Pembroke Corgi, in case you’re wondering) and his trusty companion Watson as they solve mysteries. It’s a fun take on an absolute classic. Although it wasn’t well-received immediately, this was largely because it wasn’t intended for a Japanese audience. Once it was seen in the wider world, however, with a trailer running in front of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, interest picked up and it became a bit of a phenomenon.

Fun fact: the English dub on this one runs a full minute and a half longer, which meant the DVD release came as a double-sided disk. One side had the Japanese version, the other the English, as it was impossible to match the audio tracks.

4. Angel’s Egg

While Mamoru Oshii brought us Ghost in the Shell in the 90s, the 80s saw the release of Angel’s Egg. If you were confused by the former, then beware that the latter is considerably more esoteric. A stylized film that boasts two characters, neither of whom have much to say, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an absolute masterpiece.

Best Anime 80s Angel Egg

The art on offer is exquisite, and in many ways, the film is a monument to art-house anime. Poetry in motion – almost literally. While the dialogue is sparse, the film more than makes up for it with those visuals, its unique style, and the fact it exists as a thing that still cannot be completely understood, all these years later.

It’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery, told through stunning animation.

Dealing with the contemplation of faith and the nature of the world and the people in it, it’s packed with religious symbolism. There’s also a dark edge to the movie’s message that makes it all the more poignant.

3. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

It was the film that introduced the world to Studio Ghibli and used the real-life mercury pollution of Minamatam Bay in Japan as its inspiration. One thousand years have passed since a catastrophic event poisoned much of the Earth, leaving a toxic jungle spreading and consuming the still-habitable lands.

Best Anime 80s Nausicaa

Princess Nausicaä lives in the Valley of the Wind and gets pulled into a bloody war when a ship carrying a mysterious power crashes near her home. Spurred by the invasion of her homeland and a dedication to unraveling the mysteries of the toxic jungle, Nausicaä’s unique gifts may be the only way her people can survive.

An anti-war epic with and underlying eco-warrior theme with a fierce, charismatic female lead, this is a rich film packed with its own mythology and science. It revolves around Miyazaki’s vision of the power of an individual with a true heart, standing between the Cold War-esque forces of two nations.

2. Vampire Hunter D

Based on a novel series of the same name, Vampire Hunter D has become a bona fide cult classic. This was partly due to it hitting the United States in the first wave of English dubbed animes of the 90s, but the adoration is well deserved. The titular vampire hunter is somewhat reminiscent of Marvel’s Blade, in that he’s the child of a human and a vampire. This grants him the great gifts and powers of the vampire with fewer vulnerabilities.

Best Anime 80s Vampire Hunter D

The plot follows a job he is hired for by Doris Lang – a young girl who wants him to hunt the vampire who attacked her. With the girl coming from your typical farm and the vampire being your typical noble, the stage is set for some good old-fashioned gothic shenanigans.

Exquisitely blending high fantasy and sci-fi, this is a unique, classic world of the macabre.

1. Akira

At the time of its release in 1988, Aira was the most expensive anime ever created. Well, it was money well spent, because Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterpiece became an overnight success. The film is set in the mega city of Neo Tokyo, which has developed in the wake of the original Tokyo’s destruction some thirty years before.

Best Anime 80s Akira

Set in 2019, we are introduced to a dystopian world by Shōtarō Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang, and his childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima. Following an accident, Tetsuo develops astonishing telekinetic abilities. Chaos ensues, along with the promise of rebellion.

It’s stood the test of time remarkably well, thanks in large part to the painstaking cell animation. Decades later it’s still a stunning masterpiece that’s beautiful to behold. Rich and colorful, the aesthetics at play here are simply marvelous. Its legacy also cannot be underestimated, with the show sparking future anime like Elfen Lied, as well as Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Wondering just how close Akira and Stranger Things are? Check out our recent post on the legacy of great anime.

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Hazel Butler
Hazel Butler

During daylight hours, Hazel is a freelance copywriter and editor crafting copy and offering marketing training for businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. After dark, she morphs into an Urban Fantasy and Dark Fantasy author with a penchant for all things dark, twisted and geeky.