Several anime fans today would agree that the “golden age” of animes was during the 1990s and 2000s. Well, they could be wrong, as many great animes also took the world by storm further in the past. In this list, you’ll get to know the best animes that had wowed international audiences during the 1980s. 

The Greatest Animes From The 80s

‘Legend Of The Galactic Heroes’

Millennial and Gen Z anime fanatics would be more familiar with the 2018 version of “Legend of the Galatic Heroes.” But they should ask their parents about this since this anime was an original from the 1980s. 

Revering the limitless scope of the galaxy and its incredible extraterrestrial inhabitants, the original anime also digs deep into human melodrama as it features characters confined to spaceships. It definitely stoked the flames of the audience’s passion for sci-fi while keeping an emotional foundation around it.


“Akira” is more of an anime film, but one of the greatest anime movies ever. Premiered in 1988, this film has inspired generations, and through the years, it has set the bar high for top-notch animation and a work that conquers borders. 

Added to these are its sci-fi sensation, cyberpunk subgenre, and its influences in today’s TV, games, comics, manga, and other animes and anime films. 

Its story begins that year when the Japanese government dropped an atomic bomb on Tokyo following extrasensory perception experiments done on kids going awry. Over three decades later, a bike gang leader, Shotaro Kaneda, tries to rescue his friend, Tetsuo Shima, from a secret government project. The rest is up for you to find out.

‘Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’

Another breakthrough anime during the 80s is “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.” This show catapulted its studio, Studio Ghibli, to fame. Its story took inspiration from the mercury pollution in Japan’s Minamata Bay, which was actually a real-life occurrence. 

The anime’s plot, meanwhile, takes place 1,000 years after an apocalyptic event ruined the planet. Toxic jungles covered enormous swathes of land. These toxic jungles were brimming with giant, mutated insects. 

Now, Nausicaä, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, must find a way for the surviving people and the toxic jungles to co-exist, at the very least. But, her quest is being hindered by the power-hungry kingdom known as Tolmekia.

‘Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War In The Pocket’

Gundam is a true icon of the 80s. One of the franchise’s animes, “Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket,” was its very first original video animation series, benefitting from the decision to narrate a much smaller-scale yet intimate side story. 

Here, a crude Gundam recovery mission has turned into a potent distillation of the horrors of war through the eyes of a boy, 11 years of age. The classic mobile suit combat is here, so don’t be disappointed. What’s even more remarkable is the telling of a more character-driven melodrama that, for us, is groundbreaking. 

‘Grave Of The Fireflies’

If there’s a Studio Ghibli movie that’s overflowing with profoundness, it has to be 1988’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” Like how the studio gets inspiration from real-life events, this anime takes its cue from the bombing of Kobe during World War II. Interestingly, the story’s creator, Akiyuki Nosaka, witnessed these events first-hand. 

“Grave of the Fireflies” revolves around two siblings, war orphans, who struggled to survive the last months of the Second World War. As you watch this show, brace yourself for its ending, which will bring chills down your spine. This is also one of the reasons why it has been ranked among the greatest war films of all time.  

‘Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise’

In 1987, Gainax, the studio behind the 90s classic “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” would debut this movie, “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise.” Somehow, this has become a statement piece for the studio. 

This movie is set in an alternate future wherein humankind has yet to visit space. Ironically from real-life events. Inspired by a girl he crosses paths with, Shiro, the protagonist, volunteers to be the first-ever astronaut. 

The story is simple, and the behind-the-scenes feature superb art direction, storyboarding and editing. What you get is pure magic.

‘Super Dimension Fortress Macross’

Though it was during the 70s when the mecha space opera series was started, it was during the 80s that perfected it. “Gundam” has to step aside for a while, as the “Macross” franchise has become a crucial pillar of mecha anime, and this all began with “Super Dimension Fortress Macross.”

The story is awe-inspiring, presenting a fractured future that is dependent yet afraid of society’s reliance on technology, especially innovations that don’t come from Earth itself. Thus, concepts of human-versus-alien conflicts and complicated space politics are here. We need your imagination right now, as there’s also an emotional love triangle in the mix.

‘Dragon Ball’

Of course, “Dragon Ball.” This cornerstone of animes in the West showcases the delightful quests of Goku, Bulma, and their friends as they find the Dragon Balls, balls that can grant all your wishes. Several animes have faded, but “Dragon Ball” is still being esteemed today. If you have heard of the Dragon Ball theme park being constructed in Saudi Arabia right now, you get the picture. 

The 80s Were Not Just The Decade Of Bon Jovi And Big Hair But Also Of Great Animes

You know (or your parents, maybe?) that the 1980s was the decade of Bon Jovi, big hair, Walkman, the cassette, shoulder pads, and Madonna, name it. But, it was also a bright era for the world of animes. Other animes that made their mark during this decade include “Vampire Hunter D,” “Fist of the North Star,” “Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac,” “Angel’s Egg,” “Captain Tsubasa,” “Ranma ½,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and “Maison Ikkoku.”

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