Stay on target Serial Experiments LainOne of the best things about anime in the 1990s is that the otaku generation was starting to grow up, and they wanted to see something more than traditional stories for children. The result was ambitious productions like Serial Experiments Lain, which delivered a tone unlike anything else on the market. The story of a young Japanese girl who plugs into a global communications network and discovers that the boundary between the real and digital world is a little blurrier than she thinks, Lain was trippy, deep and remarkably compelling. The nature of identity in cyberspace was a new concept at that time, and the anime split its protagonist into a trio of avatars, each representing a different personification. The visual style is also sharp and well-considered, with animation doing a lot of heavy symbolic lifting. Brain PowerdYoko Kanno’s score for Cowboy Bebop is one reason that series still stands as one of the classics of the medium, but she did great work all through the decade. Her music elevates Brain Powerd from an ordinary giant mecha anime into something a bit more stylish and compelling. The plot isn’t anything unique – in a post-apocalyptic Earth, pilots of giant robots must stop an alien spacecraft that has crash-landed from reactivating and wiping out what’s left of humanity. Mecha designs by the great Mamoru Nagano are spectacular, blurring the boundary between artificial and organic with grace, and they’re animated wonderfully. Some of the dialogue and character beats feel a little awkward, but the series is still very much worth watching.TrigunProduced by Madhouse, one of the most dependable names in action anime, Trigun adapted Yasuhiro Nightow’s popular manga into a brisk, compelling series starting in 1998. Protagonist Vash the Stampede is an iconic anime leading man – a mysterious amnesiac with a huge silver gun who has pledged never again to take a human life. That oath causes him all sorts of problems and results in a ton of property damage. What’s interesting about Trigun is how it takes inspiration from American Westerns and gives them a Japanese twist. Episodes can be somewhat formulaic, building to wild, superhuman gunfights, but they also tackle surprisingly complex moral dilemmas with grace and intelligence. The visual design isn’t as advanced as some other series on this list, but it’s still a very worthwhile watch. Irresponsible Captain TylorAnime has walked the “captain of a massive spaceship” ground hundreds of times, but the 90s were an era of twisting cliches into new forms. Irresponsible Captain Tylor recast the commanding officer of the battleship Soyokaze as a flighty, unpredictable young man instead of a grizzled veteran, and the show swung freely between goofball comedy and remarkable drama. It’s a great example of how producers of anime were starting to recognize the tropes they grew up with and refashion them into stuff that worked for a new, more literate generation of viewers. The show tapped into a very Japanese anxiety about becoming successful even if you’re not qualified to do so, as Tylor continues to “fail upwards” despite his attitude. It’s kind of hard to imagine a time when anime was hard to find. Before Crunchyroll and other streaming services, to get your hands on Japanese animation you had to buy expensive VHS tapes at the mercy of whatever American company wanted to license them and subtitle or dub English over them. In the 80s, that was virtually impossible, but by the 1990s a real market had developed here, and it triggered an exciting period of advancement and experimentation.The art form of Anime flowered during the grunge years, and the shows and movies produced then have influenced thousands of creators. Come with us as we revisit 11 of the hottest nearly-forgotten animated joints of the decade.Nadia: The Secret Of Blue WaterThe 90s were prime creative time for Hayao Miyazaki, and he contributed the concept for this series directed by Hideaki Anno. The series is set in an alternate universe where the titular girl wants to return to her home in Africa and winds up entangled with Captain Nemo and his famous submarine as they battle the forces of Neo-Atlantis. This is early work from the studio Gainax and they lost a ton of money on the production, but the final product is very impressive. It’s an adventure tale at heart with plenty of traditional anime tropes but it also touches on dark topics like colonialism and the cost of war. One of the reasons it didn’t become more popular in the United States is that the VHS released by Streamline was dubbed atrociously badly. The show got a much better DVD and Blu-Ray release in 2014 that handled the voices much better.AdChoices广告 Revolutionary Girl UtenaFor a little while in the 90s, it looked like Utena was going to be the next iconic Japanese series to really make it big in the West. The unconventional teenage girl who decides to become a prince (yes, you read that right) introduced a new wave of genderfluidity into the medium, captivating an audience of receptive teen girls. When protagonist Utena enrolls at Ohtori Academy, she’s dropped head-first into the bizarre conflict over fellow student Anthy, known as the Rose Bride. Swordfights, intrigue and lesbian romance crash head-on into each other in this wild and unpredictable series, which addresses some complex social issues. The very European-styled visuals make it stand out even more. Slam DunkCompared to the comic book industry in the United States, the manga of Japan is both financially healthier and more interesting. While superheroes dominate on this side of the Pacific, Japanese comics cover a massive range of genres. One of the most popular series of the decade was Slam Dunk, the story of a lovestruck teen who joins the basketball team to impress a girl but realizes that he has a true love for the game itself. The anime adaptation premiered in 1993 and a few episodes were dubbed for American audiences, but most of it wasn’t aired here. It’s a vivid and gutsy series that replaces combat with sports without sacrificing any drama or tension. ‘One Punch Man’ Get A Video Game, Probably Has More Punches‘Cannon Busters’ Is The Black Anime We’ve Been Waiting… The Big OHitting right at the end of our decade (the first episode aired in October of 1999), The Big O really distilled just about every advance in the medium into one stylish, fun show. Many 1990s anime took existing tropes and tweaked them, and this one runs with the “boy and his giant robot” into a very new direction. Roger Smith is a “negotiator” in Paradigm City, a metropolis that was struck by a mysterious wave of amnesia 40 years ago. It folds in a strong neo-noir sensibility – although there’s a ton of science fiction trappings, Roger is a detective at heart, using information as a weapon as he tries to get to the source of the amnesia. Animators Sunrise worked on Batman: The Animated Series, and you can definitely see some of that show’s unique visual flair at play here.BerserkA great example of how anime has changed in the last few decades is comparing the 1997 adaptation of ultra-violent manga Berserk with the more recent 2016 version. The new one is dependent on CGI for action scenes, looking clumsy and losing so much of the visceral action that the series is famous for. The 1997 take didn’t get to take any of those shortcuts, and it’s a far better product for it. Guts is a mercenary who swings a massive sword through all kinds of foes in grisly battles. The series worked because it committed to an epic storyline without wasting any time. The shonen anime stereotype of Dragon Ball Z-esque rising tension before fights gets thrown out the window here, with propulsive plotlines that hinge on solidly-built characters that feel real and rational. Susumu Hirasawa’s score is also worth noting. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Ping-Pong ClubComedy in anime is sort of a tough art – it’s easy to have shows that pander to younger sensibilities, but in the 90s some studios started pushing outside those boundaries. 1995’s Ping-Pong Club, based on a manga series by Minoru Furuya, manages to be amusing for all ages. The series follows the misadventures of a middle school table tennis club composed of a number of ridiculously outsized personalities, from perverted leader Maeno to “panty master” Tanaka and hairy half-American Goro. One thing that’s interesting about Ping-Pong Club is that each episode is just 12 minutes long, more like an Adult Swim show than a typical anime series.Blue SeedBased on a popular manga series, Blue Seed didn’t get the exposure it deserved in the States, possibly because it has a sort of generic premise saved by awesome execution. Momiji Fujimiya is an ordinary high school student until she discovers that she’s the latest in a bloodline of princesses with the power to send legendary monsters called Aragami to their eternal sleep. She joins up with a government agency tasked with hunting them down to learn more about her family and the twin sister she never knew. Blue Seed is a smart, propulsive action series with some pretty great monster designs and a solid plot. Yes, it’s leavened by some crusty tropes (panty shots and the like), but it still holds up solidly today.Need more anime in your life head over to our section here.