20 Anime From the 90s You Should Watch (or Rewatch) With Evangelion

20 Anime From the 90s You Should Watch (or Rewatch) With Evangelion

The final film in the Neon Genesis Evangelion “Rebuild” series, Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.01 Thrice Upon a Time, recently dropped on Amazon Prime, introducing a new generation to the series’ concentrated doses of mech action and sadness, and re-traumatising a generation that had finally begun to pick up the pieces and move on.

Another staple of ‘90s anime, basketball-themed Slam Dunk, is getting a new movie next year, as well. Given this budding ‘90s revival (and given the shows that haven’t really ever gone away), it’s worth taking a fresh look at some of the essential, defining anime series of the decade that solidified the genre’s hold on American audiences.

Dragon Ball Z (1989 — 1996)

The initial Dragon Ball series had a truly impressive run in the 80s (153 episodes ain’t nothing), but I’m sure I’m not the only one who went back to those episodes only after being drawn into the adventures of grown-up Goku in the ‘90s. This is one of the biggest franchises in anime (or TV in general) history, but Dragon Ball Z still feels like the heart of it.

Where to stream: Funimation, Animelab

Ranma 1/2 (1989 — 1992)

I’m not sure how it plays into modern discussions of genderfluidity, but it’s worth taking a fresh look at Ranma 1/2 — a show starring a primarily male character who changes gender with just a splash of hot or cold water.

Where to stream: Hulu (US only)

Cowboy Bebop (1998 — 1999)

Blending western, noir, and crime genres, Cowboy Bebop is one of the undisputed GOATs of anime, with a killer soundtrack, as well.

Where to stream: Funimation, Animelab

Sailor Moon (1992 — 1997)

In a genre that frequently leans into stereotypes, Sailor Moon managed to tell action-packed stories of powerful, but complicated, young women with supportive friendships. Another surprise mega-success, the show was intended for just a six-month run and wound up continuing in one form or another for five years — and beyond.

Where to stream: Hulu, Funimation, Animelab

Hunter x Hunter (1999 — 2001)

The 2011 reboot is solid, but the 1999 OVA series is one of the defining shōnen anime series of its time, with surprisingly dark twists and turns.

Where to stream: Netflix, Funimation, Animelab

Martian Successor Nadesico (1996 — 1999)

Akito loves mecha anime, but is perfectly content to watch adventures play out vicariously. That is, until he’s transported from his home on Mars to Earth and recruited to join the oddball crew of a giant battleship in the middle of a war.

Where to stream: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Slam Dunk (1993 — 1996)

The defining sports-themed anime series of the ‘90s is getting a reboot movie next year, so it’s definitely not a bad time to catch up on the series that helped make basketball a thing in Japan.

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

Slayers (1995 — 1997)

American audiences might not have caught this until it started airing stateside in the early 00s, but no matter: the Dungeons & Dragons-esque anime is a solidly entertaining all-ages fantasy.

Where to stream: Funimation

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1996)

As with Dragon Ball, there were other (in this case, several other) series that preceded Wing, but this one, set in the post-colony timeline, caught on with American audiences in a big way, becoming one of the most popular mecha series stateside.

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka (1999 — 2000)

A former biker becomes a teacher, and a tough guy reveals himself to have a heart of gold — even if he’s getting into some fairly inappropriate relationships with much younger women. Still, this one’s funny and unexpectedly heartwarming.

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

Yu Yu Hakusho (1992 — 1995)

A teen delinquent becomes an afterlife detective, largely in the service of some legit shōnen-style action that builds to a great tournament arc. It’s also got an incredible opening theme.

Where to stream: Funimation, Animelab

Key the Metal Idol (1994 — 1996)

Going a bit deeper and darker, Key the Metal Idol follows a young robot girl who learns that she can become human — but only if she can make 30,000 friends. In the age of COVID, that sounds frankly horrifying, but the show plays with ideas of identity and fame in impressively complex ways.

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

Pokémon (1997 — present)

Perhaps a rewatch of the 1,000+ episodes of Pokémon isn’t entirely practical, but you could probably knock out the initial Indigo League series in a week or so — those episodes kick-started a franchise that has yet to lose any steam, and it might be worth a trip back to the very beginning.

Where to stream: Netflix, Pokemon TV

Initial D (1998 — 2000)

Although it doesn’t have quite the name recognition of some of the hard-hitters of anime, Initial D has had really impressive longevity, inspiring several series, an animated feature film series, and a live-action movie. Since the manga and then anime got there first, it feels unfair to compare the series to The Fast and the Furious…but they’re both about street-racing action, though Initial D’s characters race more on treacherous mountain passes than in congested city centres.

Where to stream: Funimation, Animelab

Serial Experiments Lain (1998)

A bit of a content warning with this one, as the plot is propelled by an email from a classmate who recently died by suicide. That email propels the main character, Lain, to pursue her dead friend into a sort of photo-Internet world. The show had a lot to say about our always-online culture, as well as some impressively thoughtful and nightmarish imagery.

Where to stream: Funimation

Trigun (1998)

A relative bomb in Japan, the western-inspired show (the planet on which it’s set is even called “Gunsmoke”) did great when ported over to Adult Swim in the early 00s. Although there’s a later movie, the 26-episode series ends fairly definitively, so it makes for a complete experience.

Where to stream: Funimation, Animelab

Fushigi Yuugi (1996 — 1998)

High school friends Yui Hongo and Miaka Yuki are pulled into the pages of a book about a fantasy version of ancient China where they’re cast as antagonists. It’s a relatively early, and defining, example of the now-abundant isekai genre that sees characters drawn to other worlds. (You might find this listed as “Curious Play,” which makes it sound a bit naughtier than it really is.)

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

Blue Submarine No. 6 (1998 — 2000)

In a post-apocalyptic and flooded world (here done intentionally by a very mad scientist), submarines are our only defence against Zorndyke and his hybrid creatures. The climate catastrophe might hit a bit close to home these days, but it’s a compact four episodes.

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

Outlaw Star (1998)

Blending comedy and drama, the show follows a ragtag crew pursuing treasure in a western-themed universe full of danger and space pirates. Outlaw Star gets compared to Cowboy Bebop frequently, and fairly, but it’s more heavily serialized.

Where to stream: Funimation

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 — 1996)

Last, but far from least, is the show that’s inspired both a new movie and a fresh look at ‘90s anime in general. Coming of age is a whole different thing when adolescence means piloting giant mechs in defence of mysterious invaders. Or does it? The psychological trauma faced by the teenager Evangelion pilots is deeply relatable — there’s real emotion behind those giant mech battles.

Where to stream: Netflix, Amazon Prime (Rebuild movies only)

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