Anime fans are generally concerned with the new: what’s airing in the current season, where to watch the latest episodes, and when the new season of their favorite shows will be released. But it’s equally important to take some time to look back at some of the amazing anime that have aired in the past.
And that doesn’t just mean any shows from last year that might have slipped through the cracks. It might be horrifying to think that the 2000s were a full two decades ago, but there are a handful of shows from all the way back in 2001 that prove incredible anime series have been coming out since before a lot of current fans were born.
10 Shaman King Is A Classic Shonen Adventure That’s Back From The Dead
For shonen fans eager for some action while they wait for the next season of Jujutsu Kaisen, Shaman King is a hidden gem well worth checking out. Debuting a full year before Naruto, this classic of the genre focuses on people who serve as a link between the living and the dead, and it isn’t afraid to explore the full darkness those themes imply.
It’s a sign of Shaman King‘s enduring popularity that this year, two decades after it first aired, a remake came out on Netflix. This show certainly isn’t dead even if some of its characters are.
9 Read Or Die Is A Real Page-Turner
R.O.D: Read or Die is an OVA that brilliantly combines the twisty plot of a classic spy thriller with an interesting and unique magic system. Yomiko Readman is a secret agent with the ability to manipulate paper into just about anything, including deadly weapons.
Featuring inventive action scenes and intriguing characters, this show quickly gathered a following that led to a TV series and companion manga a year later. And, with its globe-trotting plot, it’s a must-see for fans who are getting tired of the same old high school classrooms.
8 Salaryman Kintaro Earns Its Reputation As A Classic
For anime fans looking for something on the more mature side, it can be difficult to find anything amongst the piles of shows about teenagers with special powers. Salaryman Kintaro is thus a rare gem, as it follows a grown man who, after the death of his wife, leaves his violent past behind to become a salaryman and support his family.
There’s no other anime out there quite like Salaryman Kintaro, and it’s proof that a show doesn’t need characters with absurd powers or complicated fantasy world-building to be unique.
7 Comic Party Is A Love-Letter To Otaku Culture
The madcap comedy Comic Party follows Kazuki, a run-of-the-mill student who ends up being thrust straight into the world of fan comics (or “doujinshi”). Most anime fans will be familiar with the concept of doujinshi but probably won’t have considered that there’s an entire series that goes into depth on the whole process of making them, from drawing to distribution.
In fact, Comic Party fills a similar niche to the surprisingly popular critical darling Shirobako, which offers a sneak peek into the anime industry. Fans of that show should definitely check this one out.
6 X Is CLAMP’s Stylish Vision Of The Apocalypse
Modern anime fans will probably be familiar with creative team CLAMP through their iconic magical girl series Cardcaptor Sakura, or possibly as the team behind Code Geass’ character designs. X is, however, arguably their masterpiece: a sprawling story of characters fighting for the fate of the world, with CLAMP‘s signature intricate art and elegant character designs.
This anime adaption — which is darker than one would expect from the same minds as Cardcaptor Sakura — is then a part of anime history.
5 Noir’s Slick Action Is Definitely Worth A Shot
How many anime can be said to have kick-started a whole subgenre? Noir, a stylish, mysterious action thriller that focuses on two assassins and their journey to uncover the truth about the organization that controls their lives, ended up being one of those rare cases.
After its success, anime studio Bee Train created two more shows (Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja) to form what’s known in the anime community as the “Girls With Guns” trilogy, series that took a more serious look at the female-led action shows that had been popular throughout the 90s. Noir is so good that other creators couldn’t help but try to recapture the magic.
4 Cat Soup Is Deliciously Weird
Fans looking for something unique won’t be able to find something better to satisfy their appetite than Cat Soup, a wonderfully surreal tale of a cat’s quest for his sister’s soul. Its run time is a short 32 minutes, but this film is able to pack more strange imagery and abstract philosophy into that time than most shows manage in their entire run.
This weirdness comes from the mind of Masaaki Yuasa, whose more contemporary shows such as Ping Pong The Animation and The Tatami Galaxy have also amassed cult followings. Fans of his particular brand of surreality who haven’t seen this yet are missing out.
3 Love The New Fruits Basket? Check Out The 2001 Version
There’s no doubt that shojo fans newer to the genre will be enjoying the currently-airing Fruits Basket, the second adaptation of the classic manga. But, while new and old fans alike are delighted by the newer series’ closer adherence to the manga, the 2001 anime is still a classic for a reason.
Touching, funny, and with some of the most lovable characters in all of anime, this tale of the connections between an orphaned girl and a dysfunctional family will still bring a tear to the eye of just about anyone.
2 FLCL Is A Baseball-Toting Home Run
With its incredible animation, creative action sequences, and a plot that managed to be hilariously bizarre whilst still capturing the exact confusion and angst of puberty, FLCL became a classic the second it hit screens — and as soon as Haruka hit Naota with her Vespa.
It’s remained so popular that a sequel series, FLCL Alternative, came out in 2018. But, while critics generally liked it, it was almost unanimously agreed that it wasn’t nearly as good as the original. Sometimes, the magic of a series just can’t be replicated.
1 Spirited Away Is One Of Studio Ghibli’s All-Time Best
What more can be said about the masterpiece that is Spirited Away? Over the years, the story of Chihiro’s journey through the world of spirits has been watched and loved by millions. Combining a simple quest with a gloriously detailed world means that this film strikes the perfect balance and has captured the hearts of the young, the old. and everyone in-between.
And, of course, Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous animation means that every frame is a joy to look at. Spirited Away feels so timeless that it’s hard to believe it came out a full twenty years ago.
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