Spring is right around the corner, and the warming of the season fills me with wonderful nostalgia. It reminds me of being young and racing home to catch Toonami with my brother. That is when I first got into anime–around 1998/1999. I’ll never forget staying up as late as possible to watch The Midnight Run of all of the uncut anime. So, today we are going to take a look at the top 10 nostalgic anime that appeared on the Toonami block and Adult Swim from 1998-2008, before it was originally canceled. Gosh, seems like forever ago. But let’s not dwell on how old we 90s kids are…Return with me to childhood whimsy in the list below!
#10. Cardcaptor Sakura (appearing on Toonami in 2001)
First appearing on Kids WB, after they dropped the ball, Cartoon Network was able to pick the Cardcaptor Sakura series up and run with it. Created by CLAMP (yes, the same ladies that created Chobits), this series takes place in the city of Tomoeda and centers around Sakura Kinomoto. She accidentally releases a set of magical cards known as Clow Cards from a book in her basement created and named after the sorcerer Clow Reed. Along with her companion who appeared out of the book Kero (Cerberus), she is in charge of collecting the cards and becoming the Cardcaptor.
This series rose in popularity and became a quick favorite in the magical girl genre for anime fans alike. It is series like this and Sailor Moon that really helped usher in the magical girl genre that we have today, with the likes of Madoka Magica, Pretty Cure, and even the magical boy series, Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!, following in its footsteps. This is a series that I really enjoyed as a kid; being one of the only characters on roller blades, I always thought that Sakura was pretty cool. I also loved that during a battle she always had a costume change and it usually varied, each time made by her friend Tomoyo.
Based on the 12 volume manga series, the Cardcaptor Sakura ran for 70 episodes, spanning 3 seasons, and it also spawned 2 movies. In 1999, the series won the Anime Grand Prix for Best Anime.
#9. Yu Yu Hakusho (appearing on Toonami in 2003)
Yu Yu Hakusho became known for being a popular supernatural series. Starting out on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, Yu Yu Hakusho later moved to the Toonami block after some of the more graphic content was edited out. The story begins when Yusuke Urameshi, a young delinquent thug known for getting into streets fights, finds himself dead after saving a child and getting hit by a car. Throughout the series, Urameshi makes a lot of friends, including Botan, Kuwabara, Hiei, and Kurama. As a group, they fight together in a few tournaments and cross over into the demon world at one point in time. I loved how tough the group became with each challenge. My favorite arc of the series had to be the Dark Tournament Saga; the memorable battle with the Toguro brothers was fantastic and very climactic, something I would totally recommend if you haven’t seen it yet.
It included 19 volumes of manga, 112 episodes, 2 OVAs, 2 movies, and won the Anime Grand Prix for Best Anime in 1993 & 1994.
#8. Ruroni Kenshin (appearing on Toonami in 2003)
Wandering in the #8 spot from the countryside of the Meiji era is swordsman Himura Kenshin. Offering protection and aid to those in need, he works toward atonement for his bloody past as Battousai the Manslayer. He helps Kaoru save her dojo from an impostor Battousai, but after finding out that he is the real infamous Battousai, she offers him a place to stay. Kenshin defends his newfound friends during a period of violent political resistance which he cannot seem to escape. While being a drastic switch in format from what regularly aired, this anime took a look at samurai and the feudal Japan era. It was also one of the first shows I had experienced where the hero used to be a villain. His redemption story always stuck with me.
This series has 28 volumes of manga and 95 episodes of anime. There are also 2 OVAs, the New Tokyo arc, Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture, as well as 3 live action films. Kenshin has become a staple in the 90s genre of anime and remains a fan favorite from that time.
#7. Neon Genesis Evangelion (appearing on Toonami in 2003)
Coming in at #7 is a personal favorite of mine. Taking place in the futuristic city of Tokyo-3, the “hero” Shinji Ikari is summoned by his father to pilot a giant robot called an EVA to destroy beasts wreaking havoc and save the world. It is up to Shinji and his comrades, Rei and Asuka, to take up arms and defend the world from the threat of attacks and the possibility of Third Impact. This is about the time that this series gets a little odd and quite hectic. It takes a few viewings to possibly get a grasp on some of the show’s messages. I really love all the fan theories this show sparked, as I have a few myself. As a series that takes a ton of twists and turns, I do love watching this once a year, still trying to figure out the director’s message in the whole series. On top of that, the characters are relatable and you can really sympathize with them and their troubles.
Due to its popularity, Evangelion has become a huge sensation in the Mecha genre and is still very popular to this day. In addition to the 26 episodes, Evangelion spawns a 4 movie project called Rebuild of Evangelion, as well as 2 additional movies. This series is another Anime Grand Prix winner, and won Best Anime in 1995 & 1996.
#6. Tenchi Muyo (appearing on Toonami in 2000)
Tenchi Muyo was a pioneer series in the harem genre and is in my personal top 5 favorite anime list. Because, as we all know, Tenchi is one of the original anime playboys. Tenchi Muyo started out as a 3 part OVA called Ryo-Ohki, which served as an introduction to the main characters. Tenchi is an apprentice to his grandfather’s shrine. Like any good protagonist, he is nosy, and as a result, accidentally releases the demon Ryoko, who has been sealed for 700 years. After a duel with Ryoko, Tenchi catches the unwanted attention of princess Ayeka and Sasami, as well as other multiple ladies. As the story continues, you see the girls’ feelings for Tenchi grow as they battle fierce space pirates and investigate the Jurai power. I am a sucker for harem animes (judge me as you will), but when I was young, Ryoko was my first anime crush–come on, she’s just the coolest out of all the girls. The theme song can bring the feeling of summer nights right back to me. Tenchi Muyo defines nostalgia anime in my eyes, and it’s something I could watch over and over again.
As the blueprint for harem anime to come, Tenchi has stayed pretty popular in the anime world. It spans quite a few different series: Tenchi Universe, Tenchi in Tokyo, Tenchi GXP, Tenchi War on Geminar, and Ai Tenchi Muyo. While having many of the same core characters, they don’t all correspond linearly. The original series has 22 volumes of manga and 3 movies. In October of 2014, the new OVA Ai Tenchi Muyo! was released to celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary.
#5. Cowboy Bebop (appearing on Adult Swim in 2001)
Centering around a spaceship called the Bebop, our protagonist, Spike Spiegel, and ship, captain Jett Black, both have questionable backgrounds. They work as bounty hunters and make their way through space, chasing down the highest bounties they can obtain. Later, characters like Faye Valentine, Edward Wong, and Ein join the crew. Bebop has been labeled a gateway anime for newcomers and has been popular since its first of multiple airings on TV. And really, I mean who doesn’t love how cool Spike and his no need for anyone attitude is? With an awesome theme song that just about everyone knows by the first beat, this can easily bring back some good memories to anyone that was a casual view or a super fan of this series.
Containing 5 volumes of manga, 26 episodes of anime episodes and 1 movie, Bebop is considered one of the greatest anime of all time. Bang.
#4. Trigun (appearing on Adult Swim in 2003)
Revolving around a man feared by everyone, Trigun follows a protagonist known as the “Humanoid Typhoon.” Vash The Stampede is followed by two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, as he wanders Earth, seeking out his brother, Millions Knives. Vash is highly sought after by bounty hunters for the sixty billion double dollar bounty on his head. Although he has no memory of the events, he is charged with the destruction of the city of July. Getting into skirmishes with bounty hunters and the Gun Ho Guns, Vash teams up with the likes of a traveling priest by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Talk about a great Space Western series! This is seriously one epic anime building up to a sweet showdown that had me on the edge of my seat. That iconic red leather coat and that awesome revolver can always bring back great memories of watching a classic again.
Trigun includes 17 volumes of manga, 26 episodes of anime, and the movie Badlands Rumble. While it was not very popular in Japan initially, it gained a huge fan base in North America and is still well known to this day.
#3. One Piece (appearing on Toonami in 2005)
When One Piece originally aired on WB Kids, it was heavily censored. Some episodes were totally cut out and they completely dropped from the syndication before Funimation picked it up. The story starts out following the main character, Monkey D. Luffy, in his quest to become “King of the Pirates”. He sets off on a journey from the East Blue Sea to find the One Piece. Along the way, he befriends a number of people whom he recruits for his pirate crew, consisting of Roronoa Zoro, Nami, Usopp, and Sanji, later adding Tony Tony Chopper, Nico Robin, Franky, and Brook. They engage in many pirate battles while looking for the One Piece, gold, and other devil fruits.
This is a series that thinks of everything and just keeps coming back with more. Luffy is one great captain that never gives up, no matter what the adversity. One Piece has had a strong fan base for as long as it has been around and it’s here to stay. After not watching it for a while after season 3, I can now say it has engulfed my life as a fan. As I sit and type this, I await more episodes to be released. I can sit down and enjoy an adventure on the sea with the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates as they set sail.
As it is still ongoing, thus far it contains 80 volumes of manga, 733 episodes of anime, 13 movies, and 1 OVA. It has been voted the number 1 most popular anime. With 322,866,00 copies of manga printed and circulated from December 1997 till December 2014, it is no wonder why One Piece has stayed so popular to this day.
#2. Sailor Moon (appearing on Toonami in 1998)
This series is another one on my personal favorite anime list. Originally appearing on the USA Network, in ’98 it made its way to Cartoon Network’s Toonami. Sailor Moon is the #1 magical girl anime. Taking place in Tokyo, we meet Usagi Tsukino as she befriends a talking black cat named Luna that is looking for the Moon Princess. When Luna gives her a magical broach, Usagi finds that she can transform into Sailor Moon (cue the awesome cut scene). She fights for love and justice against the Dark Kingdom (a.k.a. the Negaverse for dub). Along with the other scouts Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter), and Minako Aino (Sailor Venus), they do battle with the Four Kings of Heaven (or generals), led by Queen Beryl.
Just like Cardcaptor Sakura, this is a series that ushered in some great magical girl series and become so iconic there are very few people in the anime community who don’t know about Sailor Moon. That beloved theme song, that weird bun head hairdo, and picking out your favorite scout by the color of their outfit, this is one series that can bring friends together for a few episodes and reminisce about the good old Toonami days.
Containing 18 volumes of manga, 200 episodes of anime, 3 movies, a live action series and multiple musicals, the Sailor Moon series covers a massive fan base around the world. It won the Anime Grand Prix for best anime in 1992. Sailor Moon is so popular that, due to desire from fans (Moonies), Viz has released a new English dub of the classic 90s series. A new series, Sailor Moon Crystal (currently 26 episodes), has been released as well, and has just started production on season 3.
Mobile Suit Gundam Series (appearing on Toonami in 2000)
Outlaw Star (appearing on Toonami in 2001)
Martian Successor Nadesico (appearing on Toonami in 2003)
Ronin Warriors (appearing on Toonami in 1999)
Robotech (appearing on Toonami in 1998)
Prince of Tennis (appearing on Toonami in 2006)
Naruto (appearing on Toonami in 2005)
Blue Submarine No. 6 (appearing on Toonami in 2000)
The Big O (appearing on Toonami in 2001)
#1. Dragon Ball (appearing on Toonami in 1998)
Last but not least! Based on the story the Chinese classic novel A Journey to the West, this series follows son Goku. Raised by an adoptive mountain hermit, Goku befriends a city girl named Bulma while she is on a hunt for the legendary Dragon Balls to summon the wish granter, dragon Shenron. Along their way, they make some life long friends, including Oolong, Yamcha, Chi Chi, Krillin, Master Roshi and many, many more. Dragon Ball Z picks up 5 years after Dragon Ball concludes. Goku is seen grown and married to Chi Chi with their son Gohan. Goku meets many strong adversaries and he learns of his true heritage from his brother Raditz. Goku also battles future rival/friend Vegeta along with the strongest villains that the Earth has ever seen. Dragon Ball is still considered one of the best anime to ever be created, as Goku is sometimes considered a role model for young anime fans.
Dragon Ball is my personal favorite and was the series that has had me loving anime since I first watched Goku fight Vegeta. This is the series I couldn’t wait for the school day to end so I could catch the next episode, wondering all day how Goku would get out of the predicament that he was in. When the film Battle of Gods was announced, Dragon Ball fans could barely contain themselves. When I watched it in theaters, there were waaaaay more adults attending than kids. It just goes to show how strong the fan base is to this day.
This series contains 42 volumes of manga, 698 episodes of anime, with one series still ongoing, 19 films, 3 TV specials, 2 festival shorts, and 2 OVAs. Original 90s VAs were even called back to re-record an HD dub of the classic, called Dragon Ball Z Kai. There are also countless video game titles where you can relive the adventures and epic battles of Goku and the Z Fighters.
Hey guys, that is it for my top 10 list of the most unforgettable anime shown on Toonami & Adult Swim! I hope you feel as nostalgic as I do. If I have forgotten your favorite anime on this list, be sure to comment below and as always…
Thanks for reading!
See you, Space Cowboy……..