My Back to the 90’s TV Trilogy concludes with a look across the Pacific. The anime industry of the 1990’s was still reaping the benefits of Japan’s economic boom of the 1980’s. The advent of the VCR meant that for the first time, anime could be exported to fans overseas (albeit mostly as pirated fansubs). Still, the commercial and more importantly, the critical success of the 1988 film, Akira, helped dispel the myth that all Japanese cartoons were porn. (Hentai, the “adult” anime, is just a niche category, just like live-action porn is to “regular” movies).
The biggest problem with the VHS format was that there was only 1 audio track. That means anime fans could have either the subtitled version of a show, or a (English) dubbed version – but not both. Unless they wanted to have 2 copies of the same episode. The second biggest problem was the episode count per cassette. It usually maxed out at 2 – sometimes 3 if you are lucky. Collecting one series took up a large chunk of your bookcase. And a larger part of your bank account. That is, unless you went to your local comic book store, and got a copy of a copy of a copy (you get the point) of that Ranma 1/2, or Tenchi Muyo! tape. Then tape quality becomes a factor.
The 1990’s saw the birth of not only the DVD, but of CGI. Animators quickly tried to incorporate this new technology into their programs with mostly poor results. The difference between CGI and hand-drawn animation was quite apparent. It was an awkward transition at best, and jaw-dropping embarrassing at worst. Some studios adapted better than others. For studio Gonzo, the CGI was often the highlight of the episodes (e.g.: Blue Submarine No. 6). For others, well… let’s just say they were nowhere close to Pixar’s level.
In 1995, one anime series turned the entire industry on its head, and changed the entire medium the same way Seinfeld changed the sit-com, and The Sopranos changed the drama. The series was Shin seiki evangelion, or Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion, or Eva for short, was the first teen-piloting-giant-robot series, (mecha), that portrayed its pilots like emotionally wrecked characters, (a.k.a. normal teenagers hitting puberty). Sure, the creator was going through his own existential crisis at the time it was being made, but for the first time, the battles and struggles of the characters on-screen were being waged internally just as much as they were externally.
Finally, there were two series that became international phenomena. The first one was Sailor Moon. Even with all of its edits, the series garnered some controversy regarding the protagonist’s transformation sequence (without even mentioning the fact that she was supposed to be age 14!). It was just as popular, if not more, with males than its target demographic, young females. The other was Pokémon. The franchise was a multimedia juggernaut that finally got people to admit that they liked Japanese cartoons. (Those shows, however, were mainly titles geared towards older males such as Ninja Scroll, and Fist of the North Star.)The success of these two mainstream titles paved the way for shows like Dragon Ball Z, Digimon, and Gundam Wing to hit US airwaves.
As far as my list is concerned, some titles were chosen because I felt they were ahead of their time. Some were chosen due to their badass action sequences. One was chosen because it was my gateway anime. Some had awesome soundtracks. Some just gave me the feels. One was all of the above. And one was chosen because it was one funniest shows I have ever seen, and hadn’t laughed so hard or often since Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
So without further adieu, let’s finish off the 1990’s with…
The I, Omnibus Top Ten Anime series of the 1990’s
- 10. Key the Metal Idol
- 9 .Trigun
- 8. Dragon Half
- 7. You’re Under Arrest!
- 6. Tenchi Muyo!
- 5. serial experiments lain
- 4. Rurouni Kenshin
- 3. Record of Lodoss War
- 2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
- 1. Cowboy Bebop
Honorable Mentions: Crest of the Stars; Dai Guard; El-Hazard; Golden Boy; Gunsmith Cats; His & Her Circumstances (KareKano); Irresponsible Captain Tylor; Macross Plus; Martian Successor Nadesico; Outlaw Star; Patlabor
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