Top Anime from the 60s, 70s and 80s

Check Out these Epic Anime Series that Introduced Japanese Animation to the West

Once upon a time, anime was all but unknown outside of Japan except for a handful of shows that found their way overseas due to their marketing potential. Those few shows had a galvanizing effect on past and present fans and really brought Japanese animation to the mainstream, paving the way for the hundreds of series that would follow in the decades ahead. Before Sailor Moon and Pokemon arrived in the 1990s, these were the series that started it all.

Edited by Brad Stephenson

01
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Fist of the North Star

Fist of the North Star
Fist of the North Star.

Fist of the North Star is kind of like a mix of Max Meets and a Bruce Lee film. Following the story of martial artist Kenshiro, master of a fighting style that can kill with a single blow, this character wanders a post-apocalyptic landscape offering his aid to the helpless and victimized.

Kenshiro's catchphrase, "You are already dead" (spoken seconds before triggering his opponent's death by striking pinpoint lethal blows) has become as familiar to anime fans as "Do ya feel lucky, punk?" or "Hasta la vista, baby" is to mainstream moviegoers.

There have been several remakes, movies, and even a couple of video games based on the series.

02
of 09

Galaxy Express 999

Galaxy Express 999
Galaxy Express 999.

Young orphan Tetsuro learns that he can live forever in a cybernetic body if he journeys to the Andromeda galaxy, at the far end of the Galaxy Express 999 line. Along his journey -- in the company of the angelic Maetel -- he has one adventure after another, which in time give him a new perspective on life.

It's not the destination, but the voyage, and this series is all about what you learn along the way. It has a thoughtful, philosophical air about it that many shows strive for but never reach.

A classic when it first aired on television and it still has fans to this day.

03
of 09

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Voltron: Defender of the Universe
Voltron: Defender of the Universe Comic Book Cover. Dynamite Entertainment

Like Robotech before it, Voltron was created from the pieces of several other anime series which were edited together to make one cohesive story.

A staple of late Eighties afternoon TV, Voltron introduced many children and their parents to Japanese animation. The original show, Go Lion, has since been reissued by the distributor, Media Blasters, who found a great deal of bonus material created exclusively for the show's American version.

There have been several spin-offs in recent years and Netflix is set to release their own interpretation of the Voltron franchise some time in 2016.

04
of 09

Speed Racer

Speed Racer
Speed Racer.

Who out there doesn't remember "Go, Speed Racer!"?

Kid racer, Speed, takes on all challengers on the track thanks to a car that's outfitted with a slew of special features. A blast of nostalgia that's as uncomplicated as a box of popcorn, Speed Racer appeared on American TV screens in the late Sixties and never quite left, playing almost non-stop in reruns.

It's since been given permanent enshrinement on DVD, and even spawned a lavish live-action remake courtesy of the Wachowskis ( who directed The Matrix and helped bring Sense8 to life).

05
of 09

Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam.

"Sprawling" doesn't begin to describe this epic space-opera franchise, which has been averaging at least one sequel anime series a year since the late Seventies.

The "mobile suits" of the title are giant robots, which are employed by various factions of the human race as each struggles to gain control of the solar system. Aside from being a groundbreaking show, the series features something across all of its incarnations that sets it apart from its copycats; it puts as much emphasis on politics and the ambiguity of human interests as the action-packed space combat. Not everyone in this show is wholly bad, or good, and it makes for absorbing repeat viewing.

06
of 09

Battle of the Planets

Battle of the Planets
Battle of the Planets.

Another Eighties U.S. TV staple, Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman in the original Japanese) featured five futuristic superheroes in bird-themed outfits fighting to protect Earth from alien attack.

When reworked as Battle of the Planets for English speaking audiences, the producers added newly-animated opening and closing bumpers and rewrote a fair amount of the story to make it more appropriate for the kids-viewing timeslots. Another reworking, G-Force, stayed truer to the original version, though didn't have as much of a cultural impact as the original English version.

07
of 09

Star Blazers

Star Blazers
Star Blazers.

Leiji Matsumoto's Galaxy Express 999 showed one side of the man's imagination; Yamato is the other. When a crew of astronauts are given a desperate mission to save the Earth, they rebuild the ruins of the WWII battleship Yamato into a starship and prepare to journey to the far side of the universe and back within a years' time.

Heroic deeds, noble enemies, and love between the crew members make this one a must. Unfortunately there's no English-language edition of the original series -- only the dubbed U.S. edit, Star Blazers. However, there are uncut versions of the movies adapted from the series available domestically.

08
of 09

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (Robotech)

Robotech
Robotech.

When a giant alien spacecraft crash-lands on Earth, mankind harnesses its technology to travel to the stars -- only to discover the ship's original owners are there waiting for them.

With a huge cast of characters and an epic storyline to boot, it's every bit as engrossing when it focuses on the characters and their aspirations as it is on the cosmic battles. It's also notable for being one of the first shows to bring mecha, or giant robots, into the anime vocabulary. An English-dubbed version (under the name Robotech: Macross Saga) is available via Hulu.

Numerous new Macross series continue to air to this date. One of the more impressive series was Macross Plus, which consisted only of four parts. The latest version of Macross is called Macross Delta and it will premiere in April 2016.

09
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Astro Boy

Astro Boy
Astro Boy.

Astro Boy is the first anime series to make a big impact on pop culture, both in Japan and abroad.

Adapted from Osamu Tezuka's long-running comic creation, about a robot boy who dispenses both two-fisted justice and good-natured cheer. It played domestically on NBC in the 60s and immediately became a popular show for the entire family to watch.

The original uncut Black and White version is now out on DVD, as is its color version which was produced a decade or so later. Hulu has the 1980s version and a more recent modern interpretation from 2003 as well.

A new computer generated Astro Boy movie was released in the early 2000s and it was surprisingly authentic with a lot of heart and action. A brand new Japanese Astro Boy anime is currently in production in Japan however no release date or story details have been given.

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Yegulalp, Serdar. "Top Anime from the 60s, 70s and 80s." ThoughtCo, Mar. 4, 2016, thoughtco.com/top-anime-from-60s-to-80s-145832. Yegulalp, Serdar. (2016, March 4). Top Anime from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-anime-from-60s-to-80s-145832 Yegulalp, Serdar. "Top Anime from the 60s, 70s and 80s." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-anime-from-60s-to-80s-145832 (accessed November 18, 2017).