15 Best Older Anime That Aged Incredibly WellThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Not all anime ages the same.
Some series may look visually appealing and exciting today – but they’ll be gone from our minds in a matter of days and completely unpalatable in five years.
Other shows shine for their timeless appeal and real literary value, remaining relevant decades after airing for the first time.
Let’s take a look at some of the best old-school anime that’s worth a watch today.
15. Lupin the Third (Part I)
Genre: Action, Comedy
Length: 23 Eps.
Studio: Tokyo Movie
Lupin the Third is one of the most long-lived anime franchises still kicking around.
It stays fresh through constant re-invention, but it always stays true to the spirit of the show.
This spirit started back in 1971 with the original Lupin the Third, which introduced the world to Arsène Lupin and the host of iconic characters surrounding him.
It’s full of Lupin’s mischievous appeal and intense sense of adventure, and features some great fast-paced visual storytelling that holds up 50 years later.
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 78 Eps.
Studio: E&G Films
Slayers is an iconic show for a wide variety of reasons, but what keeps it a pleasure to watch for me after 25 years is the incredible main character – Lina Inverse.
Lina is one of the most fun-to-watch characters in anime. She’s beautiful, stupidly powerful, and surprisingly human in her motivations.
It’s a goofy slapstick comedy about a Dungeons & Dragons party who only seem to take anything seriously when their lives are in immediate danger. If this sounds like fun – Slayers remains a fantastic watch in the 2020s.
13. Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei
Genre: Dark Comedy, Satire
Length: 38 Eps. + OVAs
What’s cooler in our current times (seemingly) ruled by mopey Millennials than a show about despair?
Where a normal harem show has characters that fit a certain stereotype, SZS’s dark and satirical take on the genre offers us characters who are defined by their trauma and neuroticism, and asks us to fall in love with them.
Depression, eating disorders, drugs and human trafficking are only some of the ugly truths embodied by Nozomu’s students.
SZS is a dark but hilarious exploration of everything about human society that makes us despair.
12. Fullmetal Alchemist
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Adventure, Steampunk
Length: 51 Eps.
People love to dunk on the original 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist for straying from the manga and doing its own thing – but I think that’s too close-minded.
The 2003 anime adaptation can be more exciting and engaging compared to FMA: Brotherhood, which does follow the manga more closely.
In fact, the 2003 anime tackles the same themes of war, loss, and death, with just as much grip. And it manages to balance the horror of the situations the Elric brothers find themselves in with a healthy dose of humor and cool battles.
11. Mobile Suit Gundam
Genre: Mecha, Military Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Length: 43 Eps.
What made Mobile Suit Gundam stand out back in the day is the same thing that keeps it fresh nowadays.
It’s a very grounded series in comparison to other mecha anime of its time.
This makes it easier for modern audiences to become invested in the story and its characters in a way most just can’t with other shows from around the 70s/80s.
The characters are very well written, and you can see the events of the show impact them as persons.
Not only that, but the more militaristic super robot designs and their realistic portrayal in the eternal war between the Federation and Zeon feels relevant in our rapidly-advancing world.
10. The Vision of Escaflowne
Genre: Fantasy, Mecha, Romance
Length: 26 Eps.
If you’re interested in old-school anime, you better get acquainted with mechs. They’re everywhere!
Even the best romantic shoujo anime have them – including The Vision of Escaflowne.
This show is basically a very early isekai, where the main character Hitomi Kanzaki is transported to another world full of anthropomorphic animals and, weirdly-enough, mechs.
These medieval-looking mechs have a timeless appeal. And the battle sequences are epic.
But the show’s best point is actually Hitomi.
The character is wonderfully fleshed-out and pretty realistic in her decisions. She’s vulnerable, but also incredibly competent, which makes for a fun watch.
Genre: Surreal Comedy, Sci-Fi
Length: 6 Eps.
Anime that do age badly are all products of their time.
These are often full of tropes and stylistic choices that only makes sense in the context they’re released in.
But when your anime is as mold-breaking and generally insane as FLCL, you don’t need to worry about that.
The themes about growing up, hormones, and the struggle to be taken seriously as an adult when you’re only just making the jump through adolescence are timeless – as is FLCL’s minimal but dynamic art style that often mutates to match the situation.
Its casual and fast-paced nature means you can enjoy it all the way through, even if you’re not too sure of what’s going on.
8. Super Dimension Fortress Macross
Genre: Mecha, Military Sci-Fi
Length: 36 Eps.
Studio: Artland & Tatsunoko Productions
Super Dimension Fortress Macross is one of the most influential series in the mecha anime genre, and it was one of the first to really lean into the romance and drama aspects of anime storytelling.
This creates a more well-rounded story with real character development that can appeal to wider audiences, while also delivering a complete anime-watching experience to lovers of the mecha genre.
Of course, the gorgeous art and fluid animation help Macross stand the test of time.
7. Martian Successor Nadesico
Genre: Comedy, Mecha, Space Opera
Length: 26 Eps.
Martian Successor Nadesico looks slightly old-school at a glance.
But its humorous (and slightly dramatic) take on the super robot anime genre remains a pleasure to watch after 25 years.
The show takes everything that Macross and Gundam did right, and injects it with a healthy dose of slapstick humor and some seriously loveable characters.
We follow the rag-tag crew of the Nadesico through many ups and downs, getting to know them little by little while also seeing how the events of the overall narrative affect the average inhabitant of this world.
6. Cowboy Bebop
Genre: Space Western, Neo-Noir
Length: 26 Eps.
High-quality is usually a fair predictor of anime longevity – and Cowboy Bebop is nothing if not high-quality.
Not only does it have a gorgeous – if old-school – art style, but the jazzy soundtrack is fantastic. And every single line of dialogue is perfectly written.
It’s a show about its incredibly deep and human characters, and how their past comes back to bite them at every turn.
Cowboy Bebop is simply a classic. And just like Robinson Crusoe remains a pleasure to read despite being over 300 years old, this amazing show also fits that mold.
5. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Length: 117 Min.
I only recently watched Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and it was the first thing that came to my mind when I thought of anime that’s aged well.
Every aspect of this movie feels incredibly fresh after over 30 years. And you could argue Nausicaä’s post-apocalyptic princess character is just as relevant now as it was back in the 1980s.
It also tackles themes like environmentalism and humankind’s place in the Earth’s ecosystem, all in a way that’s reminiscent of the teachings of Buddhism and other Eastern philosophical beliefs.
In a world enraptured by yoga and mindfulness, this can strike a powerful chord for many watchers.
4. Legend of the Galactic Heroes
Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Length: 110 Eps.
Studio: Kitty Film
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is one of those legendary shows that make people think “they just don’t make them like back in the day”.
This epic space opera shines for its excellent writing. Like other great media of the 80s, LotGH tackles themes like the human condition and humanity’s role in the world as a warring species.
It’s pretty long at 110 episodes (and three films), but it really does feel like it needs the time to fully flesh out its characters and their motivations.
This incredible character development has timeless literary value.
3. Dragon Ball
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Martial Arts
Length: 153 Eps.
Studio: Toei Animation
When people talk Dragon Ball, they usually focus on DBZ.
But the original 1986 series is where the true flavor is.
Just remembering the Emperor Pilaf Saga gives me goosebumps. Learning about capsule technology, meeting Bulma, and just watching this epic journey begin to unfold is just as exciting now as it was back in the day.
It’s Dragon Ball world-building done right.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Genre: Psychological, Mecha
Length: 26 Eps.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is unique in that nobody gets it at first – but you can’t help but want to keep watching.
As with most great works of art, Evangelion will show you something new every time you sit down to watch it.
The deep psychological portrayals of each character, and the exquisitely crafted symbolism, give the show a rich and almost inexhaustible substance.
From a visual perspective, the bad-ass battles between biopunk mechas and Lovecraftian foes are some of the most unforgettable scenes in anime – and the excellent animation quality is a treat for the eyes.
Length: 6 Eps.
Many modern mecha shows like Senki Sessho Symphogear and Darling in the Franxx owe a lot to the classic Gunbuster – a seminal show by Gainax with intense 80s charm.
Everything about this anime reflects its high production value, and Studio Gainax’s unadulterated genius.
The characters are interesting, Noriko is a very relatable protagonist, and the super robot battles have some of that intense, triple-distilled cool-factor Gainax can put into their shows.
Gunbuster shines above other entries in this ranking for its incredible accessibility and all-around quality.