Old anime classics are here to stay. Many Gen-Z anime fans cite new-age hits like Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen as their first exposure to the genre. However, certain old anime classics are truly timeless and can be enjoyed anytime by anyone. While they may not be as visually stunning or thematically progressive as recent releases, they are well worth the watch. In fact, many recent anime series have drawn inspiration from older anime classics that continue to be greatly influential because of their hefty contribution to the growth of the genre.
Here are 10 anime classics that Gen-Z fans should give a try.
Dragon Ball Z, Bleach and One Piece are among the old anime classics that still enrapture fans
1) Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z played an invaluable role in sparking the international craze for anime and manga. Akira Toriyama’s high-octane, battle-focused series sees large scale fights that only get bigger, with each superpowered move surpassing the last.
The series is a continuation of the original Dragon Ball, featuring protagonist Son Goku as a married adult with a child. The beginning of the old anime classic sees him learn of his extraterrestrial origins, and before long he finds himself constantly embroiled in intergalactic and domestic disputes. The series is a timeless classic that every anime fan should watch at least once.
Inuyasha is somewhat of a cult-classic, even though it lacks the international renown of the previous entry. Inuyasha was revolutionary as a shonen series since it was one of the first successful anime to deal with traditional Japanese folklore and mythology.
This old anime classic focuses on its eponymous protagonist, a half-dog half-human yokai (or, demon) who was sealed to a tree by his former love. Deuteragonist Kagome Higurashi is the contemporary, 20th-century reincarnation of his former love, eventually finding her way back to the feudal era. She begins a quest with Inuyasha to find the Shikon Jewel, all the while bouncing between the two worlds to maintain a double life.
The first of the Big Three on this list, Bleach is mangaka Tite Kubo’s most famous work, known for its flawless aesthetic and high-octane action. The series has served as a direct inspiration to many recent anime and manga, most notably Black Clover.
This old anime classic sees protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki eventually unlock Soul Reaper powers after which he is thrust into the world of Soul Society’s Shikigami. The first portion of the series sees him trying to rescue Rukia Kuchiki, who gave him his Soul Reaper powers. As the series progresses, we see Ichigo fighting to foil the plans of a Soul Society traitor, which constitutes a majority of the remaining plot.
The second of the Big Three to be included in the list, Naruto is a highly beloved anime and manga series which boasts a fandom that spans generations. Many Gen-Z anime fans have most likely heard of it. The Talk no Jutsu meme led many younger fans to this unforgettable series.
We follow the eponymous protagonist on his journey to become Hokage, the leader of his village, so everyone will acknowledge and respect him. He meets plenty of friends along the way who later become enemies. However, he is also successful in turning his enemies into his friends because he cannot help but see the good in people. The feel-good old anime classic still delivers in all the traditional battle shonen categories.
5) One Piece
One Piece, the final member of anime’s Big Three, is the only older series on this list that is publishing manga chapters to this day. The old anime classic, spanning generations, is a battle adventure shonen series with tons of emotional highs and lows weaved into the plot masterfully. In fact, the series’ author Eiichiro Oda consistently receives praise for his expertise.
The series follows Monkey D. Luffy, a boy who became rubber after eating the Gum-Gum Fruit, on his journey to become the King of the Pirates. He builds a small but loyal crew along the way through several adventures. This high-quality series is worth any anime fan’s attention.
6) Yu Yu Hakusho
Yu Yu Hakusho is a short-lived but fantastic anime classic which has grown in popularity in recent years. It is responsible for popularizing the tournament trope of battle shonen as well as greatly influencing the use of transformations and power ups.
The series follows Yusuke Urameshi who dies after saving a child from getting run over in an uncharacteristic act of altruism. He’s given a chance to earn his life back, which he does. However, he goes on to become a Spirit Detective upon his revival, which marks the beginning of a supernatural journey full of emotional highs and lows.
7) Dragon Ball
Serving as the prelude to Dragon Ball Z, the original Dragon Ball anime is an adventure battle shonen which sees Goku grow into a young adult. This anime classic is one that every fan should eventually watch, with some viewers arguing that it is superior to its sequel.
The series follows a young Son Goku who meets Bulma Briefs one day and learns about the legend of Shenron and the seven Dragon Balls, one of which was passed down to him by Grandpa Gohan. Intrigued, he agrees to go on an adventure with Bulma to find the other six. While some of the content is certainly antiquated by today's standards, this old anime classic is still lovable and enjoyable.
8) Sailor Moon
One of the first shojo series ever, Sailor Moon is an international sensation. Anime viewers all around the world have heard of it because the series continues to gain acclaim even today.
The series follows Usagi Tsukino, who is given the power to become the titular celestial warrior, Sailor Moon. She eventually meets many others like her, all with civilian secret identities and alter egos named after celestial bodies. The old anime classic follows the group's journey as they battle the forces of evil while trying to maintain their normal lives.
9) Berserk (1997)
The 1997 adaptation of Kenatro Miura’s smash-hit Berserk manga is hailed as the greatest adaptation of the series by fans. Berserk ‘97 simply does everything right for the adaptation, even overcoming the technological limitations of the time for the most part.
The old anime classic follows the Golden Age arc of Miura’s manga which sees protagonist Guts meet Griffith and his Band of the Hawk mercenary group. Guts joins them and grows very close to Griffith, but eventually leaves so he can stand beside his friend and not just follow him. However, things begin falling apart at this point, leading the old anime classic to a dark, supernatural point of no return.
10) Lupin III
Finally, the Lupin III series (pronounced “Lupin the third”) is one of the most iconic anime on this list. The series follows Arsene Lupin III, grandson of the fictional gentleman thief Arsene Lupin from author Maurice Leblanc’s novels. The manga first began in 1967, and has spawned a franchise that is still prospering more than 50 years down the line.
Arsene Lupin III, the world’s greatest thief, often announces his heists to the world beforehand. In the process of completing these renowned heists, he typically ends up doing something good for the people he meets along the way. Lupin III is an old anime classic that has stood the test of time.