10 Best Anime From The 80’s | TheReviewGeek Recommends

There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest, and unforgettable shows through the years.

For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to the best anime that was released in the 80s. From Ashita No Joe to Robot Carnival, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.

Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!

Ashita No Joe

Ashita No Joe is a dark boxing anime. In it, we follow Joe, a troubled child who likes to solve matters with his fists. He likes picking fights with local gangs who bully him. One of his fights catches the attention of a boxing coach named Danpei. Danpei offers Joe a chance to become a boxer. Although he struggles to learn the sport, Joe’s determined to become the best boxer ever.

This anime features a grand coming-of-age narrative. You’ll adore seeing Joe rise through the ranks and become a better fighter and boxer by the series’s conclusion. Like Hajime No Ippo, some fans might get encouraged to try boxing for themselves. Boxing aside, this anime spends a great amount of time analyzing Joe’s psyche.

He’ll endure many obstacles where fighting isn’t the best solution. That said, this anime showcases a better portrayal of the negative aspects that steam from boxers’ careers. If you’re looking for a great anime with mature themes, check out Ashita No Joe.


Akira is a critically praised anime spectacle everyone must see. It influenced many directors, designers, and theater-goers with its pungent imagery, delightful action set pieces, and sci-fi setting. Unfortunately, the manga gives the cast more spotlight than the anime. Nevertheless, characters like Kaneda and Tetsuo participate in enough over-the-top scenes to help them stand out.

The visuals in Akira depict death and body horror. It can be too disturbing for casual audiences. On the other hand, viewers who enjoy grittier works will have a blast with its gruesome sequences. If you’re looking for an epic thrill ride with action-packed set pieces backed by incredible heart-pumping scores, watch Akira.

Fist of the North Star Anime

Fist of the North Star 

Fist of the North Star is an adrenaline-pumping anime. Our protagonist Kenshiro endures multiple bouts with fierce foes to protect people who aren’t as capable as himself. He likes to have his fists do the talking for him and isn’t pleased with nonsense. It’s a show that will appeal to many shonen fans, especially those who adore Dragon Ball Z or JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

In addition, Fist of the North Star contains great comedy. While some fights serve as beautiful spectacles, others will feel unintentionally funny. Most of Kenshiro’s enemies have hilarious facial expressions after or before they’re defeated by him. This makes Kenshiro’s victory over these foes feel rewarding and satisfying from a viewer’s perspective.

If you’re in need of a masculine martial arts anime that will get you in the fighting spirit, check out Fist of the North Star.

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies carries heavy emotional weight. It gives fans a taste of what life was like during the war. You’ll see how much of an impact it has on people, especially the less fortunate. With its gritty atmosphere, chilling imagery, and likable protagonists, many fans may want to have a box of tissues on standby.

It takes place near WWII’s climax. Japan’s population and city structures have fallen at the sight of American bombings. Seita and his sister Setsuko serve as the anime’s protagonists. They lived unhappy lives due to the war but somehow hold onto a speck of hope. This anime does an excellent job of making you care for Seita and Setsuko. You’ll feel frustrated toward the people who disrespect them.

Seita gives everything he has to make his sister happy. From taking on work to providing her with extra meals. It’s a gut-wrenching work from the well-acclaimed anime director, Hayao Miyazaki. If you’re okay with watching anime that’ll have you down in the dumps, check out Grave of the Fireflies.

City Hunter

City Hunter is grounded action-comedy series with a skilled protagonist. It’s an anime with a semi-episodic structure and no overarching plot in sight. While this may sound like a deal-breaker to some, City Hunter offers enough riveting storylines to hold your interest. The show features several one-to-three-episode mini-arcs.

These mini-arcs contain great tension and mystery. The resolutions for some aren’t as great as others, but there are sure to be some plotlines that you’ll wind up enjoying. The anime’s protagonist Ryo is a character worth following. He gets himself in dangerous situations many times but delivers a satisfying beatdown to criminals who deserve it.

His woman routine can feel daunting, but he has enough charm to win anyone over. The side characters are a bit more likable and complex than Ryo, though. Therefore, if you’re looking for a funny assassin anime with an episodic structure, check this out.

Barefoot Gen

Need a war-themed anime that will shatter your heart, Barefoot Gen might be what you’re after. This anime follows Gen, a lively boy living in Hiroshima. Unfortunately, he’s witnessing horrifying situations due to the war in his area. He’ll struggle to gather essential resources and cope with the ongoing turmoil.

Gen isn’t alone in this endeavor, though. However, he and his family find themselves in a hopeless situation that will make any grown man cry. Although they’ll grip at several straws and hope for the best, they’ll realize their fates are sealed. This is a nightmarish film that’ll make viewers sympathize with its cast.

It’s a horrifying film that captures the real issues people faced during wartime. If you’re up to getting your heart torn apart by this emotionally numbing anime, check it out.

Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura is one of those 80s anime that sought a resurgence thanks to David Productions’s 2022 remake. It follows a perverted teenager named Ataru. He’s selected as Earth’s representative in a war against alien invaders. His opponent is the invader king’s daughter, Lum. He challenges this aloof princess to a game of tag and wins.

However, Ataru’s crude methods convince Lum that he’d like to marry her. Therefore, Ataru must cope with his newfound relationship with Lum while trying to win over his childhood crush, Shinobu. This anime’s plot isn’t spectacular and feels semi-episodic. This is a show viewers would want to check out for its cast and the hilarious antics they get roped into.

There are some moments when the anime delves deep into Lum and Ataru’s relationship, though. However, it’s few and far between. If you’re looking for an absurd romance anime to watch, give Urusei Yatsura a shot.

Area 88

Area 88 is one of Studio Pierrot’s cherished works. It’s like Barefoot Gen since both tackle war and the horrible effects it can have on humanity. It’s a thought-provoking work with incredible dogfights, though. Our story revolves around Shin, a man whose forced to become a fighter pilot because of his friend. He must make enough money to break free from his contract.

This task won’t be an easy one. As Shin gets more in tune with his war-like nature, he’ll question if he’ll be internally capable of returning to his normal lifestyle. This anime does an excellent job analyzing how much of a toll this war takes on Shin’s mentality. He’ll experience social isolation, sadness, and suicidal ideation to an extent.

For a mid-80s work, this anime has beautiful visuals and spectacular animation. Seeing the planes sour through the sky and rain mayhem on enemy vehicles will get fans pumped. At the same time, these sights may instill fear into viewers who are terrified of war. If you’re looking for a psychologically complex series to watch from the 80s, this is worth your time.

Robot Carnival

Robot Carnival provides viewers with a delightful viewing experience. It has diverse storytelling, complex plots, and mesmerizing visuals for its time. You’ll be shocked to find out it’s from the 80s, after seeing what types of things occur in it. Viewers may not cherish each tale it has, but there’s sure to be one that will resonate with you.

Each story features a robot theme. It’s told through visuals for the most part, but there are some stories where our characters converse with each other. That said, you’ll want to pay close attention to the animation. Not only is it beautiful to gaze upon, but it’s significant in helping you attain a general gist of each tale that’s presented.

Check this out if you’re looking for a visually stunning anime anthology with a boatload of engaging narratives.


Dragon Ball Z

Shockingly, Dragon Ball Z came out in the late 1980s. It’s an anime many folks remember watching in the 90s, though. Regardless, its prequel series, Dragon Ball inspired many works from One Piece to today’s Jujutsu Kaisen. It contains likable characters, amazing fights, and intense scenarios. Dragon Ball Z’s a sequel to the original anime and examines Goku’s life as a parent and Earth’s hero.

Goku and his friends will fight numerous foes in this series. The villains in this anime are more catastrophic than before and contain immense depth. They will push Goku and his friends to their breaking point. Some wind up succumbing to a terrible demise. Unlike Dragon Ball, Z feels more action-centric. There are some adventurous components, but it’s not a focus this time.

If you’re looking for epic work written by an inspiring author, check out Dragon Ball Z.

You can read our thoughts on Dragon Ball Z in our full-season review here!

So, there we have it, our picks for the best anime that was released in the 80s!

What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!

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