Who here grew up watching anime? Well, I certainly did. As someone who grew up during the ’90s and ’00s. I watched so many anime shows. However, there are five that really stuck to my head.
In this post, I list the top five anime that puts my nostalgia meter into overdrive. These are the anime shows of my childhood.
5. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters
Original run: 18 April 2000 – 29 September 2004
Yu-Gi-Oh! was a worldwide hit. The Duel Monsters card game that it spawned rivalled the success of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. One of the reasons behind this could probably be the darker themes explored in Yu-Gi-Oh!
The show Yu-Gi-Oh! follows Yugi Mutou, a shy kid who comes into possession of an ancient Egyptian artifact called the Millennium Puzzle. Eventually, Yugi solves the puzzle and releases the soul of an ancient spirit, not unlike the release of Pinhead’s soul by solving Lemarchand’s Configuration in Hellraiser. The spirit is able to take over Yugi’s body, becoming Yami Yugi.
The first season of the show involves Yugi trying to deal with his alter ago, Yami Yugi, and the kidnapping of his grandfather in the hands of Duel Monsters’ creator, Pegasus. Yugi and his friends travel to Pegasus’ castle to try to win Yugi’s grandfather back through Duel Monsters. The subsequent seasons deal with a myriad of card competitions, and an exploration of the other Millennium items and Yami Yugi’s history.
Yu-Gi-Oh! has a more mature feel when compared to Pokemon. The card monsters are not consistently cute, some are even terrifying, unlike the monsters in Pokemon. The show is able to build up a sophisticated mythos and universe – how the Egyptian Millennium items and the history of the card game Duel Monsters intertwine.
In addition, Yu-Gi-Oh! wouldn’t be a success if its card game is awful – and it surely isn’t! The card game has deep mechanics, which involve concepts like the mode of the cards (Attack or Defense) and different spell and trap cards to spice up the game. The video games are also really fun and well-made – particularly the GBA game Sacred Cards and the DS game Nightmare Troubadour.
All these factors contribute to Yu-Gi-Oh! being a global success.
4. Cooking Master Boy
Original run: 27 April 1997 – 13 September 1998
Cooking Master Boy had quite a short run, but its subject matter is unique and the way it presents it is something very memorable. The show centers on Liu Mao Xing, or Mao, a 13-year old aspiring chef and his journey to become the Master Chef of his late mother’s restaurant. Mao travels all around China – across the four main regions of Beijing, Szechuan, Shanghai, and Guandong – in order to learn different cooking styles and prove his worth as a chef.
Introduced in the story are the eight Legendary Cooking Utensils crafted from a meteorite and spread throughout the whole of China. The Legendary Cooking Utensils are said to have mystical powers which affect the dishes cooked using them. The Underground Cooking Society aims to control the culinary field of China by collecting the Legendary Cooking Utensils, using every means possible to do so. The Society serves as the main antagonist of the show.
What is so memorable about Cooking Master Boy is the way it exaggerates the cooking process, such as light-speed cutting of ingredients, and the presentation of the final dish, which often glows with a radiant light. The dishes never fail to look delectable, and it’s quite sad, really, that real life food don’t like as great as the food in Cooking Master Boy.
With the popularity that cooking shows are enjoying right now, a nice anime like Cooking Master Boy would surely find its place on the airwaves. Maybe a reboot would be a good idea?
3. Digimon Adventure
Original run: 7 March 1999 – 26 March 2000
Digimon Adventure brings together eight children, the Digidestined, and transport them to the Digital World. Here, they get acquainted to digimon (digital monsters) and receive a special device, a Digivice, which allows them to evolve their digimon companions. The group must band together in order to save the Digital World and the real world from the evil that threatens the peace.
Ok, so you might think: Isn’t Digimon just a copycat of Pokemon? Well, I can assure that Digimon is certainly not a copycat. In fact, the Digimon anime is far superior to the Pokemon one. The mythos of Digimon that it crafts is deep – involving creation stories and doomsday scenarios. It involves characters with complex personalities who actually evolve in the span of the storyline. In Digimon, the monsters actually speak and have personalities; conflict between digimon and their partner humans is something that happens often and drives the story forward.
Digimon Adventure was a success. It spanned many seasons afterwards, including two direct sequels – Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Tri. The characters that Digimon Adventure built are iconic – the courageous Tai, the smart Izzy, the diva Mimi – and that is why the series stood the test of time.
The music of the opening credits is also something that will stick with you for years to come. They used the same music for Digimon Tri, hitting the nostalgia meter really hard.
2. Gate Keepers
Original run: 3 April 2000 – 18 September 2000
Gate Keepers is my favorite anime series of all time. I’m shocked why it didn’t really catch on with the popular audience.
The setting is Tokyo in the year 1969. Silently and secretly, aliens have been sending their agents to the city, who then turn humans into Invaders. Retaliating against these aliens are a secret society, the Alien Exterminating Global Intercept System, or A.E.G.I.S. for short. The group enlists the aid of Gate Keepers, humans with the ability to conjure gates of paranormal energy, since their abilities are the only things effective against the Invaders.
The show takes a peek at the lives of the Gate Keepers, primarily Shun Ukiya and Ruriko Ikusawa, the Gate Keepers of Gale and Life, respectively. One can think of the show as a hybrid of teenage drama and mecha action.
What’s special about Gate Keepers is the characters that it builds. Shun Ukiya, Ruriko Ikusawa, and Reiji Kageyama, the main antagonist, are really fleshed out characters. The way the show balances episodes on personal relationships and episodes on story buildup is masterful. The show will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotion.
Gate Keepers spawned a direct-to-DVD sequel called Gate Keepers 21, which focused on Ayane Isuzu, the child of Shun Ukiya. The sequel is a way darker show than Gate Keepers, since it explores the tolls that using the gates have on the wielders and the reason why humans turn into Invaders in the first place. Gate Keepers 21 is also completely downbeat, a stark contrast to the liveliness of the original.
1. Yu Yu Hakusho
Original run: 10 October 1992 – 17 December 1994
Ask anyone, they’ll surely tell you that Yu Yu Hakusho is something they look back on with nostalgia. The show, which focuses on Yusuke’s story as an Underworld Detective and his bouts in underworld fighting competitions, has been emulated by a lot of subsequent anime shows, but nothing actually surpasses it in quality.
The cast of the show is iconic. The four mains – Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, and Kei – are the best foursome in anime. Everyone can remember the Taguro Brothers, right? The music is iconic – the song in the opening credits is amazing. I really can’t say anything more about Yu Yu Hakusho. When I think about my childhood, it’s the first thing that pops up in my mind.
Growing up, what was your favorite anime show?