the modern golden ages of anime

Categories: anime, commentary


Earlier this month, I ran a poll asking how long everyone had been an anime fan. Over half of this blog’s readership had been a fan for over 5 years and over two-thirds had been a fan for at least 3 years. By no coincidence, the biggest change for American anime fans over the past 5 years had been distribution. Prior to 2000, there was no such thing as digital fansubs, DVDs, or bittorrent. The ease of acquiring anime coupled with some great shows brought about the modern golden ages of anime. I’ll take 1,500 words and wax poetic on the good and bad times.


Anime, like bell bottoms, the 3-4 defense, and democrats, come and go in boom and bust cycles, just some booms and some busts lasts longer than others. Anime’s first “modern golden age” (I wasn’t alive when Speed Racer was popular, so I’ll stick with modern times) was in the mid-90s from about 95 to 98 spurred by three pantheon shows: Evangelion (95), Cowboy Bebop (98), and Escaflowne (96). The second tier was a murderer’s row also… Trigun (98), Child’s Toy (96), Nadesico (96), Fushigi Yuugi (95), Utena (97), Kenshin (96), Kare Kano (98), and Tenchi (95). If you haven’t watched any of these series yet… do yourself a favor and watch them. All. Vastly superior to pretty much everything running today except for Haruhi, which has a pantheon-level ceiling. Most definitely not a Lemon Angel Project or Koi Koi 7 in the bunch. These are all great for already anime fans, but two very different series really pushed anime out to mainstream America.

The first was the debut of Pokemon. As silly as it seems, Ash (Satoshi) and Pikachu showed that anime can be more than magical girls and giant robots. The second was a giant robot show that serendipitiously caught fire… Gundam Wing. Cartoon Network’s decision to launch Gundam Wing as well as a primetime Toonami in 98 introduced anime to a more grown up audience. Without Gundam Wing leading the way in 98, there wouldn’t be Paranoia Agent, Stand Alone Complex, or Eureka Seven on CN nowadays.

This golden age was also when I became rehooked on anime, and it wasn’t as much because of the TV series as much as two movies: Ghost in the Shell (95) and, more importantly, Princess Mononoke (97). I still remember watching Mononoke at State Theater in Ann Arbor and remember how wow’ed I was leaving it. It’s still my favorite movie to this date.

Also, a few hardware improvements make anime easier to watch. The first was the advent of laserdiscs. I cannot tell you the difference between watching VHS fansubs vs laserdisc subs and from mono to stereo sound. Oh, back in this time frame, anime companies in the US only churned out VHS tapes that were either sub or dub, and fansubs were only available by mailing self-addressed stamped blank VHS tapes to distros, who would then make copies and mail them back. Since the fansubbers themselves could only use VHS or laserdisc raws, it would be up to a year between airing in Japan and fansubbed… then maybe another month or two for distro turnaround. Waiting for Mini-Goddess from its original airing to finally seeing a crummy VHS mono-sound sub of it? Bad times. I finally tossed out my last VHS fansub (Do You Remember Love) last year. DVD was still in its infancy.

A more useful Lacus Clyne

From about 99 to 01, anime hit a lull. If the best shows from that period include Love Hina (00), Fruits Basket (01), Crest of the Stars (99), Mahoromatic (01), Vandread (00), Inu Yasha (00), and Super GALS (01), you know it wasn’t exactly a banner period. And a sleeper… One Piece (99), which people initially dismissed until the Arlong Park arc. But none of these series were on the same transcendent plane that Eva, Bebop, and Esca were on. No one would ever confuse Noir (01) with Utena.

The major sign of anime’s lull during this period? Out of all those pantheon-level shows tha I mentioned from 95 to 98, they all ran for more than 26 episodes with most taking at least 50. From 99, the 13 episode “wait-and-see” format become more prevalent, and anime was being shelved onto UHF stations and later and later timeslots in Japan. American fans were picking up steam but not critical mass yet… I still couldn’t walk into Wal-Mart and find anime there. Anime DVDs were still waaaaay too expensive an waaaaay too crappy in terms of productin quality (with CPM’s Utena being the worst and most disgraceful). However, cutting-edge fansub groups (Otaku no Anime being the only one I remember) made the switch from VHS subs to digital subs and, more importantly, digital distribution. IIRC, Love Hina was the first series that had episode 23 out before episode 24 aired. Quality improved as fansubbers went from RealVideo to DivX 3.11. Still, distribution was improved… instead of mailing VHS tapes, people waited in queues in IRC, grabbed packets from usenet, or ran underground servers at their colleges.


2002 was about when the current golden age of anime ramped up thanks to technology. Bittorrent made distribution easier and almost irrevelent– the time it took from original airing to viewable by a non-Japanese audience once took a year, now takes days and sometimes hours. Very few new shows went unnoticed. Can you imagine not having bittorrent and digital fansubs? I don’t think I can go back to the VHS days. These are good times. Trust me. Just as important as bittorrent was, it’s hard to create fans if the shows were crap, like RUN=DIM (01), but, fortunately, three big franchises were unleashed in 2002: Full Moon wo Sagashite, Full Metal Panic (delayed due to 9/11), and Gundam Seed.

But how did the word spread and get out? Late 2002, the first anime blogs started popping up, ranging from the ultrapopular JASCII to the very unpopular toybox, the predecessor to AoMM (my first anime post? a comparison of Saikano and Now then Then, Here and There). Nowadays, anime blogs have almost made anime ezines and magazines irrelevant. Why would one wait a month to read a review of a new show when a review can be found on The 好き just a few hours after airing?

(I’m also not sure if corporations are driving the interest in anime these days… a lot of anime recommendations are still through word-of-mouth and grassroot efforts like blogging or forums. If AN pimped Guu, would it be more convincing than if I pimped Guu?)

Yes, it is a golden age of anime, and it continues today. However, like the housing market or price of oil, it’s hard to say where it will go now. Is the golden age ending soon? Or is it still going strong?

For those who are less optimastic that the golden age will continue, I have a few apples to toss in that basket as well… the first being the source material. Sequels and remakes are generally the first sign of a brain drain, and from 95 to 2002, sequels and/or remakes were just unheard of in anime. (I don’t count stuff like Mahoromatic ~Something More Beautiful~ as a real sequel as it finished off the manga’s story… a sequel would be like J2: Siberian Yaguu which contrived a story to keep the series going.) Think Bambi 2, Matrix Trilogy, Dukes of Haazard, and other gawd-awful Hollywood ideas that stained the original works. Anime is sadly doing the same, with remakes of To Heart and Kanon being the Pocahontas 2 and Brady Bunch the Movie.

(Since I already posted about the Kanon remake, I’m just going to repeat my point… I’m always, always in favor of creating new stuff rather than just rehash old stuff. As much as I liked Kanon, what if Kyoto can’t make 26 episodes of Haruhi because they need to staff the Kanon project? Remakes are all about short term profits… for long term, they have to create new franchises to keep up interest and grow the industry. Being dependent on sequels and remakes just turns them into Hollywood, and we all know how awesome Hollywood is doing these days. That’s why I don’t like remakes… who knows what project was axed or not green-lighted because of Kanon? Imagine if Haruhi was never made because they needed manpower for Kanon?)

Also, more troubling, is that old pantheon series like Eva and Bebop were not born out of manga whereas almost all anime nowadays are spawned from manga. If bottom-tier manga like Seto no Hanayome can score an anime series and land Rie Tanaka as the lead (buried in that Otome post), I mean… wow. Things must be desperate. The most recent “original” work that I’ve seen recently is Mai Otome. Not even in the same planet, solar system, or galaxy as Bebop when writing is concerned.

The last concern is the lackidasical sales of anime products in the US. I noticed that companies have started scaling back anime operations, with some stores like Target, having stopped carring anime altogether. Last month I was at a Best Buy in San Jose where they were boxing up anime DVDs (mostly Scrapped Princess and Exploding Angel), and since I was curious, I asked them why. They were being sent back to the warehouse because they weren’t selling. Ouch.


For those who are optimastic that the golden age will continue, there are a lot of good signs and trends… HDTV has sparked an arms race in animation quality and watching Ergo Proxy today just shows how far anime has come in terms of animation. Not only has the animation been improving, DVD prices are finally becoming more reasonable with Thinpaks. There is also a lot of strong shows and possibly new franchises introduced, starting with Keroro and Mai Hime in 2004 and even Haruhi today. Anime is also spreading to other countries outside of America and Japan, and the international community is very strong… the strongest that I have ever seen it.

I’m most optimistic about the future and growth of anime because of the international growth. While anime may have stagnated due to corporate oversaturation in the US, I’m noticing a lot of new worldwide fans of anime… back in 2002, almost 90% of the visitors to this blog were from the US. Now, despite that this blog is still US-centric, it’s almost dead even with 50% of the visitors from the US and 50% international. Even with the English-only blog policy at blog好き, it has more international visitors than US visitors. I’m also optimistic that anime companies are scouring more sources for their inspiration, with light novels leading to Crest of the Stars, Full Metal Panic, Shakugan no Shana, and Haruhi. And h-games… I can’t think of anime h-game turned anime prior to To Heart (99), and Type Moon has shown that h-games don’t necessarily need to turn into harem series to be successful with Tsukihime and F/SN, though I think both series would have done better as harem series.

Still, as an anime fan from the 90s to today, it’s sometimes nice to take a step back and look at where anime has been, where it’s now, and where’s it’s going. Whereas the first modern golden age was spurned by quality shows, the current golden age is carried by ease of distribution and knowledge. Whereas Air Gear may be craptastic, at least we can view it in three languages other than Japanese as well as discuss its more craptastic points on anime forums and blogs. That’s progress. Shows can also take on a second life in these discussions with memes like “Hime-lander” and “symmetical docking” adding to the anime fandom pathos. Good times. Shows that could have been easily overlooked ten years ago (like Child’s Toy) are now oversaturated. Word of Haruhi‘s awesome spread faster than a torrent of the latest raw. Great times. Now excuse me, I think I have some anime to watch.

40 Responses to “the modern golden ages of anime”

  1. The downturn in DVD sales really depresses me. I won’t say anything more about it because it would incur a wrath that was already wrought on the world a few weeks back.

  2. Great article.

    Indeed we do live in an exciting age, who could have imageined that the greatest conflict in human history would lead to the launch of Sputnik, which lead to the creation of the internet by the US as a comm system to survive a nuclear attack. Most of the series that you have mentioned I have seen or maintain a copy of for my time capsule, and my deployment TV project. Who knows maybe Otakus of the Imperial Forces will bring anime to the Middle East and leave at least one good legacy to them after we broke their region.

    I do feel however that while the direction of anime maybe in the air all of Otakudom does face challenges ahead. Mainly maintream accpetance and to support inspiring and compelling content rather than they most lewd series as widely precieved by the majority of society. Geneon’s habit of scooping up series as they are made may provide a legal grey area for fansubbers to operate. As much as I hate politics and politicains they do represent a threat to anime as LDP saber rattling may destablize the region as the PRC begins to use her econmic strength to create enough military might to super-power status. I couldn’t care less about what happens to politicians on both sides but to have the land of anime face the Chinese Nuclear Dragon… I shudder at the thought. More close to home in the West we have unscrupulous political hacks looking for footballs and nonsense issues, which Otakus must discourage. Misguided attempts by the anime industry may lead to a back lash much akin to what happened when record labels began taking on peer to peer sharing.

    Though the end of oil may be of no concern to otakudom the end of cheap oil is about 10 or 20 years from now. Since many anime related products use plastic in some form or another we as a community must enourage the adoption of new less petroleum based anime products if anime is to remain in the hands of the masses.

    While many precieve some of the series you have mentioned as must sees I do advise a bit of caution, and suggest the aforementioned series as suggestions to rent or borrow from the local library rather than dropping your hard earned cash for them. EVA, while considered a classic, robbed me of a hefty sum. In my mere 20 years of existence I had never seen that much unwarranted emo and angest even amongst guys relegated to scraping off paint from ships. Given my job as a sanctioned minister of death I have little tolerance to emo and angsty types liable to get me or my comrades killed.

    As always all otakus should do their part to support anime by buying related products, be it DVDs, manga, or PVC dolls. Just watch your wallet though, going into debt for this is not a good idea. Also always remeber to conduct yourself in a manner that will bring no shame to the rest of otakudom, we don’t need more bad press.

    By Jove I feel old…

    -When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.

  3. Post covered pretty much everything, but just few comments about situation here (Finland). Anime dvds can still be counted with almost fingers of two hands, but there is signs that lot more will come in future. Series like fmp. Personally i don’t like it much, but that have probably generated lot of anime fans so i am grateful that adv released it in scandinavia too. Anime in tv, not much to brag. Pokemon, Digimon and Eva, that’s about it.

    There was one manga exhibition about half year ago and biggest daily newspaper made positive story about it too. Before that whole manga was labeled as kid’s comic because of dragonball, i think it’s finally getting bit by bit approval of general opinion.

  4. You have valid observations, but I do disagree on putting Fruits Basket inferior to a show like Evangelion. It has a completely different target group and idea but even without the manga at the back those 26 episodes did a whole lot for family issues and acceptance of differences – which is what the show is based on.

    Some other shows that to me belong into golden age anime: Scrapped Princess, Juuni Kokki, One Piece, Princess Tutu, the original El Hazard OVA and large bits of Card Captor Sakura – all for doing excellently what they were supposed to do, some of them even innovatively.

  5. Ahh, I remember the times when I sat down to catch stuff like Vandread on TV. Back then, I think it was probably preeetty hard to get anime the way we do over BT nowadays. Just the thought of how much trouble I went to just to try and get my grubby paws on some new stuff to watch was…

    ……bad times.

  6. The Golden age of Anime was the 1980s. However, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu has a potential to become a new historical landmark in Anime history.

  7. A couple things to complicate matters:

    1) DVD sales everywhere are down, not just anime, which is generally believed to have been from finally getting all of the back-catalog material out there. (Just like you have say, ADV having finally put out all of the Eva Platinum discs, you have NBC finally putting out all of Seinfeld along with Fox finally releasing Star Wars).
    2) Speaking for Hollywood anyway, Hollywood’s Golden Age is marked by a time when they basically produced movies on an assembly line
    3) Doukyuusei, which I’ve usually heard referred to as the first modern H-game, had multiple animes come out of it shortly after its release in the early 90’s.
    4) Just exactly what portion of fans go to the internet regularly? When I was a feature writer at Star City Games, I learned that while Internet-based writing (rather than print-based writing) was necessary for something which changed so quickly as Magic: The Gathering did, there was an enormous silent majority out there that didn’t actually read articles at all and just bought their packs.

  8. The golden age eh…

    I have 21 years, almost 22; I had been otaku for more than 10 years (15 if you count when I watch anime without know the meaning of that word). In the old age for, shows like Voltron, Aeronman 28, Arvegas, Silver Rider and a few more where THE BOOM on those days. After a standard life of American Cartoons like Silver Hawks, BreakStar and a little more I made a big improvement in 1993 with Dragon Ball, 1994 with Captain Tsubasa, 1995 with Saint Seiya and finally 1996 with Tekknoman Blade and Ranma 1/2, thanks to my local TV stations. Sure, you can count Dragon Ball Z in 1997 and after…

    These shows where my trigger, my Standby Ready over this style of life, yeah anime is my style of life now. Before I get into college, all my anime sources were TV Cable and my local TV stations. I saw Evangelion on spring 2000 for the first time. “OGM, WTF is this” I said… but I love it since then, and still treasure it. Evangelion came along with a big number of shows, Card Captor Sakura, Cowboy Bebop, Saber J, Bubble Gun Crisis Tokyo 2040, Ghost in the Shell, Macross Plus, Eat-Man, Soul Hunter and Oh! My Goddess (I had to wait one year to finally see the entire 5 OVAs back then, and now are part of my 1.5 TB collection). BTW, I was a big Pokemon fan until last year, but I still remember the beautiful memories of 1999 when Ranma ½ were cut out to put on air Pokemon. I fall in love at first sigh, ah… what a shame they did an awful work in these last 2 years with the series in Japan. I liked more Detective Conan after 10 years of airing (and still going with big popularity)

    Wait a minute, I’m forget it something, 3 months before I get in to college, one of my best friends of High School and I go to see The End of Evangelion to a bohemian coffee after an invitation on one of the local newspapers. Alright, it was entirely, but who cares at time; in one word… awesome. I said to myself “This is what I like definitely”

    After 2002, when most of my friends of college enjoy watching anime like me, my own Golden Age begun with… watching more and more anime on TV, it doesn’t matter how excellent or awful were. At that time my interests were Love Hina, Mahoromatic and Vandread, all thanks to Internet. Although I have to wait until November 2003 to my first anime download. It was Saint Seiya Hades, Sanctuary Chapter; one of my favorite anime ever. Since that day, two and a half years later, I watched over than 200 series, more than 50 movies and at least 500 OVAs. Yeah! Definitely my style of life

    I don’t know what future bring to my, meanwhile I can see at least one or two anime series, I’m going to find.

    A toast, for another 10 years of anime fandom for everyone

  9. >and 50% international

    Well I’m not surpiseed. I’m french and i’m reading english blog. You may wonder why… French blog just isn’t fun. No otaku jokes, nor fun comment on an episode >_

  10. I think I counted 10 mentions of Haruhi in this one post. Can’t say I blame you. Haruhi’s awesomeness is blinding.

  11. >> The Golden age of Anime was the 1980s.

    I disagree. Hence this post. There are signficantly more anime fans and fans outside of the US/Japan today than 20 years ago, and that’s enough to say we’re in the real golden age, Akira be damned.

  12. If Macross were to have come out today, you’d be able to hear the wailing from the internet anime community all the way in Antartica.

    Stuff worked differently in the 80’s

  13. Yesh, what the hell is with all the manga->anime in the recent years? Strange there’s no mention of Rahxephon, one of the most controversial Evangelion clones in history. People either loved or hated it. For me, I’ve come to respect Bones because of Rahxephon and Angelic Layer. With series like Scrapped Princess, Wolf’s rain, Kurau Phantom and the recent Eureka 7 under its belt, Bones has become one of my fav anime production groups to come.

    Then there’s the hgame->anime boom. I wonder what went wrong. Hgamers like me tend to look forward to such series but were disappointed in the end. I suppose To-heart (1 not 2) was the only hgame anime to me that was special in its own way. Even FSN anime is lacking for a FSN fan like me. (on a side note, jason is probably right about To-heart being a pioneer, as older classic hgames like Doukyuusei spawned hentai animes not tv animes)

    I’ve seen animes from the late eighties (kimagure orange road, ranma1/2) to now and to me anime is one evolving entity. It reflects the ever changing society of japan, so I’d say there’s no such thing as a golden age in anime. Social and technological advancements reflect in the quality of animes, if a young anime viewer were to see something like galaxy 999 now, he or she’d be freaked out by how gaudy it looks. Yet, to those in the past that first watched it, it was superb animation to them. I believe that in the next 10 years, Eureka 7 would probably look as laughable to future viewers. And yet, I’d still be watching anime then.

  14. To be honest, while I’ve seen all the titles you mention as landmark classics of anime in the late nineties, with a few excpetions (Berserk, Karo Kano, Nadesico) I’ve never considered those titles that great, despite the huge fanbases Eva and Bebop have (I still like them, but I think shows since them have surpassed them in every way. Trigun I find excretable, and would pay to have my memories of both of the anime and the manga erased). I think people tend to look at the series around when they became an anime fan as the landmarks due to human nature. Plus, the relatively small number of titles available then makes each one seem more different and interesting.

    I also think Fruits Basket is a series much better than anything from the nineties. While the nineties may have been influential, and ultimately without them the variety of titles we have today would be non-existant, for me the last few years have been the time when anime has really had me hooked and excited, and explored new realms of quality and art. Shows like Haibane Renmei, Mushishi, Gankutsuou and Fantastic Children have seemed far better series to be than “classics” from the 90s.

  15. lololol, “the good ol’ days”. The 80’s were like 3 guys with dub racks in their garages. How could that possibly be a Golden Age for anime fandom outside of Japan? Similarly, lol Wikipedia lol.

    Also, what do we make of the fact that Haruhi comes from a manga?

    Anime (rather than anime fandom) is sorta hard for me to look at in terms of having a “golden age” because it’s still a niche product. The animes that fandom celebrates are generally being produced for an otaku audience that is willing to stay up until 2am to watch a show that’s based on a porno computer game. Fans might be eating up something like Haruhi, but it’s been 10 years since Eva and we haven’t seen a true crossover hit like it since.

    Does it matter that we’re drawing conclusions about an industry using only the industry’s niche productions? Fans might gush over something like Mushishi, but the biggest hits on TV in Japan are Sazae-san, Doraemon, Digimon, One Piece, and Pretty Cure. It seems like the closest thing is Nana, but that only has good ratings for an anime.

    (also, why do people keep saying that Akira was a flop in Japan? It cost $10 million to make and grossed 5 times that, making it one of the biggest hits of the year! Similarly, I corrected a comment on the trivia for Zeta Gundam on ANN where it said that the show’s dark tone made it unpopular and only became big later on when in actuality, Zeta had the highest ratings of any Gundam.)

  16. Also, the 90’s were a golden age for who? American hardcore fans, American casual fans, Japanese hardcore fans, or Japanese TV watchers in general? Is it a golden age in hindsight or was it considered a golden age at the time? Does the answer to the second question change depending on how we answer the first question? Who considered it a golden age?

    (I say this both for my above reasons, but also because well, as a more recent anime fan, I was shown a lot of those anime as like “this is the pinnacle of anime” and didn’t like most of them at all, which set me back years in my liking of anime. Granted, Eva and Kare Kano of two of my favorites, but I couldn’t get through more than a few episodes of almost all of the rest of those shows.)

  17. Think History ( Which means money )

    1979 – 1980 : Gundam : This is the series that made Anime merchandising profitable

    1982: Uruseiyatsura: If you ask the world which anime series they know the most, it probably be Inu-Yashu, and Rumiko debutted on to the screen this year.

    1984: Macross the Movie ‘ Love, remember? “; This is the movie that made Anime Music profitable
    Cream Lemon series, the first full blown Anime Pornography started

    1985: Megazone 23: The first successful OVA. It was the first Japanese Anime to have English Version by the original Studio, AIC. This also started the whole Cyber Idol phenomenon that is in vogue in Korea and Japan.

    Touch: This was probably biggest non-mecha success for manga to Anime series, ever, as it lasted to 101 episodes, most of which capturing the highest rating for its time slot.

    Finally, please read the following three paragraphs from wikipedia, carefully. I couldn’t say anything better. This was the time, the ONLY TIME, where they made Anime for Anime sake. No corners were shaved and they didn’t worry about audience nor profits.

    As for new golden age of Anime, I believe it started at around 2001- 02 with increased availability of Anime through internet, repeated success of H-game to Anime series, and breaking into new Taboo by likes of Koi Kaze.


    The late 1980s, following the release of Nausicaa, saw an increasing number of high budget and/or experimental films. In 1985 Toshio Suzuki helped put together funding for Oshii’s experimental film Angel’s Egg (1985). The OVA market allowed for short experimental pieces such as Take the X Train, Neo-Tokyo, and Robot Carnival(all three 1987).
    Akira brought anime to an international scene
    Akira brought anime to an international scene

    Theatrical releases became more ambitious each film trying to outclass or out spend the other film all taking cues from Nausicaa’s popular and critical success. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985), Tale of Genji (1986), and Grave of the Fireflies (1987) were all ambitious films based on important literary works in Japan. Films such as Char’s Counterattack 1988 and Arion (1986) were lavishly budgeted spectacles. This period of lavish budgeting and experimentation would reach its zenith with two of the most expensive anime film productions ever: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987) and Akira (1988).

    Most of these films didn’t make back the costs to produce them. Neither Akira nor Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise were box office successes in Japan. As a result large numbers of anime studios closed down, and many of experimental productions began to be favored less over “tried and true” formulas. Only Studio Ghibli was to survive a winner of the many ambitious productions of the late 1980s with its film Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) being the top grossing film for that year earning over $40 million at the box office


  18. Couple of added comments.

    1. In Japan during 1980s, Anime was not treated as niche market, but full blown main stream business.

    2. Zeta Gundam was the fulfilling of hopes for many Gundam fan, where there were balance between ideology, mecha, and characters. It also could be viewed as satire on Political tragedies in Korea during 1979 to 1984. It also successfully prophesized the return to power of once deposed politicians in Korea. Yes, Many of shocking deeds of Titans were done in similar fashion by military coup forces in Korea in early 1980s.

    3. The Anime Movie no longer enjoys its market share like it did in 1980s.

  19. You missed out two major influencial anime series: One being the ultra-popular Sailor Moon back in 1992, and another beng Fullmetal Alchemist.

  20. I 100% agree about the 80’s being a golden age. That’s part of my reasoning for asking questions about “golden age for who?” or “who says that it’s a golden age?”


    Japanese fans: yes
    Japanese audience: yes
    Japanese industry: yes
    International fans: dur, what’s “Japanimation”?

    Hence the need to define these terms.

    (now I’m totally interested: are you seeing Zeta Gundam as being about things like Kwangju?)

  21. Although the similarity is may be coincidental, the memory of Gwangju Massacre in 1980 was still vivid to me when I first saw the mention of side 30 incidence in Zeta Gundam. My friends and I made couple of matches between real political figure and eventsin Korea with characters, mecha, and events in Zeta Gundam and made a prophecy that this would mean someone from Park Jung-Hee’s staff would rise to power again. This Prophecy actually came true with ascendency of Kim Jong-pil, thus suspicion that the similarity may not be coincidental. Why was the memory of Gwangju so vivid to me? Because my entire family had to temporarily take refuge in USA after the incidence since my father was someone who is politically active, thus on the black list of the Military government. One thing that is not coincidental is the mecha Marasai resembling riot police in full gear. That was deliberate as Marasai was the instrument of oppression by Titans, and both Japan and Korea saw their respective riot polices as enforcer of their government’s ideology.

  22. Another interesting angle is that, there was a club inside Korean Military that actually called all the shots, similar to how Titans controlled the Earth Military force. All these can be mere coincidence, but too many coincidences coupled with chronological and geographical proximity makes you wonder.

  23. I think the problem that you and most people have with naming a ‘golden age’ of ANYTHING is that golden ages are strictly defined by generally what the first shows that you’ve seen that you would consider ‘quality’ began. Such debates such as the golden age of various professional sports, movies, or even anime usually seperate people into distinct generations with the younger (aka newer fans) usually thinking newer stuff representing more of a golden age, while older fans thinking that older stuff represents it (crazy people who just like really old stuff for the sake of it not withstanding).

    While I agree with you that the shows you have listed are pretty quality, I personally would say that Crest of the Stars (and its sequels) is my favorite anime series of all time (well next to Macross of course… which is the first series I ever really saw).

    One thing I will agree with you is the future looks a bit shaky. True there has been a huge anime boom, but are we riding on the crest of a wave and will anime go the way of other ‘fads’ of the past (aside for us hard core anime blogging fans) or will it continue to prosper in North America?

    How about in Japan? It seems like new shows these days are growing more and more scary. Harem shows have almost become cliches of themselves with the now ‘brother x sister x cousin’ aspect almost expected. In fact the amount of completely cookie cutter shows is phenomenal, and since the advent of CG which has made production easier, production quality for many shows has actually decreased in the past few years. Too little anime producing talent is now spread much too thin, with most shows having only modest enough budgets to actually do a decent job.

    Perhaps I’m growing old and cynical because I’ve seen so much anime in my life, it’s hard to say. Either way I hope a new generation of top notch people take over anime or else I have little hope for the vast number of cookie cutter shows out there today.

  24. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction I had no idea that Zeta Gundam paralleled the political upheavals of South Korea in the post 1960s decade. I wasn’t around to see that tragedy unfold.

  25. I actually have renewed hopes about anime in the future. I felt similar to Epi when Evangellion series started but I see reason for optimism.

    1. There is Haruhi.

    2. There is increase in flow of human and technological resourses into Anime business.

    3. Rise of the internet has made Anime spread to all over the globe, thus increasing the audience basis.

    4. Most anime is now tied with various other media outlet like games, real-people drama and movie, novels, manga, and soon the internet based game about them as well. This can result in synergetic effect as to increase the flow of ideas and informations concerning possible Anime materials.

    5. In end it’s about money and although Anime, by itself, may not be invested as heavily as it did in the 80s, combined investment and revenue from related products and service is greater than ever and all sign points to continue in its increase.

    6. Story-heavy anime started to appear again.

    7. The teenagers in the 80s should soon be in power in various companies and organizations.

    8. Did I mention Haruhi?

  26. Great article. Many of your comments, and those of contemporaries who posted replys mirrored my own experiences. (I still have my Fushigi Yuugi VHS tapes that I recieved from Tomodachi Anime back in the 90’s – I have since replaced them with the DVD box sets) So this was a good walk down memory lane in my anime history.

  27. Great article jason, it`s a truly a great read and it makes me realize how young i am in when it comes to animes.
    I wasn`t even borned in the 80s till much later lol.

    While the future for animes look uncertain, it`s animes like Haruhi that gives us hope >D

  28. Now that I think about it, Haruhi is like the exact opposite of what I would think of a “golden age” anything would be. Why? Because so far it appears to be one big inside joke, and it’s really frustrating when you’re the person surrounded by a bunch of other people telling an inside joke. The non-“zomg awesoem!!1” comments that I’ve been seeing aren’t “this isn’t very good” or “I checked it out because it was super hyped, but actually it was quite eh” but rather “I don’t get it.”

  29. Nah, many of you guys are just being picky. Indeed many animes are filled with flaws and some of them almost pass of as being unwatchable or unentertaining bla bla. But so are humans. I’m rather open minded when it comes to watching anime (whether from the most innocent kiddy anime to the most offensive hanime) and I tend to take anime with a pinch of salt. Thus I have never encountered any anime that I really hated nor shunned.

    Although I really like Haruhi and I do admit it’s pretty pure genius, but I’ve seen before animes in the past like this that made me sit up. Excel saga, Jungle Guu, Abenobashi, Furi Kuri, Ebichu, Azumanga Daioh, Animation Kuromi were all zany pieces of works that I enjoyed immensely, just to name a few. I’m just going to add Haruhi to the list.

    Personally I don’t like the idea of separating old viewers and new viewers. Anime is anime, I only watch to enjoy, whether if its something as old as Maison Ikkoku, something as tearjerking as Now and Then, Here and There, something as peaceful as Kokoro Library or something as silly as Tokyo Mew Mew. I may sometimes lament at how old or exclaim at how visually stunning an anime is, but I’ll still make the best out of my viewing experience. If you have to regret watching something, don’t watch it in the first place.

  30. Original stuff? Eureka Seven comes to mind.

  31. I am not sure if Haruhi deserves classic title just yet. Only 2 episodes have aired and parody is tricky thing to do. It’s not 100% sure that whole series is as good as first 2 episodes.

  32. Hmm…I think the problem with this article as a whole is that generally we only remember the GOOD shows from a period.

    Sure, there’s Macross, Gundam, Ranma, Bebop, EVA and many other shows that are classics for their time…but what about the OTHER shows that came out at the same time? The ones no one remembers because they were crap.

    You can point to all sorts of crappy, cookie cutter anime today, but look at all the shitty 1 and 2 episode OVAs that were churned out back in the 80s and 90s. For a good selection, go check CPM’s back catalog.

    I do not think anime today is fundamentally any better or worse than anime was 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Yes, they are different, but thats because society and the audience is different.

    Basically my overall point is that defining a “golden age” is utterly meaningless and stupid.

  33. I’m with Jason about Haruhi, becasue I don’t remember this kind of crazyness before, and then, after 14 episodes, we can say “Oh yeah! A new classic was born”

    BTW… F/SN rocks and breaks everything…

  34. Please let me quote this again.

    Gold = Money

    If money being invested and revenue generated by Anime and related products and service for the decade is significantly greater than decade that proceeds or follows it, we may say that decade or time period was a golden age for anime. Adjusted for inflation, 80s was such a decade where they spent much more money compared to 70s or 90s. I am noticing an upturn in revenue generated by anime recently and thus is predicting that if apparently high spending animes enjoys some success, people will spend money on Anime again, thus bringing about another golden age.

  35. Isn’t Haruhi confirmed for 14 episodes or did I read wrong?

  36. Golden Age? WTF?

    While I admit there have been milestones since Ozamu Tezuka and Gundam, there is no Golden Age until I see more people discussing more than just f**king Gundam, Bleach, Naruto, and whatever’s been released these few years.

    Until everyone embraces Japanese animation (or at least be tolerant of it, I’m not too picky) and have the creative freedom of expression that follows it(aka no OMFGLAWSUIT if we do fanarts of our favorite series, at the very least), and keep a level head about it(a guy can hope, can’t he?), there is no Golden Age.

    And yes, I have some of the series mentioned on that huge list. And the hilariously bad Speed Racer(this was the jerkily-animated 1970s version, not the shiny newer one) dub.

    Not in this current era, anyway.

  37. what can we really say?
    It took years before the renaissance was defined as the Golden age of scince and literature, it will take more time before we can really look back and say that this time period, maybe even this spring/autumn was indeed the golden age of anime? why? we ourselves are living in the height or golden age of technology when compared to the time even 4 or 5 years ago, sure in the 90’s more “classical” anime may have been developed, but at the time when the show was first seen did any notation of the grandeur of that anime actually stike the minds of the viewers? what we see today may be considered average and slightly generic but in future what will those who come after us think? the ‘Golden age” isnt for us to decide, yet.

    and on a side note: w00t Haurhi rocks!

  38. Hmm….animes are too expensive….i woncder why the tv company refuses to cut down the anime prices as now ppl are using bit torrent to dl free…

  39. I’ve been an anime watcher as a kid (started at 7)in the Philippines. I’m 45 now, so I’m definitely a dinosaur! I definitely remember Mazinger Z!

    There are a few related things that made the current time a great one:

    1) Distribution – to able to see the raw within 24 hours of airing (rather than 1 year from now) and to see a subbed version within a week is awesome!. Considering 10 years ago, it’d be a year.

    2. The rise of the bloggers – w/o the the rise of the blogger community, winnowing out the offerings would had been tough.

    Now, what do I want to see 5-10 years from now. To be able to either watch in real time or see a delayed recording of my favorite anime show…with dub titles already in place. That’s the next leap.

    3. Great stories – you’re right about NGE, Cowboy Bebop among others being the last anime series that was original. The problem I suspect is the suits unwilling to pony up the cash for development when there’s already readily available material like manga or novels being written. Which is not really a bad thing. It all depends upon the source material (how many sotry arcs are there and how many epsiodes?). Which is probably the reason why the episode count for most anime is 13-14 episodes.

    Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is still cn-going series of seinen novels, but there’s enough material for a 2nd series (definitely 13 and possibly 26). The same thing for Zero no Tsukaima. How many episodes of Legend of Galactic Heroes would there be if it was done today you think?

    It’s coming down to faster turn-around time…the problem is we get a lot of junk along with the gems. But that’s okay for me too!

  40. Nifty article. It is interesting that you can walk into any Best Buy, Warehouse, or Suncoast and find anime these days. The industry as a whole seems to have taken off. Eventhough DVD sales may be down, access has been greatly improved. The one thing that bothers me is the lack of coverage many of the older shows/movies seem to get. I can’t just walk in and find Space Battleship Yamamoto anywhere, or the old Macross movie. However, some of the older notables like Ghost in the Shell, and Akira are very accessible.

    For me the golden era of Anime was around the early to mid nineties. This is when I fist started watching stuff that was being aired on the sci-fi channel. Movies like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Project A-Ko, and Venus wars. I think it was called Japanimation Saturdays, perhaps it was Fridays. It’s been a long time since then. At any rate those were good days. Although I cannot fault modern distributions one iota. In fact, I think modern distribution methods, and digital preservation might have done more good for the genre as a whole. I guess I’m one of those niche folk that would like to see older classics still circulating within easy grasp. I’m still on the hunt for early 90s and 80s titles.

    I thought your article was rather intriguing, and fairly well thought out. I was never heavy into the fansub scene as a whole, but I do own a few fansubs still, and I have friends that have old, nearly worn out VHS cassettes. We used to watch a lot of these in high school. More good days. The only fault I can find with modern digital distribution of fansubs is that it takes out some of the fan interaction. back in the day, we’d get together to swap sub tapes. We’d more or less burn through an OVA like El Hazard in an evening, then one of us would go home with a copy. I never took up any offers for this, as I could always borrow the tapes if I wanted. It was always more about getting together with friends, goofing off, and having a good time. Not so easy with disc burning get togethers. It takes a matter of minutes, as opposed to a whole afternoon.

    I didn’t mean to prattle on so much, and granted, I didn’t add much in the way of thought content for your article. But I just wanted to comment, as it seems you were there at that point in time as well… and I wanted to share thoughts and experiences. I do miss some of the old shows. Sure some of them were campy, cheesy at times… but you see that now as well… only in larger quantity. Sometimes I wonder if the content quality has diminished some? Others will disagree naturally. This cannot be helped… differences of opinion and personal taste are a given.

    Well… that’s enough of a ramble. Good times all.

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