With the graphics and art styles of Anime constantly evolving, it is easier than ever to overlook some of the older shows just based on looks. However, overlooking these shows would be a mistake because these older Anime have things that many of the new shows do not have, an original plot and great character progression.
This is not to say newer Anime does not have these things, but they are few and far between with the cookie-cutter, formulaic plots that many of them must stick to due to a variety financial. The reason why older Anime tend not to be cookie-cutter is because there was no formula for success when they were created, so they had to be original to be picked up by a broad audience.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into what older Anime you may want to look into despite the older graphics and art styles.
GTO – Great Teacher Onizuka (Published in 1999-2000)
A mischievous young man named Onizuka becomes a teacher despite having no qualifications to do so. While his reasons for becoming a teacher are outwardly selfish, there is no length he would not go to for one of his students. Onizuka is both a terrible role-model and a great one at the same time as he grows into his teaching position and gains the approval of all his students, one at a time.
With crude humor and outlandish facial expressions, GTO is one of the funniest Anime on the market. While there are countless Anime about schools out there, GTO deviates from the norm by following the teacher who is more of a problem than his students. With 43 episodes to go through, the real plot is not truly revealed until the final 3 episodes. That being said, there is never a dull moment in this Anime. You can find this Anime on Crunchyroll or Amazon Prime Video.
Black Lagoon (Published in 2006)
Have you ever wondered how people get involved in the black market? There is no one way into the black market, but there is one thing that the people involved have in common; they get involved out of necessity, not because they want to. Black Lagoon explores this idea in depth with an incredibly interesting story to boot.
Set in the Cold War era, Black Lagoon dives into how even the most successful business can be involved in the black market, sacrificing everything other than the money to keep it a secret. One unlucky accountant finds this out the hard way as he is taken hostage in the name of his company and given a choice: die or join the most infamous black marketeers in the world. Black Lagoon has 28 episodes and can be found on Hulu or Crunchyroll.
Monster (Published in 2004)
One of the most promising surgeons in the world is faced with a dilemma in the emergency room, save a child that was shot in the head or a prominent politician suffering from liver failure. Going with the former, his life falls apart around him. The child he saved turns out to be a mass-murderer. Faced with this fact, the Surgeon, Dr. Tenma, leaves his job as a surgeon to hunt down the grown child that he once saved years ago.
A looking into emergency room politics, suspenseful, creepy, sad, and the list as this Anime’s plot progresses. Set in the east German just a couple years after the Berlin wall is taken down, Monster is definitely a worth-while watch with a very unique plot and excellent characters that make all 74 episodes interesting. You can find all the episodes on Netflix.
Samurai Champloo (Published in 2004-2005)
In this semi-accurate historical piece about 18th century Japan, an unlikely trio travel through Japan in pursuit of a Samurai none of the have ever seen. The only clue they have on this Samurai is that he smells like sunflowers, the only problem is sunflowers do not have a distinct smell. As the trio travels together, they have to get over their personal differences to continue their travels and survive through the dangers that their trail presents.
Over the course of the 26 episodes of Samurai Champloo, there are a variety of different sub-plots that spice up the story. This Anime does start off pretty slow and can feel like things are happening randomly as if there is no story at all, but as the Anime comes to an end, the story begins to make sense and everything that the trio encountered and did start to have meaning. It is truly a great story of controlled chaos in a story. You can find Samurai Champloo on Hulu, Amazon, Apple TV, and Crunchyroll.
Cowboy Bebop (Published in 1998)
This list would not be complete without Cowboy Bebop, which is considered by many to be the best Anime of all time. The story is both futuristic and sci-fi as well as old-school and retro. It is a great showcase of how to take opposites and make them complement each other. If you are even remotely interested in Anime or good stories in general, Cowboy Bebop is a show that should be on your list.
Set in a future where humanity has conquered the solar system, an ex-Space Mafia man and an ex-Space Cop team up to become bounty hunters. They travel from planet to planet on the Spaceship Bebop, hunting criminals and indulging in their own self-interests, all the while, running away from their past selves that are quickly catching up to them. Cowboy Bebop is 26 episodes and can be found on Netflix and Crunchyroll.
This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are plenty of older Anime out there that are still excellent. These five Anime I have listed here are just ones that I have watched in the past year or so and are some of the best Anime I have ever watched. Feel free to leave comments on what you think could qualify for this list.