Anime has seen a significant global upsurge over the past few decades. Infusing animation with compelling narratives, complex characters, and an exceptional sense of aesthetics, anime has become an influential cultural force around the world. This article delves into the ten most influential anime series, exploring their significance and global reach.
1. “Astro Boy” (1963)
“Astro Boy” is often lauded as the keystone of modern anime, paving the way for future generations. Created by the revered “Godfather of Anime,” Osamu Tezuka, “Astro Boy” emerged as a groundbreaking series that made a colossal impact on the industry. Set in a future where humans and robots coexist, the series featured Astro, a robot boy with superior powers and human emotions. His journey—filled with adventures, battles, and striving for acceptance—addressed ethical questions concerning AI and human-robot relations that are still pertinent today.
2. “Mobile Suit Gundam” (1979)
“Mobile Suit Gundam” forever altered the mecha (giant robot) genre of anime. Yoshiyuki Tomino’s creation moved away from the invincible robot trope towards a more complex and realistic portrayal of warfare. This series was influential in launching the “real robot” subgenre, where mecha are depicted as tools rather than superhero-like entities. Its success led to an entire franchise, the popularity of Gundam model kits, and it became a cultural icon in Japan.
3. “Dragon Ball” series (1986)
Akira Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball” is an undeniable phenomenon that has influenced countless shōnen (boy’s) anime. This action-packed series introduces Goku, a young, naïve, but strong boy, and follows his journey, which is loaded with exciting battles, dramatic showdowns, and personal growth. The series, in its run, established many conventions of the fighting genre, such as signature moves, power-ups, and the ever-present theme of surpassing one’s limits.
4. “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (1995)
A milestone in anime history, “Neon Genesis Evangelion” by Hideaki Anno, redefined the mecha genre and introduced a novel approach to storytelling. The series centers on a group of teenagers piloting giant bio-machines to protect Earth from mysterious beings, the Angels. Evangelion explores deep psychological and philosophical themes, providing an introspective analysis of its characters, which marked a significant departure from traditional mecha anime.
5. “Sailor Moon” (1992)
“Sailor Moon” transformed the magical girl genre and made it globally recognized. Created by Naoko Takeuchi, the series followed a group of girls who transform into superheroes to battle against the forces of evil. The show’s emphasis on female friendship, love, and justice had a profound influence, redefining the genre and serving as a prototype for subsequent magical girl anime.
6. “Pokémon” (1997)
Few franchises have achieved the global omnipresence of “Pokémon.” It’s not just an anime series—it’s a cultural phenomenon, with successful video games, trading cards, movies, and even a mobile AR game, Pokémon Go. The adventures of Ash and his beloved Pikachu pursuing their dream in the Pokémon world have captivated audiences worldwide, making it one of the most popular and influential franchises.
7. “One Piece” (1999)
Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” has been sailing on the waves of incredible popularity since its inception. Following the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew in their quest for the ultimate treasure, “One Piece” has inspired many with its blend of action, adventure, comedy, and drama. The series’ continuous emphasis on friendship, dreams, and justice has made it a definitive piece in the shōnen genre. With its massive world-building, dynamic characters, and emotional depth, “One Piece” has influenced an entire generation of anime.
8. “Naruto” (2002)
“Naruto,” the brainchild of Masashi Kishimoto, is one of the biggest anime franchises, influencing an entire generation with its tale of a young ninja’s journey towards recognition and his dream of becoming Hokage (the leader of his village). With a mix of action, life lessons, emotional depth, and cultural elements, “Naruto” has profoundly shaped the landscape of shōnen anime and manga. Its distinct characterization and intense, strategic battles have also become staples in the genre.
9. “Death Note” (2006)
“Death Note” shook the anime world with its unique concept, deep moral questioning, and an intellectual cat-and-mouse game. The story of Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a notebook with a deadly power, set a new standard for psychological thrillers. This anime’s exploration of morality, justice, and power dynamics, coupled with its gripping narrative, has had a far-reaching impact, pushing the boundaries of the medium and inspiring numerous thrillers.
10. “Attack on Titan” (2013)
Hajime Isayama’s “Attack on Titan” reignited global interest in anime with its dark, dystopian storyline and shocking plot twists. The struggle of humanity against the monstrous Titans has kept viewers on the edge of their seats, resulting in immense popularity worldwide. Its themes of survival, sacrifice, and the exploration of the human condition amidst disaster have influenced several anime narratives.
In conclusion, these ten anime series, each groundbreaking and influential in its own right, have revolutionized the genre, redefining storytelling and animation in unique ways. These iconic series have not only made an indelible impact on the anime industry but also shaped popular culture, embodying the creativity and depth that anime has to offer.