I’m trying my hand at a list article, and this time around, I’m looking at my personal five favorite anime from the 1970s and 1980s. Rather than being a Top 5 list, this list will be presented in alphabetical order.
Beast King GoLion
My first exposure to Beast King GoLion was through watching World Events’ interpretation of the series when it was used as part of the Voltron series back in 1984. I really liked Voltron back then, and part of me had always wondered what the original source material was like.
I was overjoyed when the original Beast King GoLion was released in the United States in 2008. It was impressive to see just how much really had been either cut or changed by World Events in order to make the series suitable for children’s television programming. After watching the original series, I have to say that it makes the Voltron version pale in comparison. The original had a much more cohesive and overarching storyline, and it was a better viewing experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still have the nostalgia for Voltron, but I think that Beast King GoLion is the superior product.
Beast King GoLion is a mecha anime that has a focus on the robot and the parts that make it up, but it also focuses on its pilots and the other characters that inhabit the series’ world. Beast King GoLion proves that a strong mecha series can be made up of both action sequences and compelling stories for the characters.
When I’m talking about Dragon Ball here, I’m talking about the first series that takes place when Goku was a kid. While Dragon Ball Z technically started in 1989, most of its run took place in the 1990s.
I didn’t see Dragon Ball until about seven or eight years ago, so it’s not on this list due to nostalgia. When I first saw this, I had already had some exposure to Dragon Ball Z, so you could probably imagine my reaction when I saw how different this was. Goku was a small and cute character, and the series was lighthearted and humorous. Yes, it had its fair share of martial arts due to the Tenkaichi Tournaments and conflicts with adversaries (such as Emperor Pilaf and the Red Ribbon Army, for example), but it was still an overall fun and lighthearted romp. Yes, Dragon Ball was aimed at a bit of a younger audience compared to Dragon Ball Z, but I could still enjoy this series even though I’m an adult. Perhaps seeing things through the eyes of an innocent and naïve young Goku helped me feel like I was a child again.
Dragon Ball reminds the audience that Yamcha was once kind of cool, and that Master Roshi, Oolong, and Puar were actually characters at one time and weren’t just there for comic relief.
Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is set in Japan near the end of World War II. It focuses on two kids, Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, who are orphaned after the firebombing at Kobe. The children go to live with an aunt, but over time, she starts treating them more and more cruelly and sees them as a burden. Seita and Setsuko run away and live in an old, abandoned bomb shelter. I won’t go into the rest of the story, but I will say that Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. It’s definitely the most depressing film ever released by Studio Ghibli, but it had to be that way because of its subject matter.
Grave of the Fireflies is a film that can trigger strong emotional responses. Even though I have seen this film multiple times and know what’s coming, it still triggers the same strong emotions for me that it did the very first time I saw it. That, to me, is a sign of a well-written film.
Isao Takahata was able to perfectly capture the horrors of war and the feel of the time period in animation. At the time I’m writing this, I can truly say that I’ve never seen another anime film capture this kind of a mood as well as Grave of the Fireflies does.
Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers
My first encounter with this anime was in the early 1980s, when a local independent television station was airing the English version of Space Battleship Yamato (which was renamed Star Blazers for the English market). This is the first anime I have any real memory of seeing as a child, so I hold it in high regard due to nostalgia. But, like with Beast King GoLion, I always wondered what the original version was like.
While I have never had the opportunity to see the original version of the Space Battleship Yamato anime series, I have seen the first five Space Battleship Yamato anime films. The first film is a shortened version of the first Space Battleship Yamato anime series, so seeing that gave me a small glimpse of what the original series must have been like. While the English version obviously made changes to names and cut some shots and scenes, I do feel that the English version of the anime series more closely captured the essence of the original than Voltron did when it came to Beast King GoLion.
As a child, and even now when I watch Space Battleship Yamato or Star Blazers, I’m riveted by the quest of the first series… a group of people going out into space to make a journey to a distant planet in order to get a machine that will rid the Earth of the pollution that was brought about by “planet bombs” dropped onto our world by an alien race. It’s fascinating to see this crew trying to adapt to being together on a spaceship, leaving the known galaxy, and heading out into the unknown.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross
I was first exposed to Super Dimension Fortress Macross when it was used by Harmony Gold as part of Robotech. Obviously, what I saw was a re-worked English dub of this series, so I was curious as to what the original version of the series was like.
A while back, I was able to get the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime on DVD when it was released by AnimEigo. In a lot of ways, the English version done for Robotech was actually rather close to what the original Japanese version was. The main differences are the fact that in Robotech, there were shots cut from the original and the characters’ names were changed.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross is another series that captures the viewer’s imagination and sense of adventure. After an alien spaceship crash lands on Earth and is rebuilt by humans, the aliens (known as the Zentradi) come looking for their ship. Unfortunately, the main cannon acts on its own to eliminate the advance alien scouts; this action causes a war to start between humanity and the aliens. When the crew attempts to use an experimental “Fold System” to escape the moon’s orbit, it accidentally takes the ship, along with an island and its inhabitants, to the edge of the solar system. It’s fascinating to watch a human civilization build itself and flourish aboard this rebuilt alien ship. And as the viewer learns more about the Zentradi and their civilization, it’s interesting to see how the Zentradi and humanity are similar and different from each other.
While this is a sci-fi series, it was neat to see how much of a role music also played in it. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross is generally regarded as creating one of the first anime idols with the character of Lynn Minmay.