10 Gateway Anime That Make Us Nostalgic

10 Gateway Anime That Make Us Nostalgic

Although nostalgia is hard to define, fans know it when they feel it. While many modern anime have tried to bottle and sell nostalgia, nothing goes back to the source.


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It is equally challenging to define what makes a good “gateway” anime. Some shows are undeniably imbued with a haze of nostalgia bright enough to attract new viewers even years after their debut. These quintessential gateway series, while far from flawless, are powerful mediums, always ready to lure newcomers into the wide, weird world of anime.

10/10 Dragon Ball recruited international followers

Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT anime

Dragon Ball has been a powerful franchise for generations now. Along with reshaping the shonen action genre and inspiring young mangaka in Japan, DBZThe global syndication of the 90s meant that kids all over the world collided with anime during their formative years.

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In some ways Dragon Ball the aesthetics haven’t aged well, and neither has the animation. But the foundation of great central characters and iconic anime style has never lost its influence. “Cool” is another difficult factor to define, but for millions, Dragon Ball is that definition.

9/10 Sailor Moon brought heroines to the fore

Sailor Guardians seen in Sailor Moon.

Feminism in the 90s was deeply divisive, but there’s no denying the decade’s champion of Girl Power. While the Spice Girls dominated the charts and Buffy the Vampire Slayer took conventions by storm, the sailor scouts had a lot to say.

The perennial popularity of Sailor Moon is a testament to not only its status as a gateway anime, but also its powerful, timeless heart. These characters save the world, yes, but they also value friendship and femininity, both of which are interpreted as strengths rather than weaknesses. Sailor Moon has always given girls permission to dive head first into anime.

fma 2003

Full metal alchemist has always stood comfortably, one step above other shonen series. This fundamental advantage can be attributed in no small measure to author Hiromu Arakawa’s ability for nuanced characterization. The entire cast, be they villains or heroes, monsters or humans, children or adults, is made up of real, empathetic people.

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FMA is also virtually devoid of any of the more intimidating anime tropes that put off anime newcomers. There is little fan service and female characters are just as important to the story as male characters. The stakes are high, but also incredibly human. Ed and Alphonse, like many of the characters, are really trying to right their own wrongs and redeem their biggest mistakes. In the process, viewers can’t help but relate to and root for them.

7/10 Sci-Fi fans couldn’t resist Cowboy Bebop’s Space Western

cowboy bebop spike wearing cowboy hat cowboy funk episode

Science fiction fans have long resented being rejected by the wider literary community, but they too have sometimes been dismissive of interlopers in their own beloved genre. For years, sci-fi fans and anime fans saw themselves as separate entities. This changed with the late-millennium boom of space western anime, a curious bridge that united old-school and new-school geeks behind a shared love of creative storytelling.

Cowboy Bebop is more nostalgic for people who were students in the 90s than for children from that era. Granted the benefits of a stunning alternative soundtrack, homages to Western sci-fi staples, and seamless direction, anime was much more readily embraced by legions who had never before been near the medium. Trigun, Ghost in the Shell, and Samurai Champlooappealed to many of those same fans.

6/10 FLCL made Anime Trippy in the best of ways

Haruko panics over Naota in FLCL

Few would have guessed that a strange 6-episode OVA series would skyrocket interest in anime abroad, but it is exactly that FLCL did. The Pillows soundtrack, crazy landmark animation and an edgy approach to marrying themes from surrealism to puberty, of all things, elevated the experimental series far beyond any expectation. honestly, FLCL is strangein the best ways.

The harbingers of greatness were not misplaced. Many of FLCLs animators later worked on the mecha masterpiece Gurren Lagann at Gainax before striking out on their own to form Studio Trigger, which has since pumped out action marvels such as Kill la Kill and Promare.

5/10 Evangelion: The Unlikely, Undeniable Gateway

Shinji Ikari in End of Evangelion

On paper, a surreal fatalistic mecha that chronicles a teenager’s spiral into depression during the apocalypse might seem too bleak to be anyone’s introduction to anime. Add to that a convoluted plot, a notoriously broken finale, and decades of fandom debate, and the enduring popularity of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a bit confusing.

Then again, Evangelion has stood the test of time, earned respect and attention precisely because it’s such an introspective disaster of a masterpiece. For many years, non-fans had assumed that animation, including anime, was intended only for children. But Evangelion subverted combat robots into something existential, deeply affecting and ultimately hard to dismiss.

4/10 Ghibli is admired all over the world

Haku in his dragon form in the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away

Ghibli is often compared to Disney, which feels a bit disingenuous. Although Ghibli has a similarly strong cultural impact on families around the world, the studio’s overall approach to filmmaking, marketing and storytelling is very much its own. But an empire is an empire, and Ghibli hair lured millions with its unique charm.

Among these are signature painted backgrounds, mystical magic, messages about environmental protection and human nature, fantastic heroines and euphoric flying sequences. Look at Totorois like going back to a forgotten memory and watching Spirited Awayfeels like falling down a real rabbit hole. Ghibli films cut right through the heart of the audience.

3/10 The Pokemon Empire reigns supreme

anniversary head for pokemon unite

The most recent Pokémon the release, despite a patchy launch and controversial reviews, sold 10 million copies in just three days, breaking records. Too many fans, Pokémon cuts deep. They have almost basic memories of watching Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock on the WB as the century wore on, spending hours getting lost in handheld games, and slyly trading cards under their desks at school.

And despite the vagaries of time, Pokémon has remained hugely relevant rather than becoming a fad. Three decades later, these games, cards and toys are selling like hotcakes. People you grew up with Pokémon now introduce their own children to it. A franchise this big will always have its critics, but every day a new kid picks one up Pokémon card for the first time.

2/10 Toonami’s Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto and One Piece Catapulted Shonen

Yu Yu Hakusho

Like the popularity of Power Rangers and Sailor Moon waned and many families moved on to the wider wonders of cable and satellite options, anime’s presence in many Western homes was temporarily supplanted. That is until Toonami came to Cartoon Network. Toonami’s creators deliberately filled the programming block with action-packed series in an attempt to appeal to older children.

Before streaming took off in its early heights, Toonami was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing new generations to modern anime. Landmark shonen series that One Piece,Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Card catchersand DBZ took the spotlight and still retains that spacious Toonami glow today.

1/10 Akira can never be discounted

Kaneda pushes the bike into Akira

Now approaching its 35th anniversary, Akira remains a central piece of cinema. Arguably the first piece of Japanese animation to be taken seriously by critics abroad, the impact of Katsuhiro Otomo’s apocalyptic masterpiece is incalculable. This goes beyond 30 years of filmmakers paying tribute Akira motorcycle slide.

Like the films of Studio Ghibli, Akira overcame the preconceptions many audiences had about animation and its potential. Many a college film student has fallen in love with anime only after being impressed by it Akiraand that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

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