Showing as Pokemon, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Ohand Dragon Ball Z are some of the biggest reasons why anime exploded in popularity in America in the late 90s and early 2000s. Their unique art styles, ongoing stories, and sprawling universes gave Western children an animated experience they had never seen.
While these shows and a few more were certainly the biggest catalysts, they definitely weren’t the only shows to have a part in anime and find an American audience, nor were they the first. Not even close, really. Indeed, many twentieth-century anime series aired on American television and were beloved by viewers, but some have since disappeared from the anime conversation.
8/8 Ronin Warriors
Cartoon Network deserves a lot of credit for bringing anime to the American masses with its Toonami blocks in the late ’90s, but there were other networks that saw the potential in Japanese animation back then, too. Actual, Ronin Warriorswhich began airing on Toonami in the fall of 1999, had been on both the USA Network and The Sci-Fi Channel before Toonami even existed.
This shonen series originally aired in Japan from 1988 to 1989 and had found its way into syndication in America in 1995. It followed five samurai warriors wielding armor with mystical powers on their journey to defeat a demon bent on ruling above the mortal world. More than a few kids were turned on to anime by watching their story play out.
7/8 Belle and Sebastian
Belle and Sebastian offered a rare and interesting mix of international storytelling to children who watched it on Nickelodeon between 1984 and 1990. It was made by the Toho Company and is based on a beloved French book about the adventures of a young boy and his great white dog. This means the creators were Japanese, the source material was French, and of course the viewers were American.
This heartwarming adventure show is one that is fondly remembered by the few who haven’t forgotten it. Although the source material has seen several adaptations in recent years, anime has remained almost entirely in the past over on Western shores. If the 52-episode long run can be localized, it’s definitely worth watching.
Of all the anime that featured cool little battle buddies and emphasized collectability in the early 2000s, Medbots may be the most unfairly forgotten. It replaced the monsters Pokemon and Digimon for some fantastically designed robots that characters would pit against each other in “robattles”.
Medbots can easily be accused of thoughtlessly jumping on Pokemon bandwagon to ride that behemoth’s long and sweeping coat, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad show at all. Its world was interesting, the humor was decent, and the robots looked exceptionally cool. It was even a pretty nice one Medbots game for the Game Boy Advance that came to North America.
5/8 Monster Rancher
The Monster Rancher video game series hasn’t necessarily been forgotten, but the 73-episode show it spawned back in 1999 probably doesn’t find its way into anime conversations as often today. The show followed young Genki Sakura as he is transported into the strange world of his favorite video game, Monster Rancher. There he must find a legendary monster to help him in his fight against the evil Moo.
Monster Rancher aired on a number of American networks in the early 2000s, including Fox, Fox Family, and the Sci-Fi Channel. It can’t have taken off into the stratosphere like that Pokemonbut there’s plenty there for fans of the stranger-in-a-strange-land adventure.
4/8 Samurai pizza cats
Shows about anthropomorphic creatures that wield Japanese weapons and love pizza were known to glue swarms of young eyes to TV sets in the early 90s, so it must have seemed like a no-brainer for Saban to import Kyatto Ninden Teyandeeaka Samurai Pizza Cats, over to the US back in 1996. But while the show’s animation, character design and general premise could almost certainly appeal to American fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesthe writing presented some important problems.
The original Samurai pizza cats was largely based on satirizing and parodying Japanese culture, something most American kids probably weren’t too aware of in the pre-internet era. To solve this problem, Saban’s team completely rewrote each script for their dub based on what they thought would make a good story. It was a blasphemous act in the eyes of many anime fans to be sure, but it was still a pretty enjoyable little show.
3/8 Kimba The White Lion
Sometimes it can be easy to forget that anime look Astro boy and Speed Racer came to America way back in the 1960s, decades before the art form would become both a vibrant subculture and a huge industry in the West. It might be even easier to forget that they weren’t the only anime movie at the time either.
Created by the famous former studio Mushi Production, Kimba the white lion was one of the earliest anime imports to America, arriving on television in 1966, a full year before Speed Racer’s stateside debut. The show was pretty popular back then, but barely gets any mention today except in the occasional discussion about whether or not Disney ripped it off when they made The Lion King.
2/8 The big O
It is quite normal in the anime world for series to imitate each other, but it is not quite so common to see an anime that is as clearly influenced by American television as The big O our. Set in a brutal corporate-controlled city standing on the edge of an apocalyptic wasteland, this fantastical mecha show was clearly meant to be the anime version of Batman: The Animated Series with its characteristic noir tone and art deco design. It does an impressive job of living up to that concept.
The show did not fare well at home in Japan, leading to the cancellation of the 13-episode second season. However, after it aired on Toonami in America, a resurgence in popularity led to the second season being produced with Cartoon Network’s involvement: a true testament to the network’s influence on anime.
Anime can be deadly serious, brutally violent, extremely dark and painfully sad. It can also be absolutely adorable. hamtaro, which definitely falls into the latter category, is a low-stakes, super cute, warm and fuzzy hamster show that might not appeal to the palate of an anime fan looking for something sophisticated and thought-provoking. Still, it has captured the hearts of many fans over the 20+ years that the franchise has been around.
This show is certainly not forgotten in Japan, but it has been many years since it aired on Cartoon Network and well over a decade since the release of a new Hamtaro video games. It’s safe to say that this show has started to fade from the American cultural consciousness, which is a crying shame because it’s wildly lovable.
MORE: The best forgotten anime OVAs