Top 11 Best Classic Anime Shows Still Enjoyable Today – Hey guys!. In this post, I’ll be discussing a list of Top 11 Best Classic Anime Shows Still Enjoyable Today. With all the amazing seasonal anime we’ve been blessed with in recent years, it’s become increasingly difficult to find time to go back and catch up on older shows from years yonder.
While many classic anime have managed to remain relevant in the public eye, there are also those that struggle to stay above water. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to recommend some older titles that I feel still hold up just as well today as they did back when they first aired. Before we begin, I should probably clarify what I mean by a ‘classic’ anime.
While I’m sure others will disagree, for me an anime is regarded as a classic if it can meet the following criteria: One, it needs to be at least a decade old. Two, it needs to have been favourably received when it originally aired. And three, it needs to have held up to this day. By that I mean it needs to still be enjoyable to watch.
So long as an anime meets these three criteria, then I feel it’s deserving of being called a classic. The last thing I want to mention is that, given the age of some of these anime, not all of them are legally streamable – so you’ll unfortunately have to look elsewhere in order to actually watch some of them. So, let’s get started.
1. Hajime no Ippo
I can’t think of a better way to start off this list than by talking about my all-time favourite anime; Hajime no Ippo! It’s the story of a timid, friendless high school boy, who’s mercilessly bullied until, in the midst of yet another beating, he’s saved by a middleweight professional boxer.
After being brought back to the Kamogawa boxing gym to treat his injuries, he finds himself in awe at his new surroundings; deciding to enter the world of professional boxing and slowly making his way to the top. As far as sports anime go, that plot is about as straightforward as they come but what sets Hajime no Ippo apart is Ippo himself.
Unlike your typical shounen protagonist, he doesn’t possess superhuman strength or some innate ability that puts him ahead of others. He starts his journey as a complete novice; slowly working his way up to becoming a real contender through his dedication and hard work. It’s this aspect that makes him such a compelling protagonist, as everything he does is truly earned.
The fights are engaging, thanks to its great direction, animation and sound design that all hold up remarkably well given the show’s age. But it doesn’t stop there, as Hajime no Ippo also features one of the best supporting casts I’ve ever seen in an anime!
Not only does each character contribute something meaningful to the story, but throughout the course of the series their personalities and backstories are fleshed out to the point where you end up rooting for them just as much as Ippo himself.
It’s an anime that showed me just how incredible this medium is and without it, this blog likely wouldn’t exist. To this day, nothing has come close to dethroning it as my all-time favourite anime.
2. Initial D
Initial D centres on a seemingly average high school student who delivers tofu every morning in his father’s old Toyota AE86. Unlike his friends, who are all car enthusiasts and street racing fanatics, Takumi has little interest in such things, and conversations about the subject only serve to remind him of his gruelling morning routine.
But that all changes, when an infamous team of street racers challenge the local mountain pass and Takumi causally overtakes one of their aces whilst returning home from his deliveries; kick-starting a chain of events that lead him down the path of street racing and giving birth to the legend of the 86 of Mount Akina.
No doubt you’ve noticed the rather antiquated CGI, so let’s get that out of the way first by acknowledging that Initial D hasn’t exactly aged well visually. While certainly ambitious for its time, it appears laughably dated by today’s technological standards.
However, as the series goes on, the CGI only gets better and by the fourth stage the compositing of the CGI and 2D animation blend so seamlessly that it can give most modern anime a run for their money – and this was 2004!
One aspect that hasn’t aged poorly though, is the show’s stellar soundtrack that still manages to get your adrenaline pumping! It makes each of the races feel that much more intense, and is a big reason why the movie reboots fall flat.
Of course, it isn’t all about racing. Interspersed throughout are many comedic slice of life moments that serve as appropriate downtime between races – whilst also providing a glimpse into the lives of these characters and their inability to successfully date women. If you’re able to look past the visuals in the earlier seasons, then you’ll have a great time.
3. One Outs
One Outs is a brilliant psychological thriller about a reckless gambler who uses nothing other than his wits and a slow-moving fastball to win 499 consecutive games of One Outs – a high stakes one-on-one duel between a baseball pitcher and batter. Through a series of events, he’s made to join an unsuccessful baseball team, in the hopes of turning their misfortune around.
But the team’s owner, a greedy detestable man who only cares about profit, is reluctant to give the inexperienced pitcher any sort of significant salary, thus prompting an unusual contract where he receives five million yen for every out he pitches, but loses fifty million yen for every run he gives up.
If you enjoyed the intense cat and mouse chase between Light and L in Death Note, then chances are you’ll enjoy One Outs for similar reasons. The back and forth between the conniving owner, as he tries to screw Toua over with an elaborate scheme, and the quick-witted decisions Toua makes in order to counter them, is truly a sight to behold!
The way in which he carefully observes his opponents in order to psychologically manipulate them is incredible, and the anime takes great care in laying everything out so that his actions never appear too outlandish. It succeeds in keeping the viewer engaged by being genuinely clever, as you never quite know what to expect next.
It’s a real shame this anime isn’t more well-known, as it’s the type of show you’d think would be more popular, but alas it remains relatively obscure to this day. If you haven’t seen One Outs, then I cannot recommend it enough!
4. Skip Beat!
Skip Beat tells the story of a naive sixteen-year-old girl who works relentlessly to support the career of her childhood friend, and crush, on his rising fame as a pop star. When she discovers that her tireless efforts have been taken for granted – she becomes heartbroken and enraged.
Seeking revenge, she sets forth into the ruthless world of show business herself; facing many challenges, as well as people who help to push her out of her comfort zone, as she slowly learns to take her future into her own hands. It’s not uncommon for the protagonists in shoujo anime to come off feeling kind of bland – as they often have very little going for them outside their appearance.
Thankfully, Kyouko isn’t like ordinary shoujo anime protagonists! While her burning hatred fuels her ambition, she eventually rises above her petty motives and develops a genuine appreciation for acting. Of course, the road to becoming a successful actress is far from easy; so much of the story focuses on Kyouko’s struggles, as she tries to break into this harsh industry.
But, unlike other shoujo anime (where the pretty boys swoop in to save the day), Kyouko actually works hard to achieve her goals, and it’s extremely satisfying to watch. The only major gripe I have with Skip Beat is with its ending, as it’s one of those “go and read the manga” type endings that I find rather irritating.
Still, it’s a fun rollercoaster ride that manages to break away from its genre’s conventions to deliver something that I found thoroughly enjoyable!
5. School Rumble
School Rumble follows a cheerful high school girl who is smitten with her eccentric, enigmatic, nice-guy classmate and is on a mission to confess her feelings to him. Meanwhile, the delinquent in their class is on a similar mission to confess his feelings for her. Together, these two will realise that high school romance isn’t a walk in the park – as misunderstandings further complicate their plight.
If you’re not a fan of misunderstandings in your romantic comedies, then School Rumble probably isn’t for you, as that’s the entire point of the show. This is the kind of romcom that leans heavily on the comedy side, rather than the romance side – so don’t go in expecting any kind of meaningful romantic progression, or expect everyone to hook up by the end.
What’s most impressive about School Rumble is just how well the comedy has held up, as comedies tend to show their age far quicker than other genres. And, just to be clear, I have no nostalgic attachment to this show, as I only saw it for the first time in 2017.
There are other comedy anime from this era that I have a hard time watching because it’s apparent just how dated the comedy is, but I never had that problem with School Rumble. I’ll admit it did take a few episodes before it clicked with me, but once it did I managed to marathon the entire series in short order.
The characters are all wonderfully silly, and it didn’t take long for me to grow attached to them; making each subsequent episode all the more enjoyable. It’s definitely worth checking out!
6. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Kaiji: The Ultimate Survivor revolves around a lowlife who festers in his apartment, biding his time with cheap pranks, liquor and gambling. His unrelenting misery continues until he’s paid an unexpected visit from a loan shark, looking to collet an outstanding debt that he had carelessly co-signed for his former co-worker.
Unable to repay his co-worker’s debt, Kaiji is offered a shady deal to participate in an illegal underground gamble on a cruise ship. However he finds out the hard way that the worst sides of humanity surface when people’s backs are against the wall, and that the most fearsome dangers of all are paranoia, greed, and the human survival instinct itself.
Similar to One Outs; Kaiji is a psychological thriller with a gambling theme but it takes a very different approach – in regards to the show’s protagonist. Kaiji is neither cool, nor overpowered. His desperation is what drives him forward, but things rarely go the way he plans – landing him further into misery and debt.
The genius of this is that Kaiji doesn’t have reliable plot armour the same way other protagonist’s do – where you’re never too concerned about what might happen because they always find a way to pull out a victory. With Kaiji, you don’t have that reassurance because he CAN lose – the consequences of which are often dire – and it’s this aspect that makes Kaiji so nail-bitingly good.
The second half of the 2nd season does drag its feet a little, as it spends too much time on a single arc and can start to wear out its welcome, but considering that’s the only negative thing I have to say about this show, it just proves how good the rest of it is.
7. The World God Only Knows
The World God Only Knows barely qualifies for this list (having aired in 2010) but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of being called a classic. The story centres on a dating-sim master who wants nothing more than to immerse himself in the 2D world.
But when he arrogantly replies to an anonymous e-mail, believing it to be a challenge, he’s misled into signing a contract; inadvertently agreeing to help a cute demon girl capture lost souls by using his knowledge of conquering 2D girls to chase down real-life three-dimensional ones. To ensure his cooperation, a deadly collar is placed around his neck that will detonate should he go astray.
Left with no choice but to help her, he must convince various girls to fall in love with him in order to chase out the souls hiding deep within their hearts. While it’s listed as a harem anime on some websites, I’m not sure I’d personally categorise it as one, as it doesn’t really follow the typical harem formula. Instead, it’s more of a parody of visual novels and harem anime tropes.
There ARE multiple girls in the story, but after each successful conquest there’s a soft reset where they lose their memories pertaining to the conquest itself, without actually forgetting all of the other events that transpired – almost like reloading a save state in a visual novel.
While the show’s mostly comedic, it does also delve into some bittersweet drama, but it ends up working really well – thanks to the great character writing. Sadly, it’s not an anime you hear a lot people talking about anymore – but regardless, I highly recommend giving it a shot!
8. Full Metal Panic!
Full Metal Panic is about a member of a covert anti-terrorist military organisation, who’s tasked with protecting a Japanese high school girl from those trying to steal the information locked inside her mind. But safely blending into her school proves to be more challenging than he’d imagined, thanks to being raised on the battlefield and having little knowledge of an average high schoolers life.
Seen as a military maniac by his classmates, he must keep the girl safe without revealing why she’s being targeted. Full Metal Panic is a hodgepodge of different genres; combining action, drama and mecha elements with high school comedy and romance in a way that seems almost destined to fail, but it actually works surprisingly well.
Admittedly, the first season (by Studio Gonzo) hasn’t aged as well as its second and third seasons – which were handled by Kyoto Animation, and if it wasn’t for the English dub I probably would have dropped it before getting to those later seasons.
So while it kind of skirts my rule about needing to hold up to this day, I’m making an exception for this one because its subsequent seasons are definitely worth checking out!
Some people won’t appreciate the back and forth between the silly high school comedy and the serious mecha combat, and this is likely the reason why Kyoto Animation opted to split the two halves into their own respective seasons, but I rather enjoyed both of these aspects – as it gives the series a unique feel.
Then Studio Xebec comes along with an unexpected fourth season and decides to end the story on a cliff-hanger! I sincerely hope it gets another season in the not-too-distant future.
9. Hikaru no Go
Hikaru no Go is the story of a young boy who becomes possessed by a spirit after coming in contact with an old Go board in his grandfather’s attic. Despite having no interest in board games, he agrees to let the spirit play through him – executing moves as instructed. When he unknowingly plays against a Go prodigy, a passion for the game is slowly ignited within him.
Inspired by his newfound rival, he begins his journey into the world of Go. That description doesn’t make this anime sound all that interesting, so I’ll start by saying that this show is nothing short of exhilarating! You might be wondering how it manages that, and the simple answer is; by being ridiculously over the top. Seriously!
Watching two people play Go isn’t exactly attention grabbing, so the anime relies heavily on its use of dramatic music and sound effects in order to keep the viewer engaged – and it genuinely works, because it managed to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the majority of its episodes. And just so you know; I have absolutely no idea how to play Go!
Even after watching this anime, I still only have a vague understanding of how the game actually works. It’s just THAT good at keeping you engrossed. Something else I rather liked about this anime is how you get to follow Hikaru from childhood into early adulthood.
The anime subtly updates his appearance as the series progresses, so you get to see him gradually mature as he becomes more skilful – and actually starts making his own decisions, rather than relying on Sai’s help. It’s truly incredible!
Lastly, there’s Genshiken which follows an introverted college freshman, looking for a place to fit in, who stumbles upon the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, otherwise known as Genshiken. Initially in full denial of his otaku nature, he ends up befriending one of the club’s members; becoming more involved with the club’s activities, and eventually learning to accept himself for who he is.
While they never quite see eye-to-eye about their interests or the lives they lead, they are held together by the bonds of friendship. This is the type of anime that’s only really going to appeal to someone who loves this medium, and everything surrounding it.
It’s a slice of life comedy that provides an unadorned look at these characters as they hang out together, discuss various otaku-based media, attend conventions, and go about their daily school/work life. There’s nothing flashy about this anime; narratively or visually.
For some this will undoubtedly be uninteresting, but if you’re the type of person who enjoys slice of life anime like I do, then you’ll likely have a good time.
There’s not really a whole lot more I can say about Genshiken, as it’s not the type of anime that has a particularly deep or sophisticated plot, but one thing that is noteworthy is how the main cast changes with each new season – as older members graduate and find work while newer members, with fresh perspectives, are introduced – which helps to keep things from feeling stale.
If any of this peaks your interest, then I’d recommend giving it a few episodes to see if it’s the right fit for you.
11. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
An anime that once defined the medium but is apparently now kind of a hidden gem, as it doesn’t get recommended to new anime fans as nearly as often as it used to. The Endless Eight arc will likely drive you insane, but that’s just part of the fun!
If you do manage to survive, you’ll be rewarded with The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya – a finale movie that puts all others to shame, as it is a truly spectacular film that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
That is it from today’s post on Top 11 Best Classic Anime Shows Still Enjoyable Today. If you do not agree with the points in the post and have some of your own opinions, share them with us in the comments section down below. Keep visiting Animesoulking for more information about Anime and Manga.
Chandan is the writer of “Top 11 Best Classic Anime Shows Still Enjoyable Today”. Also, Connect with me on YouTube and Facebook.