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What does classic anime mean to you? Posted Apr 23, 2020

If you're a fan of anime or even just a casual anime watcher, you probably have your own idea of what you consider to be classic anime. This is usually based on what we watched as kids growing up, so for some it might be the old black and white shows like Speed Racer and 8th Man. For others it might be Pokémon or Mobile Suit Gundam. For me, it's the shows I watched growing up in the 1980s and 90s.

My first introduction to anime were Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Tranzor Z, and Robotech. That was followed by shows on Nickelodeon like Belle and Sebastian, Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, and The Mysterious Cities of Gold. Their tone was quiet different and I think were aimed at younger audiences but I still enjoyed watching them. In the 90s the Sci-Fi channel was born and it began airing a week-long block of anime movies once a year which was an event I never missed. It's where I first saw Robot Carnival, Lensman, and of course the exceptional Akira.

This is long before the Ani-Monday anime block where they would start showing anime weekly in the mid-to-late 2000s and before Cartoon Networks started showing anime. Anime in the late 90s and 2000s really started to take off, getting more and more popular as more channels would broadcast it, new shows would be localized, and especially when DVDs started to gain in popularity. I could go on and on, but I'd like to just talk a little about those first three anime shows that I ever watched as to me they feel like classics which ignited my love for anime before I even knew what it really was.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe

What does classic anime mean to you?

I think it's safe to say that I lot of kids growing up in the 1980s were fans of Voltron: Defender of the Universe. It's the tale of five space explorers who each pilot a giant robotic lion that can then combine together to form an enormous humanoid robot called Voltron. The characters all had unique personalities from one another so there was always one or two character you could identify with more than the others. For me it was Pidge's intelligence and Lance's easy-going attitude. Each lion they piloted which represented an element: wood, fire, water, earth, and air, yet it was when they all came together that they became a true force to be reckoned with. It really showed the value of teamwork, and in a way that was exciting. What kid wouldn't love a giant robot fighting giant monsters?! For years this was my favorite cartoon, so I decided to revisit it a few years ago. It did not hold up as well as I thought it would. The animation is a lot simpler than today's anime and the characters and stories lack the depth that I've become accustomed to over the years. Plus, you can tell they only had a handful of voice actors as everyone outside of the central cast sounds exactly the same. Even so, it will always hold a place in my heart.

Tranzor Z

What does classic anime mean to you?

Tranzor Z is another anime featuring giant robots which I loved watching as a kid. These robots didn't combine or transform and each only had a single pilot, but I still found them cool. Tranzor Z would rise out of a pool then the pilot would hop in a cool-looking little red shuttle and fly up and land into Tranzor Z's head with the shuttle's wings folding up to fit. He had fists that could be launched like rockets and rockets that would fire from his torso, and when Tranzor Z needed to fly he would dock with a giant pair of red wings. Then there was his companion, a female robot called Aphrodite A who would actually fire missiles out of her breasts! As a kid I thought this was so funny! Tranzor Z's animation was even more simple than Voltron, but that makes sense as it was developed in Japan in the 70s before long before Voltron was developed. Tranzor Z didn't last as long on TV as Voltron did so it didn't have quite the same impact, but it had enough that I still remembered it over 25 years after seeing it for the last time.


What does classic anime mean to you?

Finally there is Robotech, yet another anime featuring giant robots, though this one had a more realistic approach to the mech. The Robotech fighters looked similar to an F-14 fighter jet but could transform into a humanoid robot and into a third form that was halfway in between the two. The story line is also more complex with a plot that carries through the entire season rather than a monster of the week like the other two shows. Robotech is actually comprised of three different anime shows but when most people think of Robotech they think of the first part, dubbed the Macross saga, which was the longest of the three, clocking in at 36 episodes. I've watched this entire show, all three sagas, at least four times but probably more like five or six. This show was my introduction into a deeper universe where you really had to watch every episode to know what was going on. It's a far cry from Transformers, G.I. Joe, and He-Man where you could watch pretty munch episode in any order and it would make sense. Robotech touched on themes of war, not just battles, and carried you on a journey through an epic story of people trying to survive against superior forces as they make their way home. And that's just the first part!


These three anime shows without a doubt instigated my love of anime, and at the time I had no idea they were even from Japan. I would go on to watch and collect many more anime series over the years, and even ended up getting two 500-disc DVD players linked together just to make it easier to what whatever anime I wanted whenever I wanted without having to go find it on the bookshelf, take the discs out of the case, load them in the DVD player, and then switch out the discs after the 4 or 5 episodes on the disc finished playing. Thankfully, now we have streaming! I'm currently using an app called Kodi on Android boxes with a NAS server to access my anime DVD collection that I ripped to a hard drive years ago, and then streaming services to access anime I don't own. Apparently you can also use Fire Sticks to stream content if you have one of those. I've never used these personally but I believe there are some Fire Stick Tricks that either allow you to load Kodi on them or to just give you a way to stream your anime files. I know a friend of ours uses Plex, which we did try out but preferred Kodi as it just seemed to have more options available, especially for creating smart playlists. However you choose to play your anime, I just thought I'd give this little look into what my classic anime shows were and how they started my decent into anime. What anime shows do you consider classic?

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