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Essential Anime
The purpose of this entry is to highlight trendsetters in Anime, anime of historical note, and series that epitomize particular genres. Specifically we are looking for the Trope Maker, Trope Codifier, and Deconstructions that affect future anime in that genre.

Entries are divided by genre and sub-genre, and presented in chronological order by date of first airing in Japan.

A final note: If you think something deserves to be added to this list, make an argument for it in this thread. Granted, that's a bit against the spirit of this wiki in general, but since this is supposed to be a resource for newcomers to anime, it requires more moderating than a regular entry.


First Anime:
  • Astro Boy (or Tetsuwan Atom in Japanese), aired from 1963 to 1966. It is considered the second "true" anime series ever produced. The first, which began in 1962, is called "Manga Calendar". The latter appears to exist only in mentions on web pages (a search of amazon.co.jp for the hiragana/katakana title returned no entries). Although all but forgotten in the United States, Atom is something of a cultural institution in Japan, where the title character's early-2000s "creation date" was practically a national holiday. And a CGI feature film version reached theatres in North America in October 2009.
  • Kimba the White Lion (Japanese name Janguru Taitei or "Jungle Emperor"). Aired in Japan from 1965 to 1966. This series from Osamu Tezuka was the first TV anime produced in colour. Its story of a lion cub becoming king of the jungle after the sudden death of his father bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain popular movie made decades later.

Humongous Mecha:

  • Trope Maker: Gigantor (Japanese title: Tetsujin 28). Aired in Japan from 1963 to 1965. Tetsujin 28 was the beginning of the Humongous Mecha genre.
    • Super Robot Trope Codifier: Mazinger Z. Aired in Japan from 1972 to 1974. The show that launched the Super Robot Genre. While Tetsujin 28 was the original giant robot, Mazinger is probably the most influential and biggest Trope Maker.
    • Real Robot Trope Codifier: Mobile Suit Gundam: A cultural phenomenon in its own right, Mobile Suit Gundam (or Kidou Senshi Gundam) aired in Japan from 1979 to 1980. It has survived in several iterations since, most recently as the ongoing Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Age. It is notable (at least in its earlier entries) for establishing the Real Robot Genre, grounding the robots somewhere closer to reality (both size- and technology-wise) and focusing more on the life and tribulations of their pilots. The plots of the series are pure military drama, and would work just as well were the robots to be replaced by tanks, ships or any other modern fighting vehicle, with the Gundam taking the role of game changing, cutting edge technology.
    • Transforming Mecha Trope Codifier: Macross (1982). Best known in North America as the source for the first third of Robotech (1984), it helped launch the Transforming Robot genre, along with Transformers.
    • Deconstruction: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The most influential series on the Humongous Mecha genre since Gundam's debut, Evangelion aired in Japan from 1995 to 1996. In America, it was released commercially into a market prepared by such series as Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon. While many other series could be called better gateways for people starting out in anime, this is a must for anyone who wants to go further in the mecha genre, or who are interested in dark psychological drama and eschatology. It's also one of anime's most (in)famous examples of Mind Screw.
    • Reconstruction: Martian Successor Nadesico: Airing in Japan from 1996 to 1997, Nadesico was a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-serious parody/satire of the Humongous Mecha and Space Opera genres. Although it was much more popular in Japan than in the west, its deconstructions and reconstructions of the genre influenced many shows to come after.
    • Genre Throwback: GaoGaiGar aired from 1997-98. Unapologetic of the original Hot-Blooded-ness and other tropes associated with mecha. When it ended and showed through DVD sales that it was a massive hit with otaku, what followed was a ton of remakes and sequels of old-school Super Robots, from Getter Robo to Mazinger Z to even Steel Jeeg, as well as new entries such as Gurren Lagann.

Magical Girl:

  • Trope Maker: Sally the Witch. Often considered the first Magical Girl Anime, based off the Manga of the same name. With the original series airing between 1966 and 1967 and originally appearing in black and white for the first 17 episodes. Spawned a sequel series and had a large and lasting impact on Shojo Anime.
  • General Magical Girl Trope Codifier: Himitsu no Akko-chan. Airing in Japan between 1969 and 1970. One of the first and one of the most defining examples of Magical Girl Anime. Based off a Manga of the same name and sporting two remakes, running from 1988 - 1989 and 1998 - 1999.
  • Magical Girl Warrior Trope Maker: Cutey Honey. Airing in Japan in 1973 to 1974. What began as the first Shonen program with a female protagonist became the Trope Maker of Magical Girl Warrior via the Periphery Demographic the TV series garnered (partly due to the toned down Ecchi elements). It set many of the standards for the genre.
  • Magical Girl Warrior Trope Codifier: Sailor Moon. The first series most anyone thinks of when the words "Magical Girl show" are mentioned, although it is equally a sentai series. The original series aired in Japan from 1992 to 1993, and was kept alive in direct sequels until early 1997; it was still popular enough over a decade after its premiere that it was given a LiveAction Adaptation in 2003, and Sailor Moon Crystal, a new anime series that follows the manga more closely, started airing in 2014. Its production company terminated all licenses outside of Japan in 2004, but have recently started allowing some foreign companies to get the rights to the series again, and it has been re-released in Italy, Germany, Israel, and Mexico. In 2014, Viz Media announced their rights acquisition to both Crystal and the original anime. Under Viz, the entirety of the original anime will be subbed and dubbed unedited, along with Crystal.
  • Magical Girl Warrior Deconstructions: Revolutionary Girl Utena. Compared stylistically to Rose Of Versailles, Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) first aired in Japan in 1997. It couples a shojo duelling story with elements of chivalric romance, Jungian psychology, and a surreal thriller. Its post-modern narrative and feminist themes distinguish it from any other anime ever made.
  • Magical Girl Deconstruction: Puella Magi Madoka Magica. First aired in 2011, the 12-episode series takes the expected traits of the average Magical Girl show and turns it upside down in a not very happy, tightly woven plot with acclaimed music and visuals. Generally considered to be a modern classic.
  • Magical Girl Warrior Reconstructions/Genre Throwback: Pretty Cure. The most popular Modern Day magical girl show in japan, playing many tropes straight again, but with a twist in that there's also tons of post Modernism and Dragon Ball styled physical fighting.
  • Magic Idol Singer Trope Maker and Trope Codifier: Magical Angel Creamy Mami. Aired in Japan from 1983 to 1984.

Space Opera: (Further subdivision is proposed- discuss on discussion page)

  • Trope Maker: Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a Star Blazers. Aired in Japan from 1974 to 1980. It was the first popular English-translated anime that had an over-arching plot and storyline that required the episodes to be shown in order. Even while being toned down a bit by editing, it also dealt with much more mature themes than any other productions being aimed at the same target audience at the time. As a result, it paved the way for the introduction and popularity of future arc-based, plot-driven anime translations. It also heavily addressed Japanese thoughts about WWII, the nuclear bomb, and so forth.
    • Trope Codifier: Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Character created in 1953, first animated in 1978. The series that launched the Leijiverse proper, and one of the archetypal examples of the Space Opera genre.
    • Deconstruction: Martian Successor Nadesico. Airing in Japan from 1996 to 1997, Nadesico was a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-serious parody/satire of the Humongous Mecha and Space Opera genres. Although it was much more popular in Japan than the west, its deconstructions of the genre influenced many shows to come after.
    • subgenre Trope Codifier: Cowboy Bebop. Airing in Japan in 1998-99, Cowboy Bebop detailed the lives and adventures of a group of bounty hunters, travelling through space in 2071. Notable for its effortless shifts between typically western genres, and lovely soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. Its director Shinichiro Watanabe would go on to direct the equally genre-twisting Samurai Champloo. With few cultural barriers, an exciting (mostly-) episodic format, and an excellent English adaptation, it was the premier gateway anime of the late 90s and early 00s.
    • Deconstruction/Trope Maker: Please Save My Earth - one of the first and best Shoujo science fictions, and is centered around the romance, but deals with A LOT of stuff, including some philosophical/realist things. Deals with aliens sent to moon to research Earth, and their reincarnations on Earth. Also involves some fantasy stuff. It switches between the alternate solar system (in flashbacks), the alien researchers on the moon, and the modern Earth.

Harem:

  • Unbuilt Trope: Urusei Yatsura aired from 1981-1986, with movies and OVA's for a few years afterwards. The first major work by Rumiko Takahashi (her manga ran from 1978 to 1987) this work parodied the Unwanted Harem genre before it become a genre. It was also one of the first Magical Girlfriend series.
    • Trope Codifier: Tenchi Muyo!: The first OVA series, along with Ranma, introduced non-Japanese audiences to the unwanted harem genre. Followed by Tenchi Universe, the television continuity, which aired in Japan in 1995 and differs significantly in scope from the original 1992 OVA. Tenchi Universe was then followed by several other series with (mostly) the same core cast and situations (but with often radically different implementations), as well as three motion pictures. A third OVA series released in 2004 extends the original OVA plotline, but leaves matters just as unresolved as its predecessors.
    • Deconstructions:
      • Ranma 1/2. Aired in Japan from 1989 to 1992, and based on the manga of the same name by Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma is a fusion of romance/comedy and shonen fighting and was, along with Sailor Moon, one of the gateway anime for North American fans in the early/mid-1990s. This series is also the Trope Codifier for the Love Dodecahedron sub-genre, with every member of the Unwanted Harem having his or her own unrequited love interest, and is often considered the best example of Belligerent Sexual Tension – the Belligerent Sexual Tension trope was once called "Takahashi Couple" – or even its Trope Codifier.
      • School Days deconstructs the Unwanted Harem trope by going in a completely different direction from Ranma 1/2. Ranma asks the question "How does an honourable man deal with multiple obligations to marry?" School Days asks "What happens if the guy decides to boink ALL the girls?" Answer: Nothing Good. Aired in 2007. Also the source of the "Nice Boat" meme.

Mind Screw:

Magical Girlfriend:

  • Unbuilt Trope: Urusei Yatsura, aired from 1981-1986. The first major work by Rumiko Takahashi is often considered the original Magical Girlfriend parody, enough that the bumbling well-meaning Magical Girlfriend has become an archetype in its own right. The show's poster girl, a cutesy alien named Lum who habitually wears a tiger-striped bikini, is easily one of the most recognizable anime characters in history. (Is there an earlier straight example?)
    • Trope Codifier: Ah! My Goddess (OVA - 1993; TV - 2005). The standard-bearer for the Magical Girlfriend genre, Ah! My Goddess (Aa! Megami-sama) is based on a long-running manga, starting in 1988. An OVA adaptation was made in 1993. The OVA had a feature-length movie continuation in 2000, and then a full-scale retelling on television which began in 2005. The manga series is still ongoing.

Shounen Fighter:
  • Unbuilt Trope: Dororo
    • Trope Maker: Fist of the North Star: The anime started in 1984 (the manga in 1983). The main series ended in 1988, but material is still produced every so often up to this day. This series featured over-the-top martial arts fighting (which was very bloody, but mostly sanitized as shadows or detail-less glow in the anime) and pretty much defined the Shonen fighting genre in anime.
      • Trope Maker: Kinnikuman: While people tend to cite Fist of the North Star as the major defining source for Shonen today, it's very arguable that Kinnikuman did as much, if not more, for the genre. Predating North Star by 4 years in 1979, it started as a gag-filled parody of Ultra Man, but by 1980, Cerebus Syndrome had kicked in, and it had started to become a Fighting manga, with Pro Wrestling as it's major theme. Like any good Fighting Shonen series, the main focus was the fights, and while they mostly revolved around straight-up Pro Wrestling at first, it wasn't long before more outrageous and outlandish attacks started to become the norm for the series, though wrestling still remained a key part of it. It also kept a decent sense of humor, while still being at least semi-serious. In fact, Kinnikuman might well be like later Shonen then North Star was; whereas North Star took itself as seriously as it possibly could, Kinnikuman, like a number of later Shonen, kept a lighter tone. And like North Star, it spawned a franchise that's still around today. In short, it's just as worthy of being as major a former of Fighting Shonen tropes as Fist of the North Star was, if not more so.
    • Trope Codifier: Dragon Ball: The first shonen fighting series to get really popular in America. Aired in Japan from 1986 to 1996, also became the most popular series in Mexico during the nineties.
    • Parody Codifier: Ranma ˝. Aired in Japan from 1989 to 1992, and based on the manga of the same name by Takahashi Rumiko, Ranma 1/2 is a fusion of romance/comedy and shonen fighting, and was, along with Sailor Moon, one of the early-1990s gateway anime for North American fans. Codified the Martial Arts and Crafts form of parody.
    • Samurai/weapons variation, Trope Codifier: Rurouni Kenshin: Perhaps the most well-known samurai series, Rurouni Kenshin (also sometimes known as Samurai X outside of Japan due to licensing issues) aired in Japan from 1996 to 1998. A fictionalized look at Japan circa the end of the 19th Century, it blends historical fiction with high-powered shonen fighting. Two OVA series were released as well, the first very well received, the second, not so much.

Shoujo: (Most of us know nothing about these shows or what makes them shoujo- or more specific subgenre- we need a lot of help here)
  • Trope Maker: Princess Knight (Ribon no Kishi): Aired 1967-68 in Japan. Distributed under the title "Choppy and the Princess" in America, Princess Knight followed the adventures of Princess Sapphire, a young girl who was mistakenly given the heart of a boy and a girl, and how she was raised as a boy in order to inherit the throne of her country in order to thwart the efforts of Duke Duralumon. The story shows Sapphire's interactions and conflicts with people and her own heart, staples of the shoujo genre that still hold to this day.
  • Trope Codifier: Rose of Versailles: The highly influential 1979 anime/manga that changed Shōjo (Demographic) anime. The historical drama lasted for two years. Notable for being one of the first Shojo anime series. Equally notable for being a hit worldwide except for English-speaking areas, where it remained stubbornly unavailable until 2013.
  • Trope Codifier & Deconstruction: Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena): Compared stylistically to Rose Of Versailles, Utena first aired in Japan in 1997. Notable for using and deconstructing elements of shojo, fairytales, gender roles, relationships and being possibly one of the most all encompassing (and certainly one of the most Mind-Screwiest) coming of age stories ever.
  • Deconstruction/Trope Codifier: Please Save My Earth - one of the first and best Shoujo science fictions. Deals with aliens sent to Earth to research it, and their reincarnations on Earth. Also involves some fantasy stuff.

Sports Anime:
  • Trope Maker: Star Of The Giants. Aired 1968 to 1971. The "star" of the story is Hyuuma Hoshi, a young pitcher dreaming of making it big in the majors like his father had until the older man was injured in World War II and had to retire. Star Of The Giants established that baseball anime almost always star the pitcher- as opposed to American baseball shows that tend to depict other positions almost as often as the pitcher.
  • Trope Codifier: Captain Tsubasa. Many series followed Captain Tsubasa but it did as much as Slam Dunk, maybe even more. The Hero is a natural soccer loving boy, but still need others to learn and progress. A lot of Shōnen tropes were used too.
    • Modern Trope Codifier: Slam Dunk. While there had been sports anime before it, '"Slam Dunk'' established many of the genre conventions later anime would follow, and distinguished itself as the first sports anime where the main character is not a natural genius of the sport, but a newbie who, while having potential, still has a lot to learn. It also was written with the purpose of educating viewers on the sport: just as Sakuragi is learning the rules and techniques of basketball, so do we by following his progress.
    • Shoujo Sports Trope Codifier: Attack No. 1, based on the 1968 manga and airing starting in 1969. Kozue Ayuhara comes to college and joins the volleyball team, shows talent that impresses the coach and eventually the other players, and through intense training rises to become one of Japan's Olympic champion volleyball team. Trope Maker for many of the shoujo sports anime tropes, including having a crush on the male coach.
    • Romantic Sports Trope Codifier: Touch. One of Mitsuru Adachi's first major works. Touch established him as dominating the subgenre of sports with romance, which he continues to this day with recent works like Cross Game. It also established as obligatory the tragic background story for the hero and the use of sports as a catharsis for the complications of life and romance.

Fantasy: (Need more infomation about this genre)
  • Trope Codifier: Record of Lodoss War, one of the best examples of cross-cultural osmosis for integrating all the best known Western fantasy tropes in an anime.
    • Subgenre: Trapped in Another World
      • Shoujo Romance Trope Codifier: Fushigi Yuugi. It started its run in 1992 and features an ordinary high school girl, Miaka Yuuki, who is transported into another world where she learns that she is the priestess of the god Suzaku and must find the seven Seishi, people with special ties to Suzaku, most of whom also happen to be handsome young men. Elements of the "ordinary girl stumbles into world where she is revered as a priestess/goddess/queen/person with otherwise special destiny which somehow links her to one or more Bishounen who will inevitably fall in love with her" plot turn up in a lot of other series which came later (InuYasha, Escaflowne, Kanata Kara, Red River, Harukanaru Toki No Naka De...).
    • Subgenre: Dark Fantasy
      • Trope Codifier: Berserk. Mixing Dung Ages medievalism with demonic horror, this series is well known for its beautiful story and its utterly nightmarish monsters and violence. It focuses on a one-eyed mercenary Badass with a giant sword who seeks vengeance against his former commander and best friend for betraying him in one of the most unforgivable manners imaginable, and roams the world killing any demon that comes for him. It takes and deconstructs many classic tropes of classic fantasy (as well as many tropes of Shōnen series).

Cyberpunk: Fiction about a sci-fi future where humans and technology merge. Frequently a dystopia or at least a Crapsack World.

Romance: (need some more info on this genre)

Slice of Life:
  • Trope Maker: Sazae-san aired October 1969 to the present (based on the manga which ran from 1946 to 1973). Sazae San depicts ordinary life in Japan. When it first started airing, it was considered very liberal and supportive of change in Japanese life (particularly supporting strong women). Now it's viewed as enshrining traditional Japanese life.
    • "Fantasy" Slice of Life Trope Codifier: ARIA aired from Fall of 2005 to 2008. ARIA is often identified as a trope codifier for "pure" Slice of Life anime. Set in a fantastical world, yet there is little or no adventure beyond the typical life issues we see on Earth. For people who like lovely imagery of beautiful girls against a wondrous backdrop, this Slice Of Life series is a nice change of pace from the action and fanservice of most other anime. Known for a slow pace, and beautifully drawn scenery. Often compared with the earlier manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.
    • 4-koma (i.e sketch comedy) Trope Codifier: Azumanga Daioh, which can best be described as anime sketch comedy, aired in Japan in 2002. Definitely a schoolyard comedy, but with a scene-based take on it, rather than a more episodic take. Originally aired in five-minute segments during the week, which were then combined on Saturday into a half-hour episode.
    • Subculture Slice of Life Trope Codifier: Welcome to the NHK aired July to December 2006, and took a look at some of the subcultures of Japan.
    • Moe Slice of Life Trope Codifier: K-On aired from Spring of 2009 to Summer of 2010. Cute highschool girls form a girl band and do cute things together. Surprisingly K-On has appealed to a wide demographic swath, including girls. This is generally attributed to the toning down of Otaku elements (such as Fanservice), and the heavy dependence on nostalgia.

Mons (A proper look at the Mons genre would require going into Video Games, particularly the Trope Maker, Shin Megami Tensei.)
  • Trope Codifier: Pokémon (1997-present). A major multimedia franchise, Pokémon was the first major Mons series to be targeted towards children, and also the first to make it across the Atlantic; though the RPG series is the true core of the franchise, the anime tends to be the more well-known version. Since then, most Mons series have followed the graphical stylings and kid-friendliness of the Pokémon franchise. It's also something of a template insofar as the adaptation of video games to anime, of which it is by far the longest-lived and most successful.
  • Deconstruction: Digimon Tamers (2001-2002). The first anime to ask the question: "How would the existence of Mons work in real life?" Well, the government gets involved, many of the kids become emotionally traumatized, people die period, and cities get levelled. Also had an unprecedented level of depth compared to its predecessors, which were themselves no slouches in that department – the characters get a huge amount of development, and there's a whole website explaining the sheer intricacy of the world-building process of the series. The hardest Mons series on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.
  • Even bleaker Deconstruction: Naru Taru (2003), by Mohiro Kitoh, perhaps best known for his other genre deconstruction, Bokurano. The premise of the genre, namely that kids gain control a powerful beasts and go on adventures, gets twisted by averting the last part: instead of going on adventures the children form terrorist groups to shape the world as they see fit, and being a immortal one-man army, they are pretty effective and deadly, develop symptoms of A God Am I and reap a lot of hate. Controlling this power turns the kids life to worse since they get sucked into the conflict. Almost all owners of a shadow dragon die before the series ends.


Films by Release Date:

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Japanese title, Kaze no Tani no Naushika) (1984): Post-apocalyptic SF/Fantasy story about the futility of war and Man's place in nature (both extremely common themes in postwar Japanese culture) and the dangers of biological warfare. Its success paved the way for the founding of the highly influential Studio Ghibli.

  • Project A-ko (1986): For many US fans, this silly schoolyard comedy cum Sci-fi parody was the first feature-length anime available, while in Japan its surrealist humor strongly influenced later films and series such as Excel♥Saga and Azumanga Daioh. It directly inspired the 2003 American film Xtracurricular.

  • Choujin Densetsu Urotsukidouji (English language title, Legend of the Overfiend) (1987): Did you ever wonder why some people think that All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles? Well, mostly, it's because of Overfiend. One of the first anime movies (though it was an OVA in its original Japanese release) to make use of tentacle rape, it was a perennial staple of every late-80s-to-mid-90s video store's children's section, and although the film itself was more of a sexually-explicit horror movie than true porn, it had an enormous effect on the hentai genre. (If you were wondering, this movie doesn't have its own Tropes page because our site guidelines forbid pornographic works from having pages.)

  • AKIRA (1988): Based on a much longer and even more complicated manga series, this was another of the first anime films to cross the Pacific to any appreciable audience. It shocked many US fans straight out of the Animation Age Ghetto with its gritty visuals and stark violence.

  • Grave of the Fireflies (Japanese title, Hotaru no Haka) (1988): Poignant story from Studio Ghibli of two children trying, and ultimately failing, to survive in war-torn Japan after their mother is killed in an air raid. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel (the author, needless to say, survived, but much of the rest is directly from his own experiences) that was well-known in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s but almost unheard of elsewhere. Widely respected as one of the finest animated films ever made, but also widely regarded to be among the saddest films ever made – so much so that AVClub.com has included it in their list Not Again: 24 Great Films Too Painful To Watch Twice.

  • Ghost in the Shell (Japanese title, Kokaku Kidotai) (1996): A cyberpunk thriller concerning cybernetic police operative Motoko Kusanagi and her struggle to uphold the law in a future where humanity and technology have merged. In this film, the first of a widely popular anime franchise that includes the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, Motoko and her colleagues in Section 9 face off against an insidious "puppet master," a unique AI whose nature challenges every assumption they – and she – has about what it means to be human. Notable for also influencing western sci-fi flicks, most obviously The Matrix.

  • Spirited Away: (Japanese title, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) (2001). Considered by many to be the best work by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a spoiled 10-year-old girl, who on the way to a new home gets stuck with her parents in a world of spirits, where her parents become pigs after eating spirit food. To save them, she will need to find her own courage and work at Yubaba's spirit bathhouse until she learns how to save them and return to her own world.


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