The List
7 Anime Celebrating Their 20th Anniversary

by Lynzee Loveridge,

This week marked Japan's annual "Coming of Age Day" where individuals who turned the age of majority within the last year put on their very best and celebrate together. Hot spots were filled with smiling 20-year-olds in yukata. If the idea of someone born in 1996 being 20-years-old makes your head spin, looking back on which series are also entering 'adulthood' will bowl you over.

Child's Toy (Kodomo no Omocha) The rapid-fire comedy about child TV star Sana and the drama stemming from her interactions with the stoic Akito Hayama managed a decent fan following in the West despite a troubled release. Sana handles her problems with an unending energy supply and also those of her friends, even with the obstacles get far more serious, including divorce and child abuse. Child's Toy fits in with other comedies of its time period, which relied heavily on wackiness, leaving much of it dated and its bulky episode run continues to keep the series out of our hands.

Akachan to Boku Before Sweetness & Lightning and Poco's Udon World reintroduced the cute and emotional world of child-rearing, Pierrot adapted Marimo Ragawa's Akachan to Boku manga about a big brother who has to take on the responsibilities of rearing his younger sibling when their mother dies in an accident. The manga from which the show is based was localized in the U.S. but its respective anime series was not. Regardless, the endearing show about 12-year-old Takuya's struggle to keep his family afloat managed to find its audience in part because of fansub availability in the early 00s.

Boys Over Flowers 20 years ago poor girl Makino Tsukushi stepped onto the grounds of Eitoku Gakuen and found herself face to face with the campus' F4, the elite of the elite rich boys. They declare 'war' (essentially a red mark for the school to bully her) on her for stepping out of line but Makino refuses to go down without a fight. The show plays out like the best kind of shōjo soaps. A prominent love triangle is the main focus as Makino finds herself drawn to two different members of the F4. This is a 90s shōjo though, so when one of those members is a 'bad boy' type, its coded for potential domestic violence. Not that this trope has disappeared, it's just repackaged with vampires and called Diabolik Lovers.

Martian Successor Nadesico The quintessential sci-fi comedy, Nadesico had a moment in the late 90s/early 00s. Ruri was up there with Rei Ayanami for recognizable, blank-stare girls with silver hair. The rest of the Nadesico ship's crew is comprised of civilian 'experts' but they're more often up to silly hijinks and otaku behavior than serious battles. Inside its goofy exterior though is an emotional core that blends enough action, romance, and drama to keep audiences' attention.

Saber Marionette J There was a time when Tsukasa Kotobuki's character designs were literally everywhere. This was most obvious in the Saber Marionette J franchise, but you could see the same distinctive face and eye shapes in Battle Arena Toshinden, Knights of Ramune & 40 Fire, and Cyberteam in Akihabara. Saber Marionette J stands apart from the others for developing a modicum of staying power. Cherry, Lime, and Bloodberry represented the three harem personality types before they were too worn out: genki, ojō, and buff onee-chan. Unfortunately, it also employs another worn out trope: the effeminate, gay comedic relief character.

The Vision of Escaflowne I'm hard pressed to think of a series I was more surprised to discover is 20 years old. Hitomi's otherwordly adventure to defeat the Zaibach empire with Prince Van and his mysterious mecha only appear dated because of Nobuteru Yuki's character designs. The guy doesn't draw noses like that anymore and hasn't since Heat Guy J. Still, the series is an undisputed fan favorite and after remaining out of print for seven years following Bandai Entertainment exiting the North American licensing and distribution market, Funimation released a 20th anniversary box set after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Case Closed The second series still running after its debut 20 years ago is Case Closed. Shinichi Kudo would have completed his childhood's second coming and then some by now, yet the teen turned pint-size detective is still hunting down the Black Organization in hopes of returning to his former self. It's no surprise; the Case Closed films continue to rake in boatloads of yen each year, each one out-grossing the next. Whether this means audiences will ever get a tidy conclusion is another story. The manga is still ongoing and even when popular manga end, it doesn't necessarily mean the same for the anime series if Naruto Shippūden is any measure to judge by.

The new poll: Looking back at 20 years, what was your favorite anime of 1996?

The old poll: Which upcoming Japanese live-action film based on an anime/manga do you think looks the best?

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist 39.2%
  2. None 24.9
  3. Gintama 18.4%
  4. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure 12.5%
  5. March comes in like a lion 10.9%
  6. ReLIFE 8.5%
  7. Tokyo Ghoul 7.3%
  8. One Week Friends 6.7%
  9. Ajin 6.1%
  10. Blade of the Immortal 5.7%

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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