OK, look, we get it: You’re obsessed with the flavor of the week. You love the bright and shiny new series coming straight out of Japan. You’re on the most cutting of all the edges and if it ain’t new, you ain’t interested.
And that’s great — but you should remember to give the classic anime of the past a watch, too.
Believe it or not, there’s a lot to be learned from the history of anime. Modern series don’t exist in a vacuum. New anime stands upon the shoulders of all the classic anime that came before it, and the influence of these classic anime series echoes throughout the works (both anime and non-anime) being produced today.
Don’t believe us? Well, strap in, kiddos, because HIDIVE is about to give you a history lesson in sci-fi 70s and 80s anime you won’t soon forget.
You might remember this show by other names: Battle of the Planets or G-Force, which are two Saturday-morning-cartoon American adaptations of the 105-episode Gatchaman series. But don’t let the version you watched as a kid distract you. The original, uncut Gatchaman left its mark on anime.
Not only is it full of mecha that still look fresh, it also happens to be one of the first shows to revolve around a team of heroes saving the day from this week’s evil menace, kickstarting the sentai genre that our buddies at Sentai Filmworks share a name with — and that means you have Gatchaman to thank if you grew up loving stuff like, we dunno… does Power Rangers ring a bell?
Yeah. We thought so.
The release of this show’s complete collection in 2013 was notable enough news to get a write-up in Forbes, so if you haven’t seen Gatchaman, prove you’re not a total newb and get to watchin’, stat.
We should also probably mention that the series boasts character art from Yoshitaka Amano, a Final Fantasy design artist. Even renowned comic book cover artist Alex Ross created art for the show that is being utilized throughout the Gatchaman Collector’s Edition. Talk about an anime pedigree!
Space Runaway Ideon (1980)
But if you really wanna talk about pedigree, look no further than Space Runaway Ideon — a series created and directed by none other than Yoshiyuki Tomino, the creator of Mobile Suit Gundam, himself. It follows the exploits of Cosmo Yuki as he pilots the Ideon, a legendary mecha, and defends the universe against the Buff Clan, a race of humanoid aliens who believe the Ideon rightfully belongs to them.
It’s a bloody show with a high body count, putting the horrors of war on full and gruesome display. This means you pick a favorite character at your own risk because NO CHARACTERS ARE SAFE (eat your heart out, Game of Thrones). And while the series might be underrated in both Japan and abroad, it won the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1980 and remains a clear touchstone for the entire mecha genre.
Don’t believe us? The series ran for 39 episodes and concluded with two movies that expanded the series’ ending. Those of you who know your anime trivia might recall that Neon Genesis Evangelion also ran for a collection of episodes before concluding with two theatrical releases that expanded the series’ ending.
And that’s no coincidence. Space Runaway Ideon’s fingerprints can be seen all over the Evangelion franchise, which deals with many of the same themes and motifs, making Ideon a clear predecessor to Evangelion. So say “thank you” to the granddaddy of mecha anime and give Space Runaway Ideon a watch on HIDIVE ASAP.
Aura Battler Dunbine (1983)
Those isekai series you like to drool over share their DNA with the 1983 classic Aura Battler Dunbine, a series about a dude who tries showing off on his motorcycle and winds up in another world full of magic, battle unicorns, fairies and… mecha?
Because while this title might have a lot in common with your favorite isekai shows, it forges a path all its own with a striking blend of both science fiction and traditional fantasy elements that remains totally unique.
Here’s the gist of the plot: Protagonist Show has a super strong “aura,” so when he winds up in the realm of Byston Well, he’s immediately recruited to pilot an Aura Battler on behalf of Lord Drake Luft. But not all is as it seems because Show soon meets a woman named Marvel Frozen, who is also from Earth! Thrown for a major loop, Show must question the insidious intentions of the man he’s fighting for and for what purpose he’s been dragged into the medieval Byston Well.
Needless to say, this show’s got complicated love interests, political intrigue, GIANT FIGHTING ROBOTS, not to mention those battle unicorns we talked about earlier — and that basically means that if you like isekai shows like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, you’ve got classic sci-fi anime like Aura Battler Dunbine to thank.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… oh, wait, wrong series. Our bad. Today’s date is getting to us a little bit — but then again, so is this fantastic space opera.
Imagine a galaxy at war for 150 years, the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance (FPA) exhausted by decades of endless, bloody fighting. On each side of the conflict arises a new commander, and these driven men — Yang Wen-li of the FPA and Imperial Admiral Reinhard Lohengramm — soon alter the course of the war, their brilliant strategies playing out amidst the stars as they rise in power in their respective militaries.
This complex story of military strategy, political intrigue and personal ambition weaves its way through 110 OVA episodes. It’s a sprawling series that uses hundreds of voices actors to craft its gripping tale and tells a story so large in scope that it took nearly ten years to animate it in full.
This series is indeed legendary, holding a revered spot in the history of anime. It’s based on 10 award-winning novels by Yoshiki Tanaka. It was adapted into a musical by the renowned Takarazuka Revue (that’s the theatre troupe that inspired Revue Starlight, BTW). It boasts one of the largest voice casts ever, is the longest OVA series in history, and its streaming debut on HIDIVE was the subject of an elated Forbes piece.
It’s been called anime’s answer to Star Wars. It’s a space opera of epic proportion, and you should absolutely give it a watch if you consider yourself a fan of sci-fi anime.
Patlabor the Mobile Police (1989)
No list of sci-fi 80s titles would be complete without mentioning Patlabor the Mobile Police. In it, construction crews use robots called “Labors” to perform daunting physical tasks. The police, meanwhile, use Patrol Labors (or Patlabors) to fight crime and stop inappropriate use of Labor technology.
The series follows protagonist Noa Izumi as she pilots Alphonse, her Patlabor, while on duty with the Second Special Vehicles Division. The perky and talented Noa is an ace pilot who can coax any Labor into performing above its top capacity, and each episode showcases a new way she solves problems with the help of her trusted Patlabor.
A notable aspect of this series is the use of its mecha, which aren’t limited to fighting roles and can also assist civilians in various jobs. Even more notable is the fact that this series is so iconic in Japan, the Japan Anniversary Association named August 10 “Patlabor Day” in honor of the series.
The manga also won the 1991 shonen Shogakukan Manga Award, and the series is so influential that Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro cites Patlabor as a key influence on the world of Pacific Rim, his film series that’s basically a really nerdy love letter to both mecha and kaiju anime.
And when you’re done with the Patlabor TV series, guess what? There are Patlabor movies and OVAs to binge, too, all available on HIDIVE.
So what are you waiting for? Give these sci-fi 70s and 80s anime a watch!
It’s clear why these classic anime have withstood the test of time and remain influences on so many modern projects. If you raise an eyebrow at the thought of watching something older than last season’s offerings, consider giving these classic titles a chance to impress.
We promise you won’t be disappointed, and who knows? Maybe you’ll start spotting their influences on the new titles you love to follow, deepening your perspective of the sci-fi anime world in the process. See, kids? Learning is fun!
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