The 1980s is a hugely important decade for several reasons: special effects are born in the cinema, the Berlin Wall falls, and the world decides to indulge in total extravagance.
Glittery and flashy clothes, fashion to make today envious, and a desire to have fun without thinking about being composed.
This is reflected in Europe but also and especially in Japan, where the people decide once and for all to abandon their composed traditions and indulge in fun.
The 1980s are also the end of the glorious Showa Era, which represented the peak of Japan’s economy.
And we will certainly see this in many of the anime on this list, such as City Hunter and Cat’s Eyes, where the characters will have designs to make the best designers envious.
But we will also see splits between poor and ordinary class life, and it could not miss, even the Berlin Wall in Germany, in Monster.
This listicle will show you the best recommendations for anime set during the 1980s according to our experience and opinions.
Table of Contents
11. Otaku no Video
Very vintage 2-episode OAV, both in the setting and in the graphic style with which it is animated.
Kubo is a normal guy, has a girlfriend, plays tennis, and has a normal life. One day, on his way back from a night out with friends, he meets Tanaka, an old high school friend of his surrounded by a group of decidedly peculiar friends.
He decides to visit him, unaware that he will turn his life upside down that day, ending up quitting tennis and gaining weight.
Because of this, his girlfriend will dump him, but this very event will trigger in him a desire for revenge that will lead him to want to become the king of otaku.
What can we tell you, extravagance, craving for craziness, and lots and lots of cosplay? If this is not a picture of the Japan of those years, then we don’t know what is.
10. Megazone 23
An OAV series consisting of 3 episodes that bring with them an intense vintage atmosphere.
They have very different and consecutive storylines among them, but all three have a very special, almost unique feature in the genre. They are strongly futuristic and cyberpunk but are still set in the 1980s.
The main theme of the events revolves around Shougo, a boy who steals a motorcycle that can transform. For this he will be followed by the government, and will also end up intertwining his story with Eve, an idol.
But there is much more underneath this, and continuous mysteries will be revealed as you continue the work.
Yurie Hitotsubashi is a student living in the town of Onomichi, Hiroshima in 1983. The girl lives a normal life, but her daily routine changes when one night like any other she becomes a goddess.
Her classmate Matsuri, learning about it, convinces Yurie to replace their hapless local god Yashima, and save her shrine from bankruptcy.
Thus, with Matsuri as her manager, Yurie must grant wishes, cure curses, meet aliens, and attend god conventions, all while continuing to attend school.
With all this bordering on a demented mess, historical accuracy won’t be the focus, but still, we will see a glimpse of Japanese life in those days.
8. When They Cry
When They Cry is an anime based on a sound novel of the same name published in 2002 by 07th Expansion.
The plot chronicles the lives of Keiichi Maebara and his friends who live in Hinamizawa in 1983, a fictional small country town plagued by a macabre curse linked to the worship of a local god Oyashiro.
After the protagonists begin to investigate the mysteries surrounding the quiet town, the situation will begin to escalate, with various characters committing terrible acts as the truth is revealed.
The entire setting and story are fictional, so the historical context, unfortunately, is very poor.
7. Descending Stories: Sukeroku Anew Arc
The second season of Descending Stories, which as fans will know is set entirely in feudal Japan, far distant from the 1980s, structured as a long, continuous flashback.
But without anticipating too much for those who have not seen the first, in the second, Descending Stories: Sukeroku Anew Arc, the flashback ends, and we return to the present.
We are obviously in the 1980s, and we see Yotaro, now released from prison, following his passion by becoming a Rakugo actor, inspired by what he saw in prison. But the Rakugo is more in crisis than ever, and theaters are no longer carrying it on their schedules.
We will see a very realistic Japan of those years, amid salarymen, extravagance, and the abandonment of old customs, such as precisely, Rakugo.
6. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures: Stardust Crusaders
The Bizarre Adventures of JoJo started as a shonen manga written by Hirohiko Araki in 1987 and the anime adaptation is still ongoing with the 6th arc.
Each arc has a separate protagonist, although there are some main characters that appear in more than one. The plot revolves around the adventures experienced by the various members of the Joestar family over time, with a protagonist on each side.
And one of the most famous and emblazoned parts of the anime, if not the most, is Stardust Crusaders, starring the equally iconic Jotaro.
And anyone who knows, this part consists of a journey to the Middle East, from Japan to Egypt, to El Cairo, to defeat DIO, from 1988 to 1989.
Being that the geographical setting shifts a lot unfortunately the historical accuracy is lessened, but it’s still a necessary viewing.
A 74-episode anime based on Naoki Urasawa’s masterpiece of the same name, it represents a true staple of the investigation and thriller genre and one of the best anime set in Germany.
The work follows the story of Kenzo Tenma, a renowned surgeon.
One day, he decides to rebel against his boss, thus saving a child from a fatal wound instead of the mayor of Düsseldorf, Germany, the city where the hospital is located. Time will prove Dr. Tenma wrong as he realizes that the child he saved, Johan Liebert, has become over time a serial killer who continues to claim lives.
Nothing is taken for granted, from the twists and turns to the evolution of the characters, all the more reason not to miss this absolute masterpiece. Johan is considered no less than one of the best villains ever.
Monster begins in 1986 officially, in a Germany still divided by the Berlin Wall, which of course will be mentioned, also giving realism to the events.
Erased lasts a full 12 episodes and merges Mystery/Crime, Psychological, Supernatural, Thriller and sentimental elements.
The main character is Satoru Fujinuma, a 29-year-old mangaka without any success, mostly due to suffering from the notorious writer’s block. However, following mysterious happenings, he obtains a power called Revival that allows him to go back in time just enough to save people’s lives.
In 1988, during his far from a happy childhood, one of his classmates had been murdered, and this is where his mission begins.
What does this have to do with his mother’s murder? The main mission of course will be to rescue the classmate, Kayo, with whom Satoru was in love as a child.
Historical accuracy is slightly worse, as the main topic is more of a psychological and thriller type, so it’s not lost in historical explanations. The setting itself is also very small, so we have to take him at his word.
3. Cat’s Eyes
A moderately popular anime released in 1983 with 73 episodes. Not everyone will know this, but it is set in the same universe and is contemporary with City Hunter, mentioned in this same ranking, so in the 1980s. Interesting parallelism.
Hiromi, Rui, and Ai Kisugi are three sisters who run a café in Tokyo by day. But at night instead engage in their second business: being art thieves under the name of the famous Cat Eyes gang.
What moves them aren’t criminal intentions, but rather the desire to recover the works of their painter father, who mysteriously disappeared years earlier, hoping to find traces of him.
Cat’s Eyes is one of the most nostalgic anime on this list and the 1980s are quite alive and real in this series.
2. City Hunter
City Hunter is a manga by Tsukasa Hojo, later adapted into a remarkably successful anime of the same name.
The main character is Ryo Saeba, a private detective operating in Tokyo described as dangerous and criminal. Along with him works Hideyuki with his sister Kaori, and all three together are hired for various tasks and jobs.
The anime features a self-contained or miniseries structure, each of which will employ the protagonists in different cases.
But if there is one thing City Hunter does well, that is to paint excellently the extravagance of Japan in the 1980s, the years when excess was the norm.
In fact there’s no doubt in calling this series as one of the best anime set in Shinjuku.
1. Maison Ikkoku
Based on a seinen manga by Rumiko Takahashi, Maison Ikkoku is a great classic of the 1980s.
Yusaku Godai, the protagonist of the events, is a young high school student who aspires to enter a prestigious college.
In order to prepare himself best and quietly for the difficult entrance exam, he rents an apartment at the extravagant Maison Ikkoku boarding house.
The boarding house is run by Kyoko Otonashi, an extremely charming woman with whom Yusuke has an immediate love affair.
Maison Ikkoku doesn’t mince words and gives us a realistic setting and one of the best historical romance stories ever, showing the life of a Japanese student in the 1980s.
This is mainly in terms of the characters’ very accurate clothing, which will make us feel like we are looking at a postcard from those years, making this series one of the best anime set in Tokyo.