The 1990s are remembered by many as a wonderful decade of fashion, progress, fun and for the lucky , great wealth.
In Europe, dance music rages, people live well, while America experiences a period of economic and social growth.
The same argument can’t be made for Japan, the protagonist of many of the anime on this list. The country at this time is experiencing a tremendous crisis, so much so that it is even referred to as the Lost Decade.
All these scenarios will be present in this list, where we will go to see which are the best anime that are set in this important decade.
Disclaimer: Rankings are based on our taste and experience. If you don’t want any type of spoilers, it’s better if you only look at the anime titles.
Table of Contents
7. Hi Score Girl
Based on a seinen manga, Hi Score Girl is divided into 24 episodes released in 2018.
It’s 1991, and Haruo Yaguchi is a senior in elementary school. He doesn’t have any great characteristics except being good at videogames.
One day in the arcade he finds himself playing against Akira Oono, a popular, smart, beautiful, and rich classmate of his to who he loses resoundingly.
Not only does he get ripped 30 times in a row in Street Fighter II, but Akira can beat him at any game. Haruo ends up playing against her every day after school in an attempt to beat her as a bond develops between the two.
An anime with a vintage flavor that knows how to convince and wink at those who, like the protagonists, were children in the 1990s and liked to play video games, the true protagonist of the events.
6. The Garden of Sinners
The Garden of Sinners is an incredibly underrated anime with strong thriller, mystery, and supernatural themes released in 2010.
A series of unexplained suicides is mysteriously taking place in an obscure late-1990s Japan.
Shiki Ryogi is the protagonist of this story, tasked with getting to the bottom of these strange events.
Shiki has special powers and a dark past, but she doesn’t know which strange mysteries await her.
The Garden of Sinners is a great anime if you want to binge on something short but extremely impactful.
Its great setting is dark and suggestive, and the plot is engaging and full of suspense, with plot twists that will keep you glued to the screen from the first to the last minute.
This anime from 2011 is based on the light novel by Gen Urobuchi and narrates the Fourth Holy Grail War events 10 years before Fate/Stay Night. So Zero is a prequel for all intents and purposes.
There will be many characters that we will see a return in Fate/Stay Night, such as Saber and other Servants. But the real feather in the cap and protagonist is Kiritsugu Emiya, Shirou’s father.
In terms of the setting, we are in an alternate 1994, with few realistic historical references, but the year is apt.
Definitely a series not to be missed if you are a fan of the franchise, which is a key piece of history. It’s not the best example of the 1990s for what you see, even though it’s worth recommending it because it’s quite good.
Eikichi Onizuka is a now former thug and college student desperate for work given his age. His gruff ways don’t work in his favor, leading to a negative outcome in any job interview he undergoes.
That is until one day by some miracle he manages to find a job opportunity through teaching.
What he doesn’t know is that a rather troublesome middle school class awaits him, one that has driven all the other teachers who have come before crazy.
Against all odds, however, Onizuka succeeds in establishing a deep relationship of friendship and respect with his students.
This means managing to become a real asset to them thanks in part to his unconventional and crude teaching methods.
This time to trace the setting we have to rely on mathematics.
We know for certain from sources that Onizuka was born in 1975, and in GTO he is 22 years old. So if we add up the two numbers, we should go back to 1997, fitting perfectly into our topic.
This anime also has a lot of cool settings around Japan, like Tokyo, Shinjuku, Kichijoji and much more.
3. Whisper of the Heart
Studio Ghibli movie released in 1995, of the sentimental, slice-of-life genre.
The setting is contemporary with the year of release, so 1995, and is set in Tama, in the rural suburbs of Tokyo.
Shikuzu is a 14-year-old girl who loves to read, so much so that she dreams of becoming a writer.
During the summer, she goes to the library to borrow books but realizes that those texts are the same ones that a certain Seiji Amasawa also took.
Intrigued, she starts looking for him, fantasizing about him.
If you want to see a realistic glimpse of life in the Japanese suburbs of the 1990s, this movie is probably the best example to consider, as we consider it as one of the best anime set in Tokyo ever made.
2. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
What could be considered the best gambling anime of all time, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor was released in 2007, based on the successful manga of the same name.
The story is set in 1995 Japan when after graduating from high school Ito Kaiji moves to Tokyo to look for work but finds the city in the greatest economic crisis in its history.
Depressed, in his tiny apartment, he turns to alcohol, smoking, and gambling, eventually racking up huge debts. But he will not give up and decides to get every money back.
Kaiji is an excellent anime for several reasons. It features a unique design that you won’t find anywhere else, and it has excellent historical accuracy.
In fact, despite being based entirely on gambling, it’s very historically accurate and indeed uses real effects as a pretext to move the story forward.
The severe crisis facing Japan that we talked about in the intro is used as a pretext for Kaiji to start gambling.
1. Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon is one of those works that needs no explanation given its vast prominence. In fact, the manga created by author Naoko Takeuchi is one of the greatest expressions of Japanese pop culture in the entire world.
Usagi Tsukino, an ordinary eighth-grade student, meets a strange talking cat named Luna one day. The latter will inform Usagi of her fate as a Sailor warrior tasked with protecting Earth.
To do so she must first find the other Sailor warriors like her and track down with their help the Princess of the ancient lunar kingdom, Silver Millennium. Usagi thus becomes the heroine Sailor Moon, the warrior of love and justice.
As you all know, Sailor Moon’s settings are almost entirely fantasy and in an alternate reality to our own, with monsters to defeat and the Earth to protect.
Not all of you will know that the whole story is set in 1992, and in between battles with evil forces, we will get to see Japanese life in those years.
The style of Sailor Moon is extremely nostalgic and vibrant, as you can see from the colored building in the backgrounds and the the beautiful night sceneries.