The Top 15 Action Anime From The ’90s You Must Watch

The 1990s were one of the most prolific periods for anime, with some series released during these years that have forever influenced the genre in a positive way.

And this is especially true for action and combat anime, with some immortal gems like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop.

So here is the list of the best ’90s action anime that no fan should miss.

15. Mysterious Play

Fushigi Yuugi

Mysterious Play is a series that holds a significant place among isekai anime, as it stands as one of the pioneering series in this genre. It is an adaptation of a shojo manga, with 52 episodes released in 1995.

If you like isekai series, traditional settings, romantic moments, and some cool action, then Mysterious Play could be a fantastic choice for you.

Miaka Yuuki and her friend Yui Hongo stumble upon a mysterious book at the national library that transports them to a fantasy world immersed in ancient China.

Upon their arrival, they encounter the emperor, Hotohori, who believes Miaka to be the prophesied priestess of the kingdom’s protector god, Suzaku.

Her mission becomes finding the 7 Celestial Warriors to summon Suzaku and have her deepest desires fulfilled.

14. You’re Under Arrest

You're Under Arrest

You’re Under Arrest is a 1996 police/crime anime consisting of 51 episodes, blending comedy and fast-paced action full of adrenaline.

It’s one of those light and enjoyable series to watch if you’re looking for a simple plot and wholesome entertainment, without having to follow complex storylines.

If that’s what you’re looking for, don’t miss it.

The protagonists are Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, two police officers girls in Tokyo who experience a new and frenetic adventure every day.

13. Martian Successor Nadesico

Mobile Battleship Nadesico is a 1996 series that’s another eccentric and over-the-top parody of the mecha genre.

The story takes place in the year 2196 when Earth is under attack by the Jupiter Lizards, an alien race.

To fight back against the invaders, the planet turns to Nergal Heavy Industries, a private company that has created a powerful armed spaceship called the ND-001 Nadesico.

But because the ship’s technology is incredibly advanced, finding people to pilot it is not an easy task.

This is how Akito Tenkawa, a talented young man who hates fighting and would rather stay at home watching anime, is hired for this duty. And here he’ll meet Yurika, Nadesico’s captain, his future love interest.

Nadesico remains enjoyable even today thanks to its blend of comedy, mecha action, and romance, with some serious drama interludes too.

Once again, this is a satire on the mecha genre too so we recommend it to anime fans who have some knowledge of it, otherwise they will miss out on a lot of references.

12. The Vision of Escaflowne

The Vision of Escaflowne

The Vision of Escaflowne is an iconic anime released in 1996 in 26 episodes. If you enjoy series that break away from the usual mold, then this is a must-watch.

Nearly 30 years have passed and to this day few, if any, anime have been able to replicate the magical blend of genres and themes that this series offers.

It’s not every day that you come across action, isekai, mecha, fantasy, war, and romance all in one series, right? Not to mention its fantastic setting that blends fantasy, Sci-Fi, and a richly detailed political world.

The protagonist, Hitomi Kanzaki, is a typical high school girl with two passions: running and tarot cards. One day, during her tarot readings, she experiences a vision of being transported to an unknown world.

Initially dismissing it as a mere dream, she soon realizes its reality when a dragon and a swordsman named Van Fanel appear before her during a training session.

Van rescues Hitomi by defeating the dragon, and they find themselves mysteriously transported to the war-torn planet Gaia, where a battle against the Zaibach empire rages.

Did we mention that the opening and the OST rock? Really, they left a mark on us after all these years.

11. Slayers


Slayers is a fantasy anime from 1995 that is quite underrated nowadays, but we recommend you to discover it because it offers a great adventure.

Its strength lies in its combination of comedy, action, and fantasy setting, along with eccentric character design.

The protagonist, Lina Inverse, is a young sorceress who is greedy for treasure and has a hot temper, which after her latest heist goes wrong, she’s attacked by the surviving gang members.

But just as she’s about to effortlessly defeat them with her powerful spells, a skilled swordsman appears and routs the rogues in an instant.

To impress him, Lina pretends to be a helpless maiden, but she soon realizes that the swordsman is a handsome fellow who is just as skilled with a sword as he is clueless.

10. Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso is a 1992 Ghibli masterpiece and, without exaggeration, one of the best historical anime movies ever created.

It tells a story of war, plot twists, and an adventure that you don’t want to miss, all accompanied by the classic Ghibli animations and designs that have made history.

The story is set in Italy during the 1920s, and the protagonist is Marco, a former pilot who, after surviving WWI, mysteriously finds himself with the appearance of a pig.

Now he earns a living hunting pirates and has become famous under the alias Porco Rosso.

But this will attract unwanted attention to him…

9. Magic Knight Rayearth

Magic Knight Rayearth

Magic Knight Rayearth, released in 1994, follows the journey of three girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fu, who are transported to the fantasy world of Cefiro during a school trip to Tokyo Tower.

The world is in peril and they are tasked with saving it as Magic Knights, using their newfound magical powers.

The girls form a magical guild and fight against the evil High Priest Zagato to rescue Princess Emeraude, the key to victory.

Magic Knight Rayearth remains an incredibly different and captivating series to this day, thanks to its blend of mecha, fantasy, and majokko elements.

A bit off-topic but it’s also worth mentioning that it stands out as one of the few mecha anime with a strong focus on female protagonists.

This unique aspect adds an extra layer of distinctiveness, and it has also influenced many future works, such as Symphogear.

The transformation and action sequences of the protagonist trio are simply amazing and this alone is more than a valid reason to watch it.

8. Berserk 1997


We all know Berserk, right? Kentaro Miura’s prime creation is now widely recognized as one of the most magnificent masterpieces in the history of this medium, and that says a lot.

And for obvious reasons, we’ll talk about the 1997 vintage series, which is widely considered as the best among the available versions.

As many already know, Berserk follows the story of Guts, the black warrior, as he struggles with his relentless quest for revenge against Griffith, his former best friend turned nemesis.

Berserk unfolds as a remarkable tale of betrayal, vengeance, growth, and particularly stands out as one of the most mature and intense series you can come across.

This also extends to its horror themes and scenes, featuring a lot of gore sequences and an array of terrifying creatures that contribute to the incredible dark fantasy world-building of this series.

So don’t waste more time and go watch this series and then continue with the manga, because an adventure awaits you.

7. Yu Yu Hakusho

Yu Yu Hakusho

Yu Yu Hakusho is a fighting anime released in the 1990s in 112 episodes adapted from a manga by Togashi, the same author of Hunter x Hunter.

The story centers around Yusuke Urameshi, a young delinquent with a compassionate heart, who sacrifices himself to save a child during an accident.

Impressed by his selfless act, the Spirit King offers him a chance to return to life as the detective of the spiritual world.

Yu Yu Hakusho is undeniably one of the most iconic vintage fighting anime ever made, and it’s not even a debate.

This anime has undoubtedly made history in this subgenre, and credit also goes to Pierrot for creating an excellent series with outstanding animations for the time it was released.

6. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is a Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece released in the summer of 1997.

In a remote land in the eastern part of Japan, the remnants of the once glorious Emishi people reside.

Here, Prince Ashitaka is compelled to confront the boar god Nago, who has transformed into a demon, in order to protect his village. Unfortunately, this act results in a terrible curse being placed upon Ashitaka.

As the curse spreads and threatens his life and the lives of his people, Ashitaka embarks on a journey to find a cure for this affliction.

Princess Mononoke is an excellent blend of supernatural elements, a traditional Japanese setting, thrilling adventure, and even philosophical themes.

All of these elements are intertwined with a rich lore and many details that require multiple runs.

5. Rurouni Kenshin

Rurouni Kenshin

Rurouni Kenshin is one of the milestones of samurai-themed anime and consists of a 95-episode anime adaptation by Studio Deen based on the manga of the same name by Nobuhiro Watsuki.

Follow the journey of legendary warrior Kenshin Himura as he seeks to protect people from injustice and atone for his violent past actions.

Along the way, he meets his one true love interest, Kaoru Kamiya, and together they embark on thrilling adventures filled with love and conflict.

Rurouni Kenshin is one of the best ’90s anime you can come across under multiple aspects.

It presents a tale full of honor, action, and life-or-death battles, all within the captivating backdrop of feudal Japan and with the inclusion of a fantastic love story that complements the story perfectly in its interludes.

4. Trigun


Trigun is an iconic action anime set in a post-apocalyptic world that has inspired other series in this subgenre for years. It was released in 1998 and consists of 26 episodes.

Still today, this anime remains one of the best choices you can make if you’re looking for action, plot twists, Sci-Fi and characters written to the limits of perfection.

Another remarkable aspect is its pacing, initially composed of self-contained episodes that gradually coalesce to construct a progressively intricate narrative.

The story revolves around Vash the Stampede, an infamous outlaw who leaves a trail of destruction in every town and village he visits.

To put an end to the chaos and save their failing insurance companies, two agents are sent to apprehend him. But upon encountering Vash, they discover that he is a kind and generous individual.

3. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most important and well-known anime ever and a milestone that set a new standard for the next years.

Even today, after decades of its release, it continues to generate new theories and interpretations about its story, even after the end of the Rebuild movies.

This can be attributed to its story written to the limits of perfection and rich psychological layers, with deep characters who all have something to tell and to identify with.

We’re indeed talking about one of the most influential anime ever made, and there’s slight room for debate.

Created by Hideaki Anno and the Gainax studio in 1995, the anime portrays a world under attack by mysterious cybernetic entities known as Angels that threaten the peace of humanity.

To fight them, the Special Agency Nerv uses special mechas called EVAs. The protagonist, Shinji Ikari, is hired by this group to pilot one of the robots, EVA 01, and attempt to end these attacks.

2. Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a Sci-Fi masterpiece that originated with an animated movie released in 1995, adapted from the manga of the same name. Over time, it has been transposed into numerous adaptations.

Often regarded as one of the pioneers of modern cyberpunk, it has left an indelible mark on the genre, significantly influencing modern series like Ergo Proxy, Psycho-Pass, and many others.

If you are a fan of cyberpunk and its futuristic settings that hide a lot of crime and corruption merged with action and psychological plot, there is simply no way you can miss it.

This movie follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of Public Security Section 9, in the year 2029, and an incredibly skilled agent and fighter.

She is tasked with investigating a case involving a powerful hacker, the Puppet Master, who leaves victims without memories. But as she delves deeper into the case, things get more complicated with other factions getting involved.

Along the way, Motoko is forced to confront some deep philosophical questions about her existence. As she learns more about the Puppet Master, she realizes that they hold the answers she’s been searching for.

1. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is regarded as one of the best anime series of all time, and it’s unlikely to lose this title anytime soon. It’s a timless masterpiece released in 1998 that every anime fan should at least know.

Set in a not-too-distant future where inter-spatial travel is the norm and Mars is a vital part of human life, the show follows a group of bounty hunters, or cowboys, as they chase down intergalactic outlaws.

Meet Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter, in the year 2071, and witness Spike’s many talents and abilities in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, garnering a reputation as one of the strongest fighters in the universe.

He chases criminals with his partner, Jet Black, and together they team up with a con artist, a child hacker, and a Welsh Corgi to form a bizarre family.

But when an old enemy comes back into Spike’s life, he must now choose between his past and his newfound family.

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Passionate about Japanese culture for years, serial devourer of manga, anime, and videogames that have now become part of my routine. My favorite series? Goodnight Punpun and One Piece.

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