Isekai is an incredibly popular genre these days, so much so that every season features a lot of them.
What if we told you that there is much more to modern isekai, and it is filled with series from the 1990s that not only shaped the genre but also laid the foundation for what it has become today?
Some of the recommendations here are absolute gems, others are disappointing but entertaining and funny.
With this in mind, we have curated a list of the best ’90s isekai anime for you to explore if you want to delve deeper into this genre.
Table of Contents
11. Legend of Himiko
Legend of Himiko is a multimedia series comprising a videogame, a one-volume manga, and an animated series, all launched simultaneously in 1999.
It’s the typical vintage isekai anime with an ancient setting but the overall execution isn’t that solid. If you can endure the first episodes, you will enjoy an “OK” plot.
The story revolves around Masahiko Kutani and Himejima Himiko, two high school students transported back in time due to a fragment of a mirror.
Their mission is to alter the course of events to rescue Earth, but as the plot unfolds, numerous backstories about the two protagonists come to light.
Legend of Himiko isn’t really recommended if you are in a hurry because you can feel it didn’t age well. Anyway, it’s a nice addition if you want to watch something genuinely bad.
10. NG Knights Ramune & 40
NG Knights Ramune & 40 is a 40-episode series that falls under the Lamune franchise.
If you find yourself enjoying this series, it’s worth exploring the others within the franchise, as they all make excellent choices for fans of comedic and lighthearted isekai that don’t take themselves too seriously.
Lamune is a regular 4th-grade boy who loves video games. One day, he buys a new game from a traveling girl, but something strange happens when he tries to play it at home.
The same girl who sold him the game appears on his TV screen, and she introduces herself as Princess Milk from the world of Hara-Hara and asks Lamune for help in saving her kingdom, as he’s the chosen hero.
This is definitely a kids show with some cool mechas and tons of action. If you are in for some good laughs and love the early ’90s style, NG Knights Ramune & 40 is a solid choice.
9. Those Who Hunt Elves
Staying perfectly in line with the theme of NG Knights Ramune & 40, Those Who Hunt Elves is another excellent isekai series to consider if you’re seeking a lighthearted approach to the genre.
This show also incorporates typical isekai elements where the protagonist employs modern knowledge, so you know what to expect from watching it.
The anime follows Airi, Ritsuko, and Junpei, who are mysteriously transported to a fantasy world.
The catch? These three characters are not your typical isekai heroes, and along with them, an actual military tank is transported in this world too.
Airi is an eccentric actress, Ritsuko is a gun enthusiast, and Junpei is a demented martial arts expert.
Together, they embark on absurd and hilarious adventures in their quest to find pieces of a magical spell that will return them to their own world.
8. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a comedy-focused isekai anime released in 2002 in 13 episodes made by Gainax.
It’s a fun isekai anime that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, perfect if you are looking for something to watch without having to follow intricate plots.
It’s packed with quirky humor and surreal situations, with a plot that follows the main characters as they navigate various realities and alternate worlds, often chaotically and unexpectedly.
But at the same time, it delves into deeper themes, like the significance of friendship, personal development, and facing reality, also adding a layer of seriousness.
The two main characters are Asahina Arumi and Imamiya Satoshi and their time travels to save their beloved neighborhood where they live.
Each episode is set in a different historical era as the two boys will have to overcome various trials.
7. Digimon Adventure
Digimon doesn’t need much of an introduction, as it’s one of the most significant franchises in the world of fandom and a direct competitor to Pokémon from the very beginning.
While it might not have aged perfectly, it’s still true that Digimon remains a timeless classic that holds up even in the present day.
The series revolves around a group of children who find themselves transported to a new realm known as the Digiworld, a world inhabited by peculiar creatures known as Digimon.
The children are faced with the task of finding a way back home, aided by their Digimon partners, with Taichi Yagami and Agumon leading the way.
What to say, Digimon was the childhood of many people and it’s still a good and underrated entry point into isekai anime.
6. Mysterious Play (Fushigi Yugi)
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.
And if you like isekai series, enjoy traditional settings, and like romantic moments, especially the reverse-harem trope, 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.
Even after all this time, Mysterious Play is a lovely gem by Pierrot and features super cool art, even though the plot isn’t that great.
5. El Hazard: The Magnificent World
El Hazard: The Magnificent World is a niche isekai anime released in 1995 with only 7 episodes that unexpectedly manages in its short length to have a complex story, with good political worldbuilding.
So if you are looking for a short but well-made anime, we recommend it big time.
The protagonist is Makoto, a model student who decides to follow his morals and reveals that the newly elected student council president rigged the election.
But while he’s trying to do so, he is transported to mysterious ruins under the school where he meets a mysterious girl who has been waiting for him for 10,000 years and takes him to the fantasy world of El Hazard.
And that’s how, together with the PE teacher, Makoto finds himself in a mysterious forest with special powers.
The good thing is that this first series is short and you can simply add it to your watchlist. Then, you can continue with all the other sequels if you have liked the first!
4. Now and Then, Here and There
Now and Then Here and There is an interesting post-apocalypse isekai anime, released in 1999 with just 13 episodes.
This series thrives on its mysteries and plot twists to keep you engaged, with a story that constantly evolves in unexpected ways.
Shu, a young boy, finds himself transported to an alternate world after trying to rescue a kidnapped girl.
In this strange world, he is recruited as a soldier by a mysterious organization and embarks on a journey to find the missing girl and uncover the secrets of this new world.
If you love strong-willed male leads and a good dose of Sci-Fi and drama, Now and Then Here and There is a nice excuse to catch up on the ’90s gems.
Inuyasha is an iconic anime based on the manga by the legendary Rumiko Takahashi, the legendary Queen of Manga, adapted in 167 episodes by Sunrise.
This is one of the best examples, if not the best, of how to masterfully combine a fantastic action, a fantasy storyline and a stunning Feudal Japan setting with a remarkably well-crafted romance subplot.
It’s a modern classic that is steadily gaining recognition as a cult favorite, much like many of Rumiko Takahashi’s other works.
If you are serious about watching ’90s anime, this must be on your watchlist just for culture.
The story follows Kagome, an ordinary eighth-grade student who unexpectedly falls down a well in her home’s garden and is transported 500 years into the past, to the Sengoku era.
In this era, Kagome discovers that she is the reincarnation of Kikyo, a powerful priestess who had the responsibility of protecting the Shikon Jewel, a dangerous object coveted by villains.
Teaming up with Inuyasha, a half-demon with canine-like traits, Kagome embarks on a journey to safeguard the sacred jewel from falling into the wrong hands.
2. 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 sequences of the protagonist trio are simply amazing and this is more than a valid reason to watch it.
1. 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.