10 Psychological Anime From The ’90s That Will Confuse You

The 1990s weren’t exactly the best time for psychological anime, as the genre took off in the 2000s.

Even so, it’s important to note that some crucial series emerged in the ’90s, providing a solid foundation for what came later.

Notable examples include Neon Genesis Evangelion, Perfect Blue, and Serial Experiments Lain, all of which are literally cult nowadays.

That’s why it’s still worth looking into the best ’90s psychological anime if you’re a fan of well-crafted stories.

10. Ad Police

AD Police serves as a spin-off of Bubblegum Crisis, initially released as a manga and later adapted into a three-episode OAV in 1990.

We recommend this series if you’re already a fan of the original work, as it provides a unique and alternative perspective on the events.

But if you’re not familiar with the original series, there may be limited reasons to watch it aside from its short number of episodes and its good psychological introspections.

Across its three episodes, AD Police shifts its focus to the AD Police force, setting the action a few years before the Knight Sabers make their debut.

The protagonist of the series is Leon McNichol, a young officer contending with progressively complex cases.

9. Dear Brother

Dear Brother is an anime adaptation of an incredibly underrated shojo manga, offering a story filled with anticipation that will keep you glued to the screen.

You’ll look forward to the moment when the two main characters finally meet, in a psychological spiral that will stick with you.

This series is based on a manga by Riyoko Ikeda, also known as the author of The Rose of Versailles, another iconic series.

Misono Nanako is a girl about to embark on her first day at the prestigious Seiran Academy. Unfortunately, her high hopes are quickly dashed as she discovers that the atmosphere at the academy is not only challenging but also hostile.

In an attempt to cope with her feelings and concerns, she begins to express herself through letters addressed to an anonymous boy, referring to him as Dear Brother.

8. Key the Metal Idol

Key the Metal Idol is a peculiar series that diverges from the typical narrative by combining a psychological storyline with mecha and Sci-Fi, comprising 15 episodes released in 1994.

As you delve into the storyline, you’ll notice strong influences from the Pinocchio fairy tale, while the series maintains its distinctive identity. If you’re intrigued by something out of the ordinary, this series is worth exploring.

Key, a robot crafted in the likeness of a young girl, is the creation of Dr. Murao Mima.

Despite always coexisting with humans, her life takes a dramatic turn when her creator passes away, leaving behind a message: if Key can befriend 30,000 people, she can become a real person.

But an unexpected conspiracy soon emerges, complicating Key’s journey…

7. 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, romance and psychological moments all in one series, right? Not to mention its fantastic setting that blends fantasy and Sci-Fi.

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.

6. Memories

Memories is an experimental anime movie released in 1995, and it’s safe to say it’s one of the most intriguing and distinctive works you can find.

It incorporates dreamlike, dark, and even macabre and psychological themes, with some scenes that will blow your mind.

Trust us when we say that we aim to reveal as little as possible to preserve the full experience. All we can do is encourage you to explore it if you’re looking for something outside the ordinary and not for everyone.

The film is divided into 3 distinct stories, each with its plot:

The 1st episode recounts the adventure of four astronauts who respond to an SOS and become trapped in a dream-like journey.

In the 2nd episode, an employee of a pharmaceutical industry accidentally ingests an untested product, leading to strange consequences.

And last, the 3rd episode offers a glimpse of a fictional world perpetually at war, set in a creepy dystopian landscape.

5. Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary girl Utena

This iconic ’90s romance anime tells the story of Utena Tenjou, a 15-year-old girl who refuses to be confined by society’s expectations of femininity.

But when Utena discovers that her Rose Ring, given to her by a prince who saved her as a child, holds great power, her life takes a fantastical turn.

She enters a world of magic and duels, fighting to save Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride, from a group of Duelists battling for her ownership.

As Utena’s determination to prove herself as a prince leads her to take on the Duelists, she and Anthy’s relationship evolves from close friends to chosen family and eventually to a romance that will tug at your heartstrings.

Revolutionary Girl Utena is not your average ’90s shojo anime, with its action moments, vintage elegance and psychological layers that explore themes of choice and self-discovery.

This is an underrated gem that you should watch at least once.

4. Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk 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 a crime 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.

3. Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain is an avant-garde animation masterpiece that graced audiences with its release in 1998, spanning 13 episodes.

The series explores visionary and ahead-of-its-time themes, almost creating an eerie sense of foresight considering the time of its release. It’s almost as if its creators had glimpsed into the future before going back to craft its story.

So you will understand that it is a must-watch gem and an anime that you don’t get to witness every day, with one of the best psychological aspects ever created.

The story starts with the tragic suicide of Chisa Yomoda, a high school girl.

This event seems to elicit a little reaction from those around her until some of her classmates start receiving messages claiming that Chisa is still alive and has found freedom in the Wired, a virtual world.

One of the recipients of these messages is Lain Iwakura, a quiet and introverted 14-year-old girl who embarks on an investigation into this event.

2. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most important and well-known anime ever and the milestone that set the stage for the second half of the ’90s.

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.

1. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a cinematic masterpiece in the anime realm, released in 1997 and originating from the brilliant mind of Satoshi Kon. If you’re a fan of psychological horror and thriller, consider this movie a must, period.

Mima Kirigoe is a young girl belonging to the Chams, a trio of J-Pop idols. The group is having a fair amount of success, but Mima wants to become an actress, so she leaves the group.

Amid the discouragement of the fans, Mima will start acting in a small role in a drama and some strange events will begin to take place.

A fax will be delivered to her in which she is accused of treason, and even more disturbing is the existence of a website called Mima’s Room in which someone describes her days in great detail.

Perfect Blue is the perfect representation of how to create a drama-centered story with an ever-increasing climax.

It has perfect direction, with a plot that will make you feel constantly anxious and in danger just by watching it.

So it’s no wonder that we also have this movie in our list of the best ’90s horror anime.

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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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