The 1990s was a golden era for anime based on shojo manga, with some series changing the history of the medium forever.
Just look at such incredible series as Cardcaptor Sakura, the Ghibli masterpiece Whisper of the Heart, and none other than Sailor Moon itself, which is arguably one of the best shojo.
That is precisely why we could not refrain from creating what we think is the list of the best ’90s shojo anime that can’t be missed from your watchlist.
P.S. We remind you that shojo anime per se don’t exist, they are adapted from shojo manga! While they are addressed to girls, it does not mean that these productions are only for girls!
Table of Contents
15. Vampire Princess Miyu
Vampire Princess Miyu is a horror romance anime from 1997 that you might want to explore, especially if the combination of these genres intrigues you.
If you’re seeking a series that blends horror, romance, and vintage atmospheres, Vampire Princess Miyu is a strong recommendation, especially if you’re a vampire enthusiast.
Miyu appears to be an ordinary girl at first glance, but in reality, she is a guardian vampire assigned to hunt down Shinma, malevolent supernatural beings.
Larva, a benevolent Shinma and her love interest, and little Shiina, a familiar demon, are the loyal allies that will always accompany Miyu.
Nowadays Vampire Princess Miyu has gotten more recognition thanks to streaming services like Retrocrush.
14. Phantom Thief Jeanne
Phantom Thief Jeanne is a majokko anime based on a shojo manga released in 1999, consisting of 44 episodes produced by Toei Animation.
It sets itself apart from other series in its genre incorporating action/crime elements into the classic majokko themes.
Given its fresh blend, we recommend giving it a chance since it’s quite (and unjustly) niche right now.
The protagonist, Maron Kusakabe, may seem like a cheerful and sunny 16-year-old girl, but she is actually the reincarnation of Joan of Arc.
By night, she transforms into the phantom thief Kaito Jeanne, aided by the half-angel Fin Fish. Together, they work to steal paintings containing dangerous demons and seal them away for good.
13. Chibi Maruko-chan
Chibi Maruko-chan is a highly popular and charming series in Japan. It originated as a manga written by Momoko Sakura in 1986 and was then adapted into an anime in 1990.
Maruko is a little girl residing in the agricultural province of Shizuoka with an ordinary family in 1970s Japan.
Join her on her adventures, accompanied by her friends and family.
What adds a fascinating layer to this series is that the manga author, Momoko Sakura, drew inspiration from her own life to narrate Maruko’s story.
Numerous events depicted in the episodes are real-life events that the author experienced and impacted her life.
Many characters are also inspired by people from Sakura’s real family and social circle.
This delightful detail transforms the series into a sort of animated, lighthearted, and cute autobiography of its author, something that you don’t witness every day.
12. Hime-chan’s Ribbon
Hime-chan’s Ribbon had its origins as a shojo manga in 1990 that then became a 61-episode anime in 1992.
What makes this series captivating is its combination of romance and slice-of-life elements with majokko and fantasy themes.
The harmonious intersection of these themes creates a well-balanced mix that we’re sure you’ll love.
Himeko is a 13-year-old girl who receives a ribbon from the princess of the Magic Kingdom, with the power to transform her into anyone she desires for a short period.
Assisted by the stuffed lion Pokota, Himeko must ensure that no one discovers her powers. But when her classmate Daichi Kobayashi learns about the magic, things take an unexpected turn…
Hime-Chan’s Ribbon is an underrated romance anime that sits between the magical girls genre and more mature romance shows.
If you are interested in the personal development of the female lead, this is a great pick.
11. Boys Over Flowers
Based on a manga by Yoko Kamio, Boys Over Flowers is a popular ’90s romance anime produced by Toei Animation in 51 episodes.
It’s noteworthy that this series has not only been a massive success in Japan but has also gained popularity in the East beyond its home country.
In the years following its release, the series has indeed inspired live-action dramas in South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Thailand.
We highly recommend it to lovers of good old-fashioned love triangles.
Set in the prestigious Eitoku Academy, Makino Tsukushi stands up to the school’s notorious group of spoiled rich kids, the F4, and catches the attention of Tsukasa with her fierce determination.
But with his bullying tendencies, she finds herself drawn instead to the sensitive and thoughtful Rui Hanazawa.
This love triangle sets the stage for the entire series and has become a classic example of reverse harem anime.
10. Neighborhood Stories
Neighborhood Stories is a manga by Ai Yazawa, the same acclaimed author known for Nana, one of the most significant shojo works ever made.
And indeed, perfectly in line with the author’s style, Neighborhood Stories offers a well-crafted narrative, blending excellent romantic moments with psychological depth.
If you find yourself enchanted by this series, it’s worth noting that there’s also a movie and a spin-off series called Paradise Kiss, both serving as sequels to the story and excellent products.
The anime revolves around Mikako Kouda, a 16-year-old girl with a passion for fashion design who attends the Yazawa Art School with her best friend Tsutomu Yamaguchi.
The 2 are often seen bickering, which their friends interpret as signs of a budding romance, but Mikako and Tsutomu insist that they are just friends.
But everything changes when Tsutomu becomes popular among girls for resembling a famous singer.
The once-platonic relationship between Mikako and Tsutomu is now called into question, leaving them both wondering about the true nature of their feelings.
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.
This series is based on a manga by Riyoko Ikeda, who is also known as the author of The Rose of Versailles, another iconic shojo manga.
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. His and Her Circumstances
His and Her Circumstances (Kare Kano) is a landmark in the trope where enemies become lovers, released in 1998 in 26 episodes made by Studio Gainax.
We consider this series to be one of the most solid and well-executed vintage romance anime available, featuring excellent romantic moments and numerous psychological insights into its characters.
Yukino Miyazawa, the protagonist, is a model student who excels in all aspects of her life. She is highly popular and a talented athlete.
But her dominance is challenged when Souichiro Arima, who possesses equal skill and ability, enrolls in their high school.
This sets off a fierce rivalry between the 2 characters, which gradually evolves into something more profound.
7. 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.
If you like isekai series, traditional settings, and 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.
6. Marmalade Boy
Marmalade Boy is a classic romance anime that we easily consider one of this list’s best picks.
If you enjoy vintage anime and are looking for an engaging romance anime with a lot of plot twists, this is a fantastic choice for you.
The story revolves around Miki, a normal high school girl who loves spending time with her friends and playing tennis.
One day, her parents shock her by announcing that they want to divorce because they fell in love with a couple they met on vacation in Hawaii.
And to make matters worse, the couple has a son named Yuu, who Miki can’t get along with. This leads the girl to give him the nickname Marmalade Boy: sweet on the outside but bitter on the inside.
As time passes, Miki and Yuu develop a closer relationship, but when the boy Miki was in love with in the past appears, it throws a wrench into their developing romance.
5. 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 romance anime, with its action moments, vintage elegance and rich symbolism that explore themes of choice and self-discovery.
It’s a shojo gem that every fan of this target should watch at least once.
4. 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 alone is more than a valid reason to watch it.
3. Cardcaptor Sakura
Cardcaptor Sakura is a well-known majokko anime adapted from an equally renowned shojo manga created by the iconic CLAMP.
If you’re a fan of magical girl stories, filled with enchantment, fantasy realms, captivating plot developments and even romance subplots, Cardcaptor Sakura is undeniably a timeless essential.
The story follows Sakura, a young girl who accidentally releases a book of magical cards, which grants her magical powers.
As she sets out to retrieve the lost cards, she discovers new magical abilities and forms close bonds with those around her.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a defining anime that adapted an already great shojo manga. Compared to other series like Sailor Moon, there is much less recycling of sequence animations and outfits.
What to say about the relationships then? This anime has among the best OTPs ever and one of the most interesting female leads ever, even in terms of powers.
2. Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is one of the most iconic Studio Ghibli movies, released in 1995, and easily one of the best romance movies ever made.
The story follows Shizuku, a 14-year-old girl with a deep passion for reading and aspirations of becoming a writer.
During a summer visit to the library, Shizuku discovers that the books she borrows were previously checked out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa.
Intrigued by this connection, she embarks on a quest to find Seiji, often getting lost in her daydreams about him.
Whisper of the Heart set in the suburban town of Tama, near Tokyo, beautifully captures the essence of Japan at its time.
It’s a heartwarming tale filled with anticipation, and you’ll be hoping for the best outcome until the end.
1. Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon is one of the most iconic anime series ever, based on Naoko Takeuchi‘s legendary shojo manga, which has been adapted into multiple series, remakes, and spin-offs.
Usagi Tsukino is an ordinary eighth-grade student who encounters a talking cat named Luna during her daily routine.
To her surprise, Luna reveals that Usagi is a Sailor warrior, who must team up with other allies like her to protect the earth from the imminent arrival of evil.
Sailor Moon is the quintessential majokko anime, with vibrant and colorful transformations taking center stage in a lighthearted, engaging story with an iconic lo-fi vibe.
The romantic aspect is also a significant part of the series, with the iconic love story between Usagi and Tuxedo Mask, a vigilante who will join the Sailor Warriors’ cause.
Sailor Moon doesn’t feature a mature ’90s style compared to other anime but it’s still today one of the most influential anime in terms of fashion and design.
We recommend you watch the anime because of its iconic style and vibrant colors. The manga doesn’t feature the same avalanche of filler episodes but we still vote in favor of the adaptation.