June 10, 2022
Seven 80s Anime Movies You’ll Adore
Rev up those space rockets — we're going way beyond Akira or Ghibli
By Chris Cimi
32 years and three months since the 80s formally ended, and pop culture still craves the bright neon lights, futuristic synths and cyberpunk flirtations of what that decade brought to the table. Anime, too, wasn’t exempt from the post Star Wars and Blade Runner world, amongst new popular pulp manifestations in horror and action film, and with that meteor impact of influence, it gave us more than just Akira, Nausicaa and Totoro to chew on. Here are seven other 80s anime films we assure you you’ll still have a good time with, even if you’re not obsessed with the stuff.
Imagine your local all-you-can-eat yakiniku spot, wonderful and salivating already, serving the same perfectly marbleized slices of wagyu beef as Michelin Star wearing variants? That’s 1987’s future-gazing Robot Carnival in a nutshell; Not only a lot of everything you’d ever want in an anthology film but a lot of the best of everything. Akira’s own Katsuhiro Otomo opening and closing the work, Ghibli musical maestro Joe Hisaishi doing something quite different on these cuts, cult animations legends Yasuomi Umetsu and Koji Morimoto coming into their own, the artistic curiosities of 80s anime culminate in this tender 91 minutes offering nine different visions of robots.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise
With a vision as daring as Akira and an inherent magic comparable to the Ghibli greats, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise should be held with the same regard, and those who’ve partaken often do. The first fully-realized effort from the once highly influential Studio Gainax effortlessly blends lines between science fiction and the fantastical by centering around mankind’s first-ever astronauts, but a ‘mankind’ of some other world with slightly more rustic cultures still ever-present. Made by a whole of the people who would go on to make “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” with a budget not often dolled out to amateurs, “Honneamise” remains a lavish and indulgent, but thoughtful, space film.
Vampire Hunter D
The 80s saw tons of genre-blurring, with the original Vampire Hunter D being a prime example. Horror? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Action? Romance? This excursion into cool vampire princes and freak-demon killing on a post-nuclear ravaged earth earns all those genre tags, even passing the Bechdel test along the way! Fans tend to prefer the year 2000 sequel Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and while the Yoshiaki Kawajiri animation crunches harder than the original, the thankfully excessive genre-fusion through the 80s horror prism results in delicious eerie miasma.
Project A-Ko is anime. Its domineering girls in stylish school uniforms with large, starry eyes blasting around the city. Its spunky teenagers piloting robots to stop oncoming alien invasions. It’s colorful and loud in equal parts, characters screaming at each other 1,000 miles a minute. However, Project A-Ko embodies all these tropes on purpose, emboldening them; Reminding us every time we watch it why these became the enduring tentpoles of Japanese animation that they continue to be. No better time to watch as the anime-is-cool-affirming cult classic is looking better than ever courtesy of Discotek Media’s gorgeous new film remaster!
Many have cheaply labeled Mobile Suit Gundam ‘The Japanese Star Wars’ simply due to both being long-running sci-fi franchises that jaunt into outer space. We understand the general comparison but watch a little of either beloved title and you’ll see the swashbuckling adventures of Star Wars and war-torn Mobile Suit Gundam have little to do with each other in practice. If you do want to see a bunch of space cowboys wrangling about the galaxies and their retro-futuristic cities alike but in anime form, Crusher Joe approximates Star Wars” playful qualities more than most of its children.
Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer
Be not perturbed by either the ‘Urusei Yatsura’ or the ‘2’ in the title of this film, familiarity with the venerated Rumiko Takahashi classic that introduced Lum-Chan to the world may curry extra endearment to Beautiful Dreamer, no prior knowledge with the series is needed to have the most dreamy of times. The second feature film by future Ghost In The Shell helmer Mamoru Oshii, who—unbeknown to many—made several films as good if not better, Beautiful Dreamer saw the director leaning into his signature philosophical lamentations and honey-thick atmospheres for the first time! All through the guise of this beloved 80s high school romantic comedy.
We name-dropped Yoshiaki Kawajiri when referencing his Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust film which came out at the turn of the millennium, but the man cut his teeth making film-length pulp OVA’s throughout the 80s. We’re couching the best of these here at the end because they’re as excessively violent as they are atmospherically dense; Simply put, the always kinetic and visually bold Wicked City depicts some borderline X-rated demon-killing amongst other adult circumstances. Though if you also grew up on Carpenter and Cronenberg movies, butter that popcorn!