What Counts As Older Anime?

This post is partially inspired from Aria’s post from forever ago and general life experiences. Since my 30th birthday is on the horizon (shocker, I’m old) and hits on Saturday, I am in that thinking about my own mortality and how old I am mode again. It always happens around this time of year for a wide variety of reasons, my existence only being one of them. This human experience thing really sucks, doesn’t it? It feels like an endless chain of achievements and disappointments with the achievements coming out on top sometimes. But that’s far from the point of this post, isn’t it? Maybe I should talk about something anime related here and get back on topic about what makes an anime old. Yeah, that’s a better idea.


If there is something that is always a little a nerving, it’s newer anime fans calling anime from maybe five years ago or so old. I get why. Believe me, I do. Every person has their own eternal reference frame and the landscape of anime has become more seasonal based. Before 2012 and 2013 when Sword Art Online and/or Attack on Titan made seasonal anime more popular, the pace of anime watching was so much slower. You didn’t watch this one anime, you say? You could easily catch up to other people and watch whatever you wanted at your own pace because the community itself knew about a smaller amount of anime then it does now. Now days, there is almost no chance to ever catch up and get involved in the discourse on some anime if you didn’t start it when everyone else did. I guess that’s just a nice way to say that anime ages as fast as memes do on the internet. A person just watches anime weekly then just watches different anime weekly immediately afterward. It’s like there isn’t as much impact as there was back then unless the anime series stands out for some reason. Either quality, controversy, or both. The seasonal anime cycle is mean to everyone.

Reference frames are the key to think about when it comes to whether or not an anime is older or not. Why? Because it makes you consider a series of questions. What age where you when you started watching anime, what anime have stuck with you since that age, what anime have you watched recently, and how has this recent anime’s look changed since you first start watching it? We can also add in some other equations centered on trends. Like everything else, anime has it’s number of up and down trends too. For example, cyberpunk anime was everywhere in the late 90’s, but is put on life support these days because it’s fallen out of favor. Combined those mental equations together and you can get your own feeling for things and your own answers for this issue. And that’s cool. The problem is that it automatically contradicts with the reference frames of a lot of other people causing friction. There is no singular answer.

(Maybe this is a little too mathematical of a thinking process? I’m sorry for that.)

I’ve been watching anime for a long time and that does play a part of what I think are older anime compared to other people. If you are looking for my answer, I am kind of in between two schools of thought for what that is at the moment. Here they are in general form:

Anime before Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Asuka

The reason I have for this one is this is where I feel modern anime fandom started. Neon Genesis recontextualized a lot of concepts and ideas from a lot of anime before it, mostly Tomino and other mecha anime with some ultramen there too, and put it into a single twenty six episode in length package. Besides all that dark and mysterious stuff near the ending, it’s easily digestible for fans to watch (if you can survive the content) and it set the tone for a lot of anime following it. A lot of modern anime wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this anime series, sad to say. Waifu wars existed for a long time because I still think there is a fire under the Lynn Minmei vs Misa Hayase (Misa all the way) waifu war from the original Macross, but it’s nowhere near as insane as what came from Evangelion. Studio Gainax wouldn’t even be the same without it. Maybe somethings would come out because the 95 Ghost in the Shell movie by Mamoru Ooshi and was just as motivational, but I doubt it.

Before The Switch to Digital/Cell Animation (Early 2000’s)

Approaching anime from a visual perspective, modern animation is digitalized these days. The anime looks much cleaner and the amount of colors that can be used in anime are almost infinite. There are a lot of special effects that could be more easily applied to anime now as well. I mean, the mess that is Hand Shakers couldn’t easily be down in cell animation. Same for everything with Mob Psycho 100 with all it’s experimental animation and such. The digitalization of anime has hurt anime a little bit for me, because I miss imperfections on cells that remind you everything was made by human hands, but there are some added advantages that I really like as well. Especially with colors. I love how modern anime can play with colors instead of relying on different sets of paints. I keep thinking about new paints needed to be invented for Akira, the most expensive anime film in history, and that’s mind blowing to me. Nowadays we don’t have to do that.


So yes, now you know how I feel about what I consider older anime. I honestly can’t choose between these two concepts, because each have their strengths and weaknesses of argument. So how do you feel about this situation? What counts as old anime to you? I’m interested to hear your opinions and possibly feel even older then I do now.

Logo with Akame

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53 thoughts on “What Counts As Older Anime?

  1. Personally, I use the Cel / Digital distinction. Although I feel like the concept of “new” and “old” in regards to categorizing art is kind of meaningless, so I tend to just say “Cel” and “Digital” when describing things based on their era of production.

    Of course, I use the other some times as well, that is, using a specific series as a split but only when I need to get a very specific concept across. As such I tend to get a lot more nuanced with the splits, normally it’s something like
    ~ Pre Astro Boy
    ~ Post Astro Boy
    ~ Post Lupin III
    ~ Post Galaxy Express 999
    ~ Post Gundam (Film trilogy, no one cared about the original series upon release)
    ~ Post Akira
    ~ Post Evangelion
    ~ Post Haruhi
    We’re still kind of in the Post Haruhi era, but it’s hard to judge since we’re so close to it. If you’re going to split it by influential show, I feel like it’s more helpful to do something like this, because there are a lot more nuances than simply two massive eras, even this I think is too little. But it’s a lot more work to explain than simply Pre or Post x-show so it makes sense why that’s used.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. It always confuses me about the term older anime. The definitions are very inconsistent and there’s an age bias depending on who calls what an older series. I’m sure we can agree that Osamu Tezuka or Shotaro Ishinomori’s Original works would be considered older, but where’s the cutoff date? 80s? 90s? Early 00s? I never got it.

    Also, happy early birthday!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, the disparity is why I wrote this post. I don’t think it’s ever going to be possible to find a single definitive agreement of going “this is old and this isn’t” except for anime has been around for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure thing. There are so many factors like trends and generational biases going on unless you’re talking about the 60s or 70s for example. This will only get worse in time. Imagine what anime fans would be like in 20-30 years.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Way back in 2018 I visited animecon in my country (sadly I missed it this year because of my health), but there was a showing of Bubblegum Crisis there. I was shocked I and maybe three people were in the theatre where it was shown. As you know I love old and classic anime, but it’s hardly appreciated by modern day anime fans (not everyone of course mind you). It’s a bit of a shame, as there are so many good older anime series, that may have a bit of a retro style animation wise, but are still totally cool. In other words, I don’t think I ever really classify something if it’s old. I just have one standard: as long as it’s good, I don’t mind how old it is!
    Oh…and just so you know, 30 is not old. I’m 43 now and I still feel like a child every day lol😂 Happy Birthday!!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. At least ya had the place to yourself. I agree though, it is hard to get folks to watch cool older stuff sometimes. I’m also right there with you when it comes to age, doesn’t really matter much if it is good.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I feel the same way as you do toward anime. I love watching it no matter how old it is. Maybe there is a tendency to talk about older anime on this blog (whatever that means), but I love watching shows as the seasons move on.

      I keep hearing that 30 isn’t old, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. (And thank you even if it doesn’t appear until Saturday.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Haha…well, I always say: you are as old as you feel, but I guess that isn’t a good thing to say right now. But eh….as I said, I’m 43, and I don’t feel old (and people keep telling me THAT is pretty old 😂😂).
        I think there are so many terrific older shows, with such terrific storylines, that are highly underrated. Which is a real shame, as sometimes people should just look past the maybe dated animation style (for the record I love the old animation style) and see the bigger picture if that makes sense 😊

        Liked by 2 people

  4. As someone who’s been watching anime for over 20 years (more if you count watching Robotech in syndication back in the 80s), the dividing lines for me tend to be more experiential than technical or genre-based. I’ve gone through the tape-trading era when my college roommate was borrowing 3rd and 4th generation VHS recordings from his anime club, the DVD boom era, the crash era, and now the streaming era. Along the way I’ve also run two different anime clubs (one from 2006-2009 during the boom era and my current one since 2012 during the streaming era), with the second one actually being much easier to manage than the first. It’s really hard for me to think of anything as “old” though (other than maybe something like Speed Racer), because I’ve been around it for so long that almost any show you could mention I go far enough back that I probably remember when it was new. And yet I have teenagers in my current anime club who weren’t even born yet when the teens in my first anime club were obsessing over stuff like Negima and Hetalia back in ’07. And even funnier is when I was at a used bookstore a couple months ago looking at old DVDs they had for sale of early 00’s stuff like Sakura Wars and Vandread and My-Hime, shows most of my teens would probably never even know existed if I didn’t occasionally talk about them, and I was suddenly struck by the thought that One Piece was technically older than every single one of those!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. 20 years sound about how low I’ve been watching it too. If anything, I’ve been watching it for most of my life now and that fire hasn’t seem to gone out yet. Old is hard for me to figure out too.

      And yeah, it’s insane how long One Piece has been going. Who knows when it’ll stop?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. First up, happy (almost) birthday man! 🙂

    I already answered your question on Twitter but for the benefit of your comments here, my personal distinction and general distinction in review/discussion is different. I see 90’s and older anime, as older shows, the cell/digital switch is an obvious cut-off point that makes sense and that’s why I would draw the line there.

    However, the shelf life of any given show now a days is very small. That doesn’t mean some don’t break out and last longer, but in general discussion anything older than ~5 years is “older”. It can be a struggle to get folks to watch a lot of great stuff just because it didn’t come out super recently, which is a real shame.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, thank you.

      I saw it, just been having a somewhat busy day with volunteering and going shopping and such to tweet and answer things until now. That point just seems like a good cut off date.

      I guess a distinction of “older” and “old” would be good to think about for the future then.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Just so you know, 30 is not old. As someone turning 35 later this year I refuse to think of the 30’s as old.
    As to older anime, as you said, everyone has their own reference for it. For me it is anything pre-Sailor Moon. But even then, I tend to think of anime that is over a decade old as older. And then, it honestly doesn’t matter. A more important consideration is whether it is available or accessible to a modern audience as a lot of ‘older’ anime really isn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Completely valid on the 30’s thing then. 🙂

      I guess a distinction between and older and old needs to be made then. And yeah, it is so true that older anime isn’t available. I know that some companies are working on making discs and streaming older series, but it’s hard to get to all of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. For me, it’s the 90s series that are hardest to describe. 80s and beforehand is what I’d classify as old anime, but I’d maybe describe 90s to 00s as vintage or the boom period anime, where it really started branching out internationally.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I got into anime when Sword Art Online aired, so for me any anime pre Sword Art is an “old anime” but that answer implies that what is an “old show” is based on the viewer. To give a more objective answer I think any show that was made 10 years before the current season is “old” because it usually takes 10 years for the style of animation to change.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Happy Birthday ya young pup! (You are not old. Not even close.)

    I didn’t get into anime until the streaming era… so ‘old’ to me is pretty recent by most standards. Not that I make a fuss about old in the first place.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. For me, serials that are about ten to fifteen (closer to fifteen) is when I start to consider them “older.” I definitely don’t see stuff from five years ago as old at all. One thing I’ve noticed with anime is that even with evolution in animation styles and technology, seriously noticeable differences don’t really begin to show themselves more blatantly until the decade mark (not true for all stuff of course), and when those shifts happen, is when things start to leave the contemporary era into the older ones. At least that’s my personal take on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oh, that post? I scheduled it because I needed something decent to put up in my absence (the post you’re talking about was scheduled for going up during my Japan trip, so it’s from the end of April 2019) and in retrospect, I regret putting it out, because the delineation I made in that post doesn’t really fit everyone’s ideas of “retro anime” – only my own. Everyone should figure out their own position on how “old” an anime should be before they call it “retro”, to be honest.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I guess I’d go with the animation style as my distinction. Honestly I consider “old” anime to be something that’s around 8-10 years old. It’s not that something from 2009 is automatically ancient now that a year has passed from 2018, but it’s hard for me to call it new anymore so it just sort of drops into the other slot. I mainly watch a lot of “old” anime like that though so I definitely like it either way.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I would consider stuff from the eighties to be old. Nineties of later still feels like only yesterday for an old fogey like me haha. I think similar arguments are made in the video game community as to what console generation is considered retro.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Both anime’s popularity boom in the west, and internet fandom in general, started in the 90s, and combined with the number of influential anime from that decade, I’d say that’s when the modern era started. I’d call the good 90s shows and movies “classics”, but “old” means older than them.

    When someone says “old anime”, I mostly think of shows from the 70s and 80s.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I usually only say an anime is “old” if it’s 90s or before (or a very few early 2000s ones, like 2002-2003 range.) Anything from ~2006 to ~2010 is “older anime” but not “old anime.” I also think ~2012 to around 2015 is “modern anime.” And a subcategory of that is 2017-current, which is “new anime” or “recent anime.” And stuff before the 90s I’ve seen very little of, and I call it ancient, lol. xD

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “Lynn Minmei vs Misa Hayase” I have never heard someone take Minmay’s side in this love triangle. Maybe that’s cause I am new to Macross.

    Personally I see The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the moe overload that would follow as also an important change. Not to mention that it was one of the big hits in the wave of light novel adaptations – one of which would be SAO which would kick start the current isekai trend.

    The anime series Genshiken which is a about a university anime club starts out at that time in the early 00s when mecha was still popular in anime but there were also some moe shows. As such an episode is dedicated to the club assembling gundam plastic models. In the later seasons there is no longer any mecha but only moe and modern anime culture.

    I also think that anime has drifted away from the science fiction genre, in particular stuff that happens in space.

    Like

  17. I agree, anime from 5 years ago is definitely not old, Angel Beats came out 9 years ago and I wouldn’t call it old, fact I only watched Angel Beats last week (new Otaku for you). Also Naruto started airing over 10 years ago, but I still wouldn’t call it old (even though you can see the graphics difference between it and Boruto), new to the anime world I thought old anime counted as anime from before the 21st century, didn’t realise people thought 5 years ago was a long time ago, this is coming from a 15 year old.

    Liked by 1 person

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