The purpose of this page is to highlight trendsetters in Anime, anime of historical note, and series that epitomize particular genres. Specifically we are looking for the Trope Maker, Trope Codifier, and Deconstructions that affect future anime in that genre.
Entries are divided by genre and sub-genre, and presented in chronological order by date of first airing in Japan.
A final note: If you think something deserves to be added to this list, make an argument for it on the Talk page. Granted, that's a bit against the spirit of this wiki in general, but since this is supposed to be a resource for newcomers to anime, it requires more moderating than a regular entry.
For the people who make these shows and films, see Names to Know in Anime.
Shows by Genre or Other Distinguishing Feature
These aren't Ur Examples; there was animation being made in Japan before World War II. These are the examples that critics and fans point to when they talk about Anime as something distinct from Western Animation.
- Instant History. The first true anime. Originally a series of 3-minute shorts broadcast on Fuji TV in 1961, it was recycled into Otogi Manga Calendar the following year on Tokyo Broadcasting System. The show was a "This Day In History" program, incorporating photos and film footage with the animation. The actual series appears to be Lost Forever, existing only in mentions on web pages and in Wikipedia. (A search of amazon.co.jp for the hiragana/katakana title returned no entries.)
- Astro Boy (or Tetsuwan Atom in Japanese), aired from 1963 to 1966. It is considered the second "true" anime series ever produced. Although all but forgotten in the United States, it is something of a cultural institution in Japan, where the title character's early-2000s "creation date" was practically a national holiday. And a CGI feature film version reached theatres in North America in October 2009.
- Kimba the White Lion (Japanese name Jungle Taitei or Jungle Emperor). Aired in Japan from 1965 to 1966. This series from Osamu Tezuka was the first TV anime produced in colour. Its story of a lion cub becoming king of the jungle after the death of his father bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Disney film.
Shows about giant robots were extremely popular in Japan in the 1980s, and they've never really gone away.
- Trope Maker: Gigantor. Aired in Japan from 1963 to 1965, Gigantor, or Tetsujin 28, was the beginning of the Humongous Mecha genre.
- Trope Codifiers:
- Super Robot Trope Codifier: Mazinger Z. Aired in Japan from 1972 to 1974. The show that launched the Super Robot Genre. While Tetsujin 28 was the original giant robot, Mazinger is probably the most influential and biggest Trope Maker.
- Real Robot Trope Codifier: Mobile Suit Gundam: A cultural phenomenon in its own right, Mobile Suit Gundam (or Kidou Senshi Gundam) aired in Japan from 1979 to 1980. It has survived in several iterations since, most recently as the ongoing Gundam Unicorn and Gundam AGE. It is notable (at least in its earlier entries) for establishing the Real Robot Genre, grounding the robots somewhere closer to reality (both size- and technology-wise) and focusing more on the life and tribulations of their pilots. The plots of the series are pure military drama, and would work just as well were the robots to be replaced by tanks, ships or any other modern fighting vehicle, with the Gundam taking the role of game changing, cutting edge technology.
- Transforming Mecha Trope Codifier: Macross (1982). Best known as the source for the first third of Robotech (1984) in the US, it helped launch the Transforming Robot genre, along with the Transformers.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The most influential series on the Humongous Mecha genre since Mobile Suit Gundam, Evangelion aired in Japan from 1995 to 1996. In America, it was released commercially into the market prepared by such series as Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon. While many other series could be called better gateways for people starting out in anime, this is a must for anyone who wants to go further in the mecha genre, or who are interested in dark psychological drama and eschatology. It's also one of anime's most (in)famous examples of Mind Screw.
- Reconstruction: Martian Successor Nadesico: Airing in Japan from 1996 to 1997, Martian Successor Nadesico was a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-serious parody/satire of the Humongous Mecha and Space Opera genres. Although it was much more popular in Japan than the west, its deconstructions and reconstructions of the genre influenced many shows to come after.
- Genre Throwback: GaoGaiGar aired from 1997-98. Unapologetic of the original Hot-Blooded-ness and other tropes associated with mecha. When it ended and showed through DVD sales that it was a massive hit with otaku, what followed was a ton of remakes and sequels of old-school Super Robots, from Getter Robo, to Mazinger Z, to even Steel Jeeg, as well as new entries such as Gurren Lagann.
- Trope Maker: Sally the Witch. Often considered the first Magical Girl anime (based off the manga of the same name), with the original series airing between 1966 and 1967 and originally appearing in black and white for the first 17 episodes. Spawned a sequel series and had a large and lasting impact on Shojo Anime.
- General Magical Girl Trope Codifier: Himitsu no Akko-chan. Airing in Japan between 1969 and 1970. One of the first and one of the most defining examples of Magical Girl Anime. Based off a Manga of the same name and sporting two remakes, running from 1988 - 1989 and 1998 - 1999.
- Magic Idol Singer Trope Maker and Trope Codifier: Magical Angel Creamy Mami. Aired in Japan from 1983 to 1984.
Similar to Magical Girl, but she's there because she has feelings for one person. Bewitched had so much influence on early Magical Girlfriend stories that it would have been the Ur Example if it wasn't a North American live-action TV series.
- Unbuilt Trope: Urusei Yatsura, aired from 1981-1986. The first major work by Rumiko Takahashi is often considered the original Magical Girlfriend Parody, enough that the bumbling well-meaning Magical Girlfriend has become an archetype in its own right. The show's poster girl, a cutesy alien named Lum who habitually wears a tiger-striped bikini, is easily one of the most recognizable anime characters in history.
- Trope Codifier: Ah! My Goddess (OVA - 1993; TV - 2005). The standard-bearer for the Magical Girlfriend genre, Ah! My Goddess (Aa! Megami-sama) is based on a long-running manga, starting in 1988. An OVA adaptation was made in 1993. The OVA had a feature-length movie continuation in 2000, and then a full-scale retelling on television which began in 2005. The manga series finally ended in the early 2010s after running for more than 20 years.
- Trope Maker: Cutey Honey. Airing in Japan in 1973 to 1974. What began as the first Shounen program with a female protagonist became the Trope Maker of Magical Girl Warrior via the Periphery Demographic the TV series garnered (partly due to the toned-down Ecchi elements). It set many of the standards for the genre.
- Trope Codifier: Sailor Moon. The first series most anyone thinks of when the words "Magical Girl show" are mentioned, although it is equally a sentai series. The original series aired in Japan from 1992 to 1993, and was kept alive in direct sequels until early 1997; it was still popular enough over a decade after its premiere that it was given a Live Action Adaptation in 2003, and an animated reboot in 2014. Its production company has periodically suspended licensing outside of Japan over the years, but as of this writing both the original and the reboot can be seen on Hulu and are dubbed and distributed by Viz.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena. Compared stylistically to Rose Of Versailles, Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) aired in Japan in 1997. It couples a shojo dueling story with elements of chivalric romance, Jungian psychology, and a surreal thriller. Its post-modern narrative and feminist themes distinguish it from any other anime ever made.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Magical Girl Warriors as seen through the lens of H.P. Lovecraft, with Mind Screws and Mood Whiplash galore.
- (Subdivision of this genre was proposed before the TVT wiki fork. If you have any suggestions, please discuss on the Talk page)
- Trope Maker: Uchuu Senkan Yamato (aka Star Blazers). 1974 to 1980. It was the first popular English-translated anime that had an over-arching plot and storyline that required the episodes to be shown in order. Even while being toned down a bit by editing, it also dealt with much more mature themes than any other productions being aimed at the same target audience at the time. As a result, it paved the way for the introduction and popularity of future arc-based, plot-driven anime translations. It also heavily addressed Japanese thoughts about WWII, the nuclear bomb, and so forth.
- Trope Codifier: Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Character created in 1953, first animated in 1978. The series that launched the Leijiverse proper, and one of the archetypal examples of the Space Opera genre.
- Deconstruction: Martian Successor Nadesico. Airing in Japan from 1996 to 1997, Martian Successor Nadesico was a sometimes-humorous, sometimes-serious parody/satire of the Humongous Mecha and Space Opera genres. Although it was much more popular in Japan than the west, its deconstructions of the genre influenced many shows to come after.
- Subgenre Trope Codifier: Cowboy Bebop. Airing in Japan in 1998-99, Cowboy Bebop detailed the lives and adventures of a group of bounty hunters, traveling through space in 2071. Notable for its effortless shifts between typically western genres, and lovely soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. Its director Shinichiro Watanabe would go on to direct the equally genre-twisting Samurai Champloo. With few cultural barriers, an exciting, mostly episodic format, and an excellent English adaptation, it was the premier gateway anime of the late 90s and early 00s.
- Deconstruction/Trope Maker: Please Save My Earth - one of the first and best Shoujo science fictions, and is centered around the romance, but deals with a lot of stuff, including some philosophical/realist things. Deals with aliens sent to moon to research Earth, and their reincarnations on Earth. Also involves some fantasy stuff. It switches between the alternate solar system (in flashbacks), the alien researchers on the moon, and the modern Earth.
- Subgenre Trope Codifier: Legend of Galactic Heroes. Adapted from a series of novels and airing in Japan in 1988 through various OVAs, Legend of Galactic Heroes is a sprawling far-future saga that's also deeply rooted in history. Notable for its simultaneously personal and vast scope, Loads and Loads of Characters, considerable attention to detail and engrossing plots. It helped define hard Japanese Space Opera and socio-political science fiction even as it deconstructed (and reconstructed) various conventions. It also discussed various issues not normally associated with the genre, such as the merits of democracy and autocracy.
One (un)lucky guy, many gals. Occasionally Gender Flipped.
- Unbuilt Trope: Urusei Yatsura aired from 1981-1986. The first major work by Rumiko Takahashi this work parodied the Unwanted Harem genre before it become a genre. (Add to description here)
- Trope Codifier: Tenchi Muyo!: The Tenchi OVA series, along with Ranma ½, introduced non-Japanese audiences to the unwanted harem genre. Followed by Tenchi Universe, the television Tenchi continuity, which aired in Japan in 1995 and differs significantly in scope from the original 1992 OVA. Tenchi Universe was then followed by several other series with (mostly) the same core cast and situations (but with often radically different implementations), as well as three motion pictures. A third OVA series released in 2004 extends the original OVA plotline, but leaves matters just as unresolved as its predecessors.
- Ranma ½. Aired in Japan from 1989 to 1992, and based on the manga of the same name by Rumiko Takahashi, Ranma ½ is a fusion of romance/comedy and shonen fighting, and was, along with Sailor Moon, one of the early-1990s gateway anime for North American fans. It is also a Deconstruction of the still Unbuilt Trope of the Unwanted Harem, although most of this flies over the head of Western viewers, as they don't realize the very real Japanese moral dilemma Ranma is in. (Being engaged to more than one girl is Serious Business.) This series is also the Trope Codifier for the Love Dodecahedron sub-genre, with every member of the Unwanted Harem having his or her own unrequited love interest, and is often considered the best example of Belligerent Sexual Tension -- the Belligerent Sexual Tension trope was once called "Takahashi Couple" -- or even its Trope Codifier.
- Trope Maker: Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995): This is a must for anyone who is interested in dark psychological drama and eschatology. They don't call it Gainax Ending for nothing.
- Trope Codifier: One of these:
- Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997): Compared stylistically to Rose of Versailles, Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) aired in Japan in 1997. It couples a shojo dueling story with elements of chivalric romance, Jungian psychology, and a surreal thriller. Its post-modern narrative and feminist themes distinguish it from any other anime ever made.
- Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
- Boogiepop Phantom (2000)
- Texhnolyze (2003)
- Paranoia Agent (2004)
- Unbuilt Trope: Dororo
- Trope Maker: Fist of the North Star: The anime started in 1984 (the manga in 1983). The main series ended in 1988, but material is still produced every so often up to this day. This series featured over-the-top martial arts fighting (which was very bloody, but mostly sanitized as shadows or detail-less glow in the anime) and pretty much defined the Shonen fighting genre in anime.
- Trope Codifiers:
- Straight: Dragonball Z: The first shonen fighting series to get really popular in America. Aired in Japan from 1989 to 1996 as the sequel to the original Dragon Ball, also became the most popular series in Mexico during the nineties.
- Parody: Ranma ½. Aired in Japan from 1989 to 1992, and based on the manga of the same name by Takahashi Rumiko, Ranma ½ is a fusion of romance/comedy and shonen fighting, and was, along with Sailor Moon, one of the early-1990s gateway anime for North American fans. Codified the Martial Arts and Crafts form of parody.
- Samurai/weapons variation: Rurouni Kenshin: Perhaps the most well-known samurai series, Rurouni Kenshin (also sometimes known as Samurai X outside of Japan due to licensing issues) aired in Japan from 1996 to 1998. A fictionalized look at Japan circa the end of the 19th Century, it blends historical fiction with high-powered shonen fighting. Two OVA series were released as well, the first very well received, the second, not so much.
(Most of us know nothing about these shows or what makes them shoujo -- or more specific subgenre -- we need a lot of help here) The equivalent in North America would be "chick flick" - this is a target demographic, not a genre. That said, shoujo does have some defining characteristics, which should be listed here.
- Trope Maker: Princess Knight (Ribon no Kishi): Aired 1967-68 in Japan. Distributed under the title Choppy and the Princess in America, Princess Knight followed the adventures of Princess Sapphire, a young girl who was mistakenly given the heart of a boy and a girl, and how she was raised as a boy in order to inherit the throne of her country in order to thwart the efforts of Duke Duralumon. The story shows Sapphire's interactions and conflicts with people and her own heart, staples of the shoujo genre that still hold to this day.
- Trope Codifier: One of these:
- Rose of Versailles: The highly influential 1979 anime/manga that changed Shojo anime. The historical drama lasted for two years. Notable for being one of the first Shojo anime series.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena: Compared stylistically to Rose Of Versailles, Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) aired in Japan in 1997. It couples a shojo dueling story with elements of chivalric romance, Jungian psychology, and a surreal thriller. Its post-modern narrative and feminist themes distinguish it from any other anime ever made.
- Deconstruction: Please Save My Earth - one of the first and best Shoujo science fictions. Deals with aliens sent to Earth to research it, and their reincarnations on Earth. Also involves some fantasy stuff.
Sports Stories, filtered through Japanese culture.
- Trope Maker: Star of the Giants Aired 1968 to 1971. The "star" of the story is Hyuuma Hoshi, a young pitcher dreaming of making it big in the majors like his father had until the older man was injured in World War II and had to retire. Star of the Giants established that baseball anime almost always star the pitcher - as opposed to American baseball shows that tend to depict other positions almost as often as the pitcher.
- Trope Codifiers:
- Shoujo: Attack No. 1 (Atakku Nanbaa Wan) based on the 1968 manga and airing starting in 1969. Kozue Ayuhara comes to college and joins the volleyball team, shows talent that impresses the coach and eventually the other players, and through intense training rises to become one of Japan's Olympic champion volleyball team. Trope Maker for many of the shoujo sports anime tropes, including having a crush on the male coach.
- Romantic: Touch. One of Mitsuru Adachi's first major works. Touch established him as dominating the subgenre of sports with romance, which he continues to today with recent works like Cross Game. It also established as obligatory the tragic background story for the hero and the use of sports as a catharsis for the complications of life and romance.
Pretty much the same as Fantasy anywhere else, but filtered through Japanese culture.
- Trope Codifier: Record of Lodoss War, one of the best examples of cross-cultural osmosis for integrating all the best known Western fantasy tropes in an anime.
Subgenre: Trapped in Another World
- Shoujo Romance Trope Codifier: Fushigi Yuugi. It started its run in 1992 and features an ordinary high school girl, Miaka Yuuki, who is transported into another world where she learns that she is the priestess of the god Suzaku and must find the seven Seishi, people with special ties to Suzaku, most of whom also happen to be handsome young men. Elements of the "ordinary girl stumbles into world where she is revered as a priestess/goddess/queen/person with otherwise special destiny which somehow links her to one or more Bishounen who will inevitably fall in love with her" plot turn up in a lot of other series which came later (Inuyasha, Escaflowne, Kanata Kara, Red River, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de...).
Fiction about a sci-fi future where humans and technology merge. Frequently a dystopia or at least a Crapsack World. Pretty much the same as Cyberpunk everywhere else, but filtered through Japanese culture.
- Trope Codifier: One of these:
- Ghost in The Shell, Mamoru Oshii's hugely successful adaptation of the manga by Shirow Masamune, and its equally popular and well-regarded spinoff series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
- Akira, the philosophical Mind Screw of a film that introduced many Westerners to the genre of anime and successfully overcame the Animation Age Ghetto for the first time.
- Serial Experiments Lain
- Bubblegum Crisis
Pretty much the same as Romance anywhere else, but filtered through Japanese culture.
- Romantic Comedy with a Slice of Life Trope Codifier: Maison Ikkoku aired from 1986 to 1988. One of the classics of anime romance, and the template for many romantic comedies even today. It's not uncommon for people to refer to (name of modern romantic comedy) as "better when it was called Maison Ikkoku." Maison Ikkoku codified the Pretty Freeloaders trope and combined it with Unlucky Everydude, and used a more generalized/realistic form of Belligerent Sexual Tension.
- Trope Maker: Sazae-san aired October 1969 to the present. Sazae-san depicts ordinary life in Japan. When it first started airing it was considered very liberal and supportive of change in Japanese life (particularly supporting strong women). A half century later, it's viewed as enshrining traditional Japanese life.
- Trope Codifiers:
- "Fantasy" Slice of Life Trope Codifier: Aria aired from Fall of 2005 to 2008. Aria is often identified as a trope codifier for "pure" Slice of Life anime. Set in a fantastical world, yet there is little or no adventure beyond the typical life issues we see on Earth. For people who like lovely imagery of beautiful girls against a wondrous backdrop, this Slice Of Life series is a nice change of pace from the action and fanservice of most other anime. Known for a slow pace, and beautifully drawn scenery. Often compared with the earlier manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.
- 4-koma (literally "four panel" as in newspaper comics, often called sketch comedy in North America) Trope Codifier: Azumanga Daioh, which can best be described as anime sketch comedy, aired in Japan in 2002. Definitely a schoolyard comedy, but with a scene-based take on it, rather than a more episodic take. Originally aired in five-minute segments during the week, which were then combined on Saturday into a half-hour episode.
- Subculture Slice of Life Trope Codifier: Welcome to The NHK aired July to December 2006, and took a look at some of the subcultures of Japan.
- Moe Slice of Life Trope Codifier: K-On! aired from Spring of 2009 to Summer of 2010. Cute highschool girls form a girl band and do cute things together. Surprisingly K-On! has appealed to wide demographic swath, including girls. This is generally attributed to the toning down of Otaku elements (such as Fan Service), and the heavy dependence on nostalgia.
- Trope Maker: Shin Megami Tensei.
- Trope Codifier: Pokémon (1997–present). A major multimedia franchise, Pokémon was the first major Mons series to be targeted towards children, and also the first to make it across the Atlantic; though the RPG series is the true core of the franchise, the anime tends to be the more well-known version. Since then, most Mons series have followed the graphical stylings and kid-friendliness of the Pokémon franchise. It's also something of a template insofar as the adaptation of video games to anime, of which it is by far the longest-lived and most successful.
- Digimon Tamers (2001-2002). The first anime to ask the question: How would the existence of Mons work in real life? Well, the government gets involved, many of the kids become emotionally traumatised, people die period, and cities get leveled. Also had an unprecedented level of depth compared to its predecessors, which were themselves no slouches in that department -- the characters get a huge amount of development, and there's a whole website explaining the sheer intricacy of the world-building process of the series. The hardest Mons series on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.
- Even bleaker: Narutaru (2003), another work by Chiaki Konaka, the head writer of the aforementioned Digimon Tamers and Serial Experiments Lain. The premise of the genre, namely that kids gain control of powerful beasts and go on adventures, gets twisted by averting the last part: instead of going on adventures the children form terrorist groups to shape the world as they see fit, and being a immortal one-man army, they are pretty effective and deadly, develop symptoms of A God Am I and reap a lot of hate. Controlling this power turns the kids life to worse since they get sucked into the conflict. Almost all owners of a shadow dragon die before the series ends.
Films by Release Date
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Japanese title, Kaze no Tani no Naushika) (1984): Post-apocalyptic SF/Fantasy story about the futility of war and Man's place in nature (both extremely common themes in
animepostwar Japanese culture) and the dangers of biological warfare. Its success paved the way for the founding of the highly influential Studio Ghibli.
- Project A-ko (1986): For many US fans, this silly schoolyard comedy cum Sci-fi parody was the first feature-length anime available, while in Japan its surrealist humor strongly influenced later films and series such as Excel Saga and Azumanga Daioh. It directly inspired the 2003 American film Xtracurricular.
- Choujin Densetsu Urotsukidouji (English language title, Legend of the Overfiend) (1987): For better or worse, this was the seminal (er, bad choice of words) work of the Hentai anime genre, and one of the earliest animated uses of Naughty Tentacles. It is one of the works most responsible for the rather shady reputation anime has had.
- Akira (1988): Based on a much longer and even more complicated manga series, this was another of the first anime films to cross the Pacific to any appreciable audience. It shocked many US fans straight out of the Animation Age Ghetto with its gritty visuals and stark violence.
- Grave of the Fireflies (Japanese title, Hotaru no Haka) (1988): Poignant story of two children trying, and ultimately failing, to survive in war-torn Japan after their mother is killed in an air raid. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel (the author, needless to say, survived, but much of the rest is directly from his own experiences) that was well-known in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s but almost unheard of elsewhere. Widely respected as one of the finest animated films, ever, but also widely reputed to be among the saddest films ever shown—so much so that AVClub.com has included it in their list Not Again: 24 Great Films Too Painful To Watch Twice.
- Ghost in the Shell (Japanese title, Kokaku Kidotai) (1996): A Cyberpunk thriller concerning cybernetic police operative Motoko Kusanagi and her struggle to uphold the law in a future where humanity and technology have merged. In this film, the first of a widely popular anime franchise that includes the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, Motoko and her colleagues in Section 9 face off against an insidious "puppet master," a unique AI whose nature challenges every assumption they—and she—has about what it means to be human. Notable for also influencing western sci-fi flicks, most obviously The Matrix.
- Spirited Away: (Japanese title, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) (2001). Considered by many to be the best work by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a spoiled 10-year-old girl, who on the way to a new home gets stuck with her parents in a world of spirits, where her parents become pigs after eating spirit food. To save them, she will need to find her own courage and work at Yubaba's spirit bathhouse until she learns how to save them and return to her own world.