As I’ve grown out of student-hood these past few years and moved on to being what the Japanese call a “shakaijin” (person of society), I’ve been taking the word “nostalgia” more to heart. I’ve often wondered, “How old does one have to be in order to feel nostalgic?” And while pondering this questions, I’d like to pay tribute to some old anime that hold particularly nostalgic memories for me…
While I’ve known the word “nostalgia” for a long time, it’s only recently that I’ve understood what it means by experiencing it myself. The first wave of nostalgia I remember came less than five years ago when I discovered that episodes of an old CG animated cartoon from the 90s I used to love called Beast Wars (based on the Transformers concept) had been uploaded to Veoh and I started watching it. It brought back memories not just of the show itself, but of what my life was like back then and how I viewed things at that age, compared to how I am now. That’s what nostalgia is to me – when you reach a point in your life where you can clearly perceive the line between the “then” and the “now,” and often you pine for something in the “then” that you can’t have now. It’s not just “Oh yeah, I remember that!” so much as remembering the feelings and lifestyle you had during the time you experienced the nostalgic object in question. This is why I think one has to reach adulthood, or close to it, in order to really understand nostalgia; since children tend to live in the moment, they don’t compare their past and present the way adults do. It’s when you reach that point in life where things become more busy and complicated that you’re finally able to compare it to the simpler times of the past through remembering these nostalgic things, whether it’s a place, TV show, book, movie, or even a smell or sound.
While I didn’t discover anime until late in my childhood, things have changed enough for me since then that I can feel nostalgic about certain titles I watched early in my fandom. I’ve found that any show or movie has to be at least ten years old in order for me to feel nostalgic about it. Hence, all of my nostalgic anime are from the 90s or very early 2000s. I watched a lot more than this in my early years as a fan, but these are the ones that are most nostalgic to me (though not necessarily my favorites). Do they make you nostalgic, too?
Pokemon (original series)
Might as well begin with the one that started it all. While the entire Pokemon franchise isn’t nostalgic to me since it’s still ongoing and I’m still involved in it, the original anime/games/151 pokemon probably bring out nostalgic feelings in the most number of fans as our gateway into anime.
Nostalgic associations: I was still in middle school when I got into Pokemon and I would time-record all the episodes on VHS when they would air on Kids’WB. I played the old GameBoy games on my GameBoy Color and would often trade pokemon with others through the games’ link cable feature. I collected the trading cards and would go to my local mall every weekend and play the card game there, earning badges and sometimes prizes. I was also a big Rocketshipper. I had a friend that I chatted with about Pokemon almost every night and we’d even watch some of our recorded episodes together over the phone.
The very first anime I watched in Japanese and still among my top 10 favorites.
Nostalgic associations: I had never heard Japanese sung or spoken before CCS. Having watched the dub of CCS before discovering the Japanese version, I also learned how horrendous dubbed kids anime was back then (not that it’s a big deal now). I started collecting the series on subtitled VHS released by Pioneer, which was Geneon’s old name, at a local anime store (which sadly doesn’t exist anymore) before switching to DVD later.
One of the rare 13-episode TV series of the late 90s. A sequel series came out in 2004 but I haven’t yet gotten to it.
Nostalgic associations: This was the first non-kids anime I ever watched and the first I bought fully on dubbed VHS. I didn’t mind the dub then but if I watched it now it would probably be pretty bad. Despite that, it was still a very funny show. I still especially love the ending song.
My first comedy/fantasy series.
Nostalgic associations: During my freshman year of high school, one of my good friends who I still see today invited me to her house to watch Slayers for the first time. I liked it very much and later bought season 1 dubbed on VHS. I bought the other two seasons on DVD and watched them on my old iMac computer until I finally got a DVD player.
Another old fantasy/comedy I watched around the same time as Slayers. Three of the main characters are named Carrot, Chocolate, and Tira Misu, which is kind of weird but also why I still remember them.
Nostalgic associations: I think DVDs of Bakuretsu Hunters were among the first DVDs I ever watched, again on my old iMac computer. I liked both the dubbed and subbed version back then, but when I think about it now, the dub voices were pretty bad. The OP was an example of coolness back in the day.
Record of Lodoss War
D&D, hardcore fantasy anime. I saw both the OVA and the TV series dubbed.
Nostalgic associations: I think I saw this series strictly on VHS. I liked the OVA better because it was more focused on Deedlit, my favorite character in the series. Also, the dub of the TV series wasn’t so good despite having Crispin Freeman as the main protagonist (maybe he just wasn’t experienced enough back then?) But the OP of the Lodoss War TV series is still one of the best openings I’ve seen to this day.
One of the few series where I’ve read the manga in its entirety (only eight volumes) but have only seen a few episodes of the anime dubbed, with Crispin Freeman as the main protagonist again…that guy’s everywhere. Even now I think it’s one of the sweetest love stories ever. Funimation has recently released the anime in full on Blu-ray – I need to get a copy.
Nostalgic associations: I read Chobits by borrowing the manga volumes from a friend. I watched a few episodes of the anime dubbed by coming across them in RealPlayer files online…how old-school is that? I liked the “City With No People” storybooks featured in the series so much that I actually scanned them all on my old computer and sort of recreated the books on my site.
A classic shojo, bishonen-filled, reverse harem series spanning 52 episodes (+OVAs) and 18 manga volumes. And I read/watched all of it.
Nostalgic associations: Fushigi Yuugi used to air dubbed on the International Channel (which I don’t even think exists anymore). I didn’t have cable TV then so a friend of mine recorded the episodes on VHS for me. I read the manga by borrowing it from a friend. At one point my group of high school friends were so into this series that we started nicknaming each other after certain characters. I believe I was Nuriko since he was my favorite character :3
One of the original harem anime and also a big favorite of mine at one point. I watched the original OVA, the first two TV series, and read some of the manga.
Nostalgic associations: Like Fushigi Yuugi, I borrowed VHS tapes recorded from Toonami from friends in order to watch Tenchi. I loved it right away and eventually bought the DVDs, again using my old iMac as a DVD player before getting a real one. I was glad that Pioneer’s DVDs included the non-censored versions of some of the more violent/dodgy episodes, but upset that they included “dubtitles” for their Tenchi Universe episodes. I eventually sold most of my Tenchi DVDs and stopped collecting the manga.
Another old-school and very comedic harem series. I think it’s the one that introduced many of the staple harem girl archetypes.
Nostalgic associations: Unlike most other series, I only read the 14 volumes of the Love Hina manga and didn’t get a chance to watch the anime until years later. If I recall correctly, there was some fan service gags but nothing too ecchi…it was actually pretty funny. I remember laughing out loud to myself at certain parts of the manga, which I rarely do.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
The series I always considered to be the shojo version of Evangelion except with swords and duels instead of giant robots and aliens.
Nostalgic associations: I borrowed the Utena manga and anime on subbed VHS from a friend of mine who was really into romance/shojo series (I also borrowed Chobits, Love Hina, and Fushigi Yuugi from her). Besides Eva, I hadn’t yet seen an anime that messes with your head as much as Utena.
Along with Cowboy Bebop, Trigun is considered one of the better Western-style anime.
Nostalgic associations: Vash was one of my first and biggest anime crushes :3 The Trigun DVD box set was also one of the first I purchased along with Tenchi Universe. I liked both the dubbed and subbed versions.
I didn’t mention some of my bigger old favorites like Digimon, Inuyasha, Naruto, and Evangelion. The reason – like Pokemon, Digimon and Naruto are still ongoing now, Eva is still as talked about as ever and has new movies coming out, and for Inuyasha, it hasn’t been that long since the anime and manga ended.
Like I mentioned, it’s not so much what these old anime are about that makes them nostalgic to me; it’s the time in my life that I experienced them and those past feelings and memories that I now associate with them. Being in school at the time, having things like VHS and CDs, anime on Toonami and Adult Swim, stores with anime that don’t exist anymore, when Geneon and ADV were booming and the only way I could watch anime was through DVDs and TV – all those things add up to a time and place very different from now, and it’s finding that distinction between a simpler, more innocent past and a more complicated, busy present, that bring out nostalgia.