What it means to be nostalgic – a tribute to old anime

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.


Cardcaptor Sakura

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.


Jubei-chan

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.


Slayers

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.


Bakuretsu Hunters

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.


Chobits

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.


Fushigi Yuugi

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


Tenchi Muyo!

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.


Love Hina

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.


Trigun

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.

25 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Kal says:

    Oh!! Just reading about Sakura and Slayers did bring a nostalgic feeling :P Yeah, nostalgia are all those nice and fluffy feelings you get when remembering some old stuff.

    Actually, I have tried to be careful with that as well. I try not to rewatch some of the very old series that I have seen. It can actually ruin the good memories I have of it since I will look at the series with a very critical eye now. I will see all the errors, and plot holes, and bad quality that I probably did not pay attention to back then. So for some really old series or movies (anime and non-anime), I prefer to just keep the good memory there.

    Some of the nostalgic series for me is Robotech (Macross). It’s the first one I saw as a kid and I understood it was different from all the other cartoons I watched. I was never able to see it all as a kid, and it was an eye opener. So it has a special place in my memory. Sakura is another one. I watched it and liked it a lot, but was kind of ashamed to tell people about it back then. I mean, a show for little girls? Preposterous!! I know such things do not matter now, but back then it was easier to say I liked Robotech than Sakura :) Slayers was another good one that I watched it all. Tons and tons of fun.

    The Rurouni Kenshin OVAs was the first anime DVD I watched, and probably when I realized that there is something really, really special about anime. I was a lot older then, and being exposed to anime with a very mature story, really got me searching for more and more anime. So that one holds a very special place.

    • Yumeka says:

      I actually find it interesting to watch nostalgic anime or other shows when I’m older, especially shows that are more on the “mature” side like Beast Wars and Animaniacs, since I pick up on a lot of the innuendo and less children-aimed things than I did as a kid. I try not to be too critical and take into account the time and place the show came from, but I like seeing how shows can “hold up” years down the line. It’s a sign of greatness if they can still have merit years later when you’re a different person and the world you’re living in is different.

      Sakura and Slayers hold very fond memories for me, too. I watched certain episodes of Slayers Next so many times because I got one of my high school friends really into the series and we would watch it all the time when she came over XD

  2. Myna says:

    Haha, I was actually thinking about something like this a few days ago. xD

    CCS and the original Pokemon series are huge nostalgic series for me as well. Other series include: MAR, Yuyu Hakusho, Fruits Basket, Rurouni Kenshin, and Rave Master. I was really into all these series mostly throughout middle school.

    MAR – One of the first long running shounens that I watched and read all the way through. I also had a huge crush on the main antagonist, Phantom.

    Yuyu Hakusho – my first non-kids anime, and the best shounen fighting anime there is. Plus, the dub is freaking awesome. I got the second season on DVD and it made me very, very happy.

    Fruits Basket – this was my favorite shoujo manga for a long time. I still own about half of the volumes, and talked about it with one of my best friends almost every day during seventh grade.

    Rurouni Kenshin – another very early non-kids anime. I watched it very irregularly because it was on so late at night and I wasn’t allowed to stay up until 11PM. I finally got around to completing the manga last year.

    Rave Master – Same thing as Rurouni Kenshin, except for the time factor.

    • Yumeka says:

      Unfortunately I missed out on Yu Yu Hakusho and Kenshin when they were on Toonami/Adult Swim since I didn’t get cable TV until 2005 =/ But I remember many of my high school anime buddies talking about them.

      I bought the four volumes of the Fruits Basket DVDs as a high school graduation/moving onto college present to myself :3 That was in 2004…so they’re not quite nostalgic to me yet. One day I will read the manga!

      • Myna says:

        That’s too bad. They’re two of the best shounen titles ever. HIghly recommend both should you ever find the time.

        Also forgot to mention two Tanemura Arina works: Full Moon wo Sagashite and Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. Oh man, I was in love with those two series back in the day.

    • Adziu says:

      >< People considering MÄR to be nostalgic makes me feel old!!

  3. Artemis says:

    I guess the epitome of anime nostalgia for me would be Sailor Moon. I was probably about 10 when it came out on TV here in New Zealand, and I didn’t know what anime was back then (I didn’t discover the genre as such until I was 15), but the other anime-before-anime for me was Samurai Pizza Cats. Now there’s an interesting dub! I actually managed to get a hold of a few episodes of that a few weeks ago, and subsequently spent a couple of evenings happily reliving my childhood.

    Tenchi was also one of the first anime I watched after figuring out what anime was. The other anime shows airing around the same time here were Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Orphen, Trigun, and Cowboy Bebop. Sadly, New Zealand no longer has late-night anime on television, and so just remembering when we used to is nostalgic for me, even without necessarily thinking about specific titles.

    • Yumeka says:

      What a coincidence – Sailor Moon was actually the very first anime I ever watched back in 1995 when I was about 9 years old and wouldn’t know what anime is until years later. And Samurai Pizza Cats was the second anime I ever watched when it started airing in Sailor Moon’s time slot about a year later. The reason I didn’t include these two on the list is because, while they are very nostalgic to me, since I didn’t know what anime was at the time and I was very young, I consider them simply nostalgic cartoons and not so much nostalgic anime. I heard that the reason SPC’s dub is so wacky is because the dubbers didn’t actually get copies of the original Japanese script and so they just had to ad lib everything XD

      Oh wow, I remember Orphen. I borrowed some of the dubbed VHS of the series from a friend…and I don’t even remember what the show was about. And while I did watch a bit of Cowboy Bebop in my high school anime club, I didn’t like it all that much until I watched it when I was older. I guess this proves that it is indeed a very adult-aimed anime =)

      • Artemis says:

        I’d say having to ad-lib everything worked out pretty well for the dubbers – there’s just so much there that would never be in any Japanese script, but it really gives the show an edge. I doubt I would have found the original version that funny, even though I usually prefer watching subs.

        I think Cowboy Bebop is one of those very rare anime shows that just keeps on getting better as it ages. But that, for me, is the definition of ‘classic’.

  4. TWWK says:

    You know, I don’t feel particularly nostalgic for any anime. Instead, that “nostalgia” connection for me with anime occurs when the tone of a series of episode or scene is nostalgic – when it brings up memories which aren’t anime-related.

    But still, I would say there are a few series that are at least a bit nostalgic to me – most are the same as yours (CCS, Trigun, Love Hina, Evangelion and most of all, Digimon and Tenchi Muyo!); there are also a few others, too (Cowboy Bebop, Princess Mononoke).

    Thanks for the wonderful post! :)

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s interesting that certain themes within anime are nostalgic to you rather than an anime series itself. Now that I think about it, I’m sure I’ve experienced that in certain titles myself, though not very much since most anime either take place in fantasy worlds or in modern-day Japan, places that don’t usually hold nostalgic memories for me ^^,,,

      See my reply above about Cowboy Bebop, and I didn’t mention Mononoke but it was among my very first anime and definitely my first original anime film. I’m still impatiently awaiting the movie’s Blu-ray release!

  5. Logopolis says:

    I don’t think there are any anime for which I feel nostalgic, as such. That might be influenced by the weird route I took into the medium; instead of discovering some cartoon which seems unusually good or which has interesting features amongst normal viewing, or something along those lines, (well, Cities of Gold, but then there was a gap of several years so I don’t really count that), I came across several Oshii films by different means purely by chance, and then shortly afterwards while I was starting to broaden my net, I had my brain melted and my conceptions of the limits of television brutally destroyed by Serial Experiments Lain (and to a small extent, Gunbuster,) something which tends to dominate my early general anime memories, and which probably isn’t the sort of thing which nostalgia likes much.

    But there are certain memories of thoughts I had which feel very nostalgic. Maybe most strongly, when I first came across Nadesico, in the middle of the show. The opening credits zoomed into that thing in Yurika’s hair and out again, and it looked cute, and I remember thinking “I’ve only been watching the elite of anime up until now, that might be why I’ve liked it all. Time to find out whether the average stuff is any good.” Simply because of the way it was presented. Ah, prejudice. And then a couple of weeks later, they’re going to fire the superweapon and have to consider whether it’s OK to let all hopes of a peaceful settlement die, and I’m thinking “there’s more to this normal anime than meets the eye”. And I’m just full of nostalgia, typing that. But it doesn’t affect what I see when I watch Nadesico now, I just see a mostly high-quality show which is funny if you get the references, and effectively dramatic if you don’t.

    And then there’s the time Lain would make me feel rather funny and confused just from looking at the box art

    • Yumeka says:

      Thanks for sharing your interesting history with anime =) I haven’t seen Nadesico nor Lain yet unfortunately, but I will consider them after the intriguing things you said about them~

  6. Judge says:

    Oh nostalgia! I remember the Pokemon craze as a kid. I have like dozens of VHS tapes of the old show. Man how times have changed! Time-recording seems ancient now haha.

    Love Hina is my favorite and first manga. Like you, I didn’t watch the anime till years later. I enjoyed it as much as the manga. Love Ken Akamatsu. Did you read/watch Negima?

    Anyways, thanks for the read~

    • Yumeka says:

      I too have tons of time-recorded Pokemon VHS tapes…I’ve since had to move that chest of VHS into the garage due to lack of space XD

      I actually like the Love Hina manga better…I remember watching the anime and not finding it as entertaining as the manga, but that could also be because I was older when I watched the anime. And nope, I haven’t read or watched Negima.

      Thanks for reading~ ^_^

  7. Savo says:

    Your definition of nostalgia is quite excellent and sums it up perfectly. Nostalgia is indeed a powerful force. It can cause you to overlook flaws in a series because you were young when you first saw it. For me, watching something that I saw as a kid can be an incredibly meaningful experience that brings back so many different emotions.

    There are only a few anime series that I feel nostalgic for, such as Full-Metal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’ve only been watching anime for about three years now, and only have been a hardcore fan for about three. I never was a huge fan of anime when I was a kid and only got into it in my teens. Most of my favorite series I have only watched within the last few years, only allowing me to have a small amount of nostalgia for them. I imagine that in five or ten years I’ll look back on the anime that I am watching at the moment, like Aquarion EVOL, and remember the good old days.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’m glad you like my definition. It really is interesting how our nostalgia for something can make us ignore its other flaws. It is indeed a strong emotional force.

      Fullmetal Alchemist is almost nostalgic for me as I started getting into it when it began airing on Adult Swim in late 2004 I think, and a friend of mine taped the early episodes for me since I didn’t have cable TV yet.

  8. Adziu says:

    Though I watched a few anime as a kid, like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, I only really feel nostalgic about things I saw when I was really little. The only anime that really ticks that box is Samurai Pizza Cats. I was surprised to see Chobits on your list because that still feels like new-school anime to me -after all, it’s less than a decade old!

    There are plenty of shows animated in Japan that make me very nostalgic – Transformers, Thundercats, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ulysses 31, Inspector Gadget, Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds – but since they were coproductions with the creative team Western, I don’t consider them anime.

    • Yumeka says:

      I also watched Samurai Pizza Cats when I was little – about 10 years old and several years before I’d know what anime is. So I don’t really consider it a nostalgic anime as much as a nostalgic cartoon (plus the fact that the dub was more or less ad-libbed and hardly follows the Japanese script).

      Chobits is almost a decade old – the manga finished publishing in Nov. 2002. Still close enough for me to feel nostalgic about it since I was into it when I was in high school.

      Besides Inspector Gadget and Thundercats, I haven’t heard of any of those other old cartoons you mentioned either on TV or to rent from the video stores. Maybe they just never got released here in the US.

      • Adziu says:

        You’ve never heard of Transformers??

        • Yumeka says:

          Oh yes, sorry, I forgot to list that one. I have heard of it (only through Beast Wars at the time) but it wasn’t on any local TV channels I had back then so I never watched it.

          • Adziu says:

            Well, Mysterious Cities of Gold (also mentioned by Logopolis, above, who I’m going to assume is also a Brit purely based on the old-school Doctor Who reference) is well worth the watch, and due to be revived in the coming months.

  9. Nopy says:

    I loved Beast Wars/Beasties, it was one of the few Canadian shows that was actually good (the other being Reboot). I certainly remember some of the series that you’ve mentioned, and I really miss them. Sometimes when I talk about anime with other people and bring up something like Love Hina or Fushigi Yuugi, they sometimes tell me that those series are way too old and aren’t worth watching. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but it pains me to see people think of series that I enjoyed as old and irrelevant.

    • Yumeka says:

      Beast Wars was a great show despite the CG animation looking outdated by today’s standards. The fact that I watched it again as an adult and not only did I still enjoy it, but I also picked up on a lot of complexities I didn’t catch as a kid, shows what a strong show it is. I may have to purchase the DVD set eventually ;)

      I actually think every anime is worth watching if you want to be a really well-rounded, knowledgeable fan. Even bad stuff is worth watching sometimes so you can compare it to the good. So using age as a reason to say that a classic harem anime like Love Hina and a classic shojo anime like Fushigi Yuugi aren’t worth your time? Preposterous! Those kinds of statements are best left ignored.

  10. Akasen says:

    I look back fondly at a lot of the anime I watched in my earlier days as an anime fan. I would move from anime to anime trying to find the next action packed show to enjoy. Thinking about those times will sometimes fill me with the emotion and feeling I had when I would watch those shows. I remember reading this post Monday and thinking over the idea of nostalgia. I then found myself not just humming but singing softly the lyrics to “Happy Material”, the opening song for Mahou Sensei Negima, a song I had not heard for quite some time. I recall watching this series many times up til episode 24. The fan subbing group didn’t quite get to the last two episodes.

    There are many other moments I recall quite well. There are so many to look back at though that I lack the time to type them. I do look back on much of this and remember my reaction to these shows and my enjoyment of them.

    It is quite something. When looking back on certain events one can remember the event so well it’s as if it has been captured perfectly in the human mind. I many times do wish to relive those days I look back at so fondly. I sometimes feel somewhat sad as I look back at those days and realize how many years have gone by. How many years I tend to feel have gone by and how many have actually passed. Sometimes I wish to watch many of those shows again so I may have a different view from what I had then. Although I guess I don’t really need to do such a thing. I’ve been able to look back at things well enough that I don’t think nostalgia has clouded my judgment on things.

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