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The Mysterious Appeal of 80s Anime

2 min read

Like an old blanket that I don't have the heart to throw away. Even though newer ones are less flammable.

I've been going through my "to-watch" list again, trying to find time to squeeze in an episode or two of some anime. I keep eying the older series, particularly ones like the baseball-themed Touch (1985), the romantic fantasy Anmitsu Hime (1986), and the police and mecha-focused Patlabor (1989).

I was born in the the 80s and I thought that was the reason I keep going back to these, but that explanation seems too simple. I didn't actually start seriously watching anime until the mid-to-late 90s, starting with Dragon Ball Z. Back then, my idea of anime was strongly skewed toward what was available already dubbed, tucked, pinched, and generally mutilated for Western audiences. I had no idea of the breadth of content available out there. And this was before file sharing was actually viable for me since broadband was still a luxury for my family.

That meant forking over a few bucks for a bootleg of Trigun and the like to a friend with access to faster pipes as well as to Super5, a fan-subbing group which also did Dragon Ball GT. It wasn't until the mid 2000s and Ouran High School Host Club, subbed by Lunar, that I began to broaden my horizons. Also, leaving high school gave me freedom to appreciate media beyond what was considered acceptable for younger males.

But above all of these, I keep coming back to the 80s anime. I don't seem to have a preference in genre as the above sports, romantic comedy, and mecha anime respectively was also punctuated by Sakigake!! Otokojuku. Mostly definitely not fitting into any of them. There was also Salaryman Kintaro which, despite being a 90s franchise, was endearing in its own bizarrely 80s flair.

The animation of the 80s was inferior by almost every measure compared to the 90s and 2000s releases which were steadily augmented with computer animation and 3D rendering, usually overlayed by hand.

I think I miss the "heart" the most, if there is such a quantifiable attribute to 80s anime. Since the animation was still strongly reliant on manual labor, more emphasis went to ambiance and music. That often meant panning stills, closeups of shimmering eyes or the ocean, and a City Pop soundtrack in the background. Patlabor especially had many such instances, punctuated by mecha battles and explosions.

This is some of that "heart" that I found so appealing in a lot of 80s anime.

umbrella in the snow

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