The ’90s exploded anime into a worldwide phenomenon. Millennials across the globe were graced with subbed and dubbed versions on a greater scale than ever before. Despite some editing and censorship by some Western distributors, the essence of the stories resonated with viewers and helped catapult anime into the billion-dollar business fans see today.
There are multiple iconic moments from anime that fans resonate with and can still remember vividly. There’s the laughter, the adrenaline, the joy, and the tears. All of which gave a lasting impression on fans. The ’90s saw moments in anime that tugged at the heartstrings of fans everywhere.
10 A Father’s Sacrifice (Dragon Ball Z)
When thinking about sad moments in anime, fans may not even consider Dragon Ball Z. A show that’s primary focus relies on flashy fights and exciting power-ups, there’s a lot of heartful scenes throughout Dragon Ball Z.
The most memorable is Vegeta, the notoriously distant father and selfish fighter. He sacrificed himself to try and defeat Buu in Final Atonement. It doesn’t absolve all his previous actions, but finally recognizing his love for his son before committing this ultimate selfless act left a stone in the throat of all fans.
9 A Final Goodbye (Digimon)
Digimon is an action-adventure anime that isn’t obvious in its coming-of-age story. Digimon boasted a unique storyline following a group of kids who get sucked up into a parallel digital world and need to find their way home. Along the way, they discover that the world’s filled with Digital Monsters, including ones that were destined to be their partners.
Fans watched the heroes scrape their way through – learning and becoming better versions of themselves. For an anime about digital monsters, viewers came for the battles but stayed for the character development and surprising emotional moments. The culmination of this is the finale, when the DigiDestined must abandon their partners and return home.
8 Slammed Out (Slam Dunk)
Sports anime are filled with thrilling highs and lows, as it’s the best way to get viewers to empathize with characters. Slam Dunk does this impressively well, and has become an anime synonymous with the genre. As well as boasting an incredibly realistic art style for its time, Slam Dunk captures the hearts of watchers with its comedic relief.
Hanamichi Sakuragi is the main protagonist of Slam Dunk. Watching his journey as a Captain, trying to bring the team the title, greatly portrays the burden he had to carry. When he missed the rebound and ultimately lost the game, both him and fans were left in tears.
7 An Ultimatum (Fruits Basket)
Fruits Basket is a story about an orphan girl, Tohru Honda. She learns more about the members of the only semblance of a family she’s ever known – that they are possessed by the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and are cursed to turn into their animal forms.
Hatori Sohma tells Tohru to leave the family and explains his past, where he fell in love with a woman called Kana. The head of the family disapproved of their love and blinded him in one eye with a vase. To protect Kana, he had to erase her memory, including her love for him.
6 Last Words (Yu Yu Hakusho)
Yusuke Urameshi is killed by a car while trying to save a child. In the afterlife, he becomes an Underworld Detective to investigate supernatural cases in the human world. Yu Yu Hakusho has an abundance of incredibly sad moments, which is clear given its premise. Most memorable to fans is the death of Yusuke’s master and mentor, Genkai. She was killed by her former partner, Toguro, and died in the arms of Yusuke. His reaction to her death is gut-wrenching.
5 Not A Happy Ending (Berserk)
Berserk is a popular anime that has been remade many times, but nothing holds a candle to the original adaptation. Berserk follows the protagonist Guts, a skilled swordsman who joins a mercenary group and must help them battle their way into the royal court.
The original adaptation left abruptly, which disappointed fans. Some viewers were confused at the bleak and upsetting ending. After Guts’ friends either die, are assaulted or get mutilated, he tried to drown himself in a stream. Not an ending for the faint of heart.
4 A Finale For The Ages (Sailor Moon)
Sailor Moon is one of the most popular anime of the ’90s thanks to its appeal to both males and females. Sailor Moon follows schoolgirl Usagi Tsukino as she is tasked with saving the Universe.
A series ending with such high stakes will always be a highly emotional one, and Sailor Moon didn’t disappoint. Rather than falling for the trope of leaving all heroes alive, Sailor Moon showed Usagi’s friends die in front of her eyes.
3 Spike’s Last Stand (Cowboy Bebop)
Cowboy Bebop has had a recent injection of life thanks to (or despite) Netflix’s recent adaptation. Long-time fans are more than familiar with the greatness of Cowboy Bebop. Set in a dystopian future, Cowboy Bebop follows a bounty-hunting crew aboarding a spaceship.
The ending of Cowboy Bebop was an emotional and difficult time for many fans. Spike’s most memorable line: “You’re gonna carry that weight.” Spike then says “Bang” and falls. The pain was twofold because it felt like Spike was talking to the viewers about carrying his story now he was gone, and fans knew Cowboy Bebop was over.
2 Human Instrumentality (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
When anime fans think of emotionally and mentally draining shows from the ’90s, Neon Genesis Evangelion comes to mind. Set 15 years after a worldwide apocalypse, Shinji is recruited by his father to pilot a giant mecha into combat against Angels. Taking a tangent from the mecha genre, Neon focuses on the characters and their emotional trauma rather than the battles.
Neon Genesis Evangelion captures themes of mental health brilliantly. But, the ending surmises it well enough. The imagery alone is a standout, but adding “Komm, Susser Tod” changed the game.
1 Tears From A Stone (Pokémon)
Pokémon is one of the most popular anime ever, let alone just from the ’90s. Even non-anime watchers are aware of Pokémon, and Pikachu is probably the most recognized anime mascot of all time.
The most emotional moment comes from the first-ever feature film of the franchise, Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back. Every fan can remember the first time they watched Ash struggling to see Pokémon fighting each other. Fans have to sit and watch as Pikachu frantically tries to help with tears streaming down his face. Iconic and powerful.
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