For the older anime fans out there, what counts as “classic anime” can feel a bit slippery. When you remember that the original Sailor Moon is now over 30 years old, everything starts to feel a little weird. And now it’s time to feel even weirder, because this trio of definitive shows is turning 20 in 2024. And thus, by some definitions, they could be classed as “classic.” (How much psychic damage that does notwithstanding.)
Time hasn’t taken the shine off these series, though! Dive in with us, find out where to watch (or rewatch) them, and learn how they’ve left their mark on anime forever.
Maria Watches Over Us
Based on Oyuki Konno’s light novel series that began in 1998, Maria Watches Over Us is a classic anime for any yuri fan. The series, which began in January of 2004 and ran for four seasons, is broadly credited with the revitalization of Class S fiction in modern anime fandom. And a quick look at titles like Strawberry Panic! and Yuri Is My Job! will show that this is absolutely the case.
The series takes place at an all-girls Catholic school in Japan where students are paired off via the sœur system. By giving their rosary to a younger student, a second- or third-year girl can take them on as her “sœur,” or sister. The main focus is on sisters Yumi and Sachiko, as the former navigates becoming the latter’s petit sœur, and thus part of the school’s Yamayuri Council. You can watch all four seasons right now on HIDIVE!
While the Precure franchise has spent 2023 celebrating 20 years, it was kind of on a technicality. The current Soaring Sky! Precure is indeed its 20th season, but the magical girl show actually debuted in February of 2004. While the show is still running (with a new season just around the corner), the original series is veering into classic anime territory now that it’s hitting the Big 2-0.
The original Pretty Cure had a total of two magical girls: Cure Black, a.k.a. Nagisa, and Cure White, a.k.a. Honoka. (They would gain an ally, Shiny Luminous, in the following season.) Sporty and smart respectively, the duo hailed from completely different social groups. While they were learning to fight evil, they also had to learn how to get along and overcome their differences. The show also laid down some Precure tropes early doors, like mascots with cute vocal tics, pink as a “lead Cure” color, and the Cures being heralded as “legendary warriors” in an alternate universe. You can watch where it all began on Crunchyroll!
If you’re a Cowboy Bebop fan, you may already be on board with this now-classic anime. Samurai Champloo debuted in May 2004, but Shinichiro Watanabe started planning it all the way back in 1999. Like just about anything Watanabe does, music was a core part of the production. And anyone who’s seen it knows what a big deal the soundtrack is. It’s loaded with hip-hop artists from at home and abroad, including Tsutchie of Shakkazombie and Ohio-based Fat Jon.
The series follows the adventures of the outlaw Mugen, the ronin Jin, and the waitress Fuu. After a coin toss to decide their fate, Mugen and Jin put aside their heated battle to help Fuu find a samurai who smells of sunflowers. Follow their adventures, and find out why Fuu wants revenge on the sunflower samurai, over on Crunchyroll!
Need more classic anime? Here’s why you should start watching Chibi Maruko-chan!