Best 1970s Anime Worth Checking Out (Series + Movies)

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If there’s one thing that the Internet has taught me, it’s that nostalgia is one hell of a drug.

And if you were around to watch anime way back in the 70s, you can probably tell that it’s come a long way since then.

So why not look back at some classic old anime to see how it stacks up decades later?

Be it for nostalgia, or just because you’re interested in the older classics, either way we’ve got this list to help you find some incredible anime straight out of the 70s.

 

15. Cutey Honey

Cutey Honey anime screenshot

Although this show doesn’t boast the most impressive MAL score, I simply have to talk about it.

It was one of the first shows to introduce the magical girl transformation sequence trope – and it might have even been the pioneer of fanservice.

It’s a monster of the week type show, where all the “monsters” also happen to be female and represented as a mix between a human and some animal.

But where the show really shines is its tone.

For the most part, Cutey Honey is innocent as hell and expectedly gives off Sailor Moon vibes.

However, just as you cozy up to the show, it presents just pure unadulterated violence.

I can only imagine how many parents put this on for their youngsters at the time, only to have them crying a few hours later when someone’s head flies off.

Peak entertainment in my books.

 

14. Future Boy Conan

Future Boy Conan anime

If there’s one thing that has remained consistent in the past few decades, it’s the fact that everything Miyazaki touches immediately turns into gold.

And Future Boy Conan is no different.

Sure, the plot setup might seem a bit typical for today’s standards, with a boy living completely outside of society and then venturing out to the outside world to save a girl he just met.

However, this is Miyazaki we’re talking about.

The art direction, narrative, soundtrack, and even the animation itself are all top tier.

So if you’re turned off from 70s anime because of the lack of visual polish, this one should soothe your worries.

 

13. Candy Candy

Candy Candy anime screenshot

Candy Candy was the type of shoujo that we’re somewhat lacking today.

Meaning that it was just wholesome and inspirational as all hell.

The plot was as simple as you can get:

Just a girl living her life and dealing with whatever life had to throw at her. No magic powers or love pentagons, just simple drama that we’ve all experienced in one form or another.

If you just go back and read forums or reviews for this show, you’ll likely see heaps of praise from people who watched this when they were younger, as learned a great deal about navigating everyday life.

And God knows that these kids needs something wholesome to teach them a lesson so they would stay off TikTok and get off my lawn!

 

12. Tiger Mask

Tiger Mask screenshot

Although this anime started airing during the 20th century’s “Nice” age, I’ll still include it – as it was still very relevant during the 70s.

The show was all about wrestling. And not your traditional WWE wrestling where you beat someone up and then disappear until the next match. Oh no, we had some actual character development here.

I mean, we had the protagonist constantly doubting himself and his strength, as well as the occasional assassin sent after his head.

I definitely do not remember the Undertaker hitting a hitman with an iron chair in anime style, so this show comes out victorious.

 

11. Captain Future

Captain Future anime

If you just want a nice and simple space opera that deals with all of the usual stuff like intergalactic travel, immortality, robots and so forth… but don’t feel like taking your chances with the modern anime (with its surprisingly high chance of being a fanservice plot), then Captain Future might be right down your alley.

Although it might not be the most notable space adventure to come out during the 70s, we’ll get to that later…

Because this one can still be worth a watch if you want to indulge in some top notch sci-fi writing.

Don’t expect the animation to hold up, though. It’s one of the many anime from this era that just didn’t age too well.

 

10. Devilman

Devilman anime screenshot

Although it got its first adaptation all the way back in the 70s, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people know of this series.

I say this because the 2018 version definitely turned some heads.

With lots of brutality and limbs flying in every direction, it was rather memorable.

The original also has quite a few gory elements itself, with the beginning somehow managing to be even more morbid than the drug & rock nightclub fiasco that the newest version utilized.

The 70s version is basically a villain of the week show, and can get repetitive over time. However it does also throw in very unexpected comedic elements into the mix, so the mood is spiced up from time to time.

 

9. Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam anime

Since we’re already talking about shows whose influence can be felt even today, we have to pay homage to the mecha genre G.O.A.T.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Gundam series brought the giant robots to the party where they have stayed ever since.

The plot is very solid, it being your typical army-styled show, with some harsher themes handled throughout – and plenty of larger than life battles.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the show completely holds up to modern standards. For most younger anime fans, it probably doesn’t hold up well at all.

But if you like the more modern mecha shows, this one might make for a rather intriguing experience.

Like reading about the black plague in the 2020s.

 

8. UFO Robo Grendizer

UFO Robo Grendizer screenshot

Although I was quick to categorize this as just another mecha show, it definitely took me by surprise.

Not in terms of plot, however, as it’s rather bareboned.

We get thrown into a world where people are invading Earth, and our protagonists have to fend them off. Not too crazy.

But where the show truly shined was its character writing.

There were none of those “I am evil because I am evil” shenanigans.

And the show actually did wonders when it came to constructing their antagonists.

The main cast was also rather enjoyable, but for whatever reason, they never stood out as much compared to the villains in my head.

 

7. Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables anime

This is the type of show that really should have been taken as a golden example of writing slice of life shows.

It centers around a girl who gets adopted and starts living on the farm. That’s it.

However, the attention to detail is crystal clear, as nothing feels brushed over or random. It’s rather like an authentic collection of different key points in once’s transition to adulthood.

There are no jarring time skips either, nor are there forced narratives that would arguably never happen in real life.

It’s just a nice, wholesome anime series about a young girl becoming a woman.

 

6. Treasure Island

Treasure Island anime

If your parents or teachers ever forced you to read a book with this same title, but your six second attention span was having none of it, then I might have some pretty good news for you.

Although this anime adaptation doesn’t entirely stick closely to the book, it can clue you in about the world and the characters.

Plus, this is one of the very few times when diverging from the source material actually made a better end product.

And in case you haven’t read this book and have no idea what I am taking about, I’ll put it simply:

It’s about pirates and finding some mystical hidden treasure. And it’s a grand adventure that holds up rather well even to this day.

 

5. Mazinger Z

Mazinger Z anime screenshot

OK this is the last mecha show, I promise.

People just really liked giant robots duking it out back in the day.

As far as Mazinger Z is concerned, it’s pretty average conception wise. You have a giant mech that’s usually controlled by teenagers, and a bad guy hell bent of taking over the world.

Said bad guy sends one minion at a time to face our protagonists, and that’s about it.

However, what it lacks in creativity it makes up for in technique.

Certain arcs are gripping beyond belief in terms of writing. And the show somehow manages to use the same formula for 92 episodes without losing the audience, which is rather impressive.

Just don’t binge watch it all at once, as it’ll wear you down.

 

4. The Rose of Versailles

The Rose of Versailles anime

Now we move away from all those futuristic robots and space travelers and go into the opposite direction: the past.

The Rose of Versailles is a historical depiction of Marie Antoinette and her fateful meeting with Oscar François de Jarjayes.

It’s a masterfully written drama that depicts the downfall of French nobility, as well as the story of two women who were forced to serve a role they had not wished for.

I really can’t praise the character writing enough, especially for Oscar, as this show will definitely warm your heart one second and then uppercut it the next.

A true classic, if I can say so myself.

 

3. Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Space Pirate Captain Harlock screenshot

You never truly realize what a match made in heaven the words “space” and “pirate” truly are, until you watch this show.

Or Treasure Planet, I guess.

But Captain Harlock basically embodies every badass adventure setting into one glorious masterpiece, as you can sense the influence of Western, pirate, and sci-fi elements, all in one anime.

We even have the iconic Byronic type hero at the forefront, prepared to be extremely cool and oddly likable at the same time.

It’s no stretch to say that this show was monumental for its time – and well deserving of ranking into the top 3 for this list.

 

2. Lupin III

Lupin III anime screenshot

Speaking of monumental shows, Lupin has entered the chat.

This franchise has so many spinoffs that it feels like a lifetime investment getting into it now.

And it all started with this gorgeous piece back in 1971.

Aside from the manga, this was our first introduction to the thieving ways of the Lupin multiverse, as the long-legged gang jumped from one heist to another.

What’s especially interesting about the first Lupin is that it’s way darker than some of the more contemporary adaptations would have you believe.

And while this may slightly scar any children watching, it’s beyond intriguing as an adult.

I knew Lupin had an emo phase!

 

1. Tomorrow’s Joe

Tomorrow's Joe anime

This is the Rocky series that we all truly needed.

It is perhaps one of the best sports anime to this day, and definitely a fan favorite to anyone who’s really into boxing.

It starts off with the classic formula of a deadbeat guy beating up some mobsters, and then getting recognized by an ex-boxing coach.

He quickly takes him under his wing, and a fierce rivalry is started between our protagonist and the only man who has ever handed Joe an L.

Every fight is tense. And the emotional backing behind every match more than makes up for the rather outdated animation.

As a whole, this show is iconic in every sense of the word. And it definitely deserves to be recognized as one of the better (if not the best) anime to come out in the 1970s.

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Alec P.

Fight me @BumpDonal