Anime has to be one of the best forms in animation ever. What is interesting to note is that animation from Japan has been inspired by the likes of Disney, especially their first movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What is different from us in the West is the ingenious ideas Japan would create. Anime has created memorable characters, complex stories, and an art style that helps define itself for the name it has been given. This list will be looking back at the classics that we most likely grew up with, but will also highlight the ones that deserve their own recognition. There are anime that are certainly overrated and those that are underrated.
Now, before you start with the angry comments after seeing one of, or some of your favorite anime being overrated, please note that overrated does not automatically mean it's bad. Overrated anime will always have their unique stories and characters, but the underrated anime deserve just as much attention. Sometimes, we have to admit that while we love some anime, they do tend to get a lot of attention despite their flaws, and it would be surprising if someone hadn’t at least heard of the anime. Perhaps some of the anime on this list will give you some good recommendations to watch in your spare time (that goes for both the overrated and underrated). Just note that it is not a crime to like any of them regardless of their status.
Here are 15 Classic Anime Shows That Are Overrated (And 15 Worth A Second Look)!
30 Overrated: Cowboy Bebop
Now, seeing this iconic anime as overrated might seem to be a surprise, but with all the praise that critics and fans have given to Cowboy Bebop, it does give the impression of being overrated to anime fans who have surprisingly not seen this show before. However, this anime does deserve all the acclaim it gets, due to its gripping story, fascinating characters, and ear-warming music.
Since it was also made during the 90s, there is a side of nostalgia for those who adore Cowboy Bebop and we sincerely recommend this anime despite its intense hype.
29 Underrated: Space Pirate Captain Harlock
Originally a manga series in the late 70s, Space Pirate Captain Harlock got an anime adaptation in 1978. Something about space operas were apparently popular during the late 70s since we got the first Star Wars film nearly around the same time.
While this anime has been critically acclaimed, thanks to the talent of Leiji Matsumoto, there is just not enough recognition for this classic. Captain Harlock himself is a romantic hero done right, and he is one of the best protagonists in all of anime.
28 Overrated: The Prince Of Tennis
Nowadays, The Prince of Tennis has calmed down when it comes to its immense popularity. Back when it was airing in Japan, this was easily the most recognizable sports anime of all time.
Thanks to Toonami, this anime is most likely the first sports anime for U.S. viewers. The Prince of Tennis still holds up well, but there are anime fans who will probably get bored with the story as it has over one hundred episodes. For a sports anime, though, that was unheard of.
27 Underrated: Interstella 5555
Interstella 5555 is a unique anime film that resulted in a collaboration between Leiji Matsumoto and Daft Punk. If that does not sound epic, we don’t know what will. The film acts as a visual realization of Daft Punk’s second studio album, Discovery.
Consisting of no dialogue and minimal sound effects, this movie is a masterpiece that any anime fan should watch. It is a different approach, but the realization was done brilliantly. Plus, the music and anime are topnotch together.
26 Overrated: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
There is a theme for the overrated anime on this list, and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is in that theme. What is the theme? This anime aired on Toonami, and due to that, Gundam Wing gained a lot of attention in the West, giving the Gundam series a lot of recognition.
Gundam Wing is groundbreaking, but there are other series that are just as great. The original from 1979, Gundam SEED, and Iron-Blooded Orphans are strong series that are on-par with Gundam Wing.
25 Underrated: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (1993)
How many of you are unaware that JoJo had an anime adaptation before the popularized series was produced by David Production? If you are a casual anime fan that is familiar with that series, you would probably be surprised to find out that there is a 90s adaptation.
It is an OVA consisting of six episodes, but this series does its best putting in a lot of material from the manga. It might not be entirely perfect, but the 1993 JoJo is a nostalgic treat for the fans.
24 Overrated: Naruto
Shonen anime tend to get a lot of attention compared to other genres, but that is like how we westerners like action films over other genres. Naruto became a huge hit worldwide, and while there are some positives, it can’t outdo its inspiration: Dragon Ball.
Naruto has too many characters, most of whom don’t get development. But while they are incredibly popular, we wouldn’t say they are outstanding outside of their series. To be fair, Naruto’s growth from being zero to hero is handled nicely, but since he’s the main character, that is to be expected.
23 Underrated: Ranma 1/2
Rumiko Takahashi is a mangaka legend. She is best known for Inuyasha, which is beloved around the world, but her other works are just as great, especially Ranma 1/2.
It does have a bizarre concept with the main character being able to change gender, but it is handled in a comedic approach, and it works. While it was huge in Japan, Ranma 1/2 is criminally underrated in the U.S. The anime is highly recommended if you want to watch a classic anime with great comedy.
22 Overrated: One Piece
As mentioned earlier, an overrated anime is not necessarily a crime to watch. One Piece manages to convey an epic tale that has spanned for two decades. That is a huge accomplishment, which is why it is the most popular and highest-selling manga of all time.
The problem for One Piece as an anime is that it is incredibly long. The pacing can be an issue for fans to stomach, but it can be salvageable for others. And whether you like it or not, One Piece right now is the king of shonen.
21 Underrated: Initial D
Are you experiencing déjà vu? Have you been in this place before? The Internet meme of this song from Initial D probably sparked some anime fans to watch the anime. The plot is basic, consisting of the protagonist Takumi from being a delivery boy to a drift-racing legend.
The series focuses on street racing in Japan. That alone is gripping and makes the story fascinating. If you are looking for a sports anime with a great story and Eurobeat music, then Initial D is the one for you.
20 Overrated: Fullmetal Alchemist
Another anime that will be revolutionized as one of the greatest of all time is Fullmetal Alchemist. The story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, is an epic tale of getting parts of their bodies back after attempting to revive their mother with alchemy.
But, if we need to be honest, it is a better experience watching its successor, Brotherhood. It covers more of the manga and gives one of the best anime endings of all time. There’s nothing wrong with liking the original, but you will be surprised by Brotherhood’s take on the original story.
19 Underrated: The Rose Of Versailles
Who would have thought that an anime taking place before the Revolution occurred in France could make for a great concept? Another classic from the 70s, The Rose of Versailles stars a fictionalized Marie Antoinette, but then, the focus shifts to a woman named Oscar, who was raised to be a man by her father.
There was a huge following for this series, but right now, there aren’t a lot of people talking about it. If anything, this should be a must-watch for those who are interested in the history of France.
18 Overrated: Sailor Moon
For all credit that is due, Sailor Moon is the queen of magical girl anime, paving the way for others to have their time to shine. What makes Sailor Moon unfortunately overrated is its 90s adaptation. There are a lot of flaws that can throw away viewers.
While Usagi is a character who gets amazing character development, she is definitely loud and mean in the beginning. The animation, while gorgeous at the time, is known for using stock footage of the Sailor Scouts’ transformations, taking up an episode’s running time. If you can handle the cheesiness and flaws, Sailor Moon is still recommended for how it became an iconic anime.
17 Underrated: Voltron
Are there any fans who are fixated on Netflix’s adaptation of Voltron? You are in luck if you have not seen the original that aired in the 80s. Now, this might have been released in the U.S., but the animation is done by Toei, so we’ll consider it as an anime for this list.
This is an underlooked show that derives from the original Beast King GoLion. So, in a way, Voltron fans can appreciate this show and the classic 80s version for giving them a smart and brilliantly animated reboot.
16 Overrated: Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin is the kind of anime that looks grand and outstanding, though it does have its flaws. Another anime that was given to us thanks to the glorious Toonami, Rurouni Kenshin is a typical shonen, but has gorgeous visuals and great action.
The characters are not necessarily pioneering, but they are not bad either. For a shonen, this show is rather tamed and not over-the-top compared to other certain titles. Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is not perfect, but it's understandable why it's so loved by many.
15 Underrated: Fruits Basket
Shojo anime usually caters to early-aged audiences, and Fruits Basket is among them. This anime is easy-going and has an amazing female protagonist named Tohru Honda. When she finds herself as the Sohma household, she begins to experience their issues regarding a curse.
In today’s anime standards, Fruits Basket can seem like a snooze fest, but it is honestly a sweet and approachable show. And hey, with a 2019 anime adaptation coming, why not get started with a cute and nice romance?
14 Overrated: Love Hina
The idea of a guy getting all of the attention from women seems like the ultimate dream, though, it can divide anime fans who will notice that this show can objectify people.
It is also rather weird too, especially when poor Keitaro is always bumping into Naru, an infamous tsundere. While it is not the worst harem, Love Hina is severely outdated, however, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot for those who are curious.
13 Underrated: Perfect Blue
How many film directors from Japan can you think of that gave us memorable movies? You know the obvious one, but there is another by the name of Satoshi Kon, who is incredibly talented, in the case of Perfect Blue.
This movie is spooky due to its subject matter, but it is so well done that it warrants a spot on this list. There have been a lot of fans who have praised this movie, but Perfect Blue does get overshadowed by current anime films. If you enjoy psychological horror genres, be on the lookout for this movie, as well as Kon’s other great works.
12 Overrated: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Imagine being a newcomer to anime, and one of your recommendations is Neon Genesis Evangelion. It is not a bad choice for an anime to watch, since it is one of the most revolutionary anime of all time.
Two problems that this anime can have are the main protagonist and the bleak theme displayed throughout the series. A lot of anime goers can’t stand Shinji and would want the story to be hopeful. Watch Evangelion for yourself and draw your own conclusions regarding the characters and atmosphere.
11 Underrated: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena features a strong female protagonist by the name of Utena, who wants to become a prince after being saved by one. She would later fall in love with Anthy, who is in an unloved relationship with another person.
Even though Utena has been a popular anime back then, there are other shows that overshadow this classic. Fans who enjoy romance and fantasy will certainly enjoy this one.
10 Overrated: Fist Of The North Star
Chances are, you have heard of this 80s anime thanks to the Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru meme. Fist of the North Star looks like an epic show featuring Kenshiro, who is easily one of the most recognizable protagonists in anime. While this anime is iconic, it is rather average at best.
Even though Fist of the North Star has a basic story, anime fans probably won’t get too invested in it due to the show’s reliance on action scenes. But, those who crave action scenes will not be disappointed.
9 Underrated: Cardcaptor Sakura
Cardcaptor Sakura is a cute show that calling it underrated might be an overstatement. It is quite popular, but with the magical craze that started it all being Sailor Moon, there was not much attention thrown into this show.
For a magical girl anime, it is very creative, and Sakura is such a great character that we root for her through any obstacle she faces. Just be sure to watch the original version, since the U.S. edit takes out a lot of important elements necessary for the plot.
8 Overrated: Akira
Considered to be the greatest anime film of all time, Akira is the one anime film that even non-anime fans can recall. For a film that was released in the late 80s it still holds up with its great animation. It is safe to say that you can watch Akira mostly for its visuals and it would be quite the trip.
Unfortunately, this anime movie is not for everyone. The plot can be confusing and the message, while thought-provoking, can leave people in the dust after watching this movie.
7 Underrated: Serial Experiments Lain
So, do you want to experience science fiction anime with intriguing psychological elements? Then Serial Experiments Lain is for you. It is confusing and trippy at times, but the anime does hold up with a philosophy about identity in reality and the internet.
This is the type of anime that makes you think, and that is what a provoking title like Serial Experiments Lain does best. Do check out this anime whenever you get the chance!
6 Overrated: Digimon
Judging by the name alone, people think that Digimon is essentially a rip-off of Pokémon. It combines two words, “digital” and “monster,” while the latter is based off “pocket” and “monster.” The anime is vastly different from Pokémon, and it is actually better constructed, which is saying a lot.
However, Digimon is just as standard in plot, characters, and the Digimon themselves. For a kids’ anime, it holds up well, but Digimon is probably not the anime to go to for a complex story and vibrant characters.
5 Underrated: Grave Of The Fireflies
Studio Ghibli is known for bringing us anime films that are otherworldly and breathtaking. The visuals are vibrant and extravagant, and the characters are timeless and fun. Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps one of the more gloomy anime that Ghibli has made.
Compared to beloved Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service, this one does get less attention, but with the right intentions. Still, this movie is brilliant, capturing the perspective of a young man’s life at the end of WWII.
4 Overrated: Pokémon
There has been a lot said about Pokémon. This anime adaptation based on the video game has a lot of nostalgic memories for those who grew up in the 90s. We rooted for Ash and his quest to become the ultimate Pokémon master, whatever that means.
Pokémon today is just the same formula: Ash, new Pokémon, new friends, and a new league. And do we need to mention that Ash is still ten after all these years? Pokémon will always be a great memory, but as an actual anime, it is formulaic and repetitive.
3 Underrated: Lupin III
Lupin III has always been a classic, and people should get a chance to see this. It’s a shame how this comedic anime with a Westernized setting and characters does not get much praise here. Lupin III also has no plot continuity, so anyone could watch a single episode and enjoy its humor, action, and animation.
New anime fans will probably get intimidated by the number of episodes, but rest assured, you can start anywhere, and that’s the magic that Lupin III has. Even one episode will be enough to have fun with it!
2 Overrated: Dragon Ball Z
Acknowledged as the anime that introduced Western viewers, Dragon Ball Z became a worldwide phenomenon. The story is simple, but groundbreaking, and the characters are timeless. The praise for this anime is justified, though it is definitely not for everyone.
There has been some criticism regarding the fight scenes taking up a huge number of episodes to finish, and it’s reasonable for anime goers not to be invested because of this. While a lot of anime fans say that Dragon Ball Z is overrated, there is no denying the impact that the show had brought internationally.
1 Underrated: Dragon Ball
So, how is it that Dragon Ball Z is overrated, but the original Dragon Ball is not? The answer is simple. The latter just does not get talked about as much when compared to the juggernaut. DBZ fans are not really missing out for skipping Dragon Ball, but it does expand the backstory of Goku, Bulma, Master Roshi, and a few others.
Dragon Ball Z might have revolutionized the series overall, but the original Dragon Ball helped start it all in anime. Why not try out an episode and enjoy young Goku trying to find the seven Dragon Balls?