The 90s witnessed the dawn of a new era for anime, with several shows populating the scene that paved the way for the industry to gain global repute and fame. Many iconic series played a role in bringing anime to mainstream media, and while these anime are duly credited for their pivotal role, the characters that made these feats possible are often overlooked.

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While the popularity of many series and characters trickled down to the 21st century, some were forgotten, despite being some of the most legendary characters of their time. From fleshed-out characterizations to badass personas, these 90s anime characters deserve their fair share of the limelight.



5 Nadia – Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

Promo art featuring characters from Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is one of the few anime series with roots in a classic novel, as the series is loosely based on the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The anime follows Nadia and her quest to save the world from being taken over by the Neo-Atlantean forces. Despite being only fourteen years old, Nadia traverses through the world in a bid to fight off the power-hungry belligerents, all while exploring her own identity and origins.

Her head-strong personality and characterization were a hit with fans as 90s anime rarely featured female protagonists, and that too with such an empowered disposition. Moreover, the themes explored in the series, coupled with Nadia’s dark skin, served as a breath of fresh air for the anime industry, bringing inclusivity and versatility to an extremely homogeneous media.

4 Sakura Kinomoto – Cardcaptor Sakura

Cardcaptor Sakura anime

Despite being a fairly young protagonist, 10-year-old Sakura Kinomoto plays an endearing yet bold role in Cardcaptor Sakura, one of the 90s’ most prominent magic girl anime. Upon discovering the Clow Cards in her basement and awakening her latent powers, Sakura is tasked with retrieving the missing cards by defeating the magical personifications that lay in wait.

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Sakura’s appeal lies in the double life aspect of the series, with the titular character attending school in the day and fighting magical beasts in the after-hours. Sakura’s outfits are another prominent aspect of her character, ensuring her look remains vibrant without getting too stale. However, the most endearing part of her character is the “everything will surely be all right” spell, saving her from trials and tribulations as she retrieves the magical cards. Her catchphrase “Hoeh” is another one of Sakura’s beloved quirks, often elongated whenever she’s shocked or surprised.

3 Justy Tylor – The Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Space operas were never a rare sight in the 90s anime landscape, yet The Irresponsible Captain Tylor stood out from the crowd with its comedic and absurd narrative. Tylor roams around the world with no purpose or goal in life, avoiding any actual responsibilities or work. Despite his lazy attitude, however, Tylor has a knack for getting himself into near-death situations that demand he takes control and responsibility.

Tylor’s dumb luck comes to the rescue every single time, with many wondering whether he’s a genius or just the luckiest man alive. He even ends up bagging an entire spaceship, and despite its decrepit and underpowered state, he manages to destroy several enemy patrol groups. The anime may be somewhat obscure, yet Tylor’s comedic antics and odd charm make him a lovable character.

2 Hanamichi Sakuragi – Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk anime team

Hanamichi Sakuragi is initially portrayed as a delinquent gang member with a boisterous personality and an explosive temper. Down the line, however, Hanamichi’s attitude is translated into sheer determination and passion for a sport he once detested – basketball. With his newfound talent for the sport, Hanamichi is determined to take the Shohoku High School Basketball team to the nationals’ championship.

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While Slam Dunk’s narrative on its own was enough to create a buzz in the anime scene, especially with sports anime being a rare sight in the early years, Hanamichi furthered the show’s popularity with his relatable personality and charming antics. His character undergoes many changes as he navigates through the woes of being a basketball player, though not without forming inseparable bonds throughout the way.

Slam Dunk is fairly popular, but the anime tends to be overshadowed by more modern sports shows like Haikyu and Kuroko’s Basketball.

1 Taichi Hiraga-Keaton – Master Keaton

Taichi Hiraga Keaton of Master Keaton

Master Keaton takes the unconventional route with a protagonist that prefers brains to brawn. Working as a freelance investigator, Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, better known as Master Keaton, has a knack for running into odd mysteries in the dark alleyways of London. With his archeological knowledge and military training, Master Keaton utilizes some rather unorthodox methods in his investigations.

Despite a novel premise and in-depth characters, the anime adaptation of Master Keaton never took off, with most entirely forgetting about this gem from the 90s. Master Keaton’s characterization is further made distinct by his over-qualifications as the series goes into detail about his service in the British Army and the Special Air Service (SAS), with accounts of combat in the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege and the 1982 Falklands War. Such intricate details add a layer of depth to the character that is hard to come by in most series.

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