The anime golden era was a time where everything was perfect.
More money was being pumped into the industry without piracy getting in the way. And the quality of anime shows was at an all time high.
That’s not to say anime in 2020 is in the dog pile, but it does mean there were “more” quality anime at any given time during the golden era. At the highest level.
The golden era started in the 90’s and ended in the early 2000’s.
Shounen was one of the obvious leaders, along with genres like:
- Slice of Life
and a few others.
A lot of these anime went on to become:
- Best sellers
- Underground legends
These are the biggest anime during that time.
1. Fullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist is an obvious choice during the last golden era. Only an idiot would claim it’s not one of the biggest anime we’ve ever seen released.
Maybe part of that reason is because of the studio behind it. Studio Bones s known for My Hero Academia, Eureka Seven, and a lot of great anime.
What’s even more surprising about FMA is t only has ONE season (ignoring Brotherhood). And yet it absolutely smashed the golden era’s competition.
2. Death Note
Death Note is one of those annoyingly famous anime you can’t get away from. It’s the reason I avoided it for so many years because I got sick of hearing about it.
But I can’t lie – once I watched the anime I understood the hype. Whether you like the anime or not, it was one of the biggest of the last golden era.
Madhouse Studios is known for creating:
- Successful anime
- Mainstream anime
And the type of anime that make you think, feel, or leave a lasting impression. And Death Note is a legit example of that
Naruto is another anime that’s so famous it’s annoying. Even more so than Death Note (which seems insane) you can’t go anywhere without someone talking about Naruto.
It’s always part of the anime conversation, even if people focus on the older shows (and not Boruto).
The last golden era of anime had some killer anime in the limelight, and Naruto was one of them. Hate it or love it.
Its motivational aspects and life lessons + characters play a big role with that.
4. Code Geass
Code Geass is one of the few Mecha to SHINE during the 2000’s. But it’s the only Mecha that made it big during the last golden era (2000 – 2006).
Made by Sunrise Studios, Code Geass is the equivalent of a chess game, turned into an all out war between Japan and Britannia.
Strategy, tactics, planning 10 steps ahead, out-thinking the competition… And a questionable main character as far as morals and ethics. Code Geass is a solid Golden Era anime.
It’s a massive series.
It’s the anime that made me like Mecha in the first place.
Relevant: This Is Why Mecha Anime Is HATED So Much
5. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is a surprising anime for this list because it’s NOT a Shounen, or anything typical of the last golden era’s biggest anime.
It’s a horror series that takes the word “horror” literally when it comes to:
- Sickening human beings
And everything else that makes Elfen Lied the anime it is.
Out of all the horror anime that released during the golden era, and all the anime ever released in the horror genre… Elfen Lied stands above all of them for its popularity.
The only exception is shows like Higurashi (but that released AFTER the golden age of anime).
Monster is the only “other” horror anime to make it big during this time along with Elfen Lied. Monster is made by Madhouse (just like Death Note).
With over 70+ episodes long it was longer than a normal horror. But it broke through the noise and made it big.
It’s a popular anime (especially back then) focusing on Kenzo Tenma, a doctor who accidentally saves the life of a serial killer. He doesn’t know any better because at the time, the kid brought into the hospital seems like a regular kid.
Later though you learn he has a messed up past, and is a known serial killer hiding in the shadows and masterminding each murder like it’s a game of chess.
Bleach is an unforgettable anime during the last golden era. Studio Perriot (same studio as Naruto) are the ones responsible for its success.
The funny thing is Bleach was originally turned down because it was “too similar” to Yu Yu Hakusho. So Bleach came a long way to later reach the limelight.
Whether you’re a fan of the anime or not, it’s status is solidified in the industry.
It’s straight up disrespectful to ignore this anime during the golden era of anime. Or even today as a classic Shounen.
8. Fate Stay Night
Fate Stay Night, the first Fate Stay Night released 2006. Originally made by Studio Deen, the anime slipped into golden era status just in time.
The anime (and more so the franchise) has gotten so popular it can’t be ignored when we’re talking about classics during that time.
The concept of going to war with others for the sake of your ultimate WISH is part of this anime’s appeal.
As long as the franchise keeps innovating the Fate train is here to stay.
Other anime during the last golden era (2000-2006):
- Shakugan No Shana.
- Eureka Seven.
- Hell Girl.
- Full Metal Panic.
- School Rumble
- D. Gray Man
Outside of these anime shows during 2000-2006, it’s hard to think of anime that are:
- Just as big
- Or bigger
Than the anime I’ve already mentioned.
Not a lot of anime made it to the top during the last golden era, but many underground classics and great anime in general were around.
They just weren’t the most famous or mainstream, which is the point of this list.
I ignored shows like One Piece because they started before the last golden era. Even if they aired in the 2000’s at some point.
If I missed any, share it in the comments.