As anime and manga become more ubiquitous in nerd culture, it can be easy to forget that there was once a time when anime fans were desperately grasping for any anime they could get their grubby little mitts on. Back in the day, anime on Western airwaves was a rare sight, and when shows chronicling super-powered kung-fu aliens popped up in the TV guide, anime nerds would flock to it like a dehydrated man to water. As shows like Dragonball Z and My Hero Academia have entered into the pop culture lexicon, it can be easy to forget all about the early anime shows that shaped kids everywhere.
While anime made its way to the West as far back as the 1960's, it wasn't until the '90s and early-2000's that anime really found a sizable footing with gaijins. As manga and anime sales began to climb, networks rolled out a plethora of new anime shows, which anime-starved nerds turned into in droves. As anime has graduated from a cultural curiosity into a full-blown phenomenon, early anime fans have moved onto new shows, often times forgetting all about the early shows that helped to shape their fandom. Join CBR as we take a stroll down memory lane and dredge up shows that you managed to completely forget about. Here is, Shows That Ani-Made Us: 15 Animes People Loved Growing Up (But Totally Forgot).
15 ZATCH BELL
The early-to-mid '00s saw a glut of "tiny adorable things having tiny adorable fights to the death" animes making their way to Western airwaves. While shows such as Pokemon and Digimon found TV success, other shows within this genre didn't fare quite as well. Which brings us to Zatch Bell!
Airing on Toonami in 2007, Zatch Bell! followed protagonist Kiyo Takamine as he teams up with the eponymous demonic doll Zatch Bell to battle other demon dolls in pursuit of the title of the king of demons. Mixing the "yelling moves at a small creature" mechanic of Pokemon with the supernatural tinges of Yu Yu Hakusho Cartoon Network pushed Zatch Bell! as the next big Toonami show, but the anime would fail to make an impact, slipping into relative obscurity once its 77 episodes concluded.
Even if you start every morning by shaving with the blunt end of an axe while squeezing the juice from an orange with your bare hands, you have to admit: Hamtaro is absolutely adorable. This cutesy anime seemed poised for big things when it debuted on Cartoon Network in 2003, but the series failed to make much of a mark. But we guarantee you secretly loved this show growing up.
Following the titular Hamtaro, a bubbly little "Ham-Ham," as he embarked upon adventures with his cute and cuddly hamster pals, Hamtaro was so sweet it could be used as a sugar substitute. DVDs were released containing episodes of the show, a game was released for Gameboy Color, and an avalanche of merchandise followed, but Hamtaro wasn't the runaway success Cartoon Network was hoping for, causing this show to be mostly forgotten these days.
13 READ OR DIE
As anime exploded in popularity in the early 2000's, practically every channel under the sun was looking to cash in on the sudden boom. While Cartoon Network and Fox Box filled large swaths of programming with kid-friendly anime, TechTV opted to go for an older crowd, introducing a generation of anime-hungry viewers to Read Or Die in 2005.
Pokemon, this was not. Unlike the child-oriented shows that primarily populated the airwaves at the time, Read Or Die explored a more mature story. Following the members of the British Library Task Force as they fought criminals and supervillains using their unique powers of controlling paper, Read Or Die effectively delivered James Bond-style super spy adventures, with plenty of giant, city-destroying sentient origami thrown in for good measure. While many have forgotten all about Read Or Die, there are plenty of fans happy to sing the praises of this bonafide anime classic.
12 MONSTER RANCHER
When Pokemon took the world by storm in 1996, everyone was looking to hop on the battling monster money train. Game shelves were quickly choked with Pokemon knock-offs, and companies found games would need unique gimmicks to stand out from the pack. Enter Monster Rancher and its ability to read CDs and generate a collectible monster. Sure, you might remember the Monster Rancher game, but we're betting you forgot all about the anime.
Releasing in 1997 to coincide with the surprise success of Monster Rancher on the PlayStation, Monster Rancher took a meta approach to an anime adaption of a popular video game, following protagonist Genki Sakura as he is sucked into the world of Monster Rancher via a magic CD. Cue adventures with cuddly monsters and plenty of battles. The series was a minor success at the time, but Monster Rancher remains largely forgotten these days.
11 FIGHTING FOODONS
While Monster Rancher managed to find mild success knocking off Pokemon, not every pocket monster wanna-be was quite as lucky. Case in point: the incredibly strange food-themed battle monster anime, Fighting Foodons.
While most Pokemon type shows tended to stick to the tried-and-true "hey kids look at the tiny monsters" formula, Fighting Foodons mixed things up by basing the story around sentient, battle-hardened food. Protagonist Chase used his magical Meal Ticket cards to transform ordinary dishes of food into Foodons, bearing names such as Fried Ricer, Hot Doggone-it, and the alarmingly named Shrimp Daddy. Despite debuting on the popular Fox Box block, Fighting Foodons failed to take a bite out of the Pokemon money pie, but earned plenty of young fans along the way.
10 BOBOBO-BO BO-BOBO
You may not remember the name, but any loyal Toonami viewer will likely remember this bizarre anime following an afro-sporting buffoon who fought evil using his whip-like nose hairs. Yes, Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo was all kinds of strange, but it's that strangeness that helped this anime earn a loyal fan following among anime-obsessed kids in the 2000's.
The ridiculously named Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo followed the titular hero as he teamed with a sentient sun, a generic anime tough boy who fought using his farts, and many more ridiculous side characters as he embarked upon out-there adventures that involve being forced to eat spaghetti and hosting a network news show. A beloved character in Japan, Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo is mostly forgotten in the West these days.
9 SILENT MOBIUS
As networks oriented towards kids became inundated with anime intended for younger audiences, older fans hungry for more mature anime wondered where they could turn for more challenging content. Thankfully, G4 had the perfect show to scratch that mature anime itch: Silent Mobius.
Debuting on G4's Anime Unleashed block in 2003, Silent Mobius told the grim tale of a polluted Earth opening a portal to an alien planet to replenish its failing resources, only for the portal to be sabotaged, unleashing vicious aliens creatures known as the Lucifer Hawk upon the world. Cue the assembly of the Attacked Mystification Police, a task force dedicated to fighting the alien menace. With a bleak outlook on pollution and plenty of violence, Silent Mobius wasn't quite like other anime on Western TV, and this earned the show a sizable fan following.
8 SHAMAN KING
As series like One Piece and Naruto were jockeying for manga supremacy, a new series emerged on the scene that quickly captured Western interests. As the manga continued to climb the charts, plans were put in motion to bring the popular new series' anime adaption to American airwaves. The anime finally arrived in late 2003, and burgeoning anime fans everywhere found themselves engrossed in Shaman King.
Debuting on the Fox Box programming block, Shaman King followed aspiring shaman Yoh Asakura as he trained to become the Shaman King, granting him the power to contact the Great Spirit and reshape the world however he desires. Mixing the popular battle anime genre with a heavy dose of mysticism proved to be a winning combo, and Shaman King became an overnight sensation. But ultimately, the popularity of Shaman King would fade, and this once beloved series would disappear from Western TVs.
7 ULTIMATE MUSCLE
The fact that Ultimate Muscle made it to Western airwaves is nothing short of a minor miracle. The fact that a continuation of a beloved, distinctively-Japanese wrestling anime, filled to bursting with strange characters and fart jokes, became a flagship series of Fox Box is astounding. Yes, Ultimate Muscle had the deck stacked against it, but managed to become a beloved, albeit largely forgotten, anime of the early '00s.
A sequel to long-running Kinnikuman, Ultimate Muscle followed the wrestling prince Mantaro Muscle as he ventured to Earth to fight for the fate of the galaxy against the insidious dMP in the squared circle. With heroes such as a muscular antelope named Dik-Dik Van Dik and villains such as an anthropomorphic cell phone, Ultimate Muscle was far from your standard shonen anime. The series achieved moderate success in the States, spawning several video games and plenty of merchandise, but Ultimate Muscle would fade into obscurity after its cancelation.
Hey, it's another "tiny collectible creatures battle to the death" anime! Yes, Pokemon's success spawned a veritable onslaught of rip-offs, wannabes, and never-weres. But one Pokemon knock-off managed to find minor success in the tiny-battle-monster starved West: Medabots.
As American children ate up any Pokemon-esque anime, Medabots managed to ride the wake of Pokemon's success wave into a success of its own. The series followed plucky protagonist Ikki Tenryo as he teamed up with the hotheaded robot Metabee to enter the world of Medabot battles. A huge success in its native Japan, Medabots managed solid ratings and spawned a swath of toys and games. While Medabots continues in Japan to this day, it remains largely forgotten in the West.
5 RAVE MASTER
Rave Master may very well be the most 2000's anime in the history of anime. Sure, there were bigger, more popular anime shows to hit airwaves in the mid-2000's, but Rave Master has just about every 2000's anime trope humanly possible. Top this off with a theme song from ska band Reel Big Fish, and you've got an anime that was destined to never make it out of the decade it was spawned from.
Yes, Rave Master seemed to take every trope from the 2000's most popular shows and cram it into one story. You've got a giant-sword-wielding, spiky-haired protagonist destined to defeat a great evil, a female side character who seemed to exist solely to wear low-cut shirts, and plenty of adorable mascot characters. It may not have been the most original anime on the block, but the series found a following when it debuted on Cartoon Network in 2004, but Rave Master would ultimately slip into relative obscurity.
4 MEGAMAN NT WARRIOR
While MegaMan may be most associated with the legendarily difficult run-and-gun shooters bearing his name, the Blue Bomber experienced a revitalization in the 2000's with the release of the MegaMan Battle Network series, which turned MegaMan into a computer program fighting rogue viruses in tactical RPG battles. The series was such a hit that it spawned an anime adaption, but you'd be forgiven for having forgotten all about this show.
Airing on Kids WB in 2005, MegaMan NT Warrior adapted the story of plucky Lan Hikari as he uses his "NetNavi" MegaMan.EXE to battle NetCrime organizations. Taking classic MegaMan characters and giving them a fresh coast of futuristic computer program paint may have worked for Mega Man Battle Network, but Mega Man NT Warrior wasn't quite as lucky, getting canceled after two short seasons. Despite its short run on American airwaves, MegaMan NT Warrior amassed plenty of dedicated fans, even if they managed to forget the show as time went on.
3 OUTLAW STAR
Cartoon Network's Toonami helped to introduce Western viewers to some of the greatest shows in anime. Through this long-running program block, anime fans learned about shows such as Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing. But there was another great anime to grace Toonami that never quite amassed the same following as other shows, but left a huge impression on burgeoning anime fans.
Debuting on Toonami in 2001, Outlaw Star told the tale of aspiring space pirate Gene Starwind as he uses the ship "Outlaw Star" to seek out the Galactic Leyline, said to contain untold treasure and power. Much like fellow Toonami show Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star mixed elements of space operas and westerns to create a unique, compelling world. Outlaw Star remains a cult favorite to this day, but never managed to reach the level of popularity as other Toonami staples.
There are some concepts that are universal. Turns out, no matter where you call home, kids will always think giant robots are totally awesome. Thus, it's no surprise that Zoids managed to make a splash in the US when it hit TVs in 2001. Unfortunately, that popularity was not to last, making Zoids a largely forgotten early-2000's anime.
Zoids followed spunky Zoid-enthusiast Bit Cloud as he discovers he is the only person able to pilot the legendary Zoid known as Liger Zero, which he uses to join Blitz Team and enter the Zoid Battle League. With an avalanche of plastic models of Zoids released to coincide with the release of the anime, robot-obsessed kids everywhere found themselves snatching up the toys and tuning into the show religiously. Two sequel series followed the 26-episode Zoids, but neither managed to match the level of popularity the original series found.
1 RONIN WARRIORS
Back in 1995, Western audiences were still trying to figure out what the heck an "anime" was. Realizing people weren't quite ready for straight-forward translations of anime, companies would take anime and retool it, repackaging the show into something more appealing to mass audiences. Such was the case with the beloved, albeit largely forgotten, Ronin Warriors.
Known in Japan as Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers, Ronin Warriors followed five young warriors, each wearing mystical samurai armor, as they battled the Demon Lord for the fate of the world. Cashing on on America's then-obsession with color-coded fighters on a team, a la Power Rangers, Ronin Warriors was an early hit for Cartoon Network. Despite a legion of devoted fans, Ronin Warriors would eventually fade from the public consciousness, but we guarantee you loved this anime growing up.