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The Japanese Animation Studios that Defined 90s Anime

The 90s saw the creation of a lot of great anime. Of the hundreds of shows and movies made during this time, some standouts truly define this era. And these standouts were created by studios that set the mark for quality animation and storytelling that made anime so great in the 1990s.

Many of these Japanese animation studios existed before, and even after, the 90s. However, it’s undeniable that these studios completed some of their most remarkable work during this era.

So let’s consider some of the best animation studios that made 90s anime.

Studio Ghibli

porco rosso and his bullets
Porco Rosso

There’s hardly an anime fan alive who doesn’t know about Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. The first anime I recall watching is Warriors of the Wind, which is the bastardized western localization of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, released stateside in the 80s.

The highest-grossing Ghibli movie of the 90s is Princess Mononoke, and this movie, along with a distribution deal with Disney, helped establish a global presence for the movie studio. Before this, Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro saw international release on home video; however, people did not connect them with Studio Ghibli until later on.

Top Studio Ghibli Movies of the 90s:


ed freaking out
Cowboy Bebop

Sunrise is one of the largest and most well-known animation studios in Japan and has churned out a lot of great anime in their time. It is hard to imagine 90’s anime without Sunrise in the picture.

Shows like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, The Vision of Escaflowne, The Big O, and Cowboy Bebop show why Sunrise was one of the best anime studios of the 90s. And many anime fans had their first anime experience watching these shows on Toonami or Adult Swim.

As a point of interest, Sunrise animated some episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which later influenced the production of The Big O.

Top Sunrise Shows of the 90s:

  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
  • Vision of Escaflowne
  • Outlaw Star
  • the Big O

Toei Animation

Vegeta powered up
Dragon Ball Z

Toei Animation is the grandpa of the Japanese Animation industry. They’ve been around since 1948, and in the 90s, they released many popular shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Slam Dunk, and One Piece.

Without Toei Animation, it’s difficult to imagine anime rising to the level of popularity it enjoys today.

Top Toei Anime of the 90s:

  • Slam Dunk
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Sailor Moon
  • The Kindaichi Case Files
  • Boys Over Flowers

Production I.G.

ghost in the shell
Ghost in the Shell

Production I.G. animated one of the most influential anime movies of the 90s, Ghost in the Shell. This movie was partly responsible for popularizing anime in the United States and helped establish Production I.G’s reputation for quality and ground-breaking animation.

Production I.G. also produced shows like Dragon Half and Blue Seed.

Top Production I.G. anime of the 90s:

  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Patlabor 2
  • Dragon Half
  • Blue Seed
  • Popolocrois Monogatari

Studio Pierrot

Yusuke and Kazuma
Yu Yu Hakusho

With their distinct clown face logo, Studio Pierrot is one of the most prolific anime studios and is behind many of your favorite shows such as Naruto, Bleach, and Tokyo Ghoul.

In the 90s, they produced over 30 shows including Yu Yu Hakusho and Great Teacher Onizuka.

Top Studio Pierrot Anime of the 90s:

  • Yu Yu Hakusho
  • Great Teacher Onizuka
  • Flame of Recca
  • Fancy Lala
  • Fushigi Yuugi

TMS Entertainment

magic knight rayearth flying
Magic Knight Rayearth

TMS Entertainment is another one of the longest-standing Japanese animation studios and got its start in 1946. Currently, they’re producing shows such as Megalobox and Dr. Stone.

Top TMS Entertainment Anime of the 90s:

  • Case Closed (Detective Conan)
  • Kaitou Saint Tail
  • Magic Knight Rayearth
  • The Devil Lady
  • Puppet Master Sakon


preparing for battle
Rurouni Kenshin

Studio Gallop started out by specializing in merchandise-driven shows in the mid-80s, but by the 1990s they were producing popular anime that helped establish them as a credible animation studio.

Top Studio Gallop Anime of the 1990s:

  • Initial D
  • Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X)
  • Kodocha
  • Kochikame
  • Red Riding Hood Chacha


Asuka and Shinji
Neon Genesis Evangelion

With shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, and Gurren Lagann, Gainax has cemented itself as one of the most respectable animation studios in the industry. These titles also show that Gainax is not afraid to delve into the realm of avant-garde animation and are willing to take risks with their storytelling.

Top Gainax Anime of the 90s:


Deedlit the High Elf
Record of Lodoss War

Madhouse was one of the earliest studios to raise the bar on the quality of animation and storytelling in the 80s. This is reflected in their films and shows such as Wicked City, Twilight of the Cockroaches, and Barefoot Gen.

In the modern era, they continue to raise the bar with anime such as One Punch Man, Overlord, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

Top Madhouse Anime of the 1990s:

  • Perfect Blue
  • Ninja Scroll
  • Trigun
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Record of Lodoss War

Studio Deen

Captain Tylor shocks his friends
Irresponsible Captain Tylor

Studio Deen was founded in the mid-70s by ex-employees of Sunrise and their name is taken from an anime they worked on together called Brave Raideen. They have since produced some of your favorite shows such as Fruits Basket, Rurouni Kenshin, and Log Horizon.

Top Studio Deen Anime of the 90s:

  • The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
  • Ranma 1/2
  • You’re Under Arrest
  • Zenki
  • DNA2

OLM, Inc.

Guts takes a swing

OLM has made quite a name for itself by animating countless episodes of Pokemon stretching across multiple decades. In addition to Pokemon, they have animated other memorable shows such as Berserk, Odd Taxi, and Komi Can’t Communicate.

Top OLM, Inc. Anime of the 90s:

  • Berserk
  • Pokemon
  • Gunsmith Cats
  • To Heart
  • Wedding Peach

J.C. Staff

Utena faces forward
Revolutionary Girl Utena

J.C. Staff, or Japan Creative, has churned out a lot of great hits over the years. Most recently you might recognize some of their top shows such as Toradora!, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., and Food Wars! But they also produced a lot of great shows in the 90s that you may recognize.

Top J.C. Staff Anime of the 1990s:

  • Revolutionary Girl Utena
  • Excel Saga
  • New Dominion Tank Police
  • His and Her Circumstances
  • Orphen


Rowegn became an anime fan in the early 90s after renting Akira on VHS. The experience completely changed how he viewed animation as a medium and he has since logged thousands of hours watching anime. Despite his love for all anime both classic and modern, 90s anime will always be near and dear.

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