I love the 90s

I love the 90s

As you guys may have noticed, I love 90s series. Of my favorite shojo series, at least half of them started during the 1990s, from Marmalade Boy to Fushigi Yugi. But as I began to read more and more titles that have come out recently, I started to wonder: why is it that I like 90s series so much? Is there some intrinsic quality that 90s shojo possess that later shojo series are lacking? Or is it simply nostalgia? 

Marmalade Boy has a quintessential 90s shojo style that makes me happy.

In many ways, it shouldn’t be shocking that out of all the decades I fell for anime and manga from the 90s in particular. I was born in the year 1990 and consider myself to be a “90s girl.” The first anime I ever got into was Sailor Moon, which is not only a 90s series itself but I also got into during the 90s. In many ways, I associate the 90s with the beginning of my anime fandom – after Sailor Moon, my next anime was Tenchi Muyo!, which I started watching around 1999 or so. At that point, my anime exposure expanded – next it was G Gundam, then Oh My Goddess! – until I became a full-fledged anime fan. All of the series that first got me hooked onto anime were 90s anime. It didn’t take too long for me to become interested specifically in shojo series: I remember seeing an article on Marmalade Boy in Animerica and thinking how much I liked it’s artstyle, and from that point on I became attracted to the series that had a similar ‘girly’ aesthetic. By the time I watched Kodocha in 2005, I basically knew I had a love for shojo anime that couldn’t be stopped. 

That love of shojo anime next spread to a love of shojo manga, particularly thanks to Shojo Beat. I started to read many contemporary series that I love to this day, including We Were There, Love*Com and Dengeki Daisy. But reading more contemporary series made me realize that there is a difference between the series I’ve read that were published in the past few years and the ones that started in the 90s. Even though I really enjoyed these contemporary series, the reading experience still wasn’t the same. Nineties series capture my attention and engross me in a way even the most addictive contemporary series just don’t. For example, I can barely rip through a volume of We Were There fast enough, heartwrenching as the series may be. But when I read Boys Over Flowers, I didn’t just want to know what happened next in the series – I wondered what it was like to be a fan reading the series when the manga was first being published in Japan in the 90s. With Itazura na Kiss, I wanted to find all the artwork I possibly could from the manga, even though the artstyle may be ‘ugly’ to some. Eighties series (regardless of whether they’re shojo or not) make me feel this way too to a certain extent, but because I haven’t seen or read as many of them I don’t feel I can say whether my love for them is purely because they are classics. But 90s series don’t only take me back to my first days of anime fandom – they bring me closer to places I never was.

I’ll be the first to admit that my reasons for loving nineties series sound like pure nostalgia. However, I believe that there is more to my love of 90s series than just my admiration of the ‘good old days.’ With nostalgia comes the belief that everything from that time period was rainbows and unicorns, without looking at the bad side of the time period as well. This is where I don’t fit in: because I don’t idealize the nineties. I know there have been plenty of crappy series produced during the 90s, and even more series that are just average. Even some 90s series I’ve enjoyed I know aren’t the best – it’s hard to say that G Gundam is anything but cheesy, and Sailor Moon certainly has its problems. Many 90s series that may have seemed original at the time are clichéd in retrospect. What’s funny about 90s shojo in particular is that they simultaneously cling to clichés while breaking them as well. For example, while Itazura na Kiss presents very common shojo plots (the dumb girl in love with the cold mysterious guy, the main couple moving in together), the series goes a step further than most by showing the main couple’s life together after they get married. And while the stereotypical cheerful-but-dense shojo heroine is blatant in 90s series such as Hana-Kimi, some of the strongest shojo heroines I can think of also came from this decade, like Yuri from Red River or Tsukushi from Boys Over Flowers. And the addictive charm some of these series have, while an intangible quality, is still something that I think is more than just because of nostalgia. Overall, it’s not that I think 90s series are better than series from the 2000s – it’s just that 90s series appeal a bit more to my palette. It’s like comparing cake and chips – I love me some chips, but at the end of the day, I’m gonna choose cake. The 90s just happened to be the cake.


11 thoughts on “I love the 90s

  1. I have a soft spot for the manga produced in the 90s. Sailor Moon, Boys Over Flowers, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Marmalade Boy are the ones I most enjoy reading. It’s hard to explain, but the drawing style has a particular 90s flair to it, from the clothes to the hair. I also loved how the Marmalade Boy anime felt very 90s too. The first time I heard the opening and ending themes for the the Marmalade Boy anime, the melody and the songs in general sounded like something I would hear from a lot of classic TV shows from that period. It felt cheesy and kind of campy, but in a good way. I can’t help but feel nostalgic like you. 🙂

    1. Oh yes, everything about Marmalade Boy is nostalgic to me! The character designs, the overly-dramatic insert music, and especially the first ending song and it’s animation. It’s set at a beach and the music is very relaxing – I’ve noticed other 80s/90s anime ending sequences also used scenes on beaches or with sky blue backgrounds (Boys Over Flowers, Kimagure Orange Road). And when I look at the covers of manga, a lot of times I can tell their from the 90s because of the artstyle.

  2. I absolutely love the shojo series Marmalade Boy, Fushigi Yugi, Hana Yori Dango,Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon , Card Captor Sakura etc simply because they have an unique artstyle. Recent shojo series are beautiful but not like those from the 90’s. (^ . ^)
    I just discovered your blog and most of your posts are related to my favourite shojo series. I really like your blog. Keep up the good work! Ja ne! (^ _ ^)

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! 🙂 Those are my favorites as well, along with Kodocha. I love some of the artstyles of recent shojo series as well – We Were There‘s art style is unique, and I also find Strobe Edge‘s art very attractive – but there’s just something about 90s shojo art that I find very charming.

      Thank you so much for the compliment!

  3. I love 90s series, I think I’m attracted to the style because it makes me feel nostalgic. Every time I read a 90s series I am always reminded of how excited I felt when I experienced Sailor Moon for the first time.
    Some of my favourite series of the 90s are Sailor Moon, Marmalade Boy, Fushigi Yugi, Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai and Gokinjo Monogatari.
    Great post!

    1. Yay, I’m not alone! Whenever I watch Sailor Moon or read Boys Over Flowers it brings me back not only to when I first got into anime but it makes me wonder what it would have been like to be a fan of these series when they were first being released in Japan. I need to read Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai! I usually don’t read manga online, but this series may become an exception. Thank you!

  4. I actually don’t think I have a favourite period. My favourites are all over the place. Aesthetically, I love 80s manga. I love the weird starry eyes and the flamboyant hair. There some really interesting experimentation in the 80s as well. 🙂 90s are good too and of course, I love more recent manga a lot too. For me, it tends to be mangaka and genres that I prefer. I liked every by Kamio and Tamura I’ve read so far and I tend to enjoy fantasy shoujo too.

    For anime though, I agree. Something about 90s anime had a more experimental spark and just more variety. Nowadays, I have to really look through the massive amounts of fan service and moe to find something worthwhile. Most of my favourite anime series are also from the 90s: Escaflowne, Utena, CCS, Eva. I don’t want to sound like “that person” but moe has really had a negative impact on anime. The medium used to be much more vibrant and varied, but now everyone one seems to be trying to ride the moe money train. Even fan service series weren’t so cookie cutter back then. :/ I guess since manga is cheaper to produce, it can get by on smaller followings and niches, so that’s why it hasn’t been as affected by the moe trend and I’m thankful for that.

    1. I had never really looked at 90s manga differently than 90s anime, though I will say my nostalgia for 90s anime is definitely stronger than it is for manga from the same time period. And I love the 80s artstyle too! Each decade has such distinctive styles, but I do wish I had a better selection of 80s shojo to legally read in English.

      I definitely understand you – I don’t want to sound like ‘that fan’ when I say that I like 90s anime and manga better because I still respect and enjoy a lot of stuff that has been produced in both the decades earlier and later. And I so agree with you on the moe trend – I remember once reading an interview in Newtype with some producer who always works on mecha anime and he was lamenting the fact that since the pay to animate mecha shows is the same as the pay to animate moe, and moe is a lot easier to animate, mecha anime has been on the decline. Moe is a guaranteed seller, but unfortunately a large portion of it doesn’t have much plot and don’t do anything very new. Even the most emotionally moving moe series such as Kanon feel very contrived in comparison to classic series that managed to tug at my heartstrings (Maison Ikkoku). I had never thought too much about moe not trickling down to manga, all I can give are a few educated guesses such as the fact that anime appeals more to males in general and that in some subtle ways moe has trickled down into manga (how else would you explain Hagu’s appeal in Honey & Clover).

      1. Yeah, a shame so few 80s manga gets licensed in English. 😦

        I’m not too big on mecha anime. I will watch it from time to time, but my main problem with it is that it’s such a “boys only club”. You rarely have any notable female pilots. I think Eva is the only show where they had notable female pilots. I haven’t really been watching much lately (er I guess Code Geass counts, but I oddly never think of it as a mecha show but rather a action/comedy. I don’t know why), so maybe it’s changed, but in the 90s at least, it was pretty rare and my main disappointment with the genre. 😦

        Well I don’t deny it hasn’t affected manga. I mean Fruits Basket and other moe manga are pretty popular across all demographics, but what I appreciate about manga is that the relatively cheapness of the medium (compared to anime and video games) allows for smaller niches to exist and a wider range of writers and writing to be present. So even if moe is raging rampant, I can take refuge in less popular titles/artists that aren’t bending backwards to sell. That and it’s cheapness also allows a wider range of customers. Like One Piece is the biggest name in shounen manga right now, but it doesn’t really use moe (outside a few minor instances) and I think part of the reason is that kids are a big chunk of the customers and they aren’t interested in moe (since girls and dating aren’t really on their radar yet xD ). Whereas anime costs an arm and a leg, so kids can’t contribute to it as paying customers (outside tv airing anime for kids).

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