We often tend to focus on the more modern manga. Why go back in time when we have so much new manga to enjoy now? Because otherwise you’ll be missing out on some great and unique series! Here are a few of the popular and stand out manga from the late 80s/early 90s.
4. ダイの大冒険 (Dragon Quest)
Based off of the popular Nintendo game in the late 80s (“Dragon Warrior” to westerners). What started as a a temporary promotion manga episode for the new video game turned into a massively epic fantasy adventure story spanning dozens of volumes. It’s a perfect combination of adventure, comedy, and emotion.
The demon king had long been defeated and peace returned to the land. Monsters were no longer a threat. Dai, the hero of the story, was raised on monster island by a strange group of these monsters. With no real special talent, no ability to do magic, Dai had an paralleled desire to become a hero.
After having his island be visited by a legendary hero and his pupil, an unfortunate turn of events causes the demon king to be resurrected, followed by the real behind the scenes boss, the great demon king. In typical shonen fashion, Dai must travel the lands, gain allies and friends, train and become stronger, and eventually make it to the final battle.
While based on a simple RPG, the story goes so much further. You will grow to love the cast of characters as their world is deeply developed. This manga was really ahead of its time, and still is exciting today.
3. Dr. スランプ (Dr. Slump)
Before Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama rose to fame with his famous comedy manga Dr. Slump. This series is a major part of Japanese manga history (say “んちゃ！” to someone in their 30s and above and you’ll know what I mean).
Dr. Slump is a brilliant (and a bit crazy) inventor, concocting all kinds of devices to make his life and the world a better place. But his greatest invention of all is a little girl robot who becomes his new assistant, and takes a major role in the story.
If you liked Dragon Ball humor, you’ll feel that here, as his style of humor is very familiar (sometimes silly, sometimes perverted, sometimes off the wall).
Dr. Slump will take your imagination as far as it can go, as he invents everything from time travel to x-ray glasses. There’s nothing he can’t invent. There’s also nothing he can’t mess up and turn into a new struggle that must be overcome.
2. 甘い生活 (Sweet Life)
Shinsuke works a part-time job at a large lingerie company in the materials and design department. He has a strange ability that by just looking at lingerie, he knows everything about that lingerie. By touching it, he knows even more. By showing off his talent, he is hired full time as a lingerie expert and uses his powers to help all the women around him and change the company for the better.
While this sounds a bit raunchy (yes there are a lot of female lingerie scenes as to be expected), it is just a simple and innocent comedy at heart, and was the most popular manga in the “Business Jump” magazine for many years in the 90s.
I know you are a little interested.
1. 幽☆遊☆白書 (Ghost Files)
Yuyu Hakusho is showing its age now, but it was one of the top Shonen manga in the early 90s.
Yusuke dies in the very first page of the series. However he is given a second chance at life, because he died saving a little boy. He proves himself, comes back, and has been requested to become the spirit world’s spirit detective.
What starts as the hunt for stopping bad spirits and demons turns into wide reaching battles, constant power ups, tournaments, and deciding the fate of the spirit world, demon world, and the human world. At least he doesn’t have to go to school anymore?
The manga has many differences from the anime and focuses more on the fun smaller stories (many things were cut completely). Warning though: the manga ending is significantly sadder than the anime.
The series unfortunately is rushed at its conclusion as many issues around production and publication began to surface, so it feels a bit abrupt. But as any Shonen fan, this is a must-read see series.
What other 80s/90s manga have you read that you think people should try?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.