Stories about exploring mystical worlds are as old as mankind itself and arguably the most popular story known throughout the world is none other than Lewis Carroll's “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland”, a story about a young girl exploring the confusing, yet magical world of Wonderland. A typical young person—usually a middle school or high school student—getting transported into another world is popular in anime and manga because of the diverse creative adventures they provide to their audience. Just like Alice, these characters need a rabbit hole—a conduit—to enter these worlds and the most popular conduits for people to get transported themselves into in today’s anime is science fiction technology—the hero’s plight happens within simulated worlds of video games, or when the hero stumbles upon a portal to another dimension or timeline, and simply he got sucked into a portal made by a mad scientist who didn’t double check his calculations.
Conduits like a magical beam of light, cursed books, or the hero unwittingly hitched a ride with a dimension-hopping traveller can still be found today’s anime, but they’re not as popular and as mainstream back in the 90s. There were many popular titles that cemented their place in popular culture in the 90s, especially the ones featuring their own version Alice exploring their own unique Wonderlands. For this topic, Honey’s Anime will list the 3 popular anime from the 90s featuring female protagonists getting lost in alternate worlds of universes, and briefly talk what their stories are like. This is Anime Rewind: Girls and Other Worlds.
3. Magic Knight Rayearth
- Episodes: 20
- Aired: October 1994 - March 1995
Hikaru, Umi, Fuu from three different schools went to Tokyo Tower on a field trip, and then suddenly a pillar of light blinded the tower and the three are teleported to a mystical land called Cephiro. There, they met the mage Clef and told the girls they were summoned by Princess Emeraude to become her Magic Knights and save the land from the clutches of the evil priest, Zagato.
In a sense, Magic Knight Rayearth is a lot like Sailor Moon featuring a group of color-coded girl warriors with corresponding elemental powers (Fire, Water and Wind). Since both are shoujo anime, Magic Knight Rayearth has a cast of hunky characters that could rival Tuxedo Mask. For the story itself, it’s pretty standard save the world from evil, but it’s the stories in between that made Magic Knight Rayearth fun to watch. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are your typical girls who are stuck in an unfamiliar world and it’s funny to see them try to adjust without the modern necessities they’ve grown accustomed too. The girls doesn’t seem to mind though because they won’t find any giant suits of armor and kick monster ass back on Earth!
2. Tenkuu no Escaflowne (The Vision of Escaflowne)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1996 - September 1996
After meeting a young warrior killing a dragon, Kanzaki Hitomi and the warrior were teleported to the war-torn world of Gaea. The warrior Hitomi went with is Van Fanel, a prince to a small nation protected by dragons. Hitomi follows Van and his mysterious giant suit of armor called Escaflowne, on a quest to unite the countries of Gaea to fight against the ominous Zaibach Empire. Little does Hitomi know, she possess the power that would lead Gaea to peace or to utter destruction.
Fate governs all in Vision of Escaflowne and the Zaibach Empire will stop at nothing to control the destinies of everyone in Gaea. The anime is one non-stop rollercoaster ride as Hitomi and Van uncover the mysteries surrounding Hitomi’s horrifyingly accurate predictions, the origins of Van’s giant suit of armor Escaflowne, and why they’re all connected somehow to the Zaibach Empire whose emperor cares nothing but death and destruction. Apart from the gripping story that will get you hooked, Vision of Escaflowne is an audio and visual wonder with exceptional art designs and animations, a fantastic musical score, with well-developed characters that you’ll love, hate, or sympathise.
1. Fushigi Yuugi (Mysterious Play)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 1995 - March 1996
You follow the story of two best friends Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui are transported from Japan’s National Library into the world of a mysterious book set in ancient China, "The Universe of The Four Gods." There Miaka was destined to become the priestess of Suzaku and must find all of her celestial warriors to help her summon Suzaku for three wishes. Yui was teleported to rival nation Seiryuu and unfortunately, Yui wasm’t treated as kindly as Miaka was. Yui was manipulated by the people of Seiryuu to become a priestess of Seiryuu. With both girls in nations striving for power, the former best friends will battle each other not only for the wishes but also for love.
Fushigi Yuugi was extremely popular, especially outside Japan because the anime ticked all of the boxes. You’ve got an engaging story featuring two best friends separated and stranded in mythical Ancient China already embroiled in conflict. The two girls are destined to fight each other for absolute power to change fates and for love. Out of the three listed, Fushigi Yuugi has more mature themes like sexual undertones, rape, torture, death and a tangled web of romance between the priestesses and their—let’s be fair—hunky and extremely handsome celestial warriors. But thankfully, Miaka isn’t a gloomy girl and she’s the source of comedic relief when things get way too serious.
Anime outside of Japan grew in popularity in the 90s with revolutionary and great titles like Sailor Moon, Ranma ½, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon has caught the hearts of millions of fans, and the titles we’ve listed are no different. Back then, these titles are few and far between, and with only a handful of them gets localized, titles like Magic Knight Rayearth, Vision of Escaflowne, Fushigi Yuugi easily gained a lot of Western fans and will be fondly remembered by them, and these titles will live on as these fans pass on their favorites to their children, and perhaps pass them on to young anime fans who never get to see these anime back in the 90s.