The anime library on Netflix has grown significantly in recent years thanks to some amazing additions. Several original works are competing favorably with well-established titles in the canon alongside classic series. Many action, comedy, and romance shows are available on the streaming service, which has taken care to introduce a diversity of genres. We’re here to help if you’re willing to delve into even the most bizarre Netflix corners in search of stuff that is worth binge-watching—which you really should be.
Here are our top picks for the finest anime series available on Netflix, which will appeal to both anime novices and seasoned viewers.
1. Neon Genesis: Evangelion
Due to the deluge of branded items and frequent allusions in popular media, the majority of people are at least vaguely familiar with Neon Genesis Evangelion by this point. That being said our conversation about a show as established in the canon of animation as Evangelion is never static. An important dissection of the mecha made popular by Gundam and Macross, the franchise was initially hailed as such, but as time went on, it grew bloated and full of unnecessary information, much to the melodramas-as-merchandise they had mocked years earlier.
However, the cultural overlay left by Evangelion is evident everywhere from Persona 3 to Gurren Lagann, creating a phenomenon that appears to go beyond the show’s actual narrative. Hideaki Anno, the franchise’s original inventor, once predicted that anime as we know it would end, comparing it to Star Wars and noting that the animation industry in Japan was “moving by inertia.”
2. Vinland Saga
The Norse story Vinland Saga is a humanist interpretation of a long-running manga series written by Makoto Yukimura of Planetes fame. In it, an Icelandic youth named Thorfinn, who lives in the early 11th century, embarks on a revenge quest following a personal tragedy. At the very least, that’s how it seems at first. Thorfinn’s voyage is less hubristic and more sorrowful, even if it resembles classic Scandinavian poetry about violent searches for vengeance. Here warriors are portrayed as sadists and butchers infected with a culture of senseless violence rather than heroic heroes fighting for a spot in Valhalla. Despite never shying away from human cruelty, this story is perhaps most deftly handled, suggesting that a better path is just out of reach rather than being cynically shot through.
Undoubtedly, the first season features some tone oddities as it stages several fight scenes that resemble battle shonen duels between quasi-superheroes rather than condemnations of bloodshed. However, Wit Studio’s animation skills are so strong that it’s simple to overlook some of the over-the-top comedy antics. Furthermore, by the show’s second season, these contradictions have been resolved as the narrative fully condemns the inhumanity of the time, exploring the struggles these people endure as a result of harsh political and religious ideologies.
3. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Whenever I need some downtime, I’ve been watching Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure anime for a while. It’s an anime with men sculpted like classical sculptures fighting loudly over apparent psychic battles that seem to be happening in molasses-slow time. Nothing about it seems very calm at first, though. In the world of JJBA, what seems like hours is just a minute or two. JJBA, however, is much more than that.
It’s a century-long journey that defies conventions surrounding the storytelling of the classic adventure story, drawing heavily from the works of mangaka Hirohiko Araki, Indiana Jones, Versace, classic rock, and other pop culture references to create an explosive mix of fast-paced absurdity that you will quickly become accustomed to and find more comfortable than Sailor Moon. For good cause, JJBA is still regarded as one of the anime industry’s most important works of media.
A hallucinogenic nightmare, Mononoke skillfully combines otherworldly horror with a murder investigation a la Christie. Mononoke is a film that succeeds in its emotional ambitions and celebrates maximal beauty and twitchy sound design, while also paying homage to the shadowless ukiyo-e painting style of 17th-century Japan through its unforgettable animation style. This shows that the film is more than merely a directorial experiment. A subset of yokai, which in Japanese mythology range from ghosts to demons, are Mononoke, who feed off of people’s unpleasant emotions.
They are fearless in exploring the challenging subject ground and make for a great set piece for heart-pounding psychological terror. The Toei Animation-produced program masterfully blends the macabre and the incredibly vulnerable, frequently blending color and boundaries with a surrealistic flair. At its foundation, Mononoke is surprisingly human for a drama about spirits. You will undoubtedly be plagued by it for many years.
One of the greatest anime romantic comedies out there is Toradora!, which knows how to smoothly transition between heartfelt drama, laughter, and longing. We follow two crappy teenagers: Taiga, a little ball of rage who is quite rightfully feared for her martial skills and a short fuse, and Ryuuji, a second-year high school student who is unjustly feared by his peers because of his menacing appearance. Once they realize they have a thing for each other’s closest friend, they decide to cooperate to fulfill their romantic dreams. Subsequently, matters become complex.
MAPPA is now recognized as one of the top animation studios for anime. Yuri on Ice and Kakegurui, as well as Shinichiro Watanabe’s Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance, are among the most lavishly animated series they have released since their founding in the early 2010s. The expressive movement they can achieve in their work is what sets it apart, giving each of their exhibitions a distinct visual language that feels organic and sensitive. The popular manga of the same name by Q Hayashida served as the inspiration for Dorohedoro, which somehow benefits greatly from their romantic stylings.
7. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
The ultimate example of Studio Trigger’s ability to create iconic imagery that enhances well-known genre beats through raw, exaggerated cuts of animation is Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, an openly infantile splatterfest. Although it might not deviate from the fundamental themes of its franchise or cyberpunk in general, this crime caper succeeds in hitting several emotional high points and looks excellent while doing so. What’s maybe most significant is that, as it manipulates the destiny of its peculiarly endearing ensemble, its chaotic violence has heartbreaking twists. Despite all the, you know, murder, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for this group of people because of the sincerity with which their relationships are portrayed.
8. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a meta retelling of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World that recounts a (largely) new story, in contrast to what the marketing represents as a shot-for-shot recreation. A charming animated series that takes a fresh approach to this story is the end product. Before Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) can date Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he must vanquish her seven bad exes. The movie sticks to these established beats throughout the first episode. However, it doesn’t take long for Scott Pilgrim Takes Off to stray from the existing story.
The finest anime to air in 2019 was Beastars. While that year was undoubtedly my favorite recent year for anime, this opinion may be controversial given that it was characterized by lavish animation everywhere you looked, from the ballet-like, fluid fight scenes in Mob Psycho 100 II and Demon Slayer to the suspenseful, high-stakes narratives in The Promised Neverland and Vinland Saga. However, I was most captivated by the strangely evocative melodrama of a wolf, rabbit, and deer, even if it included films by two of my favorite directors, Shinichiro Watanabe and Kunihiko Ikuhara (who also produced some of their best work).
10. Carole & Tuesday
Carole & Tuesday is strongly hinted to be set in the same universe as Cowboy Bebop, and it was directed by the renowned Shinichiro Watanabe. Carole & Tuesday is a markedly different program from its noir-tinged action-packed predecessor, even if they both share the Martian location of Alba City and Watanabe’s excellent musical taste.
The touching and innocent tale of a refugee and a fugitive collaborating to create music on Carole & Tuesday could be broadcast on the Disney Channel—that is if the channel permitted songs that are just full of profanity and subtle jabs at the way the United States treats immigrants.