How We Choose the Best Anime Series on Netflix
The goal is to have a list of great anime series that span many subgenres. We’ve included a mix of popular classics like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, along with relatively more obscure titles like The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. Whether you’re a complete anime newbie or a hardcore otaku, there’s something for everyone here.
You’re minding your business, living your life. Then between one thing and the next, the world ends; leaving you behind. What would you do? Those left behind are confronted with giant bugs and flooded cities being reclaimed by nature. What a time to realize you weren’t ready for the apocalypse.
December 2021 meant a fourth season for Aggretsuko fans. This slice of life anime is full of subtle lessons about not letting life’s challenges get the best of you. Turns out, ten more episodes following 25 year-old Retsukothe as she deals with the highs and lows of her crap job as a police accountant, lackluster dating life, and life’s frustrations with heavy metal (and her werewolf-esque transformations) as her main outlet surprisingly still isn’t too much of a good thing. The simple art style is a perfect foil for the wry, witty writing and fully-loaded soundtrack. This is one series possibly destined tolist staple as long as it remains in the Netflix library.
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Based on the four-issue comic series by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu, Super Crooks debuted on the platform in December. This prequel to the comic series follows Johnny Bolt and his band of crooks as they attempt to pull off the ultimate heist. This world of super-powered people offers a slick opening, simple, yet action-packed story full of quips, quirks, interesting characters, and crisp (Studio Bones) visuals. Although it won’t be to everyone’s taste (if redemption arcs and character growth are your bag then you’ll be left wanting), this 13-episode was definitely a 2021 surprise.
It’s the official halfway point in the year and thus far, Netflix’s continued steadily adding to the anime library. But, the streamer’s shift in priorities can definitely be felt. There’s been a mass cancellation of most of its western animation projects and a steep drop off in licensing of classic series and creation of its own original series as well. Hopefully the powers that be will realize shortchanging its anime audience doesn’t make good sense (or dollars).
The world feels like it’s a bit of a constant dumpster fire. So, it can’t hurt to have a bit of wholesomeness in your end-of-the-world adventure. It’s been a thousand years since humans have been on Earth. AI robots inhabit a city called Eden 3. Their overlords are long gone, but the robots continue to farm the land. Two maintenance robots accidentally wake up a human baby girl from stasis. Her appearance calls into question all their beliefs. The two robots decide to raise the little girl in a safe haven outside the city. Eden has engaging character design brought to life with great voice acting. The story’s simple and sweet. There isn’t much trope subversion but sometimes, sweet is exactly what the post-apocalyptic story needs.
Komi Can’t Communicate
Directed by Ayumu Wantanbe and based on the popular manga series written and illustrated by Tomohito Oda, Komi Can’t Communicate follows Shouko Komi, an extremely popular girl, and socially average Hitohito Tadano. Komi comes off as poised to others at school but in fact suffers from severe social anxiety that makes it difficult for her to interact with others. When Hitohito discover’s beautiful classmate’s secret, he vows to help her achieve her goal of making 100 friends at their prestigious prep school.
Komi Can’t Communicate is a stellar example of a slice-of-life anime. It explores touchy themes with a light-hearted, humorous edge. The characters’ personalities are engaging, the various situations they find themselves in at turns ridiculous, humorous or relatively serious but alway relatable. Brought to life with near flawless animation color scheme and impressive character design this series is a well balanced delight. If you’re into slice-of-life anime series, not necessarily into waiting. The full first season Komi Can’t Communicate is now in the anime library.
High Score Girl
High Score Girl follows Haruo Yaguchi, a sixth grader gamer, as he encounters a true challenger to his supremacy at the local arcades. Classmate Akira Oono who appears to be practically perfect on every level, best his favorite game, Street Fighter 2. From there this unlikely duo bond over vintage video games that allow them to decompress and avoid the anxieties of their everyday lives. Yaguchi slow learns that Oono’s life isn’t as idyllic as it seems and that he has a lot to learn about himself and life. High Score Girl’s full of funny misadventures, sly life lessons, and acts of ego. Sometimes, you need a coming-of-age story with a side of nostalgia and irony. If you’re a gamer, and have a chaotic internal monologue hyping you up, then High Score Girl may be just the ticket.
Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill follows high school girl Ryuko Matoi on her quest to hunt down her father’s murders. Armed with half of her father’s scissors blade, Ryuko enters Honnouji Academy. This turn of events leads to her acquiring, not entirely by choice, a uniform with special powers. Kill la Kill offers up a magical girl action-comedy with a plot that goes all over the place full of tournament fighting, friends-to-lovers story arc, ever-escalating villains riddled with themes that are almost evergreen in their timeliness.
One Piece is a long-running shonen anime about Monkey D. Luffy sails with his globetrotting crew of Straw Hat Pirates on their hunt for the treasure One Piece and quest to become the new king of the pirates. Based on Eiichiro Oda’s manga the anime adaptation is full of high action and laughs. With an ensemble made up of an eclectic group of male and female characters, there’s a camaraderie and sense of adventure that keeps the series engaging season after season.
The Orbital Children
Set in 2045 The Orbital Children, also known as Extra-terrestrial Boys and Girls, follows two children born on the moon and three from Earth. The story takes place in outer space (where internet and artificial intelligence are widespread) on a Japanese commercial space station. A massive accident leaves this group of kids stranded with little hope of rescue. They must rely on their wits, limited communications, and what’s available to try and avert further disaster…and possible death.
Written and directed by Mitsuo Iso (Ghost in the Shell, Rurouni Kenshin and Blade Runner: Black Lotus) this two part science fiction series not only takes anime to space, it stares directly into the distance and asks, are humans necessary? Iso takes direct aim at the ticking clock on Earth’s ability to adequately sustain human life. Then it ponders whether humans are capable of doing what’s necessary to save themselves.
Although this philosophical schism should come as no surprise given it is Mitsuo Iso, The Orbital Children blends smooth animation, a striking color palette, relatable character design – that puts its excellent voice cast to great use – turning this into a coming of age story and full blown existential (and literal) crisis that shouldn’t be missed.
Record of Ragnarok
If you’re a fan of The Seven Deadly Sins, list mate JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or the just idea of the gods giving humanity one last chance to prove itself tournament-style appeals, then get into the twelve episode first season of Record of Ragnarok. The pace is binge-perfect, the animation traditional, and the battles over the top (it’s a race to seven victories out of thirteen rounds). If we must contemplate our own humanity and face the end, let it be watching 13 champions fight their way through the pantheon of gods.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
After a demon attack leaves most of his family slaughtered and his sister turned, Tanjirou Kamado swears to save her and avenge his family. He joins a mysterious group calling themselves the Demon Slayer Corps intent on doing anything to exact revenge. If you’ve finished all the few remaining seasons of Attack on Titans the streamer has in its library but still want your fight scenes crisp then give Demon Slayer a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Akame ga Kill!
Adapted from the manga of the same name, Akame ga Kill! is a dark anime series with mature themes and some of the best character development to be had in shonen stories. Akame follows Tatsumi, the newest member of the assassins group Night Raid, as he and fellow assassins fight a corrupt Imperial Kingdom. With A-level writing and animation, this series doesn’t waste a single episode. If you like your character’s backstories morbid and your action brutal and bloody then Tatsumi’s journey to becoming an assassin with a cause is calling your name.
B: The Beginning
The vigilante “Killer B”’s turning the island of Cremona into their personal hunting ground. To catch this escalating killer, the Royal Investigation Service calls its ace – if eccentric – detective Keith Flick back into active duty. But the kills aren’t what they seem and Flick will need to unravel dangerous secrets in order to solve these crimes. If you’re in the mood for a cat-and-mouse detective story – with more than a few science fiction twists – then look no further than B: The Beginning. This visually stunning story offers a blend of mystery and horror for fans who like their anime to take ambitious risks (even if it doesn’t always stick the landing).
Sent to Japan as a hostage, Lelouch, a prince of Britannia, escapes after an encounter leaves him with the power to control anyone. Lelouch becomes the masked rebel known as Zero and begins to mercilessly exact vengeance against Britannia. Code Geass is a genre blend with action, charisma, and just the right amount of bombasticness to carry the story from episode to episode. This alternate history full of mechs and magic is a wild ride.
Set in a grim world, Dorohedoro is a quixotic and disorderly series about a big crocodile man who loves gyoza. It’s almost equal parts comedy and carnage. It’s a bizarre, gory, sci-fi world full of surprisingly compelling characters. With bold color and a brisk pace, Dorohedoro makes the most of its strange world to confuse and entertain.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Based on the wildly popular manga series, this multigenerational story follows the adventures of a Joestar family member – each with the same titular nickname and endowed with immense psychic strength – as they battle against rivals (and evil) down through the ages. With each new protagonist comes an independent story that expands the universe and keeps the narrative fresh and engaging. It’s sly wit and frequent hattips to popular Western trends add just the right amount of hilarity to this adventure-driven fantasy. With five quality seasons (Stone Ocean being the latest installment) now available on Netflix as of December 1st, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s addition to the best of list may just be a bit overdue.
Cowboy Bebop’s set in a world where a hyperspace gateway accident’s left Earth inhabitable. What remains of humanity colonized the rocky planets and moons in the solar system. Fifty years of rising crime prompts the Inter Solar System Police to legal bounty hunting and authorized hunters, known as Cowboys, to track and capture criminals across the system in order to bring them to justice. The series follows the crew of spacecraft Bebop as they hunt down criminals in 2071. This Japanese sci-fi noir and it’s now iconic soundtrack and vintage (but still solidly stylish) animation style offers up the space (mis)adventures of former syndicate member and hitman Spike, his former ISSP officer partner Jet Black along with a con artist with memory gaps, a wacky hacker and Ein a too-cute- for its own good genetically engineered Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.
The twenty-six episode series offers a genre-blending narrative, visually kinetic action, and audacious good fun for long-time fans and is a great place to start for those new to the anime space. Only time will tell if dropping the entire anime run just ahead of the live-action Cowboy Bebop November 19, 2021 premiere helped or hurt the movie franchise. Be sure to check out how IGN thinks film adaptation stacks up against the source material.
Bleach is based on the massive manga run written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. It’s adaptation played a pivotal role in mainstreaming anime in the US. A fateful series of tragic and extraordinary events turn Ichigo Kurosaki from ordinary high schooler to a Soul Reaper. But when the Soul Reaper who granted him use of her powers is unable to regain them, Ichigo must not only master these new abilities but pick up the fight tracking down the corrupt spirits known as the Hollows to keep them from devouring human souls. Bleach is best as a gateway into anime; the first three seasons are possibly the best of the entire run. They are tense, action-packed, witty, and character-driven. With the promise of a new arc about the Thousand-Year Blood War in the offing for 2022, now’s a good time to start that series re-watch.
If you prefer your shounen occasionally NSFW and built on a narrative designed to explore themes like prejudice, choice, introspection then Beastars may be the slice of life fantasy series for you. This drama-heavy mystery series digs into the lives of anthropomorphic animals; where carnivores and herbivores are trying to coexist peacefully. If Zootopia-eques that dig into slice-of-life stories and self-discovery are what grab and hold your interest then Beastars is definitely an anime series for you.
Based on a light novel series this thirteen episode show brings to life a story of post-war reintegration into civilian life through the lens of fourteen-year-old Violet Evergarden. This fantasy coming-of-age story tells the tale of the young orphan’s attempt to find purpose beyond soldiering. It’s an introspective and touching narrative with a phenomenal score. This series is why phrases like “visually stunning” won’t soon go out of use. It is simply one of the most beautifully animated series around.
Now’s an excellent time to revisit this show then pick up with Violet Evergarden: The Movie added to the streamer on October 13, 2021.
Your Lie in April
Based on the manga series of the same name, Your Lie in April follows piano prodigy Kousei Arima as he rediscovers his love of music, and ability to hear his piano in the aftermath of his abusive mother’s death. This show aims right for all those emotional weak spots as it takes you on a heartfelt journey full of music and drama. The pastel-drenched color palette and deceptively straightforward narratives will reel you in and make you a believer in music-driven stories henceforth.
Follow 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma as he discovers an ability to time travel and ends up in the past trying to solve a murder mystery. This powerful ability he calls “Revival” permits him to jump back to the recent past (a few minutes) to change events and save lives. But after being accused of a murder himself, however, Satoru wakes up, as his younger self, eighteen years in the past. Soon realizing the crime he’s accused of is connected to an abduction and death of a classmate, Sartoru strikes out to unravel the mystery, prevent his classmate’s death, and ultimately clear his (future) name. Erased is a gripping adaptation of Kei Sanbe’s full manga run. The story is dynamic and brought to life through gritty and immersive animation. Set aside time, because it’s a binge-worthy series.
Hunter x Hunter
It’s pronounced Hunter, Hunter (the x really is silent). Young Gon sets out to find his missing father. Along the way, he makes new friends, enters a martial arts tournament, and comes face to face with creatures – on his quest to become a Hunter – that any horror prop master would kill to get their hands on. Gon’s enemies have zero chill so between the action sequences and well-crafted story Hunter x Hunter is some of the best shonen anime has to offer, ever. Come for the familiar premise, stay for the character depth, darker tone, and its engrossing and increasingly complex story arc.
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
All-powerful psychic Kusuo Saiki attempts to fly under the radar are continually thwarted and result in a high comedy. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. follows Saiki as he tries to navigate school drama free despite his magnetic ability to attract people. It’s quirky, full of lovable characters, and hijinks. Despite its lighter tone, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. offers a quality crowd-pleasing story.
Makoto Edamura’s a con man on the run. But don’t think that’ll stop him from falling head-first into new schemes instead of laying low. The Great Pretender is colorful, quick-step, offering all the elements of a perfectly designed heist film. If you like your anime stylish and your character’s too-slick for words, then this Netflix exclusive is tailor-made for you.
Parasyte: The Maxim
Based on the horror manga series by Hitoshi Iwaaki, Parasyte (re)sets the bar for horror anime. This stunning blend of sci-fi/horror isn’t just for horror fans. If you like your storylines built on dark humor and complex character development then following Schinchi Izumi as he struggles to establish a symbiotic relationship with the alien parasite intent on taking him over then, Parasyte is an absolute must watch.
New Anime Series on Netflix
June only has one confirmed new anime series, Spriggan, that premieres June 18, 2022. This Netflix series’ follows a superhuman agent on his quest to keep an advanced (alien) civilization’s artifacts out of the wrong hands. But it’s sadly a very light month. So maybe check out the new seasons of Tiger & Bunny (fifty episodes) and Ultraman (26 episodes). Plus, all six episodes of Komi Can’t Communicate (Season 2) are now available on the platform.
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