Netflix has been a pioneer in streaming for over a decade. Millions are stuck to the streaming giant’s multitude of series, particularly after Netflix has begun to release its own originals. After the first release of the original series, House of Cards, the streaming site has published hundreds of other original material, including the original anime.
Over the years, Netflix has done a lot to improve the content of its anime section. Signing agreements with Japanese studios including Anima, Sublimation, and David Output, extending its original anime has made a Netflix subscription a must-have for most Japanese animation fans, but not everything the platform has produced has been a hit.
From mecha to fairy children, cute red pandas to terrible demons, Netflix continues to expand its anime collection. It could be a struggle to select which anime to bind next as Netflix continues to spice up its catalog of new licenses and originals each month.
From Neon Genesis Evangelion to Aggretsuko to Devilman Crybaby and beyond, we have the best of the best on this list.
1. Carole & Tuesday
Carole & Tuesday starts right off the bat with a kick-ass premise: 50 years since humans colonized Mars, we’re so technologically sophisticated that every culture is formed by AI … except for two girls who want to change history. We’re pursuing the title Carole and Tuesday, two girls who, like Bill and Ted, are supposed to produce such a phenomenal musical hit that will forever be remembered as a “7-minute wonder.” As you would expect from Studio Bones, the animation and art design of Carole & Tuesday is just lovely. Futuristic towns, stage structures, and even smaller details, such as sci-fi restaurants, pubs, and tiny AI music video bosses, look awesome.
Based on Go Nagai’s manga, Devilman Crybaby is a re-imagination of the classic Devilman series that follows Akira Fudo as he is convinced by a friend that it would be a good decision to fuse his soul with a demon to battle other demons. The anime re-imagines the manga and updates the storyline to be set in modern times, exploiting Netflix’s creative independence with the kind of gritty sexual and violent material that no Western TV network ever thinks of allowing. A rave-lit orgy full of neon and nude actors quickly spirals into a bloodbath, body parts are constantly mutilated, all in a quiet paint palette that allows for a compelling and beautiful tale of a man.
3. Great Pretender
Great Pretender, does an excellent job of embodying Eddie Guerrero’s theory of lying, deceit and stealing as they not only surprise the audience, but make them laugh as they work together, and against each other, in their high-profile heists. In one minute, you think they’re a team, and in the next minute, there’s so much backstopping that makes Game of Thrones a shame — only for our heroes to get together and come out on top. It certainly lives up to its name with all the shenanigans in the Great Pretender. While the Great Pretender is definitely not the first heist anime, it takes the genre to new creative heights with its distinctive style of animation, its bombastic songs, and its captivating cast. The Great Pretender manages to combine its varied features elegantly. It puts emotionally charged character-driven drama with slapstick comedy, breathtaking action scenes with intricate patterns. No matter what things you’ve been talking to, there’s certainly another one.
Based on Q Hayashida’s cult dark fantasy sci-fi manga of the same name, Dorohedoro is set in the Pit, a hard-hitting metropolis inhabited by humans, and an ever-increasing number of wretched souls turned into chimeric monstrosities by evil sorcerers of another world. The series follows Caiman, an amnesiac bounty hunter, and his best friend Nikaido as they comb the depths of the Hole in search of a sorcerer who cursed him with a lizard’s head. Oh yes, he even has a sentient human head at the back of his throat that pops Xenomorph-style whenever Caiman swallows his prey in pursuit of the guilty. It’s all getting weirder out of there. Filled to the brim with gnarly action, leather-clad strangers, pitch-black satire, and more than a few moments of light-hearted levity, Dorohedoro is a grim and spectacular hybrid-CG anime that blends dystopian body-horror and piece-of-life comedy to make it one of the most thrilling and creative new series to come out in 2020.
Based on one of the many characters of Sanrio, a Japanese company is known for its adorable merchandise focused on personality-driven animal cartoon characters (Hello Kitty, anyone?), Aggretsuko is simply branded content, but it’s good branded content. When Retsuko, a red panda fresh from college, finds an office accounting job, she’s full of hope. Five years back, her corporate passion was washed away by a crushing mix of a tiny flat, a packed stroll, a real killer row of co-workers (a gossiping hippopotamus, an obsessive deer, a sociopathic fennec fox) and a chauvinist hog (literally, he’s a pig) of a manager. When her composure hits its peak, Retsuko returns to her favorite mode of emotional release: death metal karaoke. In spite of her daily hardships, Retsuko clings to the comfort offered by her lame but stable work. This emphasis on usability and the millennial appeal is precisely what makes Aggretsuko work.
6. Cannon Buster
Cannon Busters is a fantastic new addition to the catalog. It’s a love letter to classic anime series like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and Outlaw Star with enough original content to place it into the same discourse as those legendary episodes. It’s got bounty hunters, coin-operated mechs, insanely powerful androids, and a dash of sorcery to put an extra peek into the kitchen sink of the series. It just happens, somehow. The steampunk’s fantasy world of Gearbolt is the backdrop for a story that follows a trio of misfits that are put together against all odds. There is S.A.M., a naive, high-end, cheerful robot whose goal is to reunite with her best friend – and successor to the besieged kingdom – Kelby; her pal Casey Turnbuckle, an out-dated, refurbished robot in need of an upgrade; and she decided to outlaw Philly the Boy, an invincible criminal who drives the Cadillac Eldorado, which just so happens to be turned into a giant war mech. It’s a terrific trio on its own, but the characters they encounter along the way.
7. Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
Hyakkou Private Academy is a prestigious school with an impeccable surface reputation, but only a secondary school. The school doubled as a gambling den, educating students about bribery and how to play with money, with the children of some of the richest people in the world today. Those who have more money will be in the upper ranks and transfer student Jabami Yumeko will have a true taste of the realities of the academy, but she’s like a school athlete she’s never won, rather than competing. The corruptive nature of money in every system of citizens, and the immediate hierarchy of importance of money, is very simple to demonstrate to Kakegurui. The concentration on the play, though, generates energy that even the public sometimes experiences as they see it, and the perfect art that goes along with the store of high stakes tends to exacerbate it.
Castlevania set the bar high for a content-driven video game, this original Netflix is based on a classic video game of the same name. The series is produced by Adi Shankar and follows Trevor Belmont, who struggles against the forces of Dracula, with the aid of the sorcerer Sypha Belnades and Dracula’s dhampir son Alucard. Looking at the first shot of the film, you’ll find that it’s beautifully animated. Usually, it’s considered to be an anime for fans of its games, but it’s an American series. The best part of this is that there are just 4 or 6 episodes of the season and it’s easy to bind the show. Although admittedly a little sluggish to get moving, as soon as Castlevania got the origin stuff out of the way, it took off like a whip and proved to be perhaps the best video game adaptation of all time. Of course, I think it might be too tiny a compliment offered to the other candidates in that group. Castlevania is such a fantastic fantasy/action animated film, period.
9. Japan Sinks
The adaptation of Sakyo Komatsu’s 1973 disaster book, Pyeon-Gang Ho and Masaaki Yuasa, takes the original premise and updates it for the new age. When Japan is struck by a massive earthquake, the Mutō family is forced to join together to weather the ensuing crises and perils that result. Japan Sinks: 2020 is a terrifying watch, particularly in the post-Fukushima catastrophe post-COVID-19 world. When family drives around the world to seek shelter in the face of an epidemic of natural threats and cynical opportunists, death arrives easily and indiscriminately for both loved ones and outsiders alike. With a wonderful thematic song by the unforgettable Ryuichi Sakamoto and a pulse score by composer Kensuke Ushio, Japan Sinks: 2020 bears witness to the strength of the human spirit in the face of insightful difficulties and unprecedented ecological horror.
10. Brand New Animal
In the future, the centuries-old presence of a race of animal-human hybrids known as “beastmen” has been made known to mankind. Met with the challenge of civil strife and unfair oppression by humans, beasts are granted “separate but equal” co-existence within the autonomous zone of Japan, where they have founded Anima City, the only refuge for beasts in the human world. Michiru Kagemori, a teenage girl who has been mysteriously turned into a beast, comes to Anima City in search of answers and a cure for her curious illness and is first plunged into a world of mystery, mystery, and plot. You Yoshinari’s new series has everything you’d expect from the prolific animator-director behind FLCL, Gurren Lagann, and Little Witch Academy: sparkling animation, whimsically fluid physical humor, fantastic music, and GOAT-tier history and character design.
11. Rilakkuma and Kaoru
It follows Kaoru, the show’s 20-year-old office worker, as she navigates the pressures of her career, home life, the aspirations of her family and friends, as well as the vague yet tangible sense of loneliness and boredom that affects young adults, all while taking care of Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori, two anthropomorphic bears that begin living with Kaoru and her pe. The show is noteworthy for being one of the most recent and influential examples of stop-motion animation in anime, a process so much relegated to a niche within the anime industry, but not less articulate and spectacular. A cute piece-of-life sitcom with coming-of-age features, both the scripting of the series and the animation are outstanding. At its heart, Rilakkuma and Kaoru are just like Aggretsuko: to take the beloved mascot of a commercial brand and to put it at the heart of a genuine and effective analysis of the intrinsic isolation of young adults and the importance of young adults.
12. Violet Evergarden
Having lost the maternal figure who meant the world to her, and focusing on her only role as a weapon of war, Violet finds herself without meaning. Driven to accept a job as an “Auto Memory Doll,” basically a hired writer of Victorian flare, her almost robotic self eventually learns to recognize the force of communication and the various forms of love can take. While its creation is sluggish and not the most urgent convincing character, the influence of the show rises tenfold as it moves to episodic stories that often have Violet as a mere spectator. Her work brings her to diverse settings with palpable, distinct personalities, but it remains thematically cohesive, with each episode moving her closer to the response she’s looking for. It’s a romantic series to the extent of becoming cheesy, but it receives such excellence by masterful directing and obscenely luxurious output. If you want an anime to make you cry, Violet Evergarden is going to be able to prove it.
13. Devilman Crybaby
Netflix has tasked revolutionary producer Masaaki Yuasa with reinventing the classic Devilman series, which follows the delicate Akira Fudo as he fuses his friend Ryo Asuka into a demon, in a futile effort to save mankind from utter destruction. The incidents from the source material are tweaked, transforming, and grounding the story in contemporary times, but the implications and the message remain the same. A master class of adaptation that blends a timeless work with the surreal visuals of one of the most brilliant directors of animation, and abuses Netflix’s network with more overt pornographic and violent content that will not be allowed on a standard TV. This show isn’t for the weakest of hearts, but in spite of all, it’s all about passion.
14. B: The Beginning
Combining aspects of the Sherlock Holmes franchise with suspects reminiscent of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, B: The Beginning also contains some of the most spectacular battle scene animations in years. There’s a lot more to B than action, however, as the most amusing scenes in the series are because of the sibling-like turmoil between the grumpy lead detective Keith and his peppy girlfriend, Lily. If there are some huge grips to be identified with B, it’s because the villains are a little cookie-cutter, and the pursuit of the show’s main big bad fits the same familiar beats of a detective story like this. But with the second season confirmed in the works, it is also likely that the solid groundwork laid in.