You may not have heard of all of these gems—but you should give them a try.
Hulu, as you may already know, has an excellent anime selection as well. It has many of the classic shows we mentioned in our Netflix and Daisuki guides, so we won’t tell you to go watch those again. But what we will do is turn you on to some of the best anime you may not be aware of that you can find on Hulu. You don’t need a subscription—unless you want to avoid the pesky ads. There’s plenty left to check out after you make your way through the classics!
Set in the mid-1960s, three high school kids discovering a shared love for jazz in a wistful, charming slice-of-life series. Produced by the team behind Cowboy Bebop and scored by the incomparable Yoko Kanno, you know you’re in for something great from episode one. Adapted from the Yuki Kodama manga of the same name, the characters have a terrific depth and maturity, and watching their story is a pleasure.
Assassination Classroom features one of those utterly absurd storylines you can only find in anime: A class of high school kids is taken over by a powerful alien that has destroyed part of the moon and promises to do the same to Earth (but for some reason, he wants to be a homeroom teacher in the interim?). The students are offered 10 billion yen as a reward for killing their teacher, who they call “Koro Sensei.” However, their mission proves difficult as Koro Sensei progressively becomes the best teacher they’ve ever had.
This series started as a manga in 2012 penned by Yūsei Matsui, was adapted as anime, and even has two live-action film adaptions. It was the seventh best selling manga of 2013 behind huge titles like Naruto, Attack on Titan, and One Piece, so you might want to give it some quality eyeball time.
Food Wars! centers around the tale of Sōma Yukihira and his adventures at an elite culinary school. Foodies will notice that the show is not only hilarious, but also wholly accurate when it comes to cooking technique. The recipes in the show, as well as in the original manga, were actually contributed by famous Japanese chef Yuki Morisaki, so they’re something you could actually cook and come up with edible results.
Reminiscent of the silliness of Yakitate!! Japan but executed with more attention to detail, Food Wars! is a terrific watch. Just come knowing you’re going to be hungry, or better yet, bring snacks before you sit down for your viewing marathon.
4) Death Parade
This 2015 series poses an interesting question: What’s your true nature when your life is on the line? When the dead visit a bar akin to purgatory, they face a challenge that will eventually lead to their fate after death. The bartender is their judge.
Death Parade delves fearlessly into human darkness, and it always leaves the viewer thinking. It’s also gorgeously animated and has a dark atmosphere that fans of early ’90s anime will remember fondly. As an added touch, the opening animation is very silly, a stark contrast to the serious themes to come.
The best reason to watch this anime is a simple one: Umaru-chan is all of us. In her daily life she’s a lovely, presentable girl, but as soon as she gets home she becomes a cola-guzzling otaku troll. She lives with her brother, who must tolerate her weird antics and help her hide her true identity. From her obsession with video games to her demands for junk food, one can’t help admire her total dedication to being a layabout (not to mention envy her a bit).
While there’s nothing unique about a slice-of-life show with a high school setting, there is something truly delightful about the relationship at the heart of Kimi Ni Todoke. Sawako Kuronuma, a long-haired girl with poor social skills, is made fun of at school and compared to Sadako from the famous Japanese horror film Ringu (The Ring in the U.S.). She believes she is forever doomed to be a social leper, but her life changes completely when she catches the eye of popular student Kazahaya.
The reason this show hit such a chord with so many viewers is thanks to how gently it addresses the concept of being accepted. While Sawako and Kazahaya’s relationship unfolds at a pace roughly as fast as dripping molasses, it’s wonderful to watch the whole way.
When a master player hears his favorite MMORPG (that’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the uninitiated) is going to be shut down, he’s angry, but when he tries to log out for the last time, he makes a remarkable discovery: the server has developed a mind of its own and the non-player characters around him show signs of sentience that weren’t there before. His quest to find his guildmates and accomplish world domination unfolds throughout the series. While an obvious draw for gamers, the series also makes broad statements about the human ego and the thirst for power. Like all Madhouse releases, it’s also gorgeous to watch.
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