There’s so much you’re missing out on.
How good is Netflix‘s anime collection? Better than you might think.
The main drawback to anime on Netflix is that if you’re a fan of anime, you’ve already been exposed to many of these titles over the years. The other drawback is that many series are incomplete: You can watch Berserk the movie, but not Berserk the series; you can watch four seasons of Naruto, and the first two Shippuden movies, but not Naruto: Shippuden. Meanwhile, other new series like Attack on Titan are on Netflix, but the wait for additional seasons to arrive may be unbearable.
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Still, there is a surprising amount of variety, a mix of old and new anime and a wide mix of genre. And if you’re new to anime in general, Netflix‘s collection is a great way to get your feet wet. We’ve designed this guide full of pointers for newcomers, a way to help them find their way around the often overwhelming number of titles in Netflix’s anime collection.
For most of these series, both English dubbing and subtitling are available, so you can simply toggle on English or Japanese audio and/or subtitles from your Netflix menu. Without further adieu, here are the best anime on Netflix.
The best anime on Netflix
Genre: Shounen (boy’s) adventure/Fantasy
Complete? No. Only the first three seasons are on Netflix at this time. Although this means fans can skip the notorious long seasons of “filler” episodes, created while the anime was waiting for the manga to complete a major plot arc, the fans who do really like those episodes are out of luck. The main drawback here is the lack of Naruto: Shippuden, the series that finally brings fans back to the ongoing main plot.
Supplements: Naruto Shippuden: The Movie, and Naruto Shippuden: Bonds. These are films set during the time of the Shippuden arc, which is unfortunately not included with the current Netflix order. Still, it’s better than nothing.
If you’ve heard of anime, you’ve probably heard of Naruto. Based on one of the bestselling titles in Shonen Jump history, this is a classic coming-of-age story about a would-be ninja whose cheerful nature masks untold power. It’s also a story, in the long run, about friendship, brotherhood, and found families, and it will move you more than you might expect. —Aja Romano
Genre: Sci-fi dystopia
Complete? No. The light novels on which the series is based are still being released, and fans are waiting breathlessly for Series 3 and beyond.
This series is about a virtual-reality game turned nightmare for an entire society of players who find themselves trapped inside it and have to battle for their survival in a Battle Royale-style fight to the death. That premise is a giant cliché, it’s true, but it’s saved by gorgeous animation, great pacing, and the unexpected intimacy of the character interactions. —A.R.
3) Fairy Tail
Genre: shounen fantasy, action
This wildly popular anime follows the adventures of five teens who join a notorious wizarding guild that’s kind of like the Animal House of modern magical society. They then proceed to worsen their guild’s reputation. Full of wacky characters and high jinks, Fairy Tail does have a serious side, but mostly proceeds like the One Piece of magical anime. If you like having fun, you’ll love this. —A.R.
Complete? No. Manga author Hajime Isayama said in a 2014 interview that he is projecting to wrap the series by 2017, but it’s possible it could go longer due to its meteoric popularity both in Japan and other parts of the world.
Supplements: Attack on Titan‘s success has made it possible for the series to spread across many mediums. Two live-actions films, Attack on Titan and Attack on Titan: End of the World, have been released in theaters, and theres also a light novel series with three entries: Before the Fall, Harsh Mistress of the City, and Lost Girls.
There are also seven video games: Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains for Nintendo 3DS, Attack on Titan: The Wings of Counterattack for mobile phones, and Attack on Titan, which was released for PlayStation 3 & 4 and PlayStation Vita. If you’re lucky enough to have a Blu-Ray drive in your computer, you can also check out several visual novels dedicated to the series’ individual characters, including Mikasa, Levi, Erwin, Annie, and Eren.
Attack on Titan has been the quintessential disaster anime of the last few years, and if you haven’t seen it you’re missing an essential part of anime’s current vocabulary. The story centers around a walled city called Shinganshina that’s trying to keep out Titans, huge humanoid creatures with an appetite for people. The barrier has worked for 100 years, but of course, if the Titans didn’t make a horrific return, there’d be no story to tell.
The three characters at the core of the story are the most important part, despite the Titans’ towering presence. Eren Yeager and his foster sister Mikasa Ackerman manage to stay alive, along with their childhood friend Armin Arlert, once the Titans return to wreck havoc. The relationships between these characters are lovingly drawn, so much so that you hardly notice how powerful they are as so much chaos is constantly going on around them.
At the core of Attack on Titan is the battle of good against evil and the human thirst to survive, no matter what the cost. It’s a thrilling watch, and best of all, there’s still more to come. —A.R
Genre: Shoujo/fantasy. Madoka is essentially a savvy takedown of a sub-genre of shoujo called “magical girl” anime, popularized in the ’90s with Sailor Moon and Utena.
There’s a shortage of magical girl anime on Netflix, but even if you’ve never seen a single mid-air power transformation, the genre’s tropes have been thoroughly disseminated into the cultural mainstream over the years—enough so that you can watch and enjoy smart deconstructions like Madoka and Kill La Kill, incidentally also on Netflix.
Combining gorgeous animation with an ensemble of fully empowered female fighters, as well as an adorable main character, Madoka has garnered tremendous critical acclaim because of the way it subverts familiar tropes and shows you the dark side of girl power. Fans of Harry Potter should definitely give this series a try. —A.R.
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At times controversial and often deceptively raunchy, this smart, fast-paced anime is beloved for its wide-ranging plot, its gorgeous animation, its take-no-prisoners plot twists, and its character development. While many anime series in the mecha genre tend to turn off newcomers because of all the talk about giant robots, Gurren knows how to plunge you into the middle of the action while getting you emotionally invested before you know what’s happening. Even if you’re not up on your Japanese sci-fi tropes, this is an excellent, accessible series. Don’t miss it. —A.R.
Kei Nagai was just an average student before the accident. Perhaps he could stand to be a little more empathetic, but what teenager couldn’t? Then he was hit by a truck, revealing himself to be an Ajin, a superhuman being of incredible and terrifying power. Now on the run from the government, Kei must decide if he will live his life fleeing from the authorities or if he’ll join the resistance against his persecutors. Ajin: Demi-Human travels well-worn territory in the anime genre but manages to keep things fresh, thanks to stunning CGI animation and its original take on how the Ajin’s powers work. Netflix has the complete anime, made up of 26 episodes, but at 23 to 24 minutes apiece, it’s easy to binge the whole thing. It’s nice to see a series deal with the psychological impact of being hunted and discovering you have incomprehensible power, but when the action pops off, you’ll be quickly reminded this isn’t just a thoughtful meditation. Fans of David Cronenberg should take note of this dark sci-fi nightmare.
9) Durarara!! and Durarara!!X2
Genre: Fantasy Crime thriller
Complete? No: the third season of DurararaX2 aired this year and is not yet in release.
As fun as it is dark and surprising, Durarara is the fairy mob boss crime thriller you’ve been waiting for. Imagine the Headless Horseman as a modern-day female bike rider through the streets of Tokyo’s seedy underbelly. Now imagine a kind of Rashomon-like tale full of intersecting, overlapping, and contradicting narratives about the horseman’s quest to find her head, and the addictive cast of characters who get caught up in an intricate, violent plot. If you’ve ever longed for more Celtic mythology in your Tokyo yakuza underworld, this is the series for you. —A.R.
Genre: Satirical romantic comedy / Shoujo
This delightful and popular genre-bending comedy pokes fun at the excesses and melodrama of shoujo (girl’s) anime tropes. But underneath there’s a beautiful story of genderqueer hero Haruhi and the way her high school’s “host club”—a group for guys to entertain girls—transforms itself because of her. Although this anime has been out for nearly a decade, it’s as fresh today as it was when it aired. —A.R.
Genre: Shoujo fantasy
This charming anime short about a young girl attending a Harry Potter-style magical academy won the hearts of anime fans when it began circulating in 2013. Originally a standalone short film, Little Witch Academia made such a splash that Studio Trigger was able to launch a lucrative crowdfund for the follow-up. The result is a winsome, delightful fantasy adventure featuring magic, dragons, and a host of adorable little witches. What’s not to love? —A.R.
12) Rurouni Kenshin
Genre: Historical action
Kenshin is the godfather of a generation of wandering lone anime swordsmen, and it’s been nice to see the comeback he’s enjoyed in recent years. For fans who may have seen the recent live-action film adaptations but haven’t yet had a chance to enjoy the slow-burning ’90s anime, now’s your chance. You might think Kenshin would feel dated after all these years, but the familiarity of these tropes and these characters just proves the way of the Samurai is eternal. —A.R.
Genre: Action / Fantasy
Complete: No; you’ll have to look elsewhere for the original Fate/stay night anime, which falls between Fate/zero and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. You can skip the intervening film, Unlimited Blade Works.
This prequel/sequel combo takes place in a modern-day fantasy world where powerful mages appoint champions to fight for them in an Arthurian-style quest to capture the Holy Grail. Only in this case, the grail is an all-powerful wish-granter, and the “quest” is really an epic war between seven powerful magical clans. Epic fantasy action combined with real-life modern relationship problems has made this franchise a perennial favorite. —A.R.
Genre: Shonen Romance
A proper diet of anime can’t just consist of giant robots and magical battles; you need some romance and artistic catharsis on your plate too. Before the death of his mother, Kosei Arima was a masterful piano prodigy. Now he’s just a fountain of untapped potential, haunted by his heartbreak. When he meets a young girl named Kaori on a double date, he begins a journey back into the world of music, testing his heart and friendships along the way. Your Life in April is among the most beautiful anime series on Netflix, switching between hyper-detailed drawings and cartoonish animation with the moods of our heroes and replicating the emotions of teenagers. Each episode includes a stunning classical composition, enriching your artistic life while swelling your heart. —J.M.B.
Genre: Historical fantasy, magical realism
Complete: No; the final 6 episodes of the first season are inexplicably missing, though the series stands without them. The more recent second series, Mushishi: Next Passage, is also unavailable.
This relaxing magical anime is a cult favorite among fans. Set in a fictional historical Japanese landscape, the series follows the adventures of a boy who discovers a hidden world full of “mushi”—magical glowing creatures who can secretly impact the human world. He then becomes a wandering ‘master’ seeking ways to help people impacted by the creatures. Quiet and Ghibli-esque, Mushishi is an anthology series, meaning each ep basically stands on its own. It’s a great anime for fans who don’t necessarily like complicated, plot-heavy series, but who do love gorgeous, soothing animation. —A.R.
16) Blue Exorcist
Troubled teenager Rin Okamura struggles with all the things normal teenage boys have to overcome. Except there’s one thing not-so-normal about Rin: he’s the illegitimate son of Satan himself. The mortal and demon worlds exist in parallels, Rin learns. He then finds out his father is growing him to become fit for possession so that one day he can overtake him and rule both realms together with Rin. Rin’s got other plans, however, spurring him to train to become an exorcist and defend the human world from Satan when the time comes. —Sherry Tucci
Genre: Sci-fi dystopia/Mecha
Complete? No. The second season of the anime is currently airing in Japan and not yet available.
This series concerns a futuristic human society aboard a giant spaceship, fighting to survive against a species of killer aliens. The premise—a young space cadet is unexpectedly thrust into battle—is very clichéd, borrowed from everything from Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers to Starfighter. It’s the incredible, VR-inspired animation and a thorough take on human gender and human engineering in a sci-fi age that makes this series worth watching. —A.R.
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Game
Yu-Gi-Oh! is the epitome of after-school cartoon-watching, having aired on Kids’ WB in the early 2000s. The story follows tenth-grader Yugi Mutou, a timid and nerdy lover of all things gaming. When he solves the Millennium Puzzle, an ancient Egyptian puzzle, he’s granted the ability to transform into a powerful version of himself, Yugi Yami. As Yugi Yami, he duels dark or evil individuals that threaten him or his band of friends. In the Shadow Games, Yugi competes in various battles that take the form of card or dice-rolling games. It’s an exciting series, and if you don’t trust us on this one, just trust in the heart of the cards. —S.T.
19) Kill la Kill
Genre: Action, Comedy, School
In anime, high school student councils usually rule the school, that’s especially the case with Kill la Kill. In Ryuuko Matoi’s quest to avenge her father, she finds herself at Honnouji Academy, dominated by the student council president Satsuki Kiryuuin and her “elite four.” Alternatively known as Dressed to Kill, the characters in the anime are granted superhuman powers through special uniforms, which can only be obtained by the first-class students. Ryuuko manages to find her own powerful uniform, donning it to take down the establishment and solve the mystery of her father’s murder once and for all. —S.T.
Complete: At the moment only one season of Castlevania has been released. If you’re looking to get in on the ground floor of an anime, this is your best bet.
Based on the legendary video game series, Castlevania the series is loosely based 1989s NES title Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Written by famed comic book author Warren Ellis, Castlevania is the rare American stab at anime that manages to accurately emulate the style and tone of a traditional Japanese series. Portraying Dracula as both a bloodthirsty monster and mourning husband—and the Belmont family as disgraced vampire hunters—Castlevania avoids many of the cliches of standard stories about the fanged monsters that go bump in the night. With stunningly beautiful animation, the only real criticism of Castlevania is that there are only four episodes. – J.M.B.
21) One Punch Man
Genre: Action, Comedy, Superpower
Choosing a superhero name can be a delicate task, but main character Saitama says all he needs to say as One Punch Man: He can defeat anyone and anything with just a single blow. But unlike certain heroes, Saitama wasn’t born with supernatural strength or bestowed his powers by some freak accident. He instead gained his ability pursuing his hobby of fighting crime. Training passionately for three years, he lost all his hair but became incredibly strong. Now Saitama finds himself depressed, lacking any sort of challenge or struggle, at least until a 19-year-old cyborg named Genos appears at his door in hopes of becoming his disciple. Although resistant to the idea initially, Saitama agrees when Genos suggests the two join the Hero Association for certification and recognition. With a new goal in sight, Saitama hopes to find more powerful enemies and gain some fame in the process. —S.T.
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22) Death Note
Genre: Thriller, Psychological, Mystery
The Death Note gives its author the power to kill any individual with a name, face, and optional cause of death (lest it just defaults to a heart attack). Tired of the lethargic death-god life, shinigami Ryuk haphazardly drops his powerful Death Note into the human world, in hopes some mortal will do something interesting with it. Light Yagami, an exceedingly bright but equally bored student, finds the supernatural notebook and quickly decides to play God to a corrupted world after testing its powers. With Ryuk by his side, Light adopts the alias Kira—a vigilante to purge the world of scum and crime—and it’s not long before he attracts the attention of L, the most capable yet mysterious detective in the world. With plenty of loops and twists, the rivalry between Kira and L culminates into an exciting chase of cat and mouse and pushes the definitions of “good” and “evil.” —S.T.
When it comes to demon lords, anime characterizes them in some of the most comical ways. Case in point: The Devil is a Part-Timer. The series follows none other than Satan, opening up with his attempted conquest of Ente Isla. With thwarted plans by the hero Emilia, he’s left with no other escape but a portal that transports him and servant Alsiel to modern-day Tokyo. Stripped of their magic, Satan and Alsiel must learn how to survive in this new world; in other words, they need to get part-time jobs and pay rent. So Satan the demon lord becomes an employee of MgRonald’s, going from conqueror of Ente Isla to conqueror of Earth—via great customer service and climbing the corporate ladder. —S.T.
Complete: Yes, though in a very odd way. When Robotech hit American TVs in 1985, it needed 65 episodes to be syndicated. Accordingly, American producers adapted and revised three different mecha anime series—Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA—into one set story. This was done by dividing the series into the First, Second, and Third Robotech Wars. If you grew up watching Robotech in America, this is what you saw. If you were born in the ‘90s, here’s your chance to get a taste of what discovering anime was like before video stores opened the gates.
Robotech is an important part of anime history in America. The 1985 series was the first taste of giant mecha combat for an entire generation. The animation is dated, and the storyline is convoluted, but the stories and robot designs still hold up, clearly showing the long shadow its influence casts on everything from modern anime to blockbusters like District 9. —J.M.B.
25) Soul Eater
Each student at Death Weapon Meister Academy wields a living weapon, which can take the form of a human being, and each duo is tasked with collecting 99 evil souls and the soul of a witch. Meister Maka Albarn and her scythe Soul Eater are almost done with their path when a mishap with a witch sends them back to square one. Determined to complete school and not get expelled, our heroic team joins forces with other students to battle evil and earn their 99 souls. While many shonen-style anime series feature years of episodes to catch up on (Bleach has 118 episodes, Dragon Ball Z 291 episodes, plus movies), Soul Eater tells a relatively compact story over 51 episodes. Rather than get bogged down in minutiae, the story stays focused on its bizarre premise of a death school and the student’s quest for souls. Dark without being graphic, humorous without getting cheesy, Soul Eater is the perfect shonen series for folks who want to jump into a story but not catch up on years’ worth of episodes.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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