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The best Netflix original anime

Netflix is quietly making its mark in the world of anime.

Sep 9, 2020, 9:06 am*


Netflix original anime is quietly winning over fans and critics. In the last year, the streaming service has released five original anime series, along with a Godzilla movie, and there’s a lot more in the works. More importantly, Netflix has obtained exclusive international distribution for some great anime selections. While the company has yet to have a breakout hit on par with Yuri on Ice, taken as a whole, Netflix has one of the strongest anime collections around.

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It’s a lot to take in. For this list, we’ve gathered summaries of our reviews for every Netflix original anime released to date, as well as the anime series exclusively distributed by Netflix in the U.S. To make this Netflix anime guide as comprehensive as possible, we’ve also rounded up what we know about Netflix’s upcoming anime releases.

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The 10 Best Anime Series on Netflix:

The best Netflix original anime

These Netflix original anime series are available right now on-demand.

Devilman Crybaby

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The latest adaptation of influential manga artist Go Nagai’s 1972 series readapts and recontextualizes its story for the modern day. Mild-mannered Akira Fudo and troubled, enigmatic Ryo Asuka seem like an unlikely pair, but the two are best friends. Ryo reveals to Akira that a race of demons are planning to start a war with humanity in order to re-conquer Earth, which they consider to be rightfully theirs. The best way to fight them is to fuse with demons themselves, transforming Akira into Devilman. Akira must battle not on the behalf of all humanity, but to remain himself despite the demon inside him. Devilman Crybaby, with its ultraviolence and graphic sex, may look like violent snuff porn at a glance, but at its core lies a hauntingly tragic love story. —Caitlin Moore


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This Netflix original anime follows the life of Retsuko, a young professional red panda trying to make it in the big city. She's "single, a Scorpio, blood type A" with a demeaning office job and two obnoxious supervisors, but she also has a secret: She has a death metal karaoke persona—an aggressive Retsuko, if you will—Aggretsuko. In other words, angry is the new cute. —Christine Friar

B: The Beginning

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B: The Beginning tells two parallel stories, both taking place in the fictional European archipelago nation of Cremona. In one, detective Keith Flick returns to the force after years in isolation to find his sister’s murderer, who he believes may be connected to a series of killings by a man the local police have named Killer B. In the other, a young man named Koku uses his superpowers to fight a group of genetically-altered humans called “Reggies” in a search for his lost childhood friend. It’s a weird mish-mash of two completely disparate stories, held together with spit and glue. —Caitlin Moore

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4) A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-

It’s been two years since Aiko Tachibana lost her parents in a terrible lab accident. The accident, known as the “Burst,” involved an artificial lifeform called “Matter” breaking out and running wild. The once-bustling city around the research was cordoned off and abandoned, but Aiko, now 15, is about to enter it with a team of professional divers. Why? Because a transfer student told her there’s a secret in her body, and the answer lies at the core of the Burst. A.I.C.O. is a solidly entertaining science-fiction story with interesting imagery, but it seems to regard things like “character development” and “thematic exploration” as silly and extraneous. This, ultimately, holds back what could have been a great series from ever becoming anything more than a diversion. —Caitlin Moore

SWORDGAI The Animation

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The title may refer to the main character, Gai, but it’s hard not to think of it as SWORD GUY, because that’s pretty much everything SWORDGAI The Animation is. Gai has been possessed by the sword Shiryu since his mother, who was herself possessed, died giving birth to him. Now a young man, he wears Shiryu as a prosthetic arm. He is not the only one possessed by a demonic weapon, and the organization Shihodai exists to collect them and treat their wielders before they become irrevocably transformed. SWORDGAI The Animation offers up some pretty good sword fights and a delightfully stupid and shallow main plot—the kind of series you watch to laugh at, though definitely not with. —Caitlin Moore

Netflix original anime: Exclusive distribution

Netflix might claim these anime titles as original, but truthfully, the service has merely obtained exclusive distribution rights for outside of Japan. Regardless, it's a lot of great anime anime that's available exclusively on Netflix.

Ajin: Demi-Human

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. —John-Michael Bond

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Children of the Whales

Children of the Whales tells the story of Chakuro, a young man living on a giant vessel known as the Mud Whale that floats aimlessly through a sea of sand. The people of the Mud Whale lead peaceful lives, but when a ruined boat holding a young woman chances to drift by, they find that there is a much wider world out there. With a fascinating speculative world, truly stunning animation, and a compelling premise, Children of the Whales could have been one of the best fantasy series of the decade. Instead, it’s dry, exposition-heavy, and fails to deliver on any of its early promises—a master-class in wasted potential. —Caitlin Moore

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Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

'Dragon Pilot' Netflix review

This charming fantasy series shares some similarities with the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, telling a charming fantasy story about a young pilot (Hisone) and the dragon (Masotan) who becomes her partner in Japan's Air Self-Defense Force. It's a riff on mech suit tropes, with a gruesome twist: Dragons need a human pilot to fly, but instead of just strapping on a saddle, the pilots have to be eaten by the dragon and then vomited up again once they're done with a mission. Yikes! -- Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

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Fate/Extra: Last Encore

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If you’ve been considering getting into the Fate franchise on Netflix and weren’t sure where to begin, here’s a tip: Don’t start with Fate/Extra: Last Encore. This latest anime to come out of the long-running multimedia franchise is as newbie-unfriendly as they come. Although there is plenty of exposition about the features unique to Fate/Extra, such as the SE.RA.PH. system and Dead Faces, the script presumes the audience is familiar with the fundamentals of the Holy Grail War that has been the centerpiece of the franchise since Kinoko Nasu’s original visual novel. And while Fate/Extra: Last Encore isn’t a good starting place for newbies, with weak writing and characterization and a dour outlook, it isn’t much fun for established fans either. —Caitlin Moore

Knights of Sidonia

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. —Aja Romano

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Little Witch Academia

little witch academia
The Geek Show Podcast Network/YouTube

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? —Aja Romano

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Read the Daily Dot's guide to Little Witch Academia,

Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden follows a former child soldier in an ambiguously European country in the late stages of a vaguely World War I and II-inspired conflict. Her commanding officer’s final order was for her to live and love freely before he went missing-in-action. But Violet, after spending her life being treated as a killing machine, doesn’t understand how to follow through. Violet Evergarden may be Kyoto Animation’s most gorgeous series yet, with visuals bordering on theatrical quality and nary a stiff or off-model shot. But the stories carry the nuance of your average Hallmark film, falling somewhere into the uncanny valley between calculatedly maudlin and embarrassingly sincere. —Caitlin Moore

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Netflix anime list: Everything else

New anime on Netflix: Coming soon

Here's an overview of the Netflix original anime you have to look forward to in the near future.

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Dragon's Dogma

Date: September 17, 2020

This dark fantasy series is based on the Capcom video game Dragon's Dogma. Here's Netflix's official summary:

"After being brought back to life as the "Arisen," one man must battle monsters representing the seven deadly sins as he seeks revenge on the dragon that stole his heart."

netflix dragon's dogma
Dragon's Dogma/Netflix
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Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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*First Published: Aug 25, 2018, 6:00 am