The streaming giant is well known for their original movies, sitcoms and investments into various franchises, but Netflix’s library of anime content has grown nicely over the last few years as well. Here’s 17 films or series that are worth your time.
This story has been updated since its original publication.
The Dragon Prince
An anime from the creative team behind Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Dragon Prince kicks off in a kingdom torn asunder by 1,000 years of war. The series focuses on three characters stuck in the middle of it all, and the stories of those on the battlefield.
Like Avatar, there’s a good deal of humour to break up the grimness of war. Two seasons are currently up on Australian Netflix, and the mix of CGI and 2D art looks an absolute treat.
One of the classics and the only anime to feature music from Japanese hip-hop producer Nujabes (who passed away in 2010), Samurai Champloo is a whimsical, cheeky look at two rogue samurai as they journey through Japan to help a waitress search for a mysterious warrior.
With a great soundtrack, solid action sequences and plenty of comedy throughout, Champloo is one of the must-watch anime from the ’00s. Definitely recommend for those who enjoyed the underpinnings of Cowboy Bebop, and anyone who wants an episodic series that’s easy to watch.
Imagine going to high school … but it’s a high school for gamblers. Kakegurui delves into the political and hierarchical machinations of a school that operates based on skill at the table – and the amount of debt everyone owes to each other.
While martial arts champion Baki Hanma strives to surpass his father, five inmates from death row invade Tokyo to challenge his might. It’s an anime on the more gruesome and violent side, but good for those who enjoy MMA or similar action anime/manga like Hajime no Ippo.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Originally serialised in the Weekly Shonen Magazine, Seven Deadly Sins refers to a group of knights who disbanded after failing to overthrow the Liones Kingdom. Ten years after the failed coup, the saviours of the realm, the Holy Knights, opted to overthrow the king to rule the kingdom for themselves.
Faced with their tyrannical rule, Princess Elizabeth is forced to journey out to find the Seven Deadly Sins and ask for their help to take back the kingdom once more.
She-Ra and the Princesses Of Power
She-Ra doesn’t fit within the traditional meaning of anime, but it’s a clever and witty reimagining of an old series. The remake focuses on Princess Adora’s relationship with Bow and Glimmer as they build up a coalition to save Etheria, concentrating on the personalities of everyone involved and Adora’s conviction to do the right thing. It’s a solid option for families wanting something with a good message they can watch with their kids, and there’s plenty of sass and good animation to make it easy on the eye.
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Inspired by the gag manga of the same name, Saiki K is a story about a high school sophomore student who struggles to keep his psychic talents hidden. Some of Saiki’s abilities include x-ray vision, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, mind control, the ability to share telepathy with others, and the ability to turn people to stone (which is why he wears glasses). It’s an anime filled with weird characters, and it’s a great watch if you just need something deadpan and silly to unwind to.
Flavours of Youth
A romantic anime set in China, Flavours of Youth focuses on three stories that, in some way, all come back to family, friendship and sharing a hot bowl of noodles. Each part focuses on a different character, including a nameless man who focuses on his most cherished experiences, an aging fashion model who is tasked with caring after her sister following the death of her parents, and an angry high schooler dealing with a crush on his friend.
It’s visually appealing, and the backdrops are a breath of fresh air instead of the usual Japanese urban and rural environments that feature in every anime. Some of the character designs are a little generic, but it’s a neat story. There’s a scene after the end credits, so make sure you watch through to the end.
If you don’t mind your anime on the brutal side, then the latest iteration of the Devilman franchise, Devilman Crybaby, might be up your alley. The Devilman series began with the tale of Akira Fudo, who is soon possessed by a demon. Relying on a friend, Akira overcame the will of his inner demon to become Devilman, one demon to rule them all.
Crybaby covers a lot of similar ground, with Akira incorporating the powers of the demon Amon but retain his human soul to prevent the destruction of humanity. The big key with the Netflix version is the more modern setting (smartphones are a thing) and a heightened focus on sex and violence.
I can’t stress that enough: this isn’t a series for the squeamish. There’s people being bitten alive, death by vehicle galore, and orgies that quickly turn into massacres. But if you can stomach some odd scenes, it’s one of the best animated series with the Netflix label yet.
Fullmetal Alchemist / Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Whether you should watch Brotherhood before working through the original Full Metal Alchemist is a different question entirely, but one way or another, FMA: Brotherhood is worth your time.
Brotherhood is an adaptation that more closely follows the plot of the source material. The original FMA anime deviates from the manga about halfway through, after Hiromu Arakawa (creator of the FMA manga) requested a different ending for the anime. As a result, I’d recommend just watching Brotherhood especially given that the two series tend to cover the same ground in the early episodes.
Differences aside, FMA is well worth a watch regardless. The series covers the journey of alchemist brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they search for the Philospher’s Stone, in a quest to revive the latter’s body following a failed transmutation. It’s equal parts funny, grim and surprising, as the Elric brothers come to grips with the machinations of the state military and a divided world.
The original FMA is streaming on Australian Netflix now, while FMA: Brotherhood is only available through Netflix in the US.
Knights of Sidonia
One of the early Netflix original anime series, Knights of Sidonia is a deconstruction of the space opera genre. The story focuses on Sidonia, a colony ship in space housing a genetically altered branch of humans.
The human race had been battered to within an inch of its life by the alien Gauna, and so to recover their losses scientists used genetic engineering to create humans that rarely need to eat or sleep.
It’s an anime that takes physics a little more seriously than most space operas, while offering an intriguing look into a manufactured humanity, struggling to survive. If you enjoyed the principle of, say, Macross but you’d prefer to see those mechs in a setting where fuel is a factor and humanity isn’t able to joke its way around its own demise, Knights of Sidonia is worth a watch.
An isolated human colony ship is on the run from aliens and the only effective defence they have left are giant robots. No doubt, you've heard similar setups before; but Knights of Sidonia plays the situation completely straight -- from the real world physics to the societal implications.Read more
A franchise that has gone around the bend for almost two decades, GANTZ:O is a CG spin-off of the series that features 17-year-old Masaru Kato. Kato has woken up in a room with a bunch of people, all of whom have died.
In the room is a giant black ball called Gantz. It’s later explained that everyone is pitched in a game of survival, where they have to kill off a range of monsters attacking Japan within a certain time limit if they want to survive.
A feature-length movie, GANTZ:O is streaming on Australian Netflix in English.
The second season of Castlevania hasn’t dropped yet, but until then you can enjoy Netflix’s reimagining of the series inspired by the iconic games. As a short series it’s a fun screenplay largely drawn from the timeline of Castlevania 3.
Castlevania looked pretty dang cool when it hit Netflix last month. Part of the reason is the fact that the folks at Powerhouse Animation have been waiting for the chance to do a project like this for ages. Hell, they practically stalked the producers.Read more
I’m not one to put much stock into whether Castlevania properly qualifies as anime, given it was basically produced entirely in the United States. I don’t think it largely matters: fans of anime have no trouble enjoying, say, Avatar: The Last Airbender, despite its American roots. But if that’s something you care about, there you go.
And while Castlevania isn’t perfect, it’s a great homage to OVAs of the ’80s and ’90s. The four episodes are based on a script that was approved by Konami over a decade ago. Netflix greenlit a second season of Castlevania last year, with eight episodes due to be dropped online sometime this winter.
Little Witch Academia is what happens when you take trademark Japanese cuteness and mix it with a world of magic, ala Harry Potter. Makers Studio Trigger released Little Witch Academia as an animated short on YouTube, which generated enough interest to successfully crowdfund a feature-length sequel a couple of years later.
The magical mishaps of Akko and her friends has since spawned a full series, which you can stream on Netflix as well. It’s charming Harry Potter. What’s not to like?
After discovering that he is from an immortal race called the Ajin, Kei finds himself fleeing before being turned into a test subject. Ajin don’t actually heal until they’re dead, you see, making him an ideal target for unethical researchers. Amidst all this, there’s a ¥100 million bounty up for grabs for capturing an Ajin.
So what do you do when you wake up, only to discover the world around you has declared you persona non grata? That’s the general gist of Ajin, which also uses the same CGI style as Knights of Sidonia. The facial expressions are especially good, although note that this anime is more on the violent side.
BLAME! is Netflix’s adaptation of the original 1998 comic, which focused on a gunman exploring a ravaged cyberpunk city. Netflix’s adaptation really only uses the setting rather than the plot of the original, instead focusing on a single band of humans who have survived The City’s extermination efforts.
This isn’t the first anime adaptation of BLAME! either, with an earlier anime released in 2003.
One of the older offerings on Netflix, Gunslinger Girl on the surface stars a bunch of cybernetically-enhanced underage girls wielding enormous weapons. But what it’s really about is the relationships between people with vastly shortened lives and life expectancies, due to the nature of their work, and how those characters deal with the pressure of the unusual world around them.
The series centres on the girls rehabilitated by the Social Welfare Agency, which claims to rebuild the lives of children with severe disabilities and critical injuries. What ends up happening is a process of cyberisation and brainwashing on the behalf of the Italian government, with the agency’s assassins dealing with adolescence and their attempts to maintain their humanity.
What anime have you seen on Netflix that you’d recommend – and what series would you like to see get the Netflix treatment?