What To Watch
More and more anime, as well as anime-inspired movies and series, are making their way to Netflix. Originals like Castlevania and the live-action Death Note movie join classic series and upcoming ones on the service, and it can be tricky to know which ones you should binge and which you should let be.
While there’s a lot of great anime on Netflix, there are some you should prioritize. Click forward to see all the best series you can stream right now.
If you haven’t seen it yet–or if you thought the Netflix’s live-action Death Note was interesting and wanted more–now’s the time to watch this classic crime series. Light Yagami, a brilliant high school student and son of a police chief, finds the Death Note, a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written in its pages. The mysterious killer is dubbed “Kira,” and a top detective known only as “L” is given the task of tracking him down.
The series is known both for its fantastic cat-and-mouse dynamic and as a great show for people who haven’t seen much anime. It has things like shinigami (gods of death) and a distinctly Japanese style, but it’s not the capital-A Anime with big fight scenes and a lot of yelling that you might imagine when you think about anime.
The Devil Is A Part-Timer
The devil’s on the run from the hero of Ente Isla, a world he’s trying to conquer, and he ends up in modern day Tokyo. In order to survive, he gives himself a human form and…starts working at a fast food restaurant called MgRonald’s. Naturally, there are some shenanigans to be had. This is one of the lighter shows on this list and is great if you’re looking for a fantastical comedy to watch when you want to relax.
Don’t be fooled by the generous gore or flashy orgy scenes; Devilman Crybaby is a solemn, pensive look at what it means to be human. Based on the Devilman manga from the ’70s, Devilman Crybaby follows Akira, an extremely empathetic teenager who is prone to crying at the suffering of others. When his childhood friend Ryo comes to town, he informs Akira that demons will return to earth, and that there’s a way for the two of them to save humanity. Devilman Crybaby stands out thanks to its classic-looking animation and phenomenal direction, with layers of meaning to dissect long after you’ve finished the tenth and final episode.
If you’re looking for action, suspense, and something a little darker, try Durarara! Set in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, Durarara follows a newcomer to the area as well as a gang of dangerous individuals and a headless motorcyclist who runs in underground circles. There’s a lot going on, but the episodes switch between different perspectives with a narrator giving context. Durarara is popular for its supernatural-meets-gang-violence style and superb animation. And no, the name doesn’t mean anything.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
If you’re in the mood for a modern classic, look no further than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It follows the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, who embark on the one forbidden act of alchemy: human transmutation. Thanks to the alchemic Law of Equivalent Exchange, Edward loses his right arm and Alphonse his physical body. What follows is a search to find their humanity, a mentally scarring scene involving a dog, and one of the finest endings known to anime.
Note that while the original Fullmetal Alchemist is also on Netflix, Brotherhood is the recommended version, since it follows the manga much more closely and is considered the ideal adaptation.
Gurren Lagann is an absolute classic and a must-watch for any anime fan. Made by Gainax, the studio behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann is about friendship, believing in yourself, and giant mechs that fight each other. It’s action-packed and silly and, despite some weird pacing in spots, is quite the adventure.
One of the coolest things about the series is how it transitions from a hole in the ground–all of humanity lives underground to protect themselves from the dangers of the surface world–to something entirely different by the end, yet still a cohesive whole.
Kill la Kill
After watching Gurren Lagann, your next series should be Kill la Kill. It was made by Studio Trigger, an offshoot started by former Gainax staff, and has the same larger-than-life feel and wacky action in a new world–not unlike FLCL. Be warned: It’s about clothes that have special powers, and those powers are usually activated by making the outfit a lot more revealing. But trust me, it makes sense in the end.
Little Witch Academia
Also by Studio Trigger, Little Witch Academia is a feel-good show about young girls studying to become witches. It stars Akko, a girl who’s struggling at the academy due to her non-magical background–until she finds an artifact that once belongs to the witch who inspired her in the first place. It’s cute and great to watch when you want something a bit more relaxed.
If you grew up watching shonen series like Dragon Ball Z, you’ll appreciate One-Punch Man’s comedic take on the genre. Saitama is the ultimate hero; he can defeat anyone with only one punch. But because of that, he’s pretty bored with being the hero, preferring to get excited about sales at the grocery store instead of defeating the latest supervillain. It’s funny but also an interesting look at what happens after you accomplish your goals, and its theme song goes hard. Plus, season 2 is coming up soon!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Remember Sailor Moon? Puella Magi Madoka Magica is kind of like that, except much sadder. It’s a twist on the magical girl genre and explores the power of hope over pure despair. The eponymous star Madoka has the opportunity to make a wish with a familiar called Kyubey–any wish, he says, and he can grant it, but she must fight evil in exchange. What wish would be worth the cost?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica has a fantastic, haunting soundtrack and is only 12 episodes, but maybe don’t binge it if you don’t want to cry a lot. Don’t worry, though; believe in hope.
The lead character in Rurouni Kenshin is a placid soul named Himura. And despite carrying a sword on his hip, the blade is sharpened on the wrong side; a move to ensure he won’t inadvertently take a life, even in self-defense. However, one part comedy and one part drama, Rurouni Kenshin truly stands out when Himura’s righteous instincts push back against this mindset.
Himura’s present attitude is a result of him rejecting his past as a legendary assassin. But violent ex-samurai seeking fame and power at the cost of innocent lives cross his path on a regular basis, forcing his hand. Himura’s left no choice but to rekindle his smoldering aggression to protect the innocent, and though he typically manages to rid evil without resorting to murder, the show craftily keeps the question lingering in the air: will he kill to protect those he loves at the cost of his own humanity?
The 95-episode show on Netflix is a great starting point for anyone interested in the series, but once you connect with Himura’s plight, do seek out the OVAs, dubbed Samurai X. Those episodes tell of the disturbing childhood that lead to Himura’s violent middle years–though they unfortunately aren’t on Netflix.
Tiger & Bunny
Tiger & Bunny is a fun look at what would happen if superheroes were commercialized the way modern sports are. Each hero’s costume is branded to a NASCAR-level extreme (with actual brands). While this may sound off putting, the show’s tongue-in-cheek nature winkingly pulls it off. The story offers a great buddy duo of the veteran Hero Wild Tiger and new up-and-comer Barnaby (Bunny), and while it show starts with a far more comedic edge, the action eventually picks up when the show’s villains come into play.
Your Lie In April
Your Lie in April is a heartfelt story about Arima Kousei, a prodigal pianist whose career is derailed by a traumatic event. However, a chance encounter with Kaori Miyazono, a free-spirited violinist, reignites a passion he thought had long faded.
What makes Your Lie in April interesting is, for the most part, it doesn’t focus on the romance between Arima and Kaori. Instead it explores their complicated personal issues and uses these to bring them closer in a way that feels natural and authentic.