Entertainment

The Best Anime on Amazon Prime

cowboy bebop
'Cowboy Bebop' | Sunrise
'Cowboy Bebop' | Sunrise

With Netflix and Hulu ramping up their anime coverage, Amazon is doing its best to keep up. Though Amazon Prime doesn't have the same reputation for its anime catalog as its counterparts, the streaming service has developed a respectable mix of classics, hidden gems, and brand-new series and movies that's low-key impressive in its own right. Here are the best anime Prime has to offer right now.

akira
TMS Entertainment

Akira (1988)

Akira is ingrained in pop culture to the point of perhaps needing no introduction. (When you're famous enough to get a Supreme collaboration...) It was largely responsible for the boom of anime aimed towards more adult, Westernized audiences in the late '80s, and the list of titles, anime and otherwise, influenced by it is seemingly never-ending. Kaneda and his biker gang's misadventures in Neo-Tokyo were brought to life with a technical mastery that has hardly been matched, while also leaving a massive thematic and aesthetic imprint in the genre. If you never got around to watching this sci-fi masterpiece, there's no better time than now -- set in a post-apocalyptic 2019, Akira still feels prescient. Somehow, it even managed to predict Tokyo's 2020 Olympics, further adding to the movie's legacy.
Watch it now on Amazon

birdy the mighty
A-1 Pictures

Birdy the Mighty: DECODE (2008)

DECODE is a fairly overlooked and immensely competent action series. This reboot of the '80s series starts with a run-in between interplanetary agent, Birdy Cephon Altera, and Tsutomu, a normal high school boy. Unfortunately for him, their meeting involves Birdy blasting him away while she's chasing a criminal during a mission, which forces the kid and Birdy to inhabit the same body while they attempt to reconstruct his own. Their quirky relationship is the core of the series, but it's also adorned with spectacular fights. Director Kazuki Akane, best known for the classic Escaflowne, has a knack for making action appear big; even when the physical scale of a fight is on the smaller side, his excellent staging that tangibly sets it in the environment makes anything feel grandiose.
Watch it now on Amazon

cowboy bebop
Sunrise

Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

You can't get very deep into anime without coming across Cowboy Bebop at some point -- and with good reason. Director Shinichiro Watanabe's most acclaimed work, Bebop -- set in the year 2071 -- is a potpourri of sci-fi, western, and noir films all tucked under a jazz soundtrack. The result is a masterpiece about the adventures of a ragtag crew of space drifters: effortlessly cool bounty hunter Spike and his pragmatic partner Jet; femme fatale Faye, who also suffers from memory loss; and computer wunderkind Ed, the show’s main source of levity and comic relief. Though Cowboy Bebop mainly receives praise for its varied aesthetics, fully developed character arcs, and thematic punch, its action provides most of the thrill. Like everything else in this anime, the action scenes are an eclectic mix: mesmerizing fistfights, grandiose shootouts, tense standoffs, and exhilarating spaceship battles. A series chock full of iconic moments, Cowboy Bebop will undoubtedly stick in your mind for a long time. 
Watch it now on Amazon

dororo
Amazon

Dororo (2019)

In the midst of a terrible plague at the height of Japan’s Warring States period, Lord Daigo Kagemitsu of the Ishikawa province makes a pact with 12 demons in order to save his region and secure a path towards a future of wealth and power for his region. In exchange, each of the demons collect on Kagemitsu's debt by taking body parts from his newly born son -- his limbs, his eyes, his tongue, his skin -- until the baby is rendered into a horrifying testament to his father's sins, a newborn that's only exposed muscle and bones. Years later, the boy, having survived his father's attempts to get rid of him out of shame, grows up to become an itinerant swordsman named Hyakkimaru with a prosthetic body, sheathed swords for arms, and the extrasensory ability to "see" demons. Adapted from Ozamu Tezuka’s original manga and anime from the late ‘60s, Dororo tells the story of Hyakkimaru’s quest to slay demons, regain his humanity, and learn to open up to other people in a time of immense cruelty with the help of his companion, an orphaned thief by the name of Dororo. Produced by Studio MAPPA (Kids on the Slope, Yuri!!! on Ice, Banana Fish) and directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Rurouni Kenshin, Hunter × Hunter '99, and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn), Dororo is an anime as viscerally violent as it is heartbreaking, and a compelling new series that should not be missed.
Watch it now on Amazon

flame of recca
VIZ Media

Flame of Recca (1997-1998)

Before Naruto became the preeminent anime about young ninjas, there was Flame of Recca. Recca Hanabishi fancies himself a modern-day ninja; in actuality, Recca mostly spends his days getting into skirmishes with other high schoolers. His fortunes change when he runs into Yanagi Sakoshita, a classmate of his who has healing powers. Their encounter sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to Recca finding out that he is the last surviving member of the Hokage clan. What's more, Recca discovers he has the power to control fire. These revelations soon make him the target of attacks from enemy ninjas who hope to acquire the power of the Hokage. Story-wise, Flame of Recca follows a tried-and-true action/adventure formula, which, of course, includes the inevitable tournament arc. However, Flame of Recca deserves credit for setting a template that Naruto and other popular shōnen anime would go on to follow. 
Watch it now on Amazon

grand blue
Zero-G

Grand Blue (2018)

Grand Blue is a tad different from your typical slice-of-life comedy: For once, it adopts a post-high school setting. Iori Kitahara is gearing up his freshman year of college, moving to his uncle's scuba diving shop at the seaside town of Izu with hopes of embarking on his ideal college journey. However, Kitahara gets roped into joining the diving club, whose members do way more binge drinking than actual diving, and his life soon turns into a perennial bender -- you know, college stuff! A majority of the bits in Grand Blue is centered around drinking, specifically how Kitahara always seems to inadvertently become the life of the party. In fact, the show is so boozy that each episode is led with a disclaimer denouncing "underage drinking" and "shameful acts." Despite the one-dimensional subject matter, Grand Blue has eccentric, entertaining characters and solid comedic timing. Expect to also see a ton of half-naked dudes pounding beers. 
Watch it now on Amazon

gto
Studio Pierrot

Great Teacher Onizuka (1999-2000)

Directed by industry titan Noriyuki Abe (Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach), Great Teacher Onizuka has one of the most memorable anime protagonists of the early aughts. Eikichi Onizuka is a 22-year-old reformed bike gang leader who finds a new calling in life as a teacher. OK, fine, he just wants to be a teacher so he can hit on high school girls. Despite his gross initial motives, Onizuka has a good heart, and he actually does make a positive impact on his students in his own weird, harebrained way. Speaking of his students, they all carry their own share of baggage; bullying, parental neglect, and other past trauma have turned Onizuka's class into budding sociopaths. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Onizuka's outrageous teaching style helps his students realize the various forms of compassion, friendship, and familial bonds missing in their respective lives. At the end of the day, GTO might end up being the weirdest anime that makes you cry.  
Watch it now on Amazon

kabaneri
Wit Studio

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (2016)

In Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, most of humanity must take refuge within massive walls to protect themselves against horrific creatures who eat humans. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. Kabaneri has its fair share of similarities with Attack on Titan, even down its production studio. After Season 1 of AoT became a worldwide phenomenon, Wit Studio -- as well as director Tetsurō Araki and much of his staff -- took a break from Titans to make Kabaneri. Because of this, Kabaneri delivers much of the same moments of tension you get from its studio counterpart. If you're craving thrilling, edge-of-your-seat action as you wait for the next and final season of AoT, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress will do the trick.
Watch it now on Amazon

made in abyss
Kinema Citrus

Made in Abyss (2017)

The Abyss is a gigantic chasm that stretches into the depths of the earth, riddled with creatures and artifacts from long ago. For those living on the surface, how that huge pit came to be and what lies at the bottom remains anyone's guess. Those who explore the Abyss -- known as divers -- are considered heroes, especially White Whistles, a ranking reserved for the most talented and fearless of the bunch. Despite being a novice Red Whistle, young Riko aspires to be like her mother -- legendary White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator -- and explore the furthest reaches of the Abyss. After a chance encounter with an amnesiac robot boy, Riko's fascination with that giant pit grows as she’s certain this robot, known as Reg, must come from deep within it. The two set out on a dangerous journey into the Abyss to recover Reg's memories and see what's at the bottom of that hole for themselves. Made in Abyss is an anime that loves to play with your emotions. Riko's brave and vibrant attitude toward diving and discovering the wonders of the Abyss is heartwarming, but you're made acutely aware of the hell that awaits her and Reg as they get deeper and deeper. There's myriad monsters ready to tear them to shreds. Plus, there's the Curse of the Abyss, which is a series of mental and physical illnesses humans experience when ascending back to the surface, like the bends; the deeper you get, the worse the symptoms are when you ascend. This causes many of humanity's greatest divers to never return from the Abyss, including Riko's mother. As such, there's a sense of finality in Riko and Reg's journey, but it doesn't feel like they're flippantly throwing away their lives. These two have an inherent connection to the Abyss, and their adventure not only uncovers the secrets of the world, but also of their own lives.
Watch it now on Amazon

nichijou
Kyoto Animation

Nichijou (2011)

One of the most unpredictable, zany slice-of-life comedies out there, Nichijou flew criminally under the radar when it premiered in 2011, but has regained enough popularity since for Funimation to release an English dub for the series this year. Nichijou follows the lives of three best friends in high school and an 8-year-old scientist who lives with her robot mother -- which she created -- and talking cat. Thanks to its jaw-dropping production and art style, Nichijou has a knack for making everyday situations hilarious and crazy situations even more outrageous. Do you wanna see a high school principal wrestle a deer? Of course you do! How about a teenage girl going through extravagant mental crisis while trying to decipher a menu at a coffee shop? Well, maybe that one hits a bit too close to home. As is the case with many slice-of-life comedies, there's not much of a plot to Nichijou, but the series does possess a prevailing ethos. Whether our characters are walking to school, going grocery shopping, or spending time in nature, Nichijou always makes a point to highlight -- and heighten -- the eccentricities of everyday life.
Watch it now on Amazon

samurai champloo
Manglobe

Samurai Champloo (2004-2005)

Another Shinichiro Watanabe gem, Samurai Champloo features a similar format to Cowboy Bebop, but replaces guns with swords. After the teahouse where Fuu works gets trashed, thanks to the antics of vagrant Mugen and ronin samurai Jin, she eventually forces the two to become her bodyguards as she searches for the "samurai who smells of sunflowers." By weaving hip-hop culture into the fabric of the series, Watanabe created an anachronistic version of Edo-era Japan, complete with graffiti, beatboxing, and a gripping soundtrack that coalesces with the free-flowing sword fights. Speaking of sword fights, the clashes in Samurai Champloo ooze style. Mugen's technique is like a freestyle -- instinctive and unpolished, figuring it out with each hack of his sword. He also incorporates breakdancing and martial arts into his fighting. On the other hand, Jin's precise movements and slices makes him ruthlessly efficient, kind of what you'd expect to see from a true samurai. Though the characters and storytelling don't quite hit the same high notes as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is unique enough to stand out in the gigantic samurai subgenre. 
Watch it now on Amazon

toradora
J.C.Staff

Toradora! (2008-2009)

Toradora! presents a fairly standard set-up when it comes to romantic comedies. Ryuuji is a kind yet fierce-looking boy, frustrated by all the people who misunderstand him. Taiga, on the other hand, is an attractive and ferocious girl with a poor first impression of Ryuuji. Once they find out that each other's crushes are their respective best friends, though, they make a deal for mutual help in love matters. They develop a strong bond of their own to the point of questioning who they actually want to be with as they grow more comfortable with each other after their rocky start. When the narrative makes the (maybe obvious) point that the two have great chemistry, you immediately believe it. If you’re in the mood for a tale of a charming relationship, Toradora! is an excellent choice.
Watch it now on Amazon

vinland saga
Wit Studio

Vinland Saga (2019)

Adapted from Makoto Yukimura's popular historical fiction manga series, Vinland Saga tells the journey of Thorfinn Karlsefni, a legendary Icelandic explorer as he embarks on a perilous quest to avenge the death of his father. Initially set in the year 1002 A.D., the series follows Thorfinn's story from childhood to adulthood, maturing from a lighthearted boy into a harsh, relentless warrior until finally leaving to colonize North America alongside Leif Erikson. Drawing elements from real-life historical accounts, Vinland Saga is an intense and captivating fictionalized depiction of a fascinating, albeit under-discussed, chapter of European history: the Vikings. Beneath the heart-pounding action and impressive animation pulses a resolutely humanist theme of anti-violence and pro-human decency, with Thorfinn's father Thors imparting him with the life lesson that every human being is fighting a hard battle and that no one is truly his enemy. Currently simulcasting on Prime, Vinland Saga has already secured its place as one of 2019's best anime. 
Watch it now on Amazon

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