The Best Anime on Netflix

Whether you're into dubbed or subbed, these are the anime series you need to watch.

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

Netflix is finally serious about anime. The streaming service's licensing strategy wasn't always reliable, but it's recently acquired quite a few popular series and produced a handful that can't be missed. Whether you're into coming of age stories, horror anime, sci-fi-inspired stories that are of the mecha variety or set in a whole other world, Netflix has something for all anime fans. Here's what's streaming now and worth watching.

ALSO READ: Our guide to the best anime of the year so far, and don’t sleep on last year’s best anime series either.


Aggretsuko (2018– )

Based on one of the many characters by Sanrio, a Japanese company known for its cute merch centered around personality-driven animal cartoon characters (Hello Kitty, anyone?), Aggretsuko is basically branded content, but it’s good branded content. When Retsuko, a red panda fresh out of university, finds an office accounting job, she’s brimming with optimism. Five years later, her corporate enthusiasm has been worn down by a grinding combination of a tiny apartment, a crowded commute, a real murderer’s row of co-workers (a gossiping hippo, an appearance-obsessed deer, a sociopathic fennec fox), and a chauvinist hog (literally, he is a pig) of a boss. When her patience reaches its limit, Retsuko resorts to her preferred form of emotional release: death metal karaoke. Despite her daily struggles, Retsuko clings to the security provided by her lame, but stable, job. This focus on accessibility and millennial appeal is exactly what makes Aggretsuko work. Though it’s cute and funny, it becomes a multi-layered, all-too-relatable mind fuck if you stop and think about it for too long.  

attack on titan
Wit Studio

Attack on Titan (2013–2022)

There are multiple reasons why Attack on Titan is among the most popular anime of all time. It's an action blockbuster of a scale the medium has rarely seen, with humanity at siege by mysterious large humanoids called titans and very little hope for survival against the giant, maniacal foes. The slowly unfolding mystery and frenetic Spiderman-esque action setpieces in particular have captured viewers all around the world—it's not uncommon to see people walking around in Survey Corps jackets or carrying bags with the winged logo on it. Sure, its relentless grimness requires you to be in the right mindset, and perhaps the reveals don’t always live up to the tension the series builds up, but it’s easy to understand why so many people were addicted to this series.

Beastars (2019– )

Set in a world of anthropomorphic animals, Beastars could easily be mistaken for an anime Zootopia—except this Netflix series is a lot stranger, darker, and more adult than the Disney flick, making for an extremely bingeable, imaginative show. Inspired by the manga of the same name, the drama is about a wolf named Legosi who attends an academy where herbivores and carnivores co-exist, until one is brutally murdered, and he is forced to wrestle with his own feelings and innate desires. (He's lusting in more ways than one after a rabbit, which makes for quite an internal conflict). The zany plot and characters are compelling enough, but the mixture of 2D and 3D animation creates an incredible world of its own that makes this one of Netflix’s more original anime entries. 

carole & tuesday

Carole & Tuesday (2019)

Shinichirō Watanabe, the director of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and other series could probably make anything at this point and people would call it inspired. Luckily, Carole & Tuesday actually is a masterpiece. Helmed by Watanabe and produced by studio Bones, the series has a fairly simple premise: two girls, frustrated by their day-to-day lives, meet and begin to create original music together. Oh, and the series takes place on Mars in a city where AI technology has been integrated into nearly every aspect of life, including music. The first half of the series (currently available on Netflix) is lighthearted and tender, chronicling Carole and Tuesday's difficulties in writing songs, booking performances, and promoting their music.

cells at work
David Production

Cells at Work! (2018– )

Cells at Work is exactly what it sounds like: It portrays the inside of a human body, inhabited by anthropomorphic cells who do their best to keep everything up and running. The central characters are an enthusiastic red blood cell with a very faulty sense of direction, and a white blood cell who ruthlessly slays bacteria. While their adventures together are for the most part lighthearted, the show doesn’t shy away from constantly introducing dangerous pathogens and situations where health is at risk—if anything, completing this series will increase your respect for your own immune system. Fascinating for anyone with knowledge in the field, and instructive enough for any viewers willing to learn a little bit of biology while watching cartoons.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006–2008)

A hit upon its premiere in 2006, the giant-robot epic Code Geass begins in the year 2010, with Japan—renamed Area 11—seeking its independence after being colonized by the Holy Britannian Empire, the world's dominant superpower. The story in earnest starts in 2017 with Britannian student Lelouch Lamperouge, who gets caught in the crossfire between Britannia and Area 11 armed forces. Lelouch is able to escape with his life thanks to a mysterious girl named C.C., who grants him Geass, a power which allows him to bend others to his will with a simple stare into their eyes. Lelouch, who holds a personal grudge against Britannia, quickly harnesses his newfound power and takes up arms against the Empire as the masked vigilante Zero. Like other mecha anime before it (the Gundam series, in particular), Code Geass explores the macro effects of rampant militarism and colonization, and over the anime’s 50 episodes, we learn just how far Lelouch and other major characters are willing to go to create the ideal world they envision, frequently forcing us to ask ourselves: Are ends brought forth by questionable means worth anything?

cowboy bebop

Cowboy Bebop (1998–1999)

Everyone telling you that Cowboy Bebop is one of the best anime series, let alone best TV series, of all time is right: This genre bending sci-fi western neo noir follows the crew of the Bebop, bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, and their reluctant partners Faye Valentine, hacker Radical Ed, and corgi dog Ein as they traverse space in the far future, hunting down criminals for large bounties and generally getting themselves in lots of trouble. Dogged at every turn by the villainous Syndicate, the 26 episodes of the series, scored with a poppy jazz beat, culminate in a showdown of epic proportions. 

death note

Death Note (2006–2007)

The sparse world of the shinigami, or death gods, is boring. When shinigami Ryuk drops his "Death Note," or a powerful notebook that can kill anyone as long as the user knows their target's name and face, chaos ensues in the living world. A top high school student named Light Yagami happens to find the deadly notebook, and Ryuk enters the human world to egg on Light, who first experiments with the Death Note for the altruistic goal of eliminating the world of crime, but slowly devolves into a villain as he becomes drunk with power and the idea of becoming a god. This shounen classic is horrific as it deals with a man who slowly transforms from Light into "Kira," a serial killer known the world over, and the police effort to take him down.

demon slayer

Demon Slayer (2019– )

A boy, Tanjiro Kamado, and his younger sister, Nezuko, travel around the rapidly modernizing, early 1900s Taisho-era Japan as part of the clandestine Demon Slayer Corps after his whole family is killed one night, save for Nezuko, who turns into a half-demon. Aside from demon slaying, Tanjiro's ultimate goal is twofold: turn Nezuko back into a human and seek vengeance against Muzan Kibutsuji, a super-evil demon, passing in society as a human who looks like the early 1900s-era version of Jack White, and who can create new progeny by injecting people with his very potent demon blood.


Devilman Crybaby (2018)

There's no better starting point than the title spearheading Netflix’s campaign for high-quality anime productions flying under the "Original" banner. Netflix entrusted visionary director Masaaki Yuasa to reinvent the classic Devilman series, which follows the sensitive Akira Fudo as he’s pushed into fusing with a demon by his friend Ryo Asuka, in a desperate attempt to save humanity from impending doom. All the events from the source material are tweaked, fully transforming the narrative and grounding it in modern times, and yet the consequences and message stay the same. A masterclass in adaptation that marries a timeless work with the surreal imagery of one of anime’s most brilliant directors, and that exploits Netflix’s platform with more explicit sexual and violent material that absolutely would not be allowed on regular TV. This show isn’t for the weak of heart, but in spite of everything, it’s still all about love.

saiki k

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (2016–2019)

With God-like psychic abilities, the world should become your personal playground, right? For Kusuo Saiki, however, psychic powers make his days a constant nuisance. X-ray vision, telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis… all of these abilities pose nothing but nightmares for a high-school kid just trying to lead a quiet, normal life. But it all makes for great comedy! The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is told in a collection of vignettes bunched together into 23-minute episodes. Ever wondered what it’s like to utilize your gift of teleportation to avoid awkward interactions with that girl who has a crush on you? Do you think about the perils of having to abstain from public settings to prevent your mind-reading powers from spoiling your favorite TV show? Saiki does. No good slice-of-life comedy is without a solid supporting cast. Friend/constant thorn-in-side Riki Nendou is so dense not even Saiki can read his mind. Kokomi Teruhashi goes through ridiculous lengths to preserve her perfect, beautiful girl image. Shun Kaidou thinks he’s the only one who can stop a shadow organization that he believes monitors his every move. These three, and many others, always seem to gravitate towards Saiki and find creative ways to make his life a pain in the ass.


Dorohedoro (2020– )

Based on Q Hayashida’s cult dark fantasy sci-fi manga of the same name, Dorohedoro is set in the Hole, a harsh derelict metropolis populated by humans and an ever-increasing number of unfortunate souls transformed into chimeric monstrosities by malicious sorcerers from another dimension. The series follows Caiman, an amnesiac bounty hunter and his best friend Nikaido as they scour the depths of the Hole in search of the sorcerer who cursed him with a lizard’s head. Oh yeah, he’s also got a sentient human head at the back of his throat that pops up Xenomorph-style whenever Caiman swallows his prey to search for the culprit. It only gets weirder from there. Packed to the brim with gnarly violence, leather-clad weirdos, pitch-black humor, and more than a few moments of light-hearted levity, Dorohedoro is a dark and impressive hybrid-CG anime that combines dystopian body-horror and slice-of-life comedy to make for one of the most exciting and unique new series to come out in 2020.

dragon pilot

Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan (2018)

Both in a literal and figurative sense, DRAGON PILOT: Hisone and Masotan is an original anime. Not only is it not drawing from any source material, there simply is nothing else quite like it. Protagonist Hisone is in a constant struggle because of her outspokenness—quite a problem for a young woman who recently joined Japan’s highly regimented Self-Defense Force. It’s precisely that awkwardness that leads to her meeting with the other titular character: Masotan, an adorable jet-fighter dragon hybrid. A more standard series would have the youngster who accidentally stumbled onto a powerful, heavily guarded military secret use her new powers to fight some sort of alien menace, but this show has no time to waste with trivial matters like that. What does it focus on, then? A multitude of interconnected and surprisingly mature themes: the glass ceiling, the impossible balance of an emotional and professional life, how deeply rooted sexism is in institutions like the army, the role tradition plays in these matters, and so on. This is all wrapped in a quirky envelope that manages not to make light of the real problems it addresses directly, without losing its humor along the way.

end of evangelion
Toei Company

End of Evangelion (1997)

Neon Genesis Evangelion (which you'll find on this list) is one of the best and most popular anime series of all time, but its final episodes remain more contentious than the entirety of the series—so much so that fan demand has prompted multiple alternative endings to be released after the original was through. End of Evangelion has been hailed by devotees as the most satisfying (albeit emotionally draining) ending to the epic. Retelling the final 25th and 26th episodes of the series, this was series creator Hideaki Anno's "fuck you" to those originally dissatisfied with the end of the show, and watching it for the first time, End of Evangelion absolutely feels made out of spite, purposefully mind-melting, massive, and very fucked up. Still, you'll find it's absolutely glorious in its own right and unlike anything you've ever seen as Shinji and co. see the truth to NERV's shadowy Human Instrumentality Project.


Fate/Zero (2011–2012)

The Fate franchise is now omnipresent in the anime world, having grown from a visual novel into a genuine multimedia empire. Fate/Zero is a good starting point for (adult) newcomers as the earliest chronological point in the primary storyline, but most importantly, gripping in its own right. The premise is nearly the same as every other in the Fate series: a battle for the Holy Grail. Heroes from the past are summoned and commanded by mages as warriors of different classes, depending on the attributes their legends granted them, and compete to the death. What makes this entry stand out is the dark, gritty tone, which comes from its focus on the sacrifice and loss inherent to the life of a hero, going as far as wondering if the Holy Grail Wars are all that worthwhile. The excellent production values and a few exciting confrontations are good vehicles for its overarching themes, so if you’re at all interested in getting into the franchise, this is likely the best starting point.

flavors of youth

Flavors of Youth (2018)

This Chinese-Japnese co-production feels like a set of loosely connected beautiful, animated tone poems. Told as a three-part anthology, which may seem like an alternative format for animated storytelling but is quite common overseas, Flavors of Youth explores different anecdotes of youth, each set somewhere in China. As it reminisces on its characters’ pasts, it’s equal parts sentimental and wistful—leaving you to conjure up your own memories left in a bowl of noodles or the one that got away. 

food wars shokugeki no soma

Food Wars! (2015–2020)

Cooking anime is a difficult genre which, to do well, requires a singular eye for detail to make the on-screen food look as-or-more delicious as it might in real life. Food Wars! handles this challenge with aplomb, its artists homing in on the details and coloring down to every single hand-drawn noodle, and the show itself goes through great lengths to explain the globally inspired dishes—competitively cooked by the disruptive young chef Yukihira Soma and his cohorts and rivals at the elite Totsuki Academy—in accessible detail as sportscaster-like battle commentary. Don't be alarmed when somebody takes a bite of the high-end food and their clothes pop off.

great pretender

Great Pretender (2020)

Makoto Edamura is Japan's greatest con-man. Or at least, that's what he thinks until he's bested by Laurent Thierry, a suave and masterful gentleman thief who eyes up the young Edamura to join his globe-trotting crew as his apprentice. Traveling the world from San Francisco to Singapore, London and beyond, Edamura learns the tricks of the trade as he cons the criminal elite's most dastardly plutocrats while growing up along the way, all tinged with the same sense of humor that you'd find in any of the Ocean's movies. Directed by Hiro Kaburagi (91 Days, Speed Grapher) and written by screenwriter Ryota Kosawa, Great Pretender is a death-defying, high-wire heist drama packed with a dazzling art design, beautiful vistas, and an infectiously jazzy score.

guerran lagann

Gurren Lagann (2007)

Gurren Lagann is a modern classic you have the chance to revisit on Netflix. Set in a world where humanity is forced to live in underground colonies, not even fully aware that the surface is the domain of the terrifying Spiral King and his robot-piloting crew of monsters, the series never-ending sense of escalation and the dynamism, courtesy of director Hiroyuki Imaishi, allow it to reach the very ends of the universe, making the show stay true to its own message about humanity’s endless possibilities. While it proudly showcases its many mecha anime influences, it has enough identity of its own to have become a new icon in the genre ever since then. Of course, it helps that the show is a vividly colorful animation feat, one where ludicrous fights give idiosyncratic artists the chance to imprint through rough line art and wild posing, an excellent argument that fluidity by itself isn’t all that makes animation exciting. If that isn't enough, know that much of the same production team returned for KILL la KILL, also available on Netflix; beware that it’s a messier endeavor—arguably more ambitious, but also much less satisfying than the straightforward yet perfectly constructed anti-oppression tale of Gurren Lagann.

hunter x hunter
Funimation Channel

Hunter x Hunter (2011) 

If we're talking about narrative and thematically compelling action anime, the king might very well be Yoshihiro Togashi's Hunter x Hunter. While there's more directorial oomph to the 1999 incarnation, it's easier to recommend the cohesive vision and satisfying end of the 2011 version. For those of you still not acquainted with the series, Hunter x Hunter starts off with the young Gon Freecss, who is following his missing dad's path and taking a practical exam to become a Hunter, a special title for adventurers of the world. What first appears to be an unassuming tale keeps on growing in scale and ambition, eventually forming large arcs that tackle genre staples like heroes' lack of concern for their own well-being, while staying a very touching and entertaining narrative on its own right. The interconnected narrative threads spun from the massive cast prove that Togashi isn't just a conceptually interesting creator, he's a masterful storyteller as well. Hunter x Hunter's true potential takes a while to surface, but once it does it'll stand a chance to become one of your favorites.

japan sinks 2020

Japan Sinks: 2020 (2020)

Pyeon-Gang Ho and Masaaki Yuasa's adaptation of Sakyo Komatsu's 1973 disaster novel takes the original premise and updates it for the modern era. When Japan is rocked by a major earthquake, the Mutō family is forced to band together to weather the cascade of subsequent disasters and perils that follow in its wake. Japan Sinks: 2020 is a harrowing watch, particularly in a post-Fukushima disaster, post-COVID-19 world. As the family journeys across the country in search of refuge amidst an onslaught of environmental dangers and malicious opportunists, death comes swiftly and indiscriminately for both loved ones and strangers alike. With a gorgeous theme song composed by the inimitable Ryuichi Sakamoto and a pulse-pounding score by composer Kensuke Ushio, Japan Sinks: 2020 is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unfathomable adversity and unprecedented environmental horror.

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
David Production

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (2012– )

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is a name you maybe already know, since its serialization began in the '80s and is still going strong nowadays and its fandom is thriving all around the world. Though some things remain constant—like the physical manifestations of powers named Stands, the musical themes, and the approach to confrontations that’s more akin to competitive puzzle solving than actual fighting—Jojo manages to stay fresh thanks to its unmatched ability to reinvent itself with each season. Not many franchises could afford to transition from a worldwide saga versus a foe so dangerous the whole world might be at stake to a group of dorky friends keeping their small town safe, and turn them both into iconic stories all the same. The anime adaptation at its best also manages to render Hirohiko Araki's colorful, striking art into equally inventive sequences.

kill la kill
Studio Trigger

Kill la Kill (2013-2014)

On a search for her father's murderer, young schoolgirl Ryuko stumbles into a battle school run by a tyrannical student council president, where she must use the powers of her scanty symbiotic school uniform (actually a form of battle armor clothing that uses its host's blood to give them disproportionate strength and agility) to fight her way up the student council ranks to avenge her family. It sounds absolutely insane, but pretty par for the course for creators Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima, who both worked on legendary anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion before partnering up for this. Imaishi's instantly recognizable style is breakneck and fun as hell, and it's also unexpectedly self-aware, with Ryuko and her suit constantly bickering back and forth about whether her booby outfit is demeaning or empowering.

little witch academia

Little Witch Academia (2017)

Young witch Akko is a new student at Luna Nova Magical Academy, a prestigious school that doesn’t quite fit her reckless, tomboyish ways. But she won’t allow that, nor her immense clumsiness, to get in the way of her dream: become as great of a witch as Shiny Chariot, the person who pushed her to chase magic in the first place. This is a setup that works as both a Saturday-morning style fun cartoon, as well as an allegory for dying traditions, specifically mirroring the situation of hand-drawn techniques in the animated medium at large. Being so dedicated to its own art, Little Witch Academia needed fantastic animation of its own, and it’s got that in spades; the series is filled with delightfully loose character art and fluid effects to give form to magic, by the hand of director Yoh Yoshinari himself and trustworthy allies like Takafumi Hori. It’s recommended to start with its two relatively short films first, as they capture the grandeur of magic much better than the TV reboot, although the latter’s longer format allows it to expand its metaphor and is plenty entertaining on its own right. You can’t go wrong with this.

lu over the wall

Lu Over the Wall (2017)

Lu Over the Wall, directed by the singular Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby), is fantastical, but even more imaginative than its story is Yuasa's signature bright, inspired animation. Following the friendship between a young boy and a mermaid with a mesmerizing voice who he meets when he joins a band upon moving to a new seaside village, it’s a dazzling, modern fairytale that will capture your heart. Accompanied by infectious original songs and art that is characteristically more perspective-bending than your average anime, the already cute movie becomes outright darling. 

madoka magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

Pop culture is currently obsessed with deconstructing the superhero genre, but a decade ago Madoka Magica did it first, telling a magical girl superhero story with an extremely dark twist. When middle school student Madoka Kaname meets a small catlike creature named Kyubey who offers her magical girl powers in exchange for a wish, Madoka can't believe her luck. But when she meets the team of local magical girls who are tasked with fighting giant powerful "witches," they warn her that the responsibilities can be overwhelming, leading Madoka to discover the true nature of the magical girls and their scheming cat friend. The twisty reveals are wild, forever upending a whole anime genre, and so traumatic that fans had to create an infamous Reddit meme thread in order to cope. 


Mirai (2018)

Mirai is Mamoru Hosoda's (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children) film most geared at younger audiences, but the Oscar-nominated family movie still contains multitudes. When a little boy feels neglected with the arrival of his baby sister, he encounters an enchanted garden that allows him to travel through time and meet his ancestors, and sister from the future. The concept is magical and warm, and ends up creating a colorful world in a feature truly about children coming to terms with their emotions. 

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
Doga Kobo

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (2014)

Have you gotten to the point where you can easily identify anime’s romantic tropes to the point they make you roll your eyes a little bit? Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun might be exactly what you need. Chiyo Sakura's crush on her schoolmate Nozaki takes a goofy turn for the bizarre after Nozaki misinterprets Chiyo's attempted love confession as a request for an autograph. Turns out, Nozaki is secretly a romance manga artist with a bit of a peculiar understanding of love and romanticism, which leads to many ridiculous exaggerations of genre staples involving the two and the couples that surround them. It's a hilarious anime that isn’t mean-spirited when it's poking fun at the genre traditions it sometimes whimsically indulges in as well.


Naruto (2002–2007)

Masashi Kishimoto's Naruto is one of the best-selling mangas of all time, and luckily the anime is a worthy, beloved adaptation. The coming-of-age story is about Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja rejected by his neighbors named who dreams to one day train and become the Hokage, the strongest ninja and leader of his village. It may sound like an archetypal anime, but what's so delightful about Naruto is the dynamic characters and the way their development prevails as the story progresses. The episode-long fighting sequences deliver, too, with the series' attention to detail in traditional Japanese culture. Everyone can get behind an underdog story, and there's a reason this one is frequently referenced as many anime fans' childhood favorite. 


Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)

For years, part of the mythos of Hideaki Anno's seminal series was that it was nigh-impossible to watch legally in the United States. Neon Genesis Evangelion is by far Netflix's biggest anime acquisition ever. Now available to anyone with a Netflix subscription, a new generation of viewers are being indoctrinated to Anno's world of trauma, depression, self-hatred, and robots. Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place in a world in which giant monsters known as Angels threaten humanity's existence. Teenager Shinji Ikari gets wrapped up in the fight against the Angels after his estranged scientist father, Gendo, suddnely summons him to pilot an Eva unit, a giant robot able to hold its own against an Angel. Shinji eventually (and reluctantly) agrees, implicating himself in a plot that will change humanity as he knows it. While the end of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series is confusing and shocking at best, it's not the true end of the series. Two follow up film—Evangelion: Death (True)2 and The End of Evangelion—are essential viewing after watching the TV series; both are also currently available on Netflix. 

one piece
Toei Animation

One Piece (1999– )

This long-running pirate anime has surpassed the thousand-episode mark, with no signs of slowing, meaning One Piece can very well last you for years if you decide to take the plunge, which you should. Following the seafaring quest of Monkey D. Luffy, a kid with big dreams of becoming the Pirate King, and his ragtag crew looking for the mythical One Piece treasure, this Toei Animation series is uniquely paced with mini arcs throughout each of its marathon seasons, mimicking that of its serialized manga, breaking it up into manageable chunks of episodes that make diving in less daunting. Now that the first four major storylines are available on Netflix, you can learn if the One Piece is a treasure of power and gold or, as the bit goes, if the real treasure was the friends you made along the way.

one punch man

One Punch Man (2015– )

Plenty of series get heralded as deconstructions of the superhero genre these days, but they tend to be gritty and dark, eschewing squeaky-clean super stereotypes in favor of the seedy underbelly of heroism. While still spoofing the genre, One Punch Man goes in a completely different direction, posing the simple question: What if a superhero became so strong that he could defeat all of his enemies with a single punch? The series starts off with a normal dude named Saitama, who decides to undergo a ridiculous training regimen in order to become a superhero. He kind of overdoes it, becoming so powerful that his opponents pose no challenge, and he gets bored (and goes bald) as a result. Now, supermarket sales are more important than supervillains, younger heroes seeking mentors are just nuisances, and heroism is kind of just a bother. All of that being said, it's a funny, bonkers series that features plenty of action—every once in a while, even Saitama has to take things seriously.

ouran hs host club
Studio Bones

Ouran High School Host Club (2006)

Ouran High School Host Club is an absolute classic known for its completely off-the-wall characters and understanding of gender that still holds up in 2020. Based on the manga series of the same name by Bisco Hatori, Ouran is, at first blow, a typical shōjo series (was it the rose petals everywhere that clued you in?), but there are a few twists. Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at the elite Ouran Academy, essentially a playground for rich, idle youth. After stumbling across the school's host club—a group of attractive young men who entertain girls after school—Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase they were planning to auction off. In order to work off her debt, she agrees to become the host club's errand girl. Recognizing her innate charm, the club members decide to make her a host. There's just one catch, however: because of her short hair, all of them think that she's a boy. While its premise may raise some flags, Ouran is a thoughtful rumination on the ways that we perceive and construct gender. Romance frequently takes a backseat in favor of rampant, endearing idiocy and shenanigans. A bit of an odd title in studio Bones' action and mecha-focused catalog, Ouran High School Host Club is still a standout.

the promised neverland

The Promised Neverland (2019–2021)

The children of the Grace Field House orphanage aren't unhappy, not by a long shot. They live with dozens of brothers and sisters who spend all day learning, laughing, and playing, all kept under the care of "Mom," who ensures they follow all the orphanage's rules, especially the most important one: never leave the compound or even think about going beyond the gate. What lies beyond the gate? Oh, nothing… just a gaggle of demons who gobble up the orphans. That's right—Grace Field House is a human farm, and the orphans are there to feed the demons. It's up to a group of smart kids named Emma, Norman, and Ray to get to the bottom of things and mount an escape to see if they can avoid being demon food once and for all. 

pui pui molcar

Pui Pui MolCar (2021)

There’s not a whole lot to say about Pui Pui Molcar, but that’s the beauty of it. The adorable, quite literally bite-sized children’s anime maximizes on a premise that’s just delightfully absurd and straightforward: What if there were cars that were also guinea pigs? Animated in stop-motion, the show depicts a world where people drive these sentient, guinea pig hybrid vehicles known as the Molcars (a portmanteau of "molmot" and car), each episode a display of their various hijinks and subsequent problem-solving. There’s a tactility to the show and its furry vehicular protagonists (one of who is called Potato) that makes it eminently watchable (as well as the interpolation of real people, shrunken down to fit in amongst the show’s miniature environments)—and that’s before the artists begin throwing in visual references to famous movies, ie. the Akira bike slide. It cranks up the absurdity in sketches that flirt with amusing bleakness as the adorable MolCars are forced at gunpoint to take part in a bank robbery. Each new episode is light, fun and creative, as it capitalizes on a concept that is as simple as it is ridiculous, each charming story told within an incredibly breezy and economical 2-3 minutes. Truly a blessing.


Rilakkuma and Kaoru (2019)

Rilakkuma and Kaoru follows Kaoru, the show's titular 20-something office worker, as she navigates the challenges of her job, home life, the expectations of her family and peers, as well as the vague but palpable experience of depression and ennui that accompanies young adulthood, all while taking care of Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma, and Kiiroitori, two anthropomorphic bears that beginning living with Kaoru and her pet bird, respectively. The show is notable for being one of the most recent and prominent examples of stop-motion animation in anime, a technique too often marginalized to a niche within the anime industry, but no less expressive and impressive. A charming slice-of-life comedy with coming-of-age elements, both the series’ writing and animation are excellent. At its heart, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is much like Aggretsuko: taking the beloved mascot of a commercial brand and centering them at the heart of a sincere and affecting exploration of the inherent loneliness of young adulthood and the value of genuine, persistent friendships. 

a silent voice
Kyoto Animation

A Silent Voice (2016)

Right around the same time the Western world started freaking out over how good Makoto Shinkai's Your Name. is, A Silent Voice broke through, too, on a slightly smaller scale. At its core is a story of acceptance and forgiveness through communication: a boy, Shoya Ishida, who intensely bullied his deaf classmate and elementary school transfer student, Shoko Nishimiya, becomes depressed, ostracized, and suicidal as a high schooler and starts on a redemption path, first reconnecting with Nishimiya. The film, directed by Naoko Yamada and supported by female writers and producers, doesn't let Ishida's inexcusable actions off easy, though, exploring the characters' complex psyches and the ways in which we can hurt people with vulnerability and sensitivity. Sit down with a box of tissues for this one, produced by Kyoto Animation.

violet evergarden

Violet Evergarden (2018)

Having lost the parental figure that meant the world to her, and dwelling on her single role as a tool of war, Violet finds herself with no purpose. Pushed into accepting a job as an "Auto Memory Doll," essentially a writer for hire gussied up with Victorian flair, her almost robotic self gradually grows to understand the power of communication and the many forms affection can take. Although her development is slow and she’s not the most immediately compelling character, the show’s impact increases tenfold when it switches to episodic tales that sometimes have Violet as a mere spectator. Her job takes her to different settings with palpable, distinct identities, but it stays thematically consistent, with each episode pushing her closer to the answer she seeks. It’s a sentimental series to the point of being cheesy, but it earns that grandeur through the masterful direction and obscenely lavish production. If you want an anime to make you cry, Violet Evergarden will be delighted to provide just that.

the way of the househusband
FINE Entertainment

The Way of the Househusband (2021– )

The Way of the Househusband, based on the manga series by Kousuke Oono, and starring Kenjiro Tsuda (who also voiced the main character in promotional videos for the manga), is about Tatsu, a.k.a. the Immortal Dragon, a former yakuza boss with a terrifying reputation who has chosen to give up his life of crime and become a stay-at-home husband for his career-oriented wife Miku. But his skills with various weapons, his quick thinking, and his intimidating demeanor all manage to come in handy even in domestic life. Tatsu, tall with full back tattoos and facial scars, cuts a frightening figure, but cares more about carefully preparing his wife's bento lunches and getting good deals at the supermarket than about his former gang colleagues who keep hounding him to return to the fold. Also, he wears a little apron.

a whisker away

A Whisker Away (2020)

As signs of good luck in Japanese culture (and just being generally cute), cats often show up in anime films, including Studio Ghibli hits like Kiki's Delivery ServiceWhisper of the Heart, and The Cat Returns. These are clear inspirations for this recent Netflix original, and the sweet feline imagery is what will draw you in. About a teenage girl who acquires the ability to transform into a cat, doing so in order to get closer to the boy she's pining over from school, it's the story of first love and embracing identity that will leaving you purring. For a movie about cats, it's enchantingly human.

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