Netflix always asks you “Are you still watching?” after you dip your toes into a couple episodes of a show but it never quite nails its suggestions for which shows you should watch next. No lie, Netflix’s “Surprise Me” feature pointed me in the direction of this little-known indie TV series Stranger Things. Suffice it to say, I was neither surprised nor did I want to watch it. If you crave all the best anime that Netflix has to offer, however, this list was curated for you.
Before you get your hopes up, this list won’t include popular anime like One Piece, Death Note, Naruto, or Bleach because well… it wouldn’t be exciting to read yet another “what to watch” list with anime that are already household names. Plus, you can watch these anime outside of Netflix’s streaming borders so where’s the fun in that? Variety is the spice of life, and so too are the 10 anime on this list.
If you’ve ever wanted to watch an anime about a Sanrio character trying to make the best of her precious little life while being crushed under the weight of late-stage capitalism and a lackluster love life, Aggretsuko is the show for you. This slice-of-life comedy anime follows Retsuko, a red panda at a dead-end office job. But don’t let this show’s quick-witted comedy and cutesy anthropomorphic characters fool you, Retsuko be “going through it.”
Despite being a 25-year-old, Retsuko has a lot to be angry about: be it lazy coworkers exploiting her for her kindness, or sexism rearing its ugly head in both her professional and personal life. Luckily for her, Retsuko has an outlet to let out her repressed emotions in death metal karaoke.
While a Sanrio character bemoaning capitalism on paper comes off as an oxymoron, Aggretsuko is surprisingly forthcoming in its commentary on adult topics like workplace harassment, social media FOMO, and the disillusionment of modern-day romance as a catch-all solution to life’s problems. Hell, the show even has a unionization plot point and calls out Instagram for how the app affects user’s self-image effects in its latter seasons. Aggretsuko is bold, charming, relatable as hell, and worth a watch.
A Silent Voice
If you’re emotionally prepared to bawl your eyes out, be sure to set aside some time to watch Kyoto Animations’ award-winning film, A Silent Voice.
Kids in grade school can be cruel, especially to those who stand out. Sadly, that’s the case for Shouko Nishimiya, a deaf girl that transfers from her elementary school shortly after joining due to the malicious bullying from her classmates. However, the main character of this film isn’t the endearing Nishimiya, it’s Shouya Ishida, one of the kids who bullied her the worst.
With time comes the capacity to learn and change. After years of wallowing in his own self-pity and guilt for bullying Nishimiya, Ishida seeks redemption in becoming friends with Nishimiya. The heart of A Silent Voice isn’t just the trials that come with repairing a past relationship, but the ongoing soul-crushing task of forgiving yourself for the person you used to be.
What if JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was less about buff dudes duking it out with powerful ghosts in increasingly asinine battles and instead focused on buff dudes duking it out with their gross yet intriguingly muscular bodies in increasingly asinine battles? Enter Baki Hanma.
Baki Hanma, by TMS Entertainment, is an action anime about world-renowned fighter Baki as he battles against the world’s toughest martial artists. In this sequel series, the 18-year-old finds himself in an Arizona state prison after kidnapping the president. Turns out Baki’s act of domestic terrorism was all for the sake of battling the world’s strongest man and Arizona prison inmate, Biscuit Oliver.
Alongside the anime’s bizarre yet detailed depiction of the human anatomy in motion, Baki Hanma is also hilarious as hell. This feat is thanks to the serie’s universe taking place in our own. Baki and Oliver aren’t the only fighters in this prison, it just so happens that Mike Tyson (named “Iron” Michael) and Che Guevara (named Jun Guevaru) also throw down in the Arizona prison tournament.
Baki Hanma stands among Netflix’s catalog of anime as one of the smartest battle anime out there. While its character’s impossible physics take some getting used to, the anime perfectly accentuates the artistry and brutality of martial arts while occasionally embellishing its character’s superhuman feats.
Beastars, by Orange studio, is a psychological drama about the social unrest among a world of anthropomorphic animals. At the center of this conflict is a mild-mannered high school wolf named Legoshi who, after the gruesome murder of his herbivore friend, Tem, is on the hunt to unearth the identity of his killer among his classmates.
Admittedly, this murder mystery plotline gets dropped a tad in Beastars’ first season to flesh out the world building and various societal issues between its carnivores and herbivores. Beastars, much like Disney’s 2016 animated film Zootopia, tackles virtually every “ism” imaginable through the lens of its anthropomorphic animals. Topics like racism, sexism, and classism are explored ad nauseum throughout the series but don’t do so in a way that talks down to viewers.
Social commentary aside, Beastars’ first and second season themes songs are certified bangers. While 3D animation and anime are deal breakers for most viewers, Beastars’ 3D animation has remarkable composition and maintains a consistent high quality of animation throughout the show.
Fun fact: Beastars’ mangaka, Paru Itagaki, is the daughter of Baki creator Keisuke Itagaki.
Imposter syndrome is a plague that haunts the mind of every creative person and no Netflix anime tackles that anxiety better than Seven Arcs’ slice-of-life drama, Blue Period.
Blue Period follows Yatora Yaguchi, a high-school prodigy who’s grown tired of excelling in his academics and searches for something to light a spark in his life. After stumbling upon a beautiful painting from his classmate, Yaguchi joins his school’s art club and commits to learning how to create his own masterpieces.
Despite the praise from his classmates and teachers, imposter syndrome creeps up on Yaguchi causing him to compare his talent against the technical know-how and years of experience from his peers. Yaguchi must overcome his anxiety in order to achieve his dream of enrolling into Tokyo University of the Arts—one of the most prestigious art schools in Japan.
Beyond serving as a great explainer for various painting techniques, Blue Period is a profound coming-of-age story that explores the harsh realities of being an artist. The show doesn’t shy away from its depiction of suicidal ideation, creative burnout, or the soul-crushing adversity that comes with seeking approval from others.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’d be wise to know that Netflix’s Castlevania stands among one of the best original anime series on the platform.
Loosely adapting Konami’s ‘90 Nintendo Entertainment System game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Castlevania follows vampire hunter Trevor Belmont, mage Sypha Belnades, and half-vampire Alucard as the trio battle off hordes of otherworldly demons and vampires to save the world from the tyranny of the all-powerful vampire, Dracula.
But Isaiah, Castlevania was animated by Powerhouse Animation, an American studio, and therefore shouldn’t be considered an anime! Silence. Much like how Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are honorary anime, so too is Netflix’s Castlevania. Anime is a state of mind and Castlevania is a galaxy-brained romp with a likable cast of heroes and villains from start to finish.
In terms of video game adaptations, Castlevania is a masterclass in storytelling, dialogue, and animation to boot. And with its spin-off series on the way, now’s a better time than any to dive into this vampire epic.
Devilman Crybaby, my beloved, how I could count the ways that you were the paradigm shift that put Netflix on the map in the anime scene. Its soundtrack: slaps. Its animation: godlike. And its story: fucking imaculate.
Devilman Crybaby, by Science SARU, is an avante-garde supernatural horror remake of Toei Animation’s ‘70s anime, Devilman. After a near-death experience, a meek high school boy named Akira Fudo transforms into the anti-hero Devilman. With the help of his childhood friend Ryo, Akira protects the world from devils wreaking havoc on earth.
Read More: What We Loved About Devilman Crybaby
Be warned: Devilman Crybaby is a heavy anime that more than earns its TV-MA rating. Its 10 episodes are chock-full of gruesome gore and graphic sex scenes. Despite its rating, Devilman Crybaby is not edgy for the sake of being edgy. At the forefront of its storytelling is a story about identity and hope in a world gone mad.
Devilman Crybaby managing to find a balance within the horror and commentary of its story isn’t surprising when you take into account that the original Devilman served as inspiration for the king of seinen fantasy, Berserk and the end-all-mecha deconstruction anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Much like with Berserk and Neon Genesis Evangelion, you’re best served pacing yourself while watching Devilman Crybaby rather than binge watching it. Trust me, your brain will thank you.
Dorohedoro’s elevator pitch is as follows: a man named Caiman and his best friend Nikaido are on a quest to hunt down the sorcerer who transformed Caiman into a half-man-half-lizard being. In order to find said sorcerer, Caiman chomps down on their head and has the mysterious man inside his body ask them whether they’re the one who dun it.
Don’t let the imposing appearances of Dorohedoro’s characters fool you, the show is a riot of violence and laughs alike. In one moment, a character dissecting a goon into a modern art sculpture can be undercut by characters goofily waving at a friendly devil floating by. While many anime fans lament over Dorohedoro’s use of CG anime when comparing it to its manga counterpart’s grungy heavily-detailed artstyle, Mappa’s anime CG animation becomes surprisingly charming once you get through watching a couple episodes.
What makes Dorohedoro stand out among other Netflix anime is its phenomenal worldbuilding. Unlike most dystopian anime, Dorohedoro’s derelict cityscape of the Hole and the topsiturvy Magic User World feel lived in. Each passing episode of Dorohedoro is bursting with details
If political espionage and heists anime are more your speed, look no further than Netflix’s Great Pretender.
This mystery series follows Makoto Edamura, a young pickpocket on the edge of society who unexpectedly finds himself among the company of international con men. As the new blood among the Robin Hood-esque thieves, Edamura must prove he’s a worthy addition to the crew by helping pull off increasingly impossible heists.
Much like the anime Lupin The Third, Great Pretender has an evocatively stylish art direction and a groovy soundtrack. Also, if you happen to be a big Queen and cats fan, you’ll love its ending credits.
Kotaro Lives Alone
Kotaro Lives Alone, follows a kindergartner named Kotaro who, as the title suggests, lives alone in an apartment unit. While the onset of the show is filled with gags at Kotaro’s peculiar living situation, it is later revealed that the reason the four-year-old is living on his lonesome is because Kotaro came from an abusive household. Kotaro’s venture living alone serves as his way of “becoming stronger.”
With the help of his neighbors: a mangaka, a hostess, and a yakuza, Kotaro recovers from his trauma and unlearns the harmful habits he picked up while living in foster care.
Alongside the life lessons imparted unto him by his pseudo guardians, Kotaro also provides them with stark insight on how they too can improve their lives.
Last, but certainly not least, is Kyoto Animation’s slice-of-life drama, Violet Evergarden. Much like its feature film, A Silent Voice, this anime is a tear-jerker.
After the grisly war between two powerful nations finally comes to an end, Violet Evergarden, a soft-spoken soldier, starts her new life as an “Auto Memory Doll”— a person who transcribes people’s feelings into words and ghostwrites letters for them. Along her journey meeting folks from all walks of life and sifting through their trauma to write their letters, Violet must come to grips with her own trauma–specifically her survivor’s guilt following the loss of her commander and lover, Gilbert Bougainvillea.
Each tale in Violet Evergarden is as beautifully heartbreaking as it is wonderfully animated. Throughout the series, Kyo Animation maintains feature-film animation quality that perfectly accentuates the sorrow and opportunity for hope that comes with loss.