Netflix has added some incredible titles to its anime library in recent years. In addition to quintessential series, there is also a substantial amount of originals that are holding their own against titles already well established in the canon. The streaming service took care to introduce a variety of genres: there are plenty of action, comedy, and romance series to choose from. If you are ready to explore even the weirdest corners of Netflix to find binge-worthy content (and you should be), we are here for you.
Below, the Paste writers have catalogued the best anime series on Netflix (starting with our favorites) that are sure to hold the attention of both experienced weeaboos and anime first-timers alike. If it gets too weird, the safe word is yamero.
1. Hunter x Hunter
There are countless shonens (and American TV shows, even) that focus on a group of young characters using supernatural abilities and deductive reasoning to problem solve. Hunter x Hunter is a rare find among this homogeneous archetype because of its attention to detail and emotional investment. This anime is filled with whimsical subplots that don’t always end with a major event, but let you know characters in this world were alive before you started watching them.
Hunter x Hunter begins with Gon Freecss, as he sets out on a journey to become a Hunter. He’s your typical savior-figure protagonist unique to shonen, but fortunately he keeps the annoying, repetitive mantras to himself. His determination to see the best in people becomes a marvel of the series, and his dedication to others drives the plot. He makes friends with a young boy from a family of assassins, and their polarized dynamic creates a connection that makes the series inspiring. The compelling relationship between these two boys demands emotional investment from you. Togashi emphasizes their youth and inexperience by pitting them against much older, more experienced villains, and introduces powerful mentors that help them evolve. He’s meticulous about tailoring his characters’ abilities to their personality, but everyone draws their strength from resolve. The feats of pure determination you’ll witness in this anime will change you.
Togashi has struggled with a medical condition for some years, but he claims the manga is far from over. Hopefully, the remastered anime gets a seventh season soon.—Jarrod Johnson II
2. Neon Genesis: Evangelion
By now, most people have at least a cursory awareness of Neon Genesis Evangelion, whether it be from the overwhelming amount of branded merchandise or the consistent references in popular media. But for a show as ingrained in the animation canon as Evangelion, how we discuss it is in constant flux. Initially touted as a meaningful deconstruction of the mecha popularized by Gundam and Macross, the franchise later became bloated and rife with superfluous content much like the melodramas-as-merchandise they lampooned years before.
Nevertheless, Evangelion’s influence is palpable with a cultural overlay that can be seen anywhere from Persona 3 to Gurren Lagann, becoming a phenomenon that seems to exceed the show’s literal text. Much like Star Wars, its original creator Hideaki Anno has lost control of the franchise’s growth and has since augured the end of anime as we know it, once saying Japan’s animation world is “moving by inertia.” — Austin Jones
3. Cowboy Bebop
Every debate over whether or not Cowboy Bebop—Shinichir? Watanabe’s science-fiction masterpiece—is the pinnacle of anime is a semantic one. It is, full stop. Its particular blend of space-based cyberpunk intrigue, Western atmosphere, martial arts action, and noir cool in seinen form is unmatched and widely appealing. Its existential and traumatic themes are universally relatable. Its ragtag group of bounty hunting characters are complex and flawed, yet still ooze cool. The future it presents is ethnically diverse and eerily prescient. Its English dub, boasting some of America’s greatest full-time voiceover talents, somehow equals the subtitled Japanese-language original. Its 26-episode run was near-perfect, and episodes that might have been filler in another series are tight, taut, and serve the show’s thesis even as they do not distract from its overarching plot, which is compelling but not overbearing. It’s accessible to new hands and still rewards old-timers with every repeated watch. Yoko Kanno’s magnificent, jazz-heavy soundtrack and score stand on their own. Its opening credits are immaculate. It’s an original property, not an adaptation. It feels like a magnum opus produced at the pinnacle of a long career despite being, almost unbelievably, Watanabe’s first series as a director. It is a masterwork that should justly rank among the best works of television of all time, let alone anime. We eagerly await a rival. We’re not holding our breath. —John Maher
4. Demon Slayer
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is popular among American anime fans but downright inescapable in Japan. The manga is still on the bestsellers list years after it concluded, and the movie broke Spirited Away’s record for the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time — in the middle of a pandemic before there were even vaccines available!
What’s the key to Demon Slayer’s success? The tale of young demon slayer Tanjiro Kamado and his quest to save his demon-transformed sister Nezuko might not be the most original action series to emerge from Weekly Shonen Jump, but it hits all the most likable tropes of the genre with exceptional style. The Taisho era setting is well-realized, the characters are instantly sympathetic, and the animation from studio Ufotable is out of this world. Netflix has the first season streaming; if you finish and need more, the movie is available for rental from most digital outlets, and the second season is on Crunchyroll and Hulu. —Reuben Baron
5. Den-noh Coil
Considering the alarming amount of new anime released every year, some never earn the following they deserve. While it’s beloved in some circles, Den-noh Coil fits this bill. Mitsuo Iso’s directorial debut is part coming-of-age tale, part techno-thriller, a prescient near-future fable that blends its disparate elements and aesthetics with ease. The story takes place in 2026, a time when augmented reality glasses have become a staple of everyday life, as a young girl named Yasako moves to Daikoku City. It’s a scenic town at the crossroads between traditional Japanese culture and the new wave of AR tech, but after befriending some of the local kids and partaking in digital adventures, they begin to unravel the secrets of this place and the grim implications of the new infrastructure that undergirds it.
Of Den-noh Coil’s many accomplishments, perhaps its greatest is how effortlessly it combines genres, a mixture between The Sandlot styled kid-hijinks and slow-burn sci-fi mystery. Here the lighthearted world of childhood suddenly veers into danger and conspiracies as the narrative explores how new inventions can be used for good or ill. It successfully captures how past and present culture blend, envisioning a near-future Japan where Shinto traditions and landmarks bleed into cyberspace, its version of augmented reality evoking folklore and ghost stories. Beyond its stellar worldbuilding, it also conveys the weight its characters carry, develops their relationships beautifully, and makes cutting arguments about the hubris of irresponsible tech companies. It’s a work with a deeply nuanced view of what the future can bring, an overlooked sci-fi masterpiece that succeeds on all fronts and has only become more relevant with time. —Eli Gonzalez
Baki is a thrilling showcase of hyper-masculine legends enacting an archetypal storyline of a young fighter training to surpass his father. This high-action shonen is full of tense showdowns between the buffest guys that could possibly be drawn. Seriously, if Netflix released a short video of all the shots of guys flexing and tensing their muscles it could be its own episode. If the muscles and hyper-tough voices weren’t enough, the knowing smirks and sneers make these characters embody the meathead tool spirit that drives the series. Baki affirms typical ideas of strength, but challenged it’s relevance to mercy and freedom.—Jarrod Johnson II
7. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
For some time, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been the anime I turn to when I need some R&R. Not that anything about it, at first glance, is particularly chill—it’s an anime full of men built like classical sculptures arguing as loud as they can over psychic battles they’re having, seemingly in molasses-slow time. What feels like hours encapsulates little more than a minute in JJBA’s universe. JJBA is so much more than that, though; it’s a journey that spans a century and obliterates the rules of how to tell a traditional adventure story, taking liberal inspiration from Indiana Jones, Versace, classic rock and any other fleeting interest of mangaka Hirohiko Araki to make an explosive hodgepodge of fast-paced absurdity, a language you’ll pick up on quickly and soon fine cozier than Sailor Moon. There’s a reason JJBA continues to be one of the most influential pieces of media out of the anime world. —Austin Jones
8. Vinland Saga
Based on the long-running manga penned by Makoto Yukimura of Planetes fame, Vinland Saga is a Norse tale told through a humanist lens. It follows Thorfinn, an Icelandic boy living in the early 11th century, who—after enduring a personal tragedy—sets out on a tale of revenge. Or at least, that’s how things initially appear. Despite resembling traditional Scandinavian poems about bloody quests for comeuppance, Thorfinn’s journey is less vainglorious and more tragic. Here warriors aren’t framed as valiant heroes battling for a place in Valhalla, but as sadists and butchers inoculated into a culture of pointless violence. Perhaps the greatest trick this story pulls is that even though it never shies away from human cruelty, it isn’t shot through with cynicism, instead suggesting a better way just out of reach. Sure, there is some tonal weirdness in its middle stretch, as it enacts a series of fights that feel less like indictments of bloodshed and more like battle shonen duels between borderline superheroes, but admittedly Wit Studio’s animation chops are on such display here that it’s easy to forgive some of the amped up meathead shenanigans. It’s a testament to the strength of Vinland Saga’s central thesis that its action digressions don’t completely derail its greater thematic ambitions. Between its articulation of its protagonist’s pain and the ability to immerse us in this fraught depiction of Middle Ages Europe, Vinland Saga is a gripping treatise on violence, revenge, and the distant hope for a better world. —Eli Gonzalez
Beastars was the best anime to come out of 2019. This may be a controversial take, given last year was marked by sumptuous animation no matter where you looked—from the fluid, ballet-like fights of Demon Slayer and Mob Psycho 100 II to the high-stakes tension of The Promised Neverland and Vinland Saga, it was perhaps my favorite recent year for anime. Yet somehow, despite offerings from Kunihiko Ikuhara and Shinichiro Watanabe, two of my favorite directors (some of their finest work respectively, too), the oddly evocative melodrama of a wolf, rabbit, and deer captured me the most.
If there’s one binding force within the world of Beastars, it’s the imbalanced forms of power between carnivores and herbivores. The story opens with the grisly murder of an alpaca student named Tem. Whether there was a palpable schism before this event between students or not is questionable, but it certainly sets every species off into paranoia. Legoshi, a wolf, is a member of the drama club which has become known for its collaborative and positive body of members ranging from tiny squirrels to hulking tigers. The drama club is the perfect staging for much of the show’s themes—not only do we see the struggles of herbivores, eternally underestimated and living in constant fear of devourment, but we see the prejudices and stereotypes used against carnivores who, for the most part, are incredibly docile and peaceful. —Austin Jones
Put simply, Toradora! is one of the best anime rom-coms out there, able to bounce between humor, yearning, and affecting drama without dropping a beat. We follow two disastrous teens, Ryuuji, a second-year high-school student who is unjustifiably feared by his peers due to his intimidating looks, and Taiga, a tiny ball of anger who is quite justifiably feared due to her martial prowess and short temper. After figuring out that they are both crushing on the other’s best friend, they resolve to work together toward their romantic aspirations. And then things get complicated. On its face, the series is a blast, its cast bouncing off each other in a way that makes it rewarding to spend time with them, full of great recurring bits like how Taiga is prickly to everyone but her precious best friend, Minorin. However, what sets the series apart from many of its peers is its ability to peel back the layers of these people, revealing that their outward appearances are little more than performances meant to shield them from the social pressures of high school and the larger world. These weighty digressions on identity become more pronounced as the series continues, fueling thorny relationship dynamics as it successfully portrays its characters’ emotional turmoil. And this all drives towards romantic revelations and big swing melodrama that soars, making for the type of story you’ll miss sorely when it’s over. —Eli Gonzalez
11. Devilman Crybaby
To put it lightly, Go Nagai is a man with a reputation. Aside from being one of the forefathers of the “Super Robo”’ subgenre of mecha for his creation Mazinger Z, he is also known for creating works that pushed taboos and prompted the anime industry’s shift from children-oriented fare to darker and more sexually-charged subject matter. Case in point: Devilman. Masaaki Yuasa’s contemporary reprise of Akira Fudo and Ryo Asuka’s “love” story is as orgiastically violent and unflinchingly risqué as Nagai’s original manga, a fitting tribute to both the creator’s oeuvre and the character’s storied legacy. Devilman’s influence can be seen everywhere from the Luciferian beauty of Berserk’s Griffith to the apocalyptic loneliness of Neon Genesis Evangelion. For all these reasons and more, Devilman Crybaby positions itself not only as one of the best series in recent memory, but one that will stand the test of time in the years to come. —Toussaint Egan
12. Little Witch Academia
Now is the perfect time to revisit Trigger’s most underrated work to date. Little Witch Academia is the brainchild of Yoh Yoshinari, a prolific key animator whose work can be seen in FLCL and Gurren Lagann. The show itself a spin-off of two short animated films, the plot echoes the beloved The Worst Witch book series in many ways—it concerns a young girl, Atsuko Kagari, who aspires to be a world class witch to rival her personal hero Shiny Chariot. Despite coming from a non-magical background, she weasels her way into Luna Nova Magical Academy, of which Chariot is an alum.
With masterful pastel animation and a lot of heart, Little Witch Academia is a joyful ride from beginning to end and an absolute must for any fan of animation. The tone stays pretty lighthearted in its first half, with episodes parodying the Twilight fandom and slapstick comedy clearly influenced by Chuck Jones-era Looney Tunes, then gradually ups the intrigue in the show’s back half. The series particularly shines when it iterates on what magic means during increasingly modernizing times—as both a form of entertainment and a utility, it slowly is shown to be phased out in favor of technological and automated solutions. If you’ve ever been a fan of Ghibli, Dr. Seuss or Harry Potter, you’ll find something to love in the comfy world of Little Witch Academia, a wonderful show for kids and adults alike.— Austin Jones
13. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon when it burst onto the scene in 2013. Adapted from Hajime Isayama’s ongoing manga series, the anime depicts a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is pitted in unending struggle against a race of cannibalistic humanoid giants dubbed Titans. Eren Yeager, a youth raised in one of the last remaining cities on Earth, enlists in the military’s Survey Corps as a way of defending his homeland and avenging his family. A David vs. Goliath conflict infused with the velocity and violence of high-tech superhero drama, Attack on Titan has it all: Goya-esque monstrosities devouring hapless villagers, political intrigue and subterfuge, the smoldering tension of a unrequited romance, and a host of memorable characters that make the mounting mortal costs of humanity’s last stand deeply personal in addition to a battle worth fighting for. —Toussaint Egan
From start to finish, Kakegurui is an insane work of increasingly high stakes and the devolution of mental states, all centered around its deranged and unpredictable lead. With stunning animation courtesy of studio MAPPA (Kids on the Slope, Yuri on Ice!), Kakegurui toys with grotesque sexuality and twisted power dynamics in such a way that we’re left with something resembling Yu-Gi-Oh! incensed with truly disturbing psychological horror. It’s the type of anime you can’t look away from, both because of its bizarrely resonant philosophizing and its maximalist bleed-out of style. Few other shows move you through every emotion known to man so quickly—especially ones with as narrow a subject matter as gambling. —Austin Jones
15. Carole & Tuesday
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, Carole & Tuesday is heavily implied to take place in the same universe as Bebop. Despite sharing the Martian setting of Alba City and Watanabe’s outstanding taste in music, however, Carole & Tuesday is a very different show from its noir-tinged action-packed predecessor.
Carole & Tuesday’s story about a refugee and a runaway teaming up to make music together is so sweet and wholesome it could air on the Disney Channel—if the Disney Channel allowed songs comprised of entirely of F-bombs and not-even-in-the-vicinity-of-subtle attacks on America’s treatment of immigrants. Yes, a show whose first major story arc is basically “Martian Idol” ends up turning into one of the most powerful artistic responses to the horrors of the Trump administration. It has the range. —Reuben Baron
The fighting in this shonen is superb. Between the huge magic system and complex, smoothly-animated hand-to-hand combat, this anime will grab your attention. Excessive flashbacks and monologues are a particular deterrent in this series, but they didn’t stop this title creating its own unique iconography in popular culture.
Naruto is the angsty high-school romance that teaches every teenager that good people turn evil and relationships dissolve. Masashi Kishimoto introduces us to a community of ninjas that live and die to protect their community, before he breaks up their family far too soon. The story mainly focuses on Naruto losing Sasuke and tirelessly chasing him to bring him home, but writers put just as much emphasis on the community Naruto already had at the leaf village. The unity the Hidden Leaf Village displays in the face of war and terror is an integral part of the emotional framework in this meta series addressing unconditional friendship, vengeance, and the forgiveness that is the only way to peace. As the predecessor for Naruto: Shippuden, this anime lays the foundation of a network of spies, conspiracies and (secretly) connected subplots that come to fruition in the second series. Just beware of filler.—Jarrod Johnson II
17. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K: Reawakened
This series is the second chapter of a comedy about a teenage boy born with psychic powers. You might think he uses these powers to make his life glamorous, or that he adheres to a self-righteous covenant to be some masked vigilante, but nah. He just wants to make it home without hearing spoilers for his favorite shows in the minds of his peers. Psychic powers come with their own minute inconveniences, and Kusuo struggles to manage them while keeping his powers a secret from his classmates, who all seem to have a screw loose. The second series revamps the wacky scenarios we loved in the first series, and pushes the envelope further with its six episodes (the most notable of which is about a creepy looking teacher who’s just so creepy looking he’s got to be the peeping tom everyone is looking for.) The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Reawakened is a Netflix original, so writers made sure to cater the animation to a broader audience. Creators maintained an exceptional balance between the hyperbolic nature of comedy in Japanese anime and the drier, sarcastic style prevalent in traditional (typically American) sitcoms. The typical Netflix viewer will have no problem laughing along. —Jarrod Johnson II
18. Ouran High School
Largely a satire of the shoujo genre, Ouran High School Host Club blatantly employs and often twists our expectations of animated romantic comedies. The story follows Haruhi Fujioka, a normal girl attending the illustrious Ouran Academy on a hefty scholarship. A pragmatist who disagrees with shallow lifestyles, she’s mistaken as a boy because of her disheveled hair and slouchy outfits. She ends up indebted to the school’s host club, where they all slowly realize Haruhi is a woman (not that she hid it, per se) and is tasked with masquerading as a man to serve as a host until she pays back what she owes.—Austin Jones
19. Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic is an odd experience packaged neatly into 10-minute intervals which then loop back with the exact same script but opposite-sex voice actors. In each episode, the main duo—Pipimi and Popuko—are voiced twice by completely different voice actors, drawing on seiyuu recognizable to anyone who’s ever engaged with anime in any form. It all adds to the strange yet comfortable vibe the show manages to achieve. Based on a 4koma (4-panel comic) of the same name, Pop Team Epic fits the descriptor “a show about nothing” far better than Seinfeld. With its Robot Chicken-esque attention to surrealism, dark humor and pop culture, the show builds on iconic slice-of-life comedies such as Azumanga Daioh and Nichijou! to foster an immediate and deconstructive playground of insane situations and industry in-jokes. —Austin Jones
20. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online is action/romance that takes place inside a videogame, where players die in real life when their HP hit zero. We begin with Kirito, a solo player who seems unfazed by the danger of SAO, but still harbors trauma from a violent experience in a party. He’s a likeable protagonist, and most gamers are likely to identify with his “solo player’s hubris” that drives a lot of the badassery in the series. That badassery is matched by the equally likeable female protagonist, Asuna. The video-game world this cute couple get to live in completely transforms the dynamic of their relationship. The two stop put down their swords and move in together, pool their resources, and build a life for themselves in SAO. The intimacies of their relationship illustrate a dazzling escape from the loneliness that videogames are meant to cure, but exacerbate sometimes. Not to mention the opening is one of the best. —Jarrod Johnson II
21. One-Punch Man
Even by the ridiculous standards of the superhero genre, One-Punch Man’s ballpark craziness is a league all its own. When a 25-year-old college graduate rescues a rosy-cheeked, butt-chinned boy from the murderous clutches of a lobster man-monster (see what I mean?), he abandons his search for a salaried job and devotes himself to a rigorous three-year training regimen with the intent of becoming a hero. Naturally, his hair falls out. With a Jim Lee-esque physique and face that would feel right at home in a Charles Schultz comic strip, Saitama is the world’s strongest hero, gifted with the awesome power to defeat enemies with a single punch. The crux of One-Punch Man’s appeal, aside from its exemplary animation and fight scenes courtesy of Madhouse, is the series’ commitment to being a superhero show filtered through the overactive imagination of child, a comedy of preposterous serial escalation, with every otherworldly adversary that rises up being swiftly smashed to viscera from the force of Saitama’s herculean indifference. —Toussaint Egan
Naoki Urasawa is one of the most critically-acclaimed manga writers of his time, adored by the literary community both within and outside of Japan and the author of some of the most densely plotted, character-driven, and experimental manga ever published. So it’s only natural that Monster, Urasawa’s fifth serialized manga and one of his best known outside of Japan, would translate into one of the greatest anime series ever put to the screen. Spanning 74 episodes, the show’s premise unspools in the way only the finest crime-thriller should: patiently, yet purposefully. Dr. Kenzo Tenma’s fall from esteemed brain surgeon to disgraced murder suspect on the run, and his frenzied search for the man who framed him, is a riveting saga from start to finish, darting from one corner of Europe to the next in a deadly contest of wills. If you ever have the chance to watch this series, jump at the opportunity. —Toussaint Egan
23. Seven Deadly Sins
Seven Deadly Sins is one of Netflix’s earlier original fighting series, and it’s exciting. This anime is a chivalric heroes’ tale surrounding a group of magically endowed fighters dubbed that are the series’ namesake. We get to know each Sin as their captain, the Sin of Wrath Meliodas, assembles them to stand against the Holy Knights. The show’s pacing makes time for each character to have a backstory as we meet them, which helps build anticipation around their abilities and how they develop. There are some impressive and creative powers, and since Aniplex had a hand in production, the animations for them are stunning. The characters, powers and storyline should make for an authentic experience, but fanservice holds this series back from more recognition in the canon (jiggle-effect and groping will only take you so far.) The animations, powers, and combination attacks, specifically, make the fight scenes in this anime exceptional. —Jarrod Johnson II
24. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is a compelling story driven by ideas of wealth, friendship and the worth of a human life. The narrative takes place in a vast land of deserts, dungeons and hidden treasures, waiting to be explored. Alibabba is the young, idealistic lead who meets Aladdin, the young, extremely powerful type. They stand up to the businessman who enslaved them, then rescue Morgiana from her own sadistic slave trader who used her as a bodyguard. Her inhumanly strong legs make her the team’s muscle, balancing the group’s dynamic. The animated’ Arabian Nights theme that makes watching an aesthetic experience, too. While the aesthetics retain a classic anime feel, the fight scenes (Alibabba’s particularly) can be slow at times. Regardless, the series is well done and definitely deserves a watch. —Jarrod Johnson II
For me, Inuyasha is a marker of simpler times, when all an anime needed was fun battles, hilarious dialogue, and that melodramatic ‘90s style. This was the Demon Slayer we had before we loved ourselves, the show we’d stay up way past curfew to watch back-to-back on Adult Swim (often in non-sequential order, not that it matters all too much with Inuyasha’s long arcs and oodles of filler). The show surprisingly holds up and makes for a great group watch, practically a hotbed for drinking games: Take a shot every time Kagome and Inuyasha scream each other’s names, take a shot every time a beautiful woman turns out to be a grotesque buglike demon, take a shot every time Inuyasha fundamentally misunderstands how to behave like a respectful human. With right at 200 episodes and a whopping 4 feature length films, it’s a great show to keep you busy and an easy one to dip in and out of. —Austin Jones
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