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.
1. 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
2. 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 is just out of reach.
Sure, there is some tonal weirdness in its first season, as it enacts a series of fights that feel less like indictments of bloodshed and more like battle shonen duels between borderline superheroes, but Wit Studio’s animation chops are on such display here that it’s easy to forgive some of the amped-up, meathead shenanigans. And by its second season, these inconsistencies are smoothed over as this story transforms into a full-throated condemnation of the inhumanity of this period, delving into the hardships these characters face due to cruel belief structures and political systems. Between its powerful articulation of its protagonist’s emotional journey and its 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. —Elijah Gonzalez
3. 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, 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
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
Despite a widely celebrated body of work, only a handful of Naoki Urasawa’s beloved manga have made the jump to the small screen. One of these few adaptations is Pluto, a murder-mystery reimagining of the seminal Astro Boy, and the results are dazzling. It follows a detective named Gesicht as he unravels a case that invites questions about the personhood of androids and ties into the scars of an unjustified war. On its face, many of this story’s ideas have been interrogated ad nauseam, stretching as far back as when Asimov first penned the laws of robotics, but where it differs is in its execution. While science fiction can often feel as cold as these machine lifeforms’ chrome exteriors, this tale focuses on the warmth found in the buzzing circuity beneath. In half an episode or less, we’re endeared to the trials and tribulations of seven robots in the crosshairs of a rogue killer as flashbacks reveal a horrible conflict etched into their unchanging digital memories. The winding mystery at the center of the story smartly connects anti-war sentiment and ruminations on artificial consciousness, and while there is a lot to keep track of, the propulsive pacing of Gesicht’s investigation keeps everything focused. It all makes for a beautifully constructed work of sci-fi that, much like the robots at the center of this story, is full of humanity. —Elijah Gonzalez
6. 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, mixing The Sandlot-styled kid-hijinks and a compelling 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. —Elijah Gonzalez
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 find 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
Deftly blending Christie-esque murder mystery with supernatural horror, Mononoke is a psychedelic nightmare. With its memorable animation style mimicking the shadowless ukiyo-e painting style of 17th century Japan, Mononoke revels in maximal beauty and twitchy sound design, but it’s also successful in its emotional endeavors, proving to be more than just a directorial experiment. Mononoke are a type of yokai (a spectrum of beings in Japanese myth ranging from ghosts to demons) that prey on the negative emotions of humans. They serve as an excellent set piece for pulse-pounding psychological horror, being unafraid to delve into exigent thematic territory. Produced by Toei Animation, the show balances the grotesque with the intensely vulnerable with such harmony, often blurring color and lines with hallucinatory flair. For a show about spirits, Mononoke’s core is decidedly human. It’s sure to haunt you for years to come. —Austin Jones
Toradora! is one of the best anime rom-coms around, 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 sorely miss when it’s over. —Elijah Gonzalez
Over the years, MAPPA has established itself as one of anime’s best animation studios. Since their inception in the early 2010s, they’ve put out some of the most sumptuously animated shows in recent memory, like Shinichiro Watanabe’s Kids on the Slope and Terror in Resonance as well as cult favorites Kakegurui and Yuri on Ice. What makes their work truly shine is the evocative style of movement they manage, giving each of their shows their own visual language that feels sensitive and bodily.
Somehow, their romantic stylings work perfectly for Dorohedoro, which is based on Q Hayashida’s popular manga of the same name. Dorohedoro follows Caiman, an amnesiac cursed with a reptile head living in a nightmarish brutalist cityscape haunted by interdimensional sorcerers. The show is a surreal mixture of high fantasy and grungy sci-fi, reveling in gritty hyperviolence and oafish humor. MAPPA manages to craft something that could easily slide into the low-brow feel beautiful and enchanting. Despite its grotesque bombast, Dorohedoro tells a compelling story of poverty, community, and exploitation. —Austin Jones
11. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is an unabashedly juvenile splatterfest, a culmination of Studio Trigger’s ability to produce iconic imagery that elevates familiar genre beats through raw, hyperbolic cuts of animation. While this crime caper may not break from the core issues of its franchise or cyberpunk more broadly, it manages to hit more than a few emotional highs—and look very good in the process. Perhaps most importantly, its chaotic violence delivers heart-wrenching turns as it plays with the fates of its oddly likable cast. There is an authenticity to these characters’ relationships that sells a sense of pathos, and it’s hard not to root for this crew despite all the, you know, murder.
In particular, the burgeoning romance between its central pair, David and Lucy, is given enough texture to feel convincing, making it clear that underneath layers of hard-boiled genre fiction, this is fundamentally a love story that uses the same grandeur of emotion found in its action sequences to deal out brutal twists. And frankly, whenever it goes guns-blazing, it’s hard to look away from its inventive visuals that use exaggerated proportions and bold color combinations to create an escalating sense of spectacle. Edgerunners conveys the tragedy of Night City with crushing grandeur, the type of thing a bleary-eyed protagonist in a cyberpunk novel would watch on a flickering screen at 3 AM. —Elijah Gonzalez
12. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
Despite what the marketing suggests, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is not a shot-for-shot remake, but a meta reimagining of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World that tells a (mostly) new story. The result is a delightful animated series that approaches this narrative from a new perspective. Following the movie’s established beats through the first episode (Scott Pilgrim [Michael Cera] must defeat Ramona Flowers’ [Mary Elizabeth Winstead] seven evil exes before he can date her), it doesn’t take long until Scott Pilgrim Takes Off deviates from the tale we know. The main difference is that in this rendition, we largely follow Ramona as she confronts her previous significant others and tries to piece together why events have gone off course. It synthesizes a transmedia whirlwind as it brings back the movie’s cast and evokes the comic’s art style through creative bursts of animation. Most importantly, it retains the underlying tone and messaging of what came before as it successfully reenvisions this story with Ramona at center stage. In the end, it manages to do something tricky, transposing a more than decade-old tune while barely missing a beat. —Elijah Gonzalez
Beastars was the best anime to come out of 2019. This may be a controversial take, given that 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
14. 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
15. 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 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
16. 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. —Reuben Baron
17. 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
18. My Happy Marriage
Riffs on Cinderella are well-trodden territory, but My Happy Marriage breathes life into this premise through excellent execution, conveying the internal journey of its protagonist through gorgeous animation. Miyo is trapped in an emotionally abusive household until she’s sent away in an arranged marriage to Kiyoka Kudou, a young man who heads a powerful family but commands a sub-par reputation due to his outwardly icy demeanor. But as she gets to know him better, Miyo finds that these appraisals of her betrothed were off-base, and she starts to build a life she thought she could never have. Although you’ve seen this setup and its wicked step-families before, this rendition distinguishes itself with its ability to externalize the inner life of its protagonist, gracefully communicating how her lingering pain starts to dissipate as she’s finally treated like an actual person. Even as the effects of Miyo’s kind but somewhat clumsy husband-to-be are immediately noticeable, her quest for self-acceptance is rocky, capturing the difficulty of overcoming trauma with nuance. While much of this depth doesn’t come across in its supporting cast, who are frequently simplistic or cartoonishly unlikable, their behavior still feels pointed because it ties into implicit critiques of the oppressive family structures that dominate this fantasy-tinged Meiji-era setting. It all culminates in an affecting finale that portrays its protagonist’s quest for belonging with care. —Elijah Gonzalez
19. Komi Can’t Communicate
Komi Can’t Communicate is still releasing new episodes on Netflix, and with 23 volumes and counting of Tomohito Oda’s source manga being published in Japan, it’s fair to assume this high school comedy will be getting many more seasons.
The basic premise of the show is that Komi, the most intimidatingly beautiful girl in her class, secretly has severe social anxiety to the point she can barely even talk to anyone. When the utterly “average” Tadano discovers her secret, he works to help her make friends. Tadano aside, all of Komi’s classmates are entertainingly eccentric in their own ways (I’m still waiting on the ninja’s backstory), and the cast features many likable queer and/or neurodivergent characters. If you enjoy comedies like Azumanga Daioh and Nichijou, Komi Can’t Communicate should be up your alley. —Reuben Baron
20. 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 is 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
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
To many viewers, nothing says “anime” quite like small, adorable animals with big ol’ eyes. And Rareko, the director who has helmed a series of Japanese animated shorts called Aggretsuko since 2016 and launched a Western remake as a Netflix “original series” clearly knew this just enough to turn that assumption on its head. Retsuko, a 25-year-old anthropomorphic red panda working as a dead-eyed accountant at a trading firm, is the star of this workplace musical comedy, which quietly showcases the righteous power of a woman’s anger. Not so quietly, actually, as the musical numbers come from Retsuko’s nightly venting sessions at her local karaoke bar, where she shrieks out her frustration by singing, and screaming, death metal. This show truly does something new, and delivers a satisfying, character-driven narrative to boot. —John Maher
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 its relevance to mercy and freedom. —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
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
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