Netflix’s anime offering has grown substantially over the years, with some excellent original commissions and some high profile series hitting the local platform. Here’s a string of anime on Netflix Australia that’s well worth your time.
This story has been updated since its original publication.
A series for anyone who loves cat-and-mouse series, Great Pretender is about a group of swindlers who end up targeting thieves, crime bosses and other classically corrupt figures. Stick it out past the first episode — the switch between Japanese and English voices is a bit weird at first — and you’re in for one of the most well-rated seasons Netflix has to offer.
A show about the titular samurai, Yasuke blends a world of feudal Japan with mechs, magic and some outstanding voice actor work throughout the first season.
Godzilla: Singular Point
Sure, it’s a series first and foremost about Godzilla, but it’s also got some sick anti-kaiju mecha designed to turn the tide of battle. The whole series is also a love letter to kaiju generally, not just Godzilla, which makes it all the more worth a watch.
BNA: Brand New Animal
A series from Studio Trigger, the same group behind Little Witch Academia and the upcoming Cyberpunk: Edgerunners series — BNA is about a human who seeks revenge after being transformed into a raccoon beastman. It’s got a great hi-vis aesthetic, and the plot’s got more depth than what the trailer might initially suggest.
If Anything Happens I Love You
Not an anime in the traditional sense, If Anything Happens I Love You is a short 12 minute animated film. One of the most beautiful things on Netflix, by far, and well worth the heartwretching journey.
One of the greatest anime of all time with one of the best endings, Fairy Tail is all about a young mage called Lucy who wants to get into Fairy Tail, the strongest magical guild in the kingdom.
The entire season runs for 9 seasons and 328 episodes. Not all of them are on Netflix yet, but the 48 episodes available should be plenty to get anyone started.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru
A wholesome stop motion anime, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is the story of Kaoru, a Japanese office worker. Kaoru’s life is fairly ordinary save for her three roomates: the adorable bears Rilakkuma, Korilakkuma and the assertive bird Kiiroitori.
It’s incredibly well animated, an easy watch and a great family show. There’s some solid laughs too, from Rilakkuma being held to ransom for a stack of pancakes, the three animals getting part-time jobs to help pay the rent, and Korilakkuma trying to build a satellite to contact UFOs from a post that you’d find outside of a barbershop.
If you’ve ever watched the Paddington movies or things like Zootopia and found something to enjoy, you’ll get a kick out of Rilakkuma and Kaoru. Trust me on this one.
Blood of Zeus
Played Hades recently? Then you might get a kick out of Blood of Zeus, an American anime that takes a lot of cues from Castlevania when it comes to blood and action. But similarly to Hades, Blood of Zeus is brilliant for the backstories woven throughout its first season. It’s cleanly animated too, and with only 8 episodes you can happily knock Blood of Zeus out in a day or two. Probably alongside runs of Hades.
Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045
Expectations weren’t high, but as it turned out, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is legitimately one of the better Ghost in the Shell stories since the original Stand Alone Complex series. The animation style is very different to what many GiTS fans will be accustomed to, but the story’s absolutely worth giving it a second look for.
The Adventures of Tintin
Yes, I can fully appreciate that including the Tintin animated series in a list about anime might be off a step too far for some. Still, if you’re looking for series to rewatch, a lot of the Tintin series still hold up today.
Some of the books don’t stack up that well — the blackface elements in The Blue Lotus are a bit on the nose these days — but Netflix still has the first season, which includes The Calculus Affair two-parter, the excellent Cigars of the Pharoah, and the three-part Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham’s Treasure which formed most of the basis for the CGI Tintin movie.
Netflix doesn’t have the excellent second season or third seasons unfortunately, so there’s no Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon saga or Tintin in Tibet. But season one does give you a look at Dr. Muller, one of Tintin‘s recurring villains, and The Crab with the Golden Claws remains an all-time classic.
Code Geass (full title Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) is another anime that became massively popular in the late ’00s and early ’10s. It’s got elements of mecha, psychology, fan service and stylings of Death Note all in the one show, with a main character who overcomes their lack of strength via chess.
Also, if you’re wondering how the hell illegal chess moves are a thing that’s possible, here’s a great movie breaking down Code Geass‘s motifs and artistic license. (Some spoilers for the early seasons, obviously.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender / Legend of Korra
All seasons of the Avatar series are now finally on Netflix, although both have been available in Australia through different streaming platforms previously. Still, it’s nice to have it all in the one place, particularly as Legend of Korra was a bit of a pain in the arse for a while. (You could stream the second season, but not the first, for instance.)
Avatar: The Last Airbender is genuinely superb, right up there with Star Wars Rebels for kids animated series that become genuinely awesome for all ages by the end. Legend of Korra takes the story several decades forward into the future, moving on from Aang and his crew and examining bending’s new role, what a post-Hundred Year War looks like, and the complexity of solving societal problems that can’t be resolved with bending at all.
One of the surprise animes this year, Beastars is all about the conflict of a wolf coming to terms with his own predatory nature amid the backdrop of a high school murder.
Adapted from the award-winning manga, Beastars focuses on the dynamics and chemistry between Cherryton Academy’s herbivores and carnivores. It features a great mix of 2D and 3D animation, and is one of the most captivating anime released in years.
The Studio Ghibli Collection
You could make a case for just about every single Studio Ghibli film, or only watching several, or picking the best 3. It doesn’t really matter — Studio Ghibli films are excellent, and now that they’re on Netflix, you should watch as many as you can.
Everyone has their favourites, like Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Tale of the Princess Kaguya or Princess Mononoke. I’ve always had a soft spot for Howl’s Moving Castle, not because I think it’s better than the other Ghibli films, but just because it hit me at the perfect time.
Anyway, they’re all great. Binge away.
One of the all-time great animes. Luffy’s adventure in search of the One Piece isn’t fully uploaded to Netflix yet — it’s still going and has run for more than 20 seasons. But Netflix Australia does have 130+ episodes, which is enough to get started with.
Neon Genesis: Evangelion
We can’t talk about the all-time greats without mentioning Neon Genesis. It’s not the best version of the series, because of the localisation quirks and the removal of the iconic Fly Me to the Moon covers. But it’s still a damn good time, even though the last few episodes remain as trippy as ever.
Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma
Anime’s combination of fan service and food. If you can withstand the gratuitousness of how good everyone’s food is, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Food Wars. Netflix only has the first season for now, but it’s available in English and Japanese.
Netflix’s catalogue of sporting anime is still growing, although sadly Prince of Tennis and Hikaru no Go aren’t available. However, the excellent anime about a volleyball club — Haikyu!! — is.
There’s 50 episodes available in English and the original Japanese. Season 4 of Haikyu!! is still airing in Japan — episode 74 is due to air sometime this month — so with some luck, another 25 episodes should be added and translated before the end of the year.
Some days, we are all Aggretsuko. Aggretsuko tells the story of a cute office worker Retsuko, who unwinds from days of monotonous annoyances by screaming metal into a karaoke mic.
Not a movie or a series per se, Sol Levante is the first hand-drawn anime short film specifically for 4K HDR. It’s billed as an experimental project, but it’s also just a really awesome way to test out a new TV.
The Dragon Prince
An anime from the creative team behind Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Dragon Prince kicks off in a kingdom torn asunder by 1,000 years of war. The series focuses on three characters stuck in the middle of it all, and the stories of those on the battlefield.
Like Avatar, there’s a good deal of humour to break up the grimness of war. Two seasons are currently up on Australian Netflix, and the mix of CGI and 2D art looks an absolute treat.
Imagine going to high school … but it’s a high school for gamblers. Kakegurui delves into the political and hierarchical machinations of a school that operates based on skill at the table – and the amount of debt everyone owes to each other.
While martial arts champion Baki Hanma strives to surpass his father, five inmates from death row invade Tokyo to challenge his might. It’s an anime on the more gruesome and violent side, but good for those who enjoy MMA or similar action anime/manga like Hajime no Ippo.
The Seven Deadly Sins
Originally serialised in the Weekly Shonen Magazine, Seven Deadly Sins refers to a group of knights who disbanded after failing to overthrow the Liones Kingdom. Ten years after the failed coup, the saviours of the realm, the Holy Knights, opted to overthrow the king to rule the kingdom for themselves.
Faced with their tyrannical rule, Princess Elizabeth is forced to journey out to find the Seven Deadly Sins and ask for their help to take back the kingdom once more.
She-Ra and the Princesses Of Power
She-Ra doesn’t fit within the traditional meaning of anime, but it’s a clever and witty reimagining of an old series. The remake focuses on Princess Adora’s relationship with Bow and Glimmer as they build up a coalition to save Etheria, concentrating on the personalities of everyone involved and Adora’s conviction to do the right thing. It’s a solid option for families wanting something with a good message they can watch with their kids, and there’s plenty of sass and good animation to make it easy on the eye.
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Inspired by the gag manga of the same name, Saiki K is a story about a high school sophomore student who struggles to keep his psychic talents hidden. Some of Saiki’s abilities include x-ray vision, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, mind control, the ability to share telepathy with others, and the ability to turn people to stone (which is why he wears glasses). It’s an anime filled with weird characters, and it’s a great watch if you just need something deadpan and silly to unwind to.
Flavours of Youth
A romantic anime set in China, Flavours of Youth focuses on three stories that, in some way, all come back to family, friendship and sharing a hot bowl of noodles. Each part focuses on a different character, including a nameless man who focuses on his most cherished experiences, an aging fashion model who is tasked with caring after her sister following the death of her parents, and an angry high schooler dealing with a crush on his friend.
It’s visually appealing, and the backdrops are a breath of fresh air instead of the usual Japanese urban and rural environments that feature in every anime. Some of the character designs are a little generic, but it’s a neat story. There’s a scene after the end credits, so make sure you watch through to the end.
If you don’t mind your anime on the brutal side, then the latest iteration of the Devilman franchise, Devilman Crybaby, might be up your alley. The Devilman series began with the tale of Akira Fudo, who is soon possessed by a demon. Relying on a friend, Akira overcame the will of his inner demon to become Devilman, one demon to rule them all.
Crybaby covers a lot of similar ground, with Akira incorporating the powers of the demon Amon but retain his human soul to prevent the destruction of humanity. The big key with the Netflix version is the more modern setting (smartphones are a thing) and a heightened focus on sex and violence.
I can’t stress that enough: this isn’t a series for the squeamish. There’s people being bitten alive, death by vehicle galore, and orgies that quickly turn into massacres. But if you can stomach some odd scenes, it’s one of the best animated series with the Netflix label yet.
Fullmetal Alchemist / Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Whether you should watch Brotherhood before working through the original Full Metal Alchemist is a different question entirely, but one way or another, FMA: Brotherhood is worth your time.
Brotherhood is an adaptation that more closely follows the plot of the source material. The original FMA anime deviates from the manga about halfway through, after Hiromu Arakawa (creator of the FMA manga) requested a different ending for the anime. As a result, I’d recommend just watching Brotherhood especially given that the two series tend to cover the same ground in the early episodes.
Differences aside, FMA is well worth a watch regardless. The series covers the journey of alchemist brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they search for the Philospher’s Stone, in a quest to revive the latter’s body following a failed transmutation. It’s equal parts funny, grim and surprising, as the Elric brothers come to grips with the machinations of the state military and a divided world.
The original FMA is streaming on Australian Netflix now, while FMA: Brotherhood is only available through Netflix in the US.
Knights of Sidonia
One of the early Netflix original anime series, Knights of Sidonia is a deconstruction of the space opera genre. The story focuses on Sidonia, a colony ship in space housing a genetically altered branch of humans.
The human race had been battered to within an inch of its life by the alien Gauna, and so to recover their losses scientists used genetic engineering to create humans that rarely need to eat or sleep.
It’s an anime that takes physics a little more seriously than most space operas, while offering an intriguing look into a manufactured humanity, struggling to survive. If you enjoyed the principle of, say, Macross but you’d prefer to see those mechs in a setting where fuel is a factor and humanity isn’t able to joke its way around its own demise, Knights of Sidonia is worth a watch.
An isolated human colony ship is on the run from aliens and the only effective defence they have left are giant robots. No doubt, you've heard similar setups before; but Knights of Sidonia plays the situation completely straight -- from the real world physics to the societal implications.Read more
A franchise that has gone around the bend for almost two decades, GANTZ:O is a CG spin-off of the series that features 17-year-old Masaru Kato. Kato has woken up in a room with a bunch of people, all of whom have died.
In the room is a giant black ball called Gantz. It’s later explained that everyone is pitched in a game of survival, where they have to kill off a range of monsters attacking Japan within a certain time limit if they want to survive.
A feature-length movie, GANTZ:O is streaming on Australian Netflix in English.
The second season of Castlevania hasn’t dropped yet, but until then you can enjoy Netflix’s reimagining of the series inspired by the iconic games. As a short series it’s a fun screenplay largely drawn from the timeline of Castlevania 3.
Castlevania looked pretty dang cool when it hit Netflix last month. Part of the reason is the fact that the folks at Powerhouse Animation have been waiting for the chance to do a project like this for ages. Hell, they practically stalked the producers.Read more
I’m not one to put much stock into whether Castlevania properly qualifies as anime, given it was basically produced entirely in the United States. I don’t think it largely matters: fans of anime have no trouble enjoying, say, Avatar: The Last Airbender, despite its American roots. But if that’s something you care about, there you go.
And while Castlevania isn’t perfect, it’s a great homage to OVAs of the ’80s and ’90s. The four episodes are based on a script that was approved by Konami over a decade ago. Netflix greenlit a second season of Castlevania last year, with eight episodes due to be dropped online sometime this winter.
— Wᴀʀʀᴇɴ Eʟʟɪs (@warrenellis) January 19, 2018
Little Witch Academia is what happens when you take trademark Japanese cuteness and mix it with a world of magic, ala Harry Potter. Makers Studio Trigger released Little Witch Academia as an animated short on YouTube, which generated enough interest to successfully crowdfund a feature-length sequel a couple of years later.
The magical mishaps of Akko and her friends has since spawned a full series, which you can stream on Netflix as well. It’s charming Harry Potter. What’s not to like?
After discovering that he is from an immortal race called the Ajin, Kei finds himself fleeing before being turned into a test subject. Ajin don’t actually heal until they’re dead, you see, making him an ideal target for unethical researchers. Amidst all this, there’s a ¥100 million bounty up for grabs for capturing an Ajin.
So what do you do when you wake up, only to discover the world around you has declared you persona non grata? That’s the general gist of Ajin, which also uses the same CGI style as Knights of Sidonia. The facial expressions are especially good, although note that this anime is more on the violent side.
BLAME! is Netflix’s adaptation of the original 1998 comic, which focused on a gunman exploring a ravaged cyberpunk city. Netflix’s adaptation really only uses the setting rather than the plot of the original, instead focusing on a single band of humans who have survived The City’s extermination efforts.
This isn’t the first anime adaptation of BLAME! either, with an earlier anime released in 2003.
One of the older offerings on Netflix, Gunslinger Girl on the surface stars a bunch of cybernetically-enhanced underage girls wielding enormous weapons. But what it’s really about is the relationships between people with vastly shortened lives and life expectancies, due to the nature of their work, and how those characters deal with the pressure of the unusual world around them.
The series centres on the girls rehabilitated by the Social Welfare Agency, which claims to rebuild the lives of children with severe disabilities and critical injuries. What ends up happening is a process of cyberisation and brainwashing on the behalf of the Italian government, with the agency’s assassins dealing with adolescence and their attempts to maintain their humanity.
What anime have you seen on Netflix that you’d recommend – and what series would you like to see get the Netflix treatment?