Netflix hosts an embarrassment of riches in almost every genre imaginable, and anime is no exception. If you’ve never watched any before, or if you’re just worried you might have missed some of the best of what the service has to offer, we’ve got you covered. Romance, action, sci-fi, history, or even all of the above — there’s something for everyone on this list.
10. Ouran High School Host Club
For anyone unfamiliar with the term, “host club” refers to an establishment where female patrons can pay to drink and chat with the male hosts. Ouran High School Host Club, adapted from the manga of the same name, centers on — you guessed it — a host club operating out of Ouran High School, and serves as equal parts a parody of the stereotypes rampant in shōjo manga (manga specifically aimed at young women) and a sort of bizarro Twelfth Night, as much of the series revolves around the fact that its female protagonist is initially mistaken for a boy. She becomes one of the club’s hosts when she turns out to be a hit with the school’s female student body, though, as is always the case with shenanigans like these, trouble quickly ensues. It’s a fun series, especially as it becomes obvious that the show is poking fun at the very tropes it seems to embody.
9. Gurren Lagann
No list of notable anime series would be complete without at least one with giant robots, and so here we are. Brought to you by the same studio that produced Neon Genesis Evangelion and FLCL, Gurren Lagann is a mecha fever dream, starting in a subterranean village and ending up in outer space. The series is set in a future in which the human race has been relegated to living underground, and stars two teenagers who, after discovering a strange key, break through to the Earth’s surface. Even if the idea of robots duking it out doesn’t sound appealing, this series is worth a shot given how much other stuff is packed into it. The robot designs defy almost every other entry in the genre before it, and the big action set pieces are balanced by a focus on character growth that teeters into startlingly frank territory.
8. Kill La Kill
If I had to sum up Kill la Kill in two words, they’d be “fashion battle.” Broadly speaking, its story is pretty much beat for beat what you’d expect from a series about a magical teen — developing powers, last-minute turns of the tide — but the specifics are just bonkers enough to keep that from being a weakness. At Honnouji Academy, clothes bestow supernatural abilities on their wearer, turning the usual high school hierarchies into a battleground. At the center of it all is transfer student Ryuko Matoi, who’s come to Honnouji in search of her father’s killer. Her sidekick, a sentient sailor outfit, puts her on the level of the school’s student council, allowing her to tussle with them in her quest for the truth. More modest viewers be warned: the series’ focus on clothing also lends itself to a significant amount of fanservice. As the series progresses, the outfits get skimpier and skimpier until there’s barely anything there at all.
For those looking for darker fare, Fate/Zero should hit the spot. As may be obvious from the fact that the driving event behind the whole series is called “the Fourth Holy Grail War,” it’s heavy stuff. The war is a contest between a select group of mages and their attendant spirits. (The spirits, in one of the series’ strangest gambits, range from Alexander the Great to King Arthur.) They compete for the power of the Grail, which will grant a wish to each of the winning pair. The resulting assortment of competitors doubles as a mix of ideals and morals, and the shifting balance is one of the best aspects of the show. Though there’s a fair amount of comedy mixed in, it’s quite a bleak series, with a death count to rival Game of Thrones and eldritch horrors to contend with, to boot.
Even those unfamiliar with anime are likely to have heard of Castlevania, as the franchise is one of the jewels in Konami’s crown. The anime series is produced by Netflix, and boasts a voice cast including Graham McTavish as Count Dracula, who vows revenge against Wallachia after the death of his wife, and Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, the last of a clan of monster hunters, who leads the fight against him. (Matt Frewer also features in the cast, which should be a treat for any fellow Max Headroom enthusiasts.) There’s blood a-plenty, and a nice balance between monster and man as per most gothic horror stories — as well as a somewhat romantic aspect, as Dracula is portrayed as a sympathetic villain. The series is also just gorgeously animated, and with a first season of only four episodes, well worth your time.