Last Updated: November 18th
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 of best anime on Netflix right now.
1 season, 37 episodes | IMDb: 9/10
Death Note, the anime series, not the Netflix horror film that borrows inspiration from it, is one of the most inventive shows on this list. It’s also one of the darkest. Ryuk, a god of death, can kill anyone by simply writing their name in a notebook (hence the title of the series). He gets bored one day and tosses his supernatural journal down to Earth. There, it falls into the hands of high school student and prodigy Light Yagami, who’s a bit disenfranchised by humanity and starts using the book to take out criminals. Of course, that makes him a target of the bad guys but also the cops. You never really know who to root for on this show, which makes it all the more interesting.
Attack on Titan
3 seasons, 69 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
This series is a juggernaut in the anime world, spawning movies and multiple seasons and garnering a legion of devoted fans. To understand the hype, you’ll have to watch, but expect inventive action and a gripping storyline. Set in an alternate universe where humanity has caged itself off from giant monsters known as Titans, the show follows a group of fighters trying to protect their people when one of those walls is breached, and the Titans attack.
The Promised Neverland
1 season, 13 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
A group of intellectually gifted orphans discovers a dark secret about their origins in this inventive anime series. There are some dark-fantasy vibes at play here as the 38 siblings living in a seemingly idyllic abode break their Mother’s one rule, opening up a world of secrets and betrayal in the process. We’re suckers for a good mystery, and this has the added benefit of a truly suspect parental figure to heighten the tension.
1 season, 12 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
This time-travel drama offers an inventive twist on your normal anime fare, turning the story of a young man trying to prevent his mother’s death into a winding mystery filled with fantasy tropes and colorful characters. Satoru Fujinuma experiences something called “Revivals,” tiny jumps back in time that let him help others and prevent tragedies. But when he’s sent 18 years into the past to solve a string of kidnappings somehow related to his mother’s future death, things get complicated.
3 seasons, 23 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
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.
Parasyte: The Maxim
1 season, 24 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Parasyte is basically the plot of Venom but in anime form and without that stomach-churning lobster scene. No really, this series is a hell of a lot more fun than expected. A teenage kid named Shinichi Izumi is partially infected by a Parasyte: monsters that butcher and consume humans. He’s got to figure out how to feed the beast without killing people and eventually coexist with his evil counterpart.
Blood of Zeus
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
This new anime series from Netflix represents the platform’s initiative to churn out more of the genre. That’s a good thing if Blood of Zeus is anything to go by. An anime series about Greek mythology is pretty rare, and this one, which follows a commoner who discovers he’s a descendent of Zeus with a destiny to prevent a world-ending war, is an exciting, addictive watch.
1 season, 13 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
BoJack Horseman fans might like this anime series, which also follows a handful of anthropomorphic animals and dives into mental health issues. Of course, this show is set in a school, not Hollywood, and it follows an anxiety-ridden wolf, who finds himself investigating the murder of a classmate. It’s got a mystery/thriller element to it, but that’s not the only selling point.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
1 season, 51 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
Fullmetal fans and newbies alike are somewhat spoiled for choice when it comes to Netflix’s offerings: Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are both available on the streaming service, alongside the recent live-action film. But we’re here for anime, so we’ll just discuss the first two. For the purposes of this list, we’re counting both series as one entity, as Fullmetal Alchemist is a seminal property, but not to fear, I’m not about to leave you in the dark. Both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are adaptations of the original manga, which tells the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, as they search for the Philosopher’s Stone. In an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy, they’ve been transformed. Edward has lost his leg, and sacrifices his arm as well in order to save Alphonse’s soul, binding it to a suit of armor. The Stone is their ticket to restoration. The more recent Brotherhood hews much more closely to the manga, whereas Fullmetal Alchemist essentially turns into an original series about halfway through. In the end, they complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but if you have to pick just one, I’d go for Brotherhood as the “canon” experience.
2 seasons, 167 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Inuyasha is the rare franchise that manages to strike a balance between cute and horrifying. To liken it to a current pop culture phenomenon, it’s similar to Outlander, in that its basic plot sounds like something out of a romance novel: a young woman, Kagome, is sent back in time, and must then contend with forces beyond her reckoning, all while getting to know a rambunctious man (well, in this case, half dog-demon), Inuyasha, to whom she seems to be mysteriously bound. There’s plenty of time-travel fluff to go around, but in Inuyasha’s case, it’s augmented by nightmare fuel in the form of a host of demons searching for the magic jewel in Kagome’s possession. The centipede monster in the first episode sets the bar for how unsettling these monsters look, as well as the show’s overall structure as a sort of monster-of-the-week affair. To that end, the show can get a little repetitive, but the cast is uniformly great (including Inuyasha’s antihero brother Sesshomaru, who I think I can confidently say is “the hot one”), and the balance between fun and horror is a rare find.
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
If an anthropomorphic horse navigating Hollywood just seems too far-fetched, even by cartoon comedy standards, maybe this show about an anthropomorphic red panda working in the accounting department of a Japanese trading firm feels a bit more down to earth. Retsuko is 25 years old, single, and completely fed up with her place of work. Her boss is a pig (literally), her coworkers are manipulative and selfish, and her love-life is nonexistent. Her only escape: The karaoke bar she goes to every night to vent her frustrations with life by dubbing death metal tracks. If cute Japanese anime, hard rock, and shows about self-discovery are your thing, check this one out.
One Punch Man
1 season, 12 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
This fan-favorite anime series has two things going for it: a killer heavy-metal theme song and more action than a Marvel flick. That feels appropriate since the show follows an invincible superhero, who can take out his enemies with just one punch. What’s truly brilliant about this series, though, is how it ranks and classifies lower-tiered vigilantes and how it subverts stereotypes by making Saitama, the hero, apathetic about his own abilities. It’s darkly comedic as some of the best anime typically are.
Ouran High School Host Club (2006)
1 season, 24 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
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.
3 seasons, 366 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Bleach has it all. It’s stylish as hell, it’s incredibly well-acted, it’s genre-fluid, and on top of that, it’s well-written. Though it starts out fairly simply, it builds and builds, transforming into an epic that more than earns its place in the pantheon of great anime. The story begins when Ichigo Kurasaki, a high schooler capable of seeing ghosts, takes on the duties of a Soul Reaper in order to protect his family. As he battles evil spirits and ferries departed souls to the afterlife, he begins to discover that some of his classmates have supernatural abilities as well, and to make matters even more complicated, just when it seems like he’s getting the hang of things, he’s brought into the spirit world to answer to the Soul Society. It’s a transition that the show handles beautifully, and does again and again as it progresses. The world of Bleach (and the mythology involved) just keeps getting bigger, without ever falling short, or falling flat. The series is also impossible to peg as one genre or another, as there are elements of almost everything baked in. It’s an epic, and unmissable as such. Creator Tite Kubo’s style is just the cherry on top of the cake.
Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
3 seasons, 95 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Like most other entries on this list, Rurouni Kenshin was adapted from a manga series (which appeared in the legendary Shōnen Jump magazine). The title refers to its protagonist, Himura Kenshin, a former killing machine who is now committed to helping others to try to atone for his sins. Of course, his love of peace is challenged when it becomes apparent that someone else has assumed his former mantle as an assassin and plans to throw the Meiji Government into chaos. The characters are all well-defined and well-developed, with the biggest hook being the contrast between Kenshin’s apparent happy-go-lucky attitude and vow never to kill again, and what we know him to be capable of due to his reputation. He’s also a walking example of the way the series focuses on period to tell a story rather than using it simply as set dressing: the show takes place during a transition period in Japanese history, and Kenshin is just as much in flux.