Netflix’s push into the anime industry shows no signs of slowing down even as we approach 2021. In fact, the streamer introduced weekly releases of the new original comedy series Blue Period (Saturdays) and slice-of-life series Komi Can’t Communicate (Thursdays) in October, with new episodes scheduled to series through December.
Now that you’ve completed the annual (re)watch of the 7 Essential Anime Every Fan Should Watch and accompanied Baki on his journey to becoming the most powerful fighter in the action-packed Baki Hanma season, it’s time to revisit what the streamer has to offer and update the best anime series list.
Keeping up with and choosing which anime series to watch is a marathon, not a sprint, and any “best of the best” list should be a continuously moving mix of entry-level first (and forever) favorites, die-hard must-watches, lesser-known jewels, and what’s fresh and interesting in the genre.
So, as we revisit and repave a path through Netflix’s anime series library, expect to see genre staples like Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion, as well as fan favorites like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, eventually (re)appear alongside newly acquired shows and possibly even a few anime(inspired) original series like Castlevania that are making waves in the anime space. And, as is customary, new entries to the list are placed at the top and denoted with an asterisk.
1 . JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Based on the massively popular manga series, this multigenerational saga chronicles the exploits of a Joestar family member – each with the same titular nickname and endowed with enormous mental strength – as they face competitors (and evil) throughout the years. Each new protagonist brings a new story that enriches the universe while keeping the narrative fresh and compelling. Its astute humor and frequent references to famous Western trends provide just the proper amount of laughter to this action-packed fantasy. With five terrific seasons (the most recent being Stone Ocean) now available on Netflix as of December 1st, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s inclusion on the best of list may be a little belated.
2 . Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop takes place in a universe where a hyperspace gateway mishap has rendered Earth uninhabitable.
What is left of humanity colonized the solar system’s rocky planets and moons. Fifty years of escalating crime drives the Inter Solar System Police to legalize bounty hunting and allow bounty hunters, known as Cowboys, to chase and catch offenders throughout the system in order to bring them to justice. The series follows the crew of the spaceship Bebop as they hunt down criminals in the year 2071. This Japanese sci-fi noir, with its now-iconic soundtrack and vintage (but still solidly stylish) animation style, follows the space (mis)adventures of former syndicate member and hitman Spike, his former ISSP officer partner Jet Black, a con artist with memory gaps, a wacky hacker, and Ein, a genetically engineered Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.
For long-time fans, the twenty-six-episode series offers a genre-blending narrative, graphically energetic action, and bold good fun, and it’s a terrific place to start for those new to the anime universe. Only time will tell whether canceling the entire anime series right before the live-action Cowboy Bebop premiere on November 19, 2021, aided or harmed the film franchise. Check out how IGN believes the film adaption compares to the source material.
3 . Bleach
Bleach is based on Tite Kubo’s enormous manga series, which he wrote and drew. Its adaptation was crucial in popularising anime in the United States. Ichigo Kurosaki is transformed from a regular high schooler to a Soul Reaper by a fateful series of terrible and exceptional events. But when the Soul Reaper who gifted him use of her powers is unable to reclaim them, Ichigo must not only master these new skills but also pick up the fight in order to prevent the Hollows from eating human souls. Bleach is best as an introduction to anime, with the first three seasons being among the best of the series. They’re suspenseful, action-packed, humorous, and focused on the characters. With the promise of a new arc on the Thousand-Year Blood War in the works for 2022, it’s a good time to start re-watching that series.
4 . Beastars
Beastars may be the slice-of-life fantasy series for you if you like your shounen to be occasionally NSFW and built on a narrative aimed to explore issues like prejudice, choice, and contemplation. This drama-heavy mystery series delves into the lives of anthropomorphic animals in a world where predators and herbivores cohabit happily. If Zootopia-style stories about slice-of-life and self-discovery are what piques your curiosity, Beastars is the anime series for you.
5 . Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follows brothers Edward and Alphonse as they strive to adjust to a new reality after an Alchemy experiment designed to restore their mother goes tragically wrong. FMA Brotherhood, arguably one of the best anime series in both animation and storey adaptation, balances kinetic action with exploring heavy themes as these brothers wrestle with their failures, embrace their powers, and set out on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone that can restore their bodies; all while battling a great conspiracy that threatens the entire world. Netflix still has all six and a half episodes available, and this narrative is worth every minute.
6 . Violet Evergarden
Based on a light novel series, this thirteen-episode anime tells the storey of post-war reintegration into civilian life through the eyes of Violet Evergarden, a fourteen-year-old girl. This fantasy coming-of-age novel follows a young orphan’s quest for a purpose other than soldiering. It’s a moving and contemplative storey with a fantastic score. This series explains why terms like “visually amazing” aren’t going away anytime soon. It is simply one of the most beautiful animated series on the market.
This is an ideal opportunity to revisit this show before continuing with Violet Evergarden: On October 13, 2021, the film will be added to the streaming service.
7 . Your Lie in April
Your Lie in April, based on the manga series of the same name, follows piano prodigy Kousei Arima as he rediscovers his love of music and ability to hear his piano in the aftermath of his abusive mother’s death. This play is aimed squarely at all of your emotional weak points, taking you on a poignant journey full of music and drama. The pastel-drenched color palette and deceptively simple tales will draw you in and make you a believer in music-driven stories for the rest of your life.
8 . Erased
Follow 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma as he realizes he has the capacity to time travel and finds himself in the past, attempting to solve a murder case. This extraordinary skill, which he refers to as “Revival,” allows him to travel back in time (a few minutes) to modify events and rescue lives. However, after being accused of murder himself, Satoru awakens as his younger self, eighteen years in the past. Satoru soon realizes the crime he’s accused of is linked to the kidnapping and death of a classmate, so he sets out to solve the mystery, prevent his friend’s death, and finally cleanse his (future) name. Erased is a riveting adaptation of Kei Sanbe’s whole manga series. The tale is lively, and it is brought to life by gritty, engaging animation. Set aside some time to watch it because it’s a binge-worthy series.
9 . Hunter x Hunter
Hunter, Hunter is how it’s spelled (the x really is silent). Gon, a young man, goes out to find his father, who has gone missing. Along the journey, he meets new people, competes in a martial arts tournament, and comes face to face with creatures that any horror prop master would kill to have their hands on. Gon’s foes have no chill, therefore Hunter x Hunter is some of the best shonen anime has to offer, ever, thanks to the action sequences and well-crafted story. Come for the basic idea, but stay for the character depth, darker tone, and engaging and progressively complicated plot arc.
10 . The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Kusuo Saiki, the all-powerful psychic, is constantly frustrated in his attempts to go under the radar, resulting in tremendous comedy. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. follows Saiki as he attempts to avoid school drama despite his natural talent to attract people. It’s eccentric, full of endearing characters and shenanigans. Despite its lighter tone, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is a good crowd-pleaser.
11 . Great Pretender
Makoto Edamura is a fugitive con artist. But don’t expect him to cease diving headfirst into new projects instead of keeping a low profile. The Great Pretender is a colorful, fast-paced heist thriller with all the ingredients of a well-crafted heist film. If you like your anime to be trendy and your characters to be too cool for words, then this Netflix exclusive is for you.
12 . Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasyte (re)sets the bar for horror anime, based on Hitoshi Iwaaki’s horror manga series. This magnificent sci-fi/horror combination isn’t just for horror aficionados. If you appreciate your narratives built on dark comedy and sophisticated character development, then Parasyte is a must-see. It follows Schinchi Izumi as he attempts to form a symbiotic connection with the alien parasite intent on taking him over.
Netflix Has Released a New Anime Series
November was a slow month for anime, but that only means Netflix’s continuous adoration of Mark Miller and his Dark Comics, culminating in the release of his first anime Super Crooks on Thursday, November 25th, 2021, was perfectly on schedule. You can’t go wrong with a robbery squad taking on a world-famous supervillain. And December is off to a rousing start, as Shaman King is set to return on December 9 with part two of season one, which aired earlier this year. Set aside some time because Part 2 includes 13 more episodes following Yoh Asakura on his journey. Aggretsuko has previously appeared on the best anime series list, and if the new season 4, which premieres on December 6, 2021, offers more of the same rollercoaster ride that is Retsuko’s life and social circle, it’s certain to retake its place in quick order.