In less then a decade Netflix Instant Streaming has gone from a little off shoot of a DVD rental business with a lot of potential to a cultural touchstone. Housing some of the best original content available today with wide catalogs of various genres.
However anime has always seemed to be a bit beyond it. Which is why it has been so surprising to see that over the past few years Netflix has emerged as a destination for quality anime of all stripes. With a new “Netflix Original” anime appearing with relative frequency and high quality it’s clear anime is booming in North America as a business and Netflix aims to be a big player in distribution. While certainly not the destination for the hardcore like Crunchyroll or Funimation Streaming, Netflix is quietly becoming a player in this marketplace.
However due to it’s more limited offerings, especially compared to its vast ocean of content its clear Netflix isn’t ideal for the initiated. As such this list will focus more on beginner friendly anime, the kind you can just sit down and in Netlfix’s specialty - binge quite easily. As such I thought it would be a useful exercise to check out what I consider to be some of the most bingeable anime on the most accessible streaming service in North America.
Notes: Dubbed Anime have been prioritized due to their ability to reach a wide audience. Also as a Canadian my Netflix offerings may be somewhat different then others. All listings are subject to licencing agreements per country.
Further Note: This is Part I or II there will be GLARING omissions. The original list was literally twice as large which is why it was decided to be split in two. For ease of readings sake
Knights of Sidonia was Netflix’s first foray into licensing and anime distribution directly. To say that for anime fans there was a lot riding on this would be an understatement. Had Sidonia failed there is a high likelihood Netflix would not have had enough quality titles to write either of these this lists.
Luckily Sidonia not only did well enough for a sequel season but it also did well enough that Netflix is now openly talking about producing anime in house. Considering the quality of their Original non-anime titles so far an actual Netflix original is potentially something to be excited about. As currently there are many titles that appeal to North Americans while being forgotten in Japan (Cowboy Beebop being a notable example), Netflix can help change that.
Beyond that though, the anime itself is also worthy of all the praise. With a unique and interesting art style, it is a visually stunning work of art that is very different from your stereotypical anime. The plot is strong blend of sci-fi horror and mecha action with the best way to describe it being if HP Lovecraft wrote a Macross without the singing.
The show however is not without its flaws as the series can slow down in strange places and move too fast in others. This flaw is mitigated by the ability of a viewer to binge watching as the series. As the series is far superior in several large batches then one episode at a time. That being said while I personally enjoyed both series the tonal shift from S1 to S2 can give some viewers narrative whiplash, so watch out.
Who’s It’s For? Any fan of Science Fiction would be well serviced by watching Knights of Sidonia as its a good Sci-Fi story first and a good anime second. Furthermore if you have a friend saying anime is just a kids pastime (they do still exist...) you could do worse then bringing this one out.
One of the oldest titles on this list and a staple of Netflix’s catalog. I’ve likely seen it three times now and at 50 episode long that’s saying something. Kind of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soul Eater is my Netflix comfort food, if you don’t want to think and have a good time turn on Soul Eater.
I of course would unreservedly endorse this series to be watched if you have missed it. It has a superb blend of comedy and well animated action. With a unique art style its not a huge surprise it was a hit when it aired in the late 2000's.
Furthermore while it is a long series it doesn’t suffer from the feeling of pointlessness with no ending. Especially near the halfway point the anime has a clear end goal the rest of the series moved towards. That being said as an adaptation of a popular manga it decided early to become its own thing and charted its own course much in the same way as the original Full Metal Alchemist. As the anime comes to its ending rather organically and logically instead of a tacked on anime original ending that leaves everyone felling hollow.
Who It’s For? People who may have only seen a shonen action show on TV like Bleach or Dragon Ball, but don’t have the time for a 300+ episode commitment.
With a second season of Blue Exorcist announced now seems as good a time as any to enter the battle with the Son of Satan. Blue Exorcist was an extremly popular anime during it’s time even garnering an anime movie, however other shows most notably Attack on Titan stole some its thunder. That being said while its glow may have wained its quality never has and remains a very good action adventure show.
With a well made dub, good plot, and crisp animation even over half a decade later the show still looks great. That being said there is the issue that it doesn’t end that well. With an anime only ending the last eight or so episodes are basically up to you if you want to watch them or not.
Personally I’d advise sticking with the manga canon (you’ll know when it switches it’s that obvious) and wait for the second season to be released. At the very least its a fun ride for fans of action with a little bit of heart.
Who It’s For? The exact same people who like Soul Eater.
This series really came out of nowhere for me. I had recently finished another anime on this list and Netflix recommended this. So absent-minded I let it play as I continued to play my game with this as little more then background noise. Next thing I know around six hours later and very late into the night I had finished watching the show, the game long forgotten.
K is kind of unique as best as I can figure the entire series takes place over a single day. A collection of events seemingly brought about by fate and a greater power. Despite being set at a school it’s not like those other school based animes that are littering the scene right now as the setting is almost incidental, providing little more then a colourful backdrop. In the end the show is a very good and like many on this list it is also quite pretty. Again there is far worse uses of your time then this particular series.
Who It’s For? Honestly pretty much anyone. It’s a pretty compact and well told story that will entertain for the duration of the run time.
Note: Waiting patiently for K: Forgotten Kings...
If one thing is clear about Netflix’s anime selection it’s that it is decidedly aimed towards the male demographic - which you can clearly see on this list. However it’s not all Shōnen and Seinen fare as Vampire Knight and it’s sequel Vampire Knight Guilty are certainly within the Shōjo genre. It also just happens to be good enough that anyone can enjoy it male or female, it’s not a stretch to call this one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
A warning though if you can’t stand bishonen character designs then this series is not for you. Literally every male in the series is a pretty boy fitting some kind of Shōjo archetype. However it’s modern Gothic setting, surprisingly good action, and a dub that actually keeps the tone of the series helps raise it above some of it’s contemporaries.
I’d encourage everyone to at least give this a series a chance. Who knows you may find yourself liking it the same way I did. It’s just a shame about the ending... Also can we stop calling this Twilight from Japan, comparing the two does a massive disservice to Vampire Knight.
Who’s It for?: The ladies for sure and anyone who has an open mind about entertainment properties.
Alternate Pick: Nana which has an 8.57 MAL Rating and can also be found on Netflix. Unfortunately I haven’t found the time to watch it yet but I’ve heard nothing but good things.
One of the old classics on the list, as I started writing this we only had one season of 24 episodes. Of course just due to its quality that was more then enough. However with many more episodes added I kept going down the rabbit hole, so much so I can’t keep up with them - thanks Netflix! Without really having to worry about withdraw if you like the series this is an undeniable recommendation.
Basically Rurouni Kenshin is one the best anime of the 1990's and despite its age it still holds up very well. The animation remains watchable even without 90's nostalgia goggles, however what makes is so good is its story. Foregoing the standard heroes journey, Kenshin is a story about redemption, a hero trying to obtain peace after a lifetime of bloodshed. Although there is still a lot of fighting its the emotional journey of the hero that makes this a series to remember.
Who’s It for?: Any fan of old school anime will enjoy this if they’re new to the series. Or really any anime fan in general, if you like the more serious episodes of Gintama this is certainly for you. Also for some reason good Samurai anime are kind of hard to come by.
Alternate Pick: Inuyasha. If every episode of Inuyasha was uploaded it may have won out but to recommend a series just as its getting good is kind of hard, especially when its competition runs strong through its entire episode count.
The Seven Deadly Sins is one of the biggest surprises I had from last year considering it was not on my radar while airing in Japan. Furthermore as Netflix’s second “Original Anime” following Knights of Sidonia it had some seriously big shoes to fill. However it did it’s job admirably while simultaneously being a completely separate and unique beast.
First things first for a long time watcher of anime this show will feel HORRIBLY cliched. I mean there were times it almost seemed to be a paint by numbers of its genre; despite this however the show goes far beyond the sum of its parts as it has a lot of heart. The animation is crisp if a little workmanlike and despite covering a lot of ground really quickly, the story isn’t confusing. All around its a very well put together anime that will leave you smiling. It also has that particular Netflix magic of “just one more episode”.
Who’s It for?: Any fan of action shows and movies will have a great time with The Seven Deadly Sins. If you’re a fan however of more high brow and cerebral shows this is not for you. The humor is simplistic and juvenile while the fanservice is excessive in certain respects. It’s a great show if you are looking for a nice simple time to park your brain and smile.
Alternate Pick: Fairy Tail had I written this a year ago Fairy Tail would be here as they’re so similar. However The Seven Deadly Sins blows it away in literally every way. However if you liked Sins you will likely also enjoy Fairy Tail.
A Second List of Selection will be coming, I bet you can guess some of the big names that will be on it too!