Since I last did this exercise in July of 2016 a lot has changed. Most notably, Netflix has gone from a tertiary player in the anime market then to one of the most intriguing players to watch from a Western perspective now. With new “Netflix Original” series popping up monthly and older well regarded series remaining on the platform in both dubbed and subbed formats Netflix is likely the premier platform for newcomers, while an increasingly important platform for fans of the medium.
Note: Netflix has regional variations. This list is based on series I have access to in Canada. Furthermore, like the 2016 version I prioritized dubbed Anime though subbed only anime are included somewhat. Also personal preferences play a huge role so if you disagree do so in the comments... constructively.
Further Edits: By popular demand Little Witch Academia has been added to the Honourable Mentions, as its EASILY the number one most recommended in the comments.
Knights of Sidonia was Netflix’s first step into the world of anime licensing giving us the hilariously incorrect idea of a “Netflix Original” Anime. Looking back all these months later who would have thought how completely Netflix would embrace the medium of anime. I would argue this is largely based on just how good Knights of Sidonia was for Netflix.
When it released the hype for Knights of Sidonia was quite real. With the series gaining wide praise for its engaging story, HP Lovecraft meets Macross feel, and unique art style. All around it was one of the better anime of 2015 and is still one of my favorites.
That being said the same cannot be said for its sequel series. As much of what made the original great was jettisoned for a hackneyed love story I am still angry about. All around unless a third series is announced it is my advice that you stick to Season One and that is it.
Who It Is For? Any fan of Science Fiction would be well serviced by watching Knights of Sidonia. As it is 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 series out.
Sadly, one of the best anime of the mid 2000's may have been overshadowed by its god awful live action adaptation in North America and on Netflix. However the anime adaptation of this seminal Shonen Jump manga remains one of the best on the service and is a fan favorite for a reason.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Death Note may be my favorite anime on this list as it has something a lot of anime lacks, the ability to improve with repeated viewing. While many anime peak after the first viewing, Death Note has an ability to work its way into your mind. Causing you to argue the fundamental questions its presents. Is Light a villain? Does light start out evil or become evil... or is he even evil at all? Death Note is great at making you think, not bad for an anime aimed at high school kids.
Who it is For? I often use Death Note as a go to “Show to people who do not like anime” and it works most of the time. You may not like it as much as I do, however most do enjoy it.
PS: Yes Light is a villain, he doesn’t become evil he is evil in the first episode.
I am so happy I am able to add this series to this list in 2018! While Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood has been a staple of both Netflix and Anime “Best of Lists” for what seems like forever, it was sadly incomplete on the streaming giant. That has changed recently with the final part being added to Netflix this year. As such the longest (continuous) entry on this list can finally be added.
Honestly, I do not think much needs to be written about this entry if you are reading right now. As even if you have not seen the series you have likely heard about it. Like Neon Genesis Evangelion before it, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the few “Must Watch” anime the internet has.
While the series has received some backlash due to its popularity, I personally find that ungrounded. Brotherhood is really as good as people say it is, if you have not seen it yet now is the perfect time to do so.
Who It Is For? Pretty much everyone. Its a rare series that can be enjoyed by anyone in the fandom.
PS: The original is also on Netflix.
Another example of the “Netflix Original” that is totally not Netflix original comes Kakeguri. A contender for the strangest anime on this list. The series focuses on an elite high school (don’t leave!) where gambling rules the day. Eventually a new student shows up who upends the established order in a series of increasingly insane games of chance.
For an anime based on a shonen manga it subverts most expectations that that holds. For one, despite being a “battle manga” almost the entire main cast is female and despite this skinservice is kept to a minimum. However this show revels in its other form of fanservice which you can clearly see just by watching the first episode. Kakegurui is weird, however it is also oddly captivating. If you watch it I am sure you will have an opinion on it. Also the Opening and Endings are great.
Who is it For? Watch and see, it is really the only way to tell.
Another repeat entry from the last list. On first viewing The Seven Deadly Sins quickly became one of my favorite shonen anime of recent years, this has not changed. Although Funimations My Hero Academia has overtaken it as my personal favorite, I would argue The Seven Deadly Sins is Netflix’s finest offering in the battle anime genre.
As I wrote in my review of the series (see below) The Seven Deadly Sins is much more then meets the eye. Although a little cringe inducing at times, it oftentimes surpasses its genre limitations to be something special. The localization efforts on Netflix’s part are also top notch and the series looks good if not eye popping.
Who it is For? Fans of the shonen genre will love the series. It is well paced, with a good amount of action, and likable characters. Although recently surpassed in the genre by My Hero Academia it is still one of the best series around.
Note: The series “Season Two” as Netflix refers to it is the mini-series Signs of a Holy War which is complete filler and pointless. It never once captures the magic of the original series and I would advise skipping it entirely and wait for the real second series currently airing in Japan right now.
The pair of uFotable Fate series are likely the prettiest anime on Netflix today. With film quality animation these are easy recommendations on the visual splendor of the series alone. However the pair are not just a pretty face but some of the deepest and most compelling anime on Netflix. While the character relationships can get a little confusing the series are a much watch for fans of the medium.
I would argue that if one watches Fate/Zero you should continue through with Unlimited Blade Works as though they are technically sequels, they work much better as two halves to one whole. As certain character arcs and relationships only really have a satisfactory ending when both series are watched.
Who it is For? Anime fans who like complicated and compelling stories with great action. Not great for history and mythology buffs though...
Note: A third Fate series Fate/Apocrypha is also on Netflix and is the first “Netflix Original” Fate. I personally do not enjoy it as much as the other two but it is a solid anime. A fourth Fate series Fate/Extra will also be added to the platform shortly as it is currently airing in Japan, I have no opinion on its quality.
While Netflix’s anime offerings tend towards the action side of things it does have some lighter anime fare that is just as good. One of my personal favorites is Ouran High School Host Club. Explaining the premise of the series is kind of pointless I find as you know what it is about from the title or you don’t. However at its core it is a reverse harem romantic comedy about a bunch of socially inept (but very pretty) misfits who find companionship and familiarity in each others company.
Watching this anime can be very relaxing as its trope based humor, blends very well with its more touching humanistic elements. Effectively if you are ever feeling down watching Ouran High School Host Club can often cheer you up. Shame how it has an annoying anime original ending...
Who it is For? Anyone who isn’t automatically turned off by the phrase “reverse harem romantic comedy”.
After watching Your Lie in April you may need a quick dose of Ouran High School Host Club as this anime while beautiful is a one time watch. However, I would argue people should watch this series as it is one of the more touching anime on the platform. Honestly though it can be a tougher watch for some people if they’ve gone through similar experiences I find.
Who it is For? People with some tissue paper handy.
Sexy, bloody, disturbing, awesome, sadistic, and many more words have been used to describe Devilman: Crybaby in recent weeks. Each one of them likely correct. Devilman: Crybaby is not for everyone but those who it is for will eat this anime up in a matter of hours. As Devilman: Crybaby is something very important right now - it is radically different.
From the mind of Go Nagai and Masaaki Yuasa Devilman: Crybaby is easily the most mature and inventive anime in recent years. It is not slick and technically beautiful like Fate/Zero, its not trope filled and by the book like The Seven Deadly Sins, but it is Netflix’s biggest risk yet in anime and I would argue its the services greatest success. I doubt Devilman: Crybaby would exist without Netflix and that alone justifies Netflix’s place in this space. Netflix PLEASE MAKE MORE OF THIS!
Who it is For? Honestly, no idea. Luckily after watching the first episode you will know if the series is for you or not.
Attack on Titan: You like it or you don’t and honestly I do not really care which. No dub on Netflix.
One Punch Man: Awesome series, no dub kept it off the main list.
Kill La Kill: People seem to like it, but I wasn’t a huge fan.
K: Made my first list and is a fun series.
Soul Eater, Blue Exorcist, Maji, and Rurouni Kenshin, : All are pretty fun series but better Shonen are out now overshadowing them.
Sword Art Online (Aincrad Arc): I did not feel like trolling enough to put this on the main list. However, say what you will that first arc was good anime.
Little Witch Academia: Added by popular demand.
Anyways this is my list, if there is any series you think deserves to be listed make your case in the comments. This is by no means an exhaustive list and is likely to change quickly as Netflix is quickly becoming a power player in anime distribution. Thanks for reading!