Home Netflix The 20 best anime to watch on Netflix (November 2021) – Polygon

The 20 best anime to watch on Netflix (November 2021) – Polygon

The 20 best anime to watch on Netflix (November 2021) – Polygon

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From supernatural action dramas to slice-of-life comedies
Netflix’s continued investment in anime has yielded fruit over the past couple of years, amassing a selection of some of not only the most popular and iconic anime series in recent memory but a host of impressive original anime titles that have secured the platform’s position as of the go-to streaming services for the medium. With over 100 titles to choose from across a smorgasbord of subgenres ranging from sci-fi, fantasy, slice-of-life comedy, mecha, action, and more, the right anime for the right mood has never been more available and simultaneously harder to find.
Don’t sweat it; we’ve got you covered. Poring over Netflix’s rich catalog of anime titles, we’ve assembled a list of 20 of the best anime to stream on Netflix right now. From classic series like Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion, Netflix originals like Devilman Crybaby and Rilakkuma and Kaoru, here are the very best anime series the platform has to offer.
Based on mascot company Sanrio’s original character, Netflix’s original animated comedy Aggretsuko follows Retsuko, a 25 year old anthropomorphic red panda working in the accounting department of a Japanese trading company. Frustrated with her thankless job, domineering boss, and miserly love life, Retsuko vents her millennial rage in the only way she knows how: through death metal karaoke. Eventually, Retsuko’s misery and the knowledge of her after work activity catch up with her professional life, forcing the young red panda to experience a series of meaningful revelations and changes while struggling to figure out what just exactly she’s wants out of life and who she wants to build that life with. Eccentric, funny, and deeply relatable, Aggretsuko is anime’s answer to Bojack Horseman. With over three seasons of 15 minute episodes and fourth set to premiere in December, now is the perfect time to catch up and see what all the hubbub is about Aggretsuko if you haven’t already. —Toussaint Egan
Beastars tells the story of a wolf who wants to have sex with a rabbit, but worries he will devour said rabbit. I think it’s a metaphor for puberty. Maybe it’s holding a magnifying glass to sexual violence on campus. Or perhaps it’s a coming of age story about a generation of young people disconnected from their parents by rapidly changing norms. Frankly, I’ve stopped caring about what it’s about.
Beastars works when I quit trying to make a one-to-one connection between our world and its city of horny teenage carnivores and herbivores. I enjoy the show best when I take its internal logic on its own terms. In that way, Beastars is like Romeo and Juliet. A sexy, violent, and often frustrating tale of star-crossed lovers kept apart by society. And like the works of Shakespeare, Beastars can be contorted into whatever else you want it to be. —Chris Plante
Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop) and produced by anime studio Bones (My Hero Academia), Carole & Tuesday is a spirited drama that hones in on one of the most persistent passion topics of Watanabe’s career: music. Set on a terraformed Mars in the far distant future, the anime follows the story of Tuesday Simmons and Carole Stanley, two teenage girls from starkly different backgrounds who bond over their shared dream of becoming musicians.
Teaming up as a singer-songwriter duo, the pair navigate the thorny challenges and euphoric highs of their nascent musical career as they grow and bring out the best in both each other and those around them. Featuring the return of Cowboy Bebop screenwriter Keiko Nobumoto and original music and vocal performances courtesy of Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Denzel Curry, and more, Carole & Tuesday is a bubbly and beautiful musical anime bursting with heart where it matters most. —TE
Speaking of Shinichirō Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop, his 1998 sci-fi western noir anime produced by Sunrise, is considered by many to be one of most exemplary anime series ever made. Set in the year 2071, the series follows the stories of four people: Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, and “Radical” Edward as they traipse across the solar system hunting criminals and chasing bounties.
A work of retro-futuristic pastiche that pulls from several dozen influences in the creation of its own universe, Cowboy Bebop is an enduring classic of the medium for its rich storytelling, heady themes, and a spectacular and eclectic score by composer Yoko Kanno. The anime is so widely acclaimed that Netflix went and produced a live-action adaptation of the series starring John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Danielle Pineda. If you’ve somehow never seen Cowboy Bebop before, (1) now’s the perfect time to and (2) I am both jealous and excited for you. —TE
The best Cowboy Bebop episodes, as picked by the original dub voice cast
Based on Koyoharu Gotouge’s acclaimed manga series, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has quickly become an shōnen anime powerhouse on par with that of My Hero Academia and Naruto since the series premiered in 2019. Set in Taishō-era Japan, the anime follows the story of Tanjiro Kamado, a kind-hearted young boy who trains to become a demon slayer in order to find a cure for his sister Nezuko, who was transformed into half-demon hybrid in the wake of the attack that claimed the lives of the rest of his family. With jaw-dropping action sequences, brilliant hybrid animation blending traditional and 3D modelled backgrounds, and a genuinely stirring story centered on the power of family and finding strength in the harshest of circumstances, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is one of the most popular anime series today for good reason. With a highly anticipated second season set to premiere in December, you absolutely must find the time to watch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba now if you haven’t already. —TE
Based on Go Nagai’s massively influential manga and directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!), Devilman Crybaby was Netflix’s first original anime series and one of the breakout anime premieres of 2018. The series follows high school student Akira who, after reuniting with his childhood friend Ryo, is made aware of the existence of demons. Convinced that the only way to drive the demons back and save humanity is to create a human-demon hybrid — a so-called “devilman,” Ryo asks for Akira’s help by volunteering to fuse with one himself. Known for its unsparingly graphic action, ecstatic visual style, and emotionally gripping story, Devilman Crybaby is a phenomenal adaptation that breathes stunning new life into a bona-fide anime classic. —TE
Based on Q Hayshida’s dark fantasy sci-fi manga, Dorohedoro follows the story of Caiman, a reptilian-headed amnesiac living in a dystopian metropolis known as the Hole where humans are preyed upon by malevolent sorcerers from another dimension. With the help of his friend Nikaido, Caiman hunts down these sorcerers in his search for the one who transformed him; devouring their heads into his mouth where a mysterious face at the back of his throat passes judgement on their fate. Yeah, and that’s not even the series at its weirdest. Comical, hyperviolent, and oddly endearing, Dorohedoro is one of the most bizarre, unique, and impressive anime to grace Netflix since it first premiered in 2020. —TE
Co-directed by Gunbuster animator Shinji Higuchi and animated by studio Bones (My Hero Academia, Fullmetal Alchemist), Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan follows the story of Hisone, a rookie cadet who enlists in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in search of a sense of purpose and belonging. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she learns of the existence of “Organic Transformed Flyers (aka Dragons) and is chosen to become the designated pilot of one. Together with her dragon partner Masotan, Hisone must overcome the challenges of her training, bond with her fellow cadets, and eventually work to stop an apocalyptic event that threatens to destroy all of Japan. With charming character designs courtesy of Yoshiyuki Ito (Soul Eater, Concrete Revolutio), dazzling aerial combat animation, and a compelling story of personal growth through fast-made friendship, Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan is one of Netflix’s most entertaining yet oddly under-celebrated original anime series. —TE
Nearly 20 years later, Satoru Fujinuma remains haunted by the disappearance of his fifth grade classmate, Kayo Hinazuki. When his mother is murdered by an unknown assailant, Satoru discovers her death is somehow connected to Kayo’s abduction. Using his mysterious ability to travel back into the past, he becomes determined to save his mother and Kayo from their tragic fates and uncover the truth of who’s behind their deaths. Erased is an atmospheric, twisty, and gripping tale, so don’t surprised if it doesn’t even take a full weekend to get through it. —Sadie Gennis
If you’re looking for a show with strong and complex female characters, gorgeous animation, monstrous adversaries, and smokin’ hot mentor figures (that is a pun), then Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood might just hit all those itches. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follows alchemist prodigy Edward Elric and his brother Al, whose soul has been trapped in a suit of armor, as they look for a way to recover Als’ body. But their search leads to darker secrets about alchemy and the country they live in, uncovering a sinister plot that threatens the whole world. Unlike a lot of shōnen anime, which take viewers on a “let’s learn about curses/demons/Nen along with the protagonist!” arc, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood kicks off without much explanation, trusting viewers to keep up. This allows the show to jump start immediately, diving right into the action and complexities of worldbuilding. The plot is brilliantly executed, but never once sacrifices the character development along the way.
Fair warning: once you watch this show, every other anime you watch will pale in comparison. Just putting that out there right now. —Petrana Radulovic
Directed by Hiro Kaburagi (Speed Grapher) and produced by WIT Studio (Vinland Saga, Attack on Titan), the Netflix original anime Great Pretender is a rollicking comedy-drama with equal parts style, brains, and explosive action. Centering on the story of Makoto Edamura, a small-time Japanese conman who is taken under the wing of the dashing heist maestro Laurent Theirry, the series follows the intrepid band of thieves as they swagger from one beautiful locale to the next in their campaign to swindle the most notorious criminals out of their ill-gotten gains. Aside from the elaborate antics of the core cast, Great Pretender is absolutely stunning in its visual design; with exotic cities and countries rendered in picturesque layouts and backgrounds inspired by the British artist Brian Cook. Not only that, but with character designs courtesy of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and an infectiously jazzy score by composer Yutaka Yamada, Great Pretender is a feast for the senses and absolute blast to watch unfold. —TE
Every anime studio Trigger has produced, to some degree or another, has been influenced by the precedent of 2007’s Gurren Lagann. Directed by future Trigger co-founder Hiroyuki Imaishi, the 27-episode mecha adventure comedy-drama follows the story of Simon, a young 14 year old living in an underground post-apocalyptic village. Together with his childhood friend Kamina, the pair discover a mysterious robot head known as Gurren buried in the collapsed tunnels of their village just before it comes under attack by a horde of creatures known as “Beastmen.” From there the show exponentially escalates into an explosive, action-packed, expectation-defying adventure filled with drama, humor, heartbreak, euphoric highs and absurd levels of spectacle. Bursting at the seams with personality and fist-pumping excitement, Gurren Lagann is a giant robot anime for the ages and a must-watch for any fan of Promare, Space Patrol Luluco, or SSSS.Gridman. —TE
Hunter X Hunter is a 165-episode gift. Yes, there’s a cannibal furry arc. Yes, the clown man (OK, magician) is naked all the time. But look beyond the fact that I can’t describe this series in a way that will convince my friends to watch it. Hunter x Hunter is the pinnacle of shōnen anime. There’s not a shred of filler in it. A particular arc that involves Gon and pals fighting in the 251-floor Heavens Arena is the perfect example of Hunter x Hunter’s economy of storytelling: they only spend ten episodes there, and the narrative payoff is so good.
By the time I reached the 65-episode long Chimera Ant arc (shut up), I would have died for these characters, and Hunter x Hunter is at times so emotionally wrenching that I nearly did. —Simone de Rochefort
You know that thing you did as a kid when your friend would shoot their finger guns at you, but you’d say you were made out of metal, and then they say that their bullets are made out of metal-melting acid, but then you say that last night you snuck into their base and ate all their bullets? JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is exactly like that, except instead of imaginative kids, everyone is an extremely beautiful fully grown adult man with a name like “Robert E.O. Speedwagon” or “Kars.”
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is pure spectacle. It’s a series built around absurd confrontations where the stakes aren’t always clear and the rules might as well not exist, but it’s a joy to look at. Characters strut around in avante-garde, impractical outfits and strike dramatic poses. They’re all named (seemingly arbitrarily) after classic rock musicians. It’s the kind of series that encourages you to keep watching, not with a compelling plot or great mystery, but just with the promise of seeing beautiful and weird men do things. I think that’s okay. —Patrick Gill
Directed by Yo Moriyama (Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine), Megalobox is a futuristic reimagining of Asao Takamori’s iconic sports manga Ashita no Joe set in a universe where Megaloboxing, a form of boxing involving enhanced metal exoskeletons called Gears, is the most popular sport in the world. The series follows the story of a young underdog (aptly nicknamed “Junk Dog”) who dreams of becoming a prize fighter in the upcoming Megaloboxing tournament Megalonia, despite living on the fringes of society without access to a competitive Gear. After losing a fight to Yuri, a powerful boxer favored to become the first champion of Megalonia, Junk Dog’s coach convinces a local mob boss that he has the skills to win the tournament. Adopting the alias of “Joe,” the young man elects to set himself apart from the rest of the fighters in order to advance up the ranks of the bracket — by fighting his opponents without any Gear at all. With heart pounding fight scenes, riveting drama, and a thunderously uplifting soundtrack that will have you gripped at the edge of your seat, Megalobox epitomizes the type of rags-to-riches storytelling that makes the best underdog sports epics so, well, epic. —TE
Director Hideaki Anno’s apocalyptic mecha drama Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the undisputed titans of contemporary anime, commanding a passionate legion of fans since it first premiered in 1995 and amassing such a reverential reputation that it spawned a tetralogy of films dedicated to reimagining its vast universe. Set fifteen yeas after a worldwide cataclysm, the original series centers on Shinji Ikari, a 14 year old boy who is enlisted by his estranged father to pilot an enormous bio-weapon known as an “Evangelion” in order to combat a mysterious legion of creatures code-named “Angels.” Together with his fellow pilots Asuka Langley Soryu and Rei Ayanami, as well as his legal guardian / commanding officer Misato Katsuragi, Shinji must struggle with the pangs of growing up while defeating the Angels to save humanity. Of course, there’s way more to this premise than meets the eye. By equal turns psychological and eschatological, Neon Genesis Evangelion subverts audience expectations at every turn to deliver one of the most memorable anime stories of all-time, culminating in one of the most divisive and inspired finales ever produced for television. —TE
This comedic, reverse harem anime is one of the most iconic gone-before-its time anime. Joking about waiting for season two is practically a hobby of the shōjo community at this point. The series follows Haruhi Fujioka, an Ouran Academy scholarship student who finds herself indebted to the Host Club after breaking an expensive vase. At first, Haruhi is supposed to only run errands for the club’s six wealthy male members, who entertain female clients in the school’s unused music room. But due to her natural rapport with the clients, Haruhi is promoted to a host-in-training, a role which requires her to disguise herself as a boy — and which leads to ample opportunities to winkingly poke fun at typical shōjo tropes. —SE
Similar to fellow Netflix original Aggretsuko, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is another anime based on cutesy mascot character designs created by a stationary company. While the latter is beautifully realized in impressive stop-motion animation, the two share a common focus in centering on disgruntled officer workers yearning for a change of pace. The series follows a year in the life of Kaoru, a young human woman living with her three roommates: a large brown anthropomorphic bear named Rillakuma, a small white bear named Korilakkuma, and a baby chick named Kiirotori. Heartwarming, whimsical, and powerfully cathartic, Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a wonderful anime with adorable characters and a stunning art style. With a follow-up series titled Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure slated to release sometime next year, no is the perfect time to catch up on the series. —TE
Based on Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu’s popular dark fantasy thriller manga of the same name, The Promised Neverland follows a group of orphaned children who discover that they are being groomed to be devoured by demons by their adoptive guardian. Hatching a plan to escape, the children must remain one step ahead of their would-be wardens, all while searching for clues to the mysterious world outside the walls of their isolated home. Packed with tense drama, frightening stakes, and a narrative filled with unexpected twists and rapturous highs, The Promised Neverland is a stunning anime of horror and survival that will tug at your heartstrings until they snap. —TE
The highly acclaimed Kyoto Animation brings the Netflix exclusive Violet Evergarden to life with the beautiful scenes you’d expect from the studio. The main character, who shares her name with the series, is a young girl previously used as a killing machine by the military during a war. After losing both of her arms and having them replaced with metal prosthetics, she has to learn how to integrate back into society as an Auto-Memory Doll, which is essentially a trained ghostwriter for books and letters. It’s sweet and satisfying to watch Violet grow and learn about the complexity of human emotions, a journey complemented by gorgeous animation. The 13-episode series is available in its entirety in English and Japanese with English subtitles in addition to dubbed voices and subtitles in several other languages. —Julia Lee



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