If you’re looking for fun content to help you brush up on your Japanese, good news – there’s a ton of great anime on Netflix right now.
While learning Japanese from anime (which simply means “cartoons”) on its own can be tricky, it can certainly be a great tool to help boost basic understanding. Anime series offer a massive catalog of animated works, and often draw non-learners to begin learning Japanese.
Whether you’re looking for adventure in a fantasy realm or a heart-wrenching high school drama, you’ll find it among the many anime shows on Netflix. This article is here to help you sort through the best of the best to choose your next binge-worthy series.
Tomatometer: 100% (1st season only)
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
The series follows a young boy named Gon Freecss who finds out his father Ging, who he thought was A teen girl from modern day Tokyo is transported back in time to feudal Japan, where she is tasked with preventing the evil half-demon Naraku from piecing together the sacred Shikon Jewel – with the help of the not-quite-as-evil half-demon InuYasha. InuYasha is a little dark, a little funny, a little romantic, and – in contrast to many other classic anime series – you can watch the entire first series on Netflix, with only four seasons.
If you love it, a second show with the same actors aired from 2009-2010 to complete the plot as told in the manga, which is available on Hulu in the US.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Coming of Age
Naruto is a classic entry in the shounen anime genre. (Shounen really means anime targeted at young boys, but is used practically to refer to PG adventure shows, often with a young boy as their main character. Think Dragon Ball Z, My Hero Academia, and Hunter x Hunter.)
While Netflix really only has the first half of the series, subtitled Shonen Jump!, it’s still worth mentioning as an extremely popular (and, frankly, fun) show.
The show is about a young boy whose body contains the powerful spirit of a fox demon who terrorized the town on the day he was born.
The boy, Naruto, desperately wants to be accepted by his village and become a top-tier ninja. Naruto follows his journey from outcast to young ninja as he finds mentors and makes friends. Naruto: Shippuden, the sequel, returns to their village several years later as the young ninjas have become young adults who go on much more serious adventures that challenge their bonds and morality.
While the show is exciting, with great battle scenes and exciting powers driven by the forces of nature, its popularity comes from its heart. The show ultimately is about fitting in, friendship, community, and the ties that bind people, villages, and nations together – and what keeps them apart.
Genre: Action, Post-Apocalyptic, Dark Fantasy
With the third portion of its final season coming out in 2023, Attack on Titan has managed to sustain both mass and critical popularity for the duration of its four-season run. With strong storylines, great animation, solid voice acting, and an exciting, dark premise, the show deserves the hype it gets.
Attack on Titan takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where the remainder of humanity lives within a few walls, having been ravaged by giant monsters called Titans.
The show opens as the hero of the show, Eren, sees his town attacked and his mother killed by a Titan. Vowing revenge, he signs up for a military unit that specializes in fighting Titans – only to discover that he himself can turn into a Titan. What does it mean? What are these Titans, anyway?
Unfortunately, US Netflix no longer has the later seasons, but you can start on Netflix and finish on Disney+, CrunchyRoll, or Hulu.
Genre: Superhero, Comedy
The anime One Punch Man is based on a popular webcomic about a superhero who’s grown bored of being a superhero. The issue is, he’s become so powerful that he can defeat any opponent with a single punch.
In print, the manga has sold over 30 million copies and been nominated for several awards. The animated series has also been hailed as an excellent send-up of the shounen genre.
With just 2 seasons and 24 episodes, it’s a quick and easy series to watch. One Punch Man gets great critical reviews and has become a fan favorite thanks to its great sense of humor, unusual hero, and unique animation.
Tomatometer: 100% (audience only)
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama, Romance, Post-War
This 13-episode dramatic miniseries based on a young adult novel follows a teen girl in a post-war fantastical world. After serving as a soldier, she has now become a ghostwriter for those struggling to express their feelings. The show is about her reintegration into society and struggle to find purpose while healing her emotional and physical wounds. Because of its popularity, Violet Evergarden has now also garnered 3 spin off movies and a special episode.
Genre: Mecha, Action, Post-Apocalyptic
Probably one of the most talked about animes of all times and a classic of the mecha genre (shows that include giant fighting robots, essentially), Neon Genesis Evangelion can be divisive, but is a must-watch for any anime fan.
The series takes place in a world once devastated by alien ‘angels’. It follows a troubled young man who trains to fight in the mech suits used to keep them at bay – but devolves into a psychological exercise that leaves the watcher wondering where the show ends and the pure philosophy begins.
Full of meditations on loneliness and alienation, and marked by a devolution from fully fleshed-out animated series to drawings and flashes of information, whether you love it or hate it, the series has become iconic. Its release led to a rebirth of the anime genre, with increased popularity and a greater focus on going deeper into the human psyche.
Genre: Comedy, Music, Slice-of-Life
Aggretsuko is a unique, slightly more adult anime – in that it’s about a dissatisfied office worker (who happens to be a red panda) who works out her frustrations through death metal karaoke. At once relatable and off-the-wall, Aggretsuko is an unusual but lovable series – especially but not exclusively for those who have felt underappreciated and overworked at a desk job.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Western, Neo-Noir
Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Western, Neo-Noir
Considered by many to be not just among the best anime on Netflix but one of the best anime series of all time, Cowboy Bebop bends genre, seamlessly blending comedy, action, drama, and adventure.
Cowboy Bebop is a largely episodic show following bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and his ragtag crew of misfits as they attempt to hunt bounties and make a buck (with mixed success) across the galaxy while avoiding their own sordid pasts. Highly stylized, short and sweet with just 26 episodes, and marked by an iconic soundtrack, Cowboy Bebop is a must-watch for anime fans. (Just don’t get it confused with the less popular recent live action version!)
Genre: Crime, Supernatural Thriller
When a teen boy finds a notebook from another realm that allows him to kill anyone simply by writing their name in the book, he starts using it to kill off known criminals. The sudden death of so many high ranking crime bosses attracts the attention of one of the world’s top detectives and a cat and mouse game begins.
Tomatometer: Audience score only – 100%
Genre: Comedy, Slice-of-Life
A surprisingly heart-wrenching, sweet and silly Netflix original, Kotaro Lives Alone has emerged as one of the best new anime series on Netflix this year. The series follows a four-year-old boy who moves into an apartment building on his own and the neighbors who band together to create a found family for him. In particular, Sato bonds with his next door neighbor, a manga artist named Karino whose life is transformed by his bond with the child. What appears on the surface to be a simple comedy becomes a sweet meditation on the nature of family and community, as told through episodic vignettes.
Grab yourself some dango, settle into the couch, and enjoy!
What do you think? Which will you choose? You can’t go wrong with any of these wonderful series – just don’t forget the subtitles.
So why not learn some? When you learn with Busuu, you get bite-sized lessons, award-winning course content, a community of 120 million learners, and feedback from native Japanese speakers. What do you say?
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