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 catalogue of animated works, and often draw non-learners to begin learning Japanese.
Whether you’re looking for action and adventure in a fantasy realm or a heart-wrenching high school drama, you’ll find it among the many anime series on Netflix. This article is here to help you sort through the best of the best to choose your next binge-worthy series.
From robots to romance, here are the 10 best Japanese animes on Netflix in 2023
1. Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014)
Tomatometer: 93% (audience only)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Coming of Age
The series follows a young boy named Gon Freecss who finds out his father Ging, who he thought was dead, is actually alive and well. Not just alive, Ging is a legendary ‘hunter’ – an elite person whose work includes finding people and things, solving mysteries, and protecting knowledge, like a bounty-hunting spy.
Gon decides he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, goes to take the first exam to become a hunter, and quickly shows a natural talent for the job. From there, as you might expect, hijinx, adventures, battles, and mysteries ensue.
Hunter x Hunter is a classic shounen anime. (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 Naruto.)
The 2011-2014 series is probably the best of the adaptations of the Hunter x Hunter manga series and is widely beloved. The show is exciting and well put together, with lovable, fully developed characters.
2. Naruto (2002-2008)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Coming of Age
Speaking of shounen anime, Naruto is a classic entry in the genre. 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 terrorised 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.
3. Attack on Titan (2013 – present)
Genre: Action, Post-Apocalyptic, Dark Fantasy
With the second half of its final season scheduled to be released in 2022, 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 specialises in fighting Titans – only to discover that he himself can turn into a Titan. What does it mean? What are these Titans, anyway?
4. One-Punch Man (2015-2019)
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 favourite thanks to its great sense of humor, unusual hero, and unique animation.
5. Violet Evergarden (2018)
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.
6. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996)
Genre: Mecha, Action, Post-Apocalyptic
Probably one of the most talked about animes of all times and a classic of the mecha genre (show 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.
7. Aggretsuko (2018 – present)
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.
8. Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)
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!)
9. Your Lie in April (2014-2015)
Genre: Romance, High School Drama
A real tearjerker, this 22-episode series follows a young man who was once a piano-playing prodigy, but has been unable to play music since his mother’s death. The show is about him finding music again and learning to reopen his heart.
Based on a popular manga, the show is about relationships, trauma, and ultimately love – plus, it has a lovely soundtrack.
10. Kotaro Lives Alone (2022 – present)
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 neighbours who band together to create a found family for him. In particular, Sato bonds with his next-door neighbour, 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.
And those are the best anime series on Netflix right now
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.
Hold on! Anime is better when you understand Japanese
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