Knights of Sidonia
In addition to possessing an intimidating library of live-action TV and cinema, Netflix has also invested in some fantastic anime series that you'd be mad to overlook.
The selection of anime pales in comparison to some of the streaming site's more popular categories, but its select acquisitions have been shrewd choices. Dedicated anime sites such as Crunchyroll require users to sift through a catalogue of questionable shows to reach the gems; Netflix's collection is, on average, of a much higher standard. Whether you're a Breaking Bad fanatic or go nuts for Battlestar Galactica, there's almost certainly an anime out there that's also right up your street.
Psycho Pass is a luscious fusion of Blade Runner, 1984, and Minority Report. In the not so distant future an insular Japan has closed its borders and handed over governance to a technocratic regime overseen by the mysterious 'Sibyl System'. All important decisions are handed over to Sibyl, which decides where people work, how they are rewarded, and most importantly, whether they are a danger to society by reading their 'psycho pass'. Distressing thoughts can see citizens locked up permanently, or worse, executed on the spot.
The series follows Inspector Akane Tsunemori, a member of the government division that is charged with seeking out and neutralising criminals and threats to the common mental health. Philosophical conundrums abound as Tsunemori grapples with forces all claiming to be the lesser evil. The perfect choice for those seeking a sophisticated sci-fi dystopia to get lost in.
Sword Art Online
This manga-turned-anime is about to reach peak relevance as we approach the dawn of VR.
Sword Art Online is the story of a virtual reality MMORPG that takes a sour turn. As the revolutionary game launches, its excited throngs of players discover, much to their dismay, that they are trapped inside the game and that anyone attempting to leave Sword Art Online will immediately have their brains scrambled. To make matters worse, anyone whose health bar drops to zero will suffer the same treatment. The only option for escape is to complete all 100 levels of the gargantuan MMO.
As you might expect it all goes a bit Lord of the Flies as the players' primal instincts take over. An exceedingly strong opening half is slightly marred by Sword Art Online's more curious narrative meanderings in its latter segment, but it's worth watching all the same. Characterisation and art style score highly, as does the show's depiction of societal breakdown among the trapped denizens of the MMO.
They look like you, they sound like you, but with one key difference: their only sustenance is human flesh. In this bloody anime series humans live alongside ghouls in Tokyo's bustling districts, but the latter must keep their identities secret for fear of capture and death at the hands of the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG).
Given it's unpalletable subject matter, Tokyo Ghoul is a surprisingly sensitive anime that often finds itself preoccupied with the psychological torment of its central character, Kaneki. This unlucky sod finds himself forced to enter ghoul society after an inter-species organ transplant leaves him half human, half abomination and desperate to devour the body of his fellow man. There are flavours of Neon Genesis Evangelion here, as well as the recent smash hit, Parasyte, and the whole affair is handled with an equally delicate touch.
Netflix has only made one series available, but there is also a second on offer at Funimation for anyone who thinks the series is too ghoul for school.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
What's the worst thing you've ever done? Burnt the toast? Failed to record Strictly Come Dancing? Whatever it is, it's probably insignificant in comparison to the defining sin of Edward Elric, whose attempts to revive his dead mother result in the complete disembodiment of his little brother and the loss of his right arm. So begins the pennant journey of Edward and Alphonse, who seek the return of their lost bodies in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.
This sprawling series is one of the largest anime available on Netflix, standing at 64 episodes. Don't be mistaken though, the quality here is as plentiful as the quantity - the series is regularly ranked as one of the top ten anime ever created.
Knights of Sidonia
Mecha, the genre where giant robots beat the heck out of each other, mile-high monsters, or whatever else they can get their hands on, is one of anime's most simple pleasures. Thanks to its forward-thinking programming team, Netflix decided to jump on the bandwagon and produce a mecha anime of its very own: Knights of Sidonia.
In the far-flung future, the remnants of humanity must survive the onslaught of sprawling xenomorphs known as 'gauna', which are relentlessly pursuing the spaceship Sidonia in the hope of a chowing down the last survivors. How to combat monolithic alien beasts? Easy: employ an army of humanoid robots equipped with space thrusters and 40ft lances. Zero-gravity jousting with abundant slash slash and pew pew noises ensues.
Some might find Knights of Sidonia's computer animated style jarring, but we'd advise you to stick with it as the quality dramatically improves in the show's second season.
Fate / Stay Night
Once you've moved past the awkwardly punctuated title of Fate/Stay Night, there's a great series to be enjoyed/loved. The series focuses on the events of the 'Holy Grail War' where combatants must summon fearsome warriors known as the Servants in order to prove they are worthy of the ancient artefact's phenomenal power.
More than any show on this list, this anime relies on the traditional 'power level' battles structure where the skirmishes become increasingly grand as the show progresses. However it's clever presentation of dark themes and superb visual style makes Fate/Stay Night an exemplary anime that is well worth your time.
Terror in Resonance
'Hi guys, we've got this great idea for an anime series'
'Oh really? Great! What's it about?'
'Well it's about this pair of teenage terrorists blowing up large sections of Tokyo using cuddly toys stuffed with explosives and thermite'
'Wow, they sound really interesting. What about the determined heroes tasked with stopping them?''
'Errrm, well, the terrorists are the heroes.'
'Wait, you're telling me you want to produce an anime endorsing terrorism, and not just any terrorism; kiddy terrorism?''
'No no, it's not like that at a....'
This is how we imagine the original pitch for Terror in Resonance could so easily have gone down, but luckily for us, some mad soul went and commissioned it anyway. The show's premise is simple: two teenage boys known only as Nine and Twelve sew chaos across Toyko using their specialist knowledge of explosives whilst taunting the police and world at large via their online alias 'Sphinx'.
This is probably the most reserved directorial endeavour from the revered Shinichirō Watanabe as it lacks the jubliance or comedic stylings of anime such as Samurai Champloo, but the result is just as compelling. Terrific characterisation and a deliciously atmospheric soundtrack make this eleven part series a must-see.
Attack on Titan
The 24-episode first series of Attack on Titan gets a little sluggish in places, but that shouldn’t put you off delving into its crazy alternate-reality world in which humanity is beset on all sides by monstrous, virtually unkillable naked giants that, for reasons which have not yet been fully explained, love nothing more than chowing down on men, women and children.
Creating a universe in which man is no longer the apex predator is interesting in itself, but Attack on Titan throws a compelling cast of characters, sweaty-palmed action scenes and some neat world-building into the mix to create a binge-worthy show. We’re looking forward to the long-awaited second series, due to air in 2017.