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.
So, 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.
Kill la Kill
Japanese director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s credits include work on seminal series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL and, more recently, Gurren Lagann (also available on Netflix), but it’s this high-octane story of revenge that has most delighted us in recent years.
Kill la Kill is the story of Ryuko Matio and her quest to discover who murdered her father. Between her and the truth stands an entire academy of students wearing ‘Goku’ uniforms that bestow upon them superhuman abilities, lead by the mysterious Satsuki Kiryuin. It’s a hyper-stylised parade of violence that takes some getting used to, but once you’ve adjusted to the notion that every punch will cause violent earthquakes and acclimatised to the problematic, if self-aware, treatment of the human form, then you’re in for a treat.
The animators over at Studio Trigger have produced a delightful assault on the senses, and what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in sheer charm and aesthetic wonder.
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.
Yes, Durarara!! is a bizarre name, and one which, according to the manga’s original author Ryohgo Narita, is totally meaningless. But don’t let the title put you off; the odd supernatural soap opera of Durarara!! is a winning formula.
The show oozes cool from every pore, and was deservedly a hit when released back in 2010. Set in the urban Tokyo district of Ikebukuro, it follows… well, a collection of oddities from teenage gangsters to a headless biker. Characters flow in and out the story, sometimes taking a prominent role for a few episodes and then disappearing. It’s a chaotic journey in which the lives of the three teenagers we’re first introduced to begin to fall apart, each episode bringing more unusual elements to the table.
The edgier direction and magic realist tropes mean that Durarara!! isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to commit to something a little unusual, it gives back in spades.
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.
Mushi-Shi is the relaxation tonic you’ve been looking for. It stands apart from all the other selections on this list as a testament to how anime need not shout and scream to get your attention. It’s also unique in that it’s almost entirely episodic, focusing each episode on a single vignette rather than developing season-long plotlines.
The show centres around the mysterious mushi - creatures which cannot be seen by normal humans, but which cause a weird array of phenomena from inclement weather to human ailments. Ginko, the show’s snowy-haired protagonist is a mushi-shi: an individual who spends his life travelling Japan and studying mushi. Each episode he must help the locals resolve relationships with the mushi, and one another.
It doesn’t sound like much, but Mushi-Shi is one of those shows you need to see to appreciate. The show’s score is as muted and calm as its colour palette, lending it an ethereal quality that is undeniably compelling. Go for a change of pace and give Mushi-Shi a chance - you won’t regret it.
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.