Anime is unfairly given a bad rap, particularly with adults. Yes, it's animated, but the stories are generally mature, complex and compelling. The best anime series have stood the test of time, or are even continuing to evolve. Dragon Ball Z, for instance, one of the most iconic anime programs of all time, recently released a feature-length film in North America. In Japan, there's yet another spinoff of the main series.
While DBZ is not available on Netflix, several other series are on the streaming platform. Some of them are crude and dark, others are light-hearted and campy. Here are the best of the bunch for your binge-watching enjoyment.
Attack on Titan: It might not seem possible at the surface level, but Attack on Titan has been favorably compared to Game of Thrones. Both are fantasy worlds with Medieval themes. Moreover, both shows are infamous for killing off major characters at a moment's notice.
Without giving too much away, Attack on Titan's initial premise has a world inhabited by giants, called Titans, who eat people with no remorse. The only way for humanity to stay safe was to build outlying walls to keep the giants out. It worked, but the show begins when the initial wall is destroyed by a Titan (giant, even by Titan standards), and a team of fighters must band together to stop a seemingly unstoppable force.
It's brutal but excellent television, arguably the one of the best anime series still churning out new material. As an added bonus, the opening theme song is incredibly catchy.
Gurren Lagann: This show works as a parody of more serious mecha anime series centered around giant mechanical robot action (there are a lot of them). As such, it never takes itself too seriously. The raunchy, unfiltered characters in Gurren Lagann are inherently likable, largely because they act as caricatures of themselves.
The show centers on two leads — Simon, a young, shy kid, and the boisterous and overconfident Kamina — who lived underground until an earthquake tore apart their community. Together, they hope to broker some kind of peace with the Beastmen who live above ground and terrorize mankind with their giant robots. But what makes Simon and Kamina special are that they can use a robot of their own.
Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: The two series are highly popular, and feature the same leads: two brothers who attempt to revive their mother with a forbidden human transmutation. It doesn't go well, and both of them lose a bit of themselves in the process.
The younger brother, Alphonse Elric, becomes a disembodied soul trapped in a metal suit of armor, while Edward Elric loses his arm to bring Alphonse's soul back. Their only hope to restore their bodies is to retrieve the Philosopher's Stone. It's an emotional journey in both series, though Brotherhood is more faithful to the manga adaptation. Either way, it's a compelling, gritty anime.
Ouran High School Host Club: This satirical romantic anime series has no problem making fun of itself — and the more serious undertones work because of that. Ouran High School Host Club is, essentially, about a group of high school gigolos who entertain high school girls for money. When one girl, Haruhi, accidentally breaks an expensive vase at the Host Club, she must work to pay off her debt to the organization.
The group's perspective is changed for the better with Haruhi's introduction, and things become more interesting when she has to disguise herself as girls enter the club for their own entertainment. The animation, although a decade old, is still stunning by today's standards.
Death Note: Similarly to Attack on Titan, Death Note has a TV equivalent of its own: Dexter. The show centers on a lead, appropriately named Light, who comes in possession of a book. When a name is put into the book, the named person dies. He believes he's killing people for a greater purpose — like Dexter Morgan, to an extent — but the Light's slow moral unraveling of captures viewers' attention.
What's more, the architect behind the deaths in the notebook is Ryuk, a creature that survives by killing humans, and thus, the book serves his purpose nicely. The artistic rendering for him is absolutely creepy.
Knights of Sidonia: This one is actually a Netflix original — one of the few anime series with this distinction, and the streaming service's first. While the concept is similar to others within the genre, Knights of Sidonia still entertains. The remainder of humanity is left on a giant, floating spaceship, constantly on the run from the aliens that nearly wiped everyone out. Humans can, to some degree, fight back using humanoid robots.
The biggest criticism of the show is its computed animated style, which can be a bit jarring to the uninitiated, but season two of the series is noticeably improved from a production standpoint.
The classics (YuGiOh, Pokémon, Naruto): Chances are, if you've had any interaction with anime that isn't Dragon Ball Z, it was YuGiOh, Pokémon (Indigo League specifically) or Naruto. All three have their merits — and are available to stream on Netflix.
Whatever the preference, all three series are suitable for a nostalgic rewatch. Conversely, for the uninitiated, you can see what all the childhood hype was about.