Anime on Netflix

by Theron Martin,

With more than 49 million subscribers in the U.S. alone and more than 93 million worldwide, Netflix is the undisputed behemoth of the streaming media industry. Its offering of anime content predates its entrance into the streaming video market in 2007, but since anime has never been a focal point for Netflix, such offerings have been limited compared to major anime-focused streaming sites. Over the past three years, however, Netflix has poked deeper into the anime market by snagging a few licenses and tagging them as “Netflix Original Series,” a label Netflix uses for titles that they either produce, co-produce, or in this case, exclusively distribute. So far, the company's standard practice of only releasing series in seasonal batches (albeit generally with dubs) limits their impact on the simulcasting scene, but there's no question that Netflix is starting to make more significant inroads into territory that was previously dominated by sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation. So here's our rundown of Netflix's current exclusive anime offerings.

Netflix currently has 11 anime titles across eight franchises that are classified as Netflix Original Series, as well as two upcoming titles: Perfect Bones (expected later in 2017) and DEVILMAN crybaby (Spring 2018). Current series are listed below in order of appearance on the service.

Knights of Sidonia
The first season of this all-CG production was the first Netflix Original Series anime back in 2014, and Netflix later picked up its second season too. A rousing musical score highlights this distant-future mecha tale involving massive colony ship Sidonia trying to fight off aliens while looking for a world to settle. A full review of its first season can be found here and its second season is reviewed here.

The Seven Deadly Sins
This 24 episode series from 2014-2015 was Netflix's second pick. Its story about disgraced superhuman knights (including a giantess and a fairy noble) helping an endangered princess is equal parts superhero tale and fantasy yarn, though it does pack in some keen character development too. Netflix also offers the series' four-episode 2016 sequel. Full reviews of both series can be found here and here.

Glitter Force
This 2015-2016 series is an Americanized version of the 2012 anime series Smile Precure!, the ninth installment in the Pretty Cure franchise. It runs 40 episodes across two seasons, skipping eight episodes from the original's 48-episode run. It involves a team of magical girls being assembled by the mascot character Candy to help Queen Euphoria of the kingdom of Jubiland thwart the minions of evil Emperor Nogo, who seek to release him from his sealed prison. In other words, it's standard magical girl fare. We don't currently have a review for it.

Netflix has both seasons (24 episodes) of this 2016 CG series from the same studio as Knights of Sidonia. It's a dark and graphic tale about Ajin, seemingly ordinary humans who discover after their first death that they can revive from any mortal injury and manifest ghost-like entities. This makes them quite valuable as test subjects to certain unscrupulous governments and companies. Full reviews of both seasons can be found here and here.

Magi: Adventure of Sinbad
Netflix has all of the Magi TV series, but this 13-episode season from 2016 is the only Netflix Original Series of the bunch. Set 30 years before the events of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, it's a prequel to 2012's Magi anime that focuses on the Sinbad's road to becoming king. Rebecca Silverman did a review for the series here.

This 26 episode mecha/fish-out-of-water title from 2016 tells of a samurai who awakens from 450 years of suspended animation to battle against the “ogres” (read: aliens) who destroyed his princess's clan in the past. However, both a modern teenager and one of his alien foes look disturbingly like his princess! In an unusual move for Netflix, the series was initially made available subtitled-only but is now fully dubbed. Full reviews of both halves of the series can be found here and here.

Cyborg 009
Netflix has both of the most recent anime entries in this seemingly eternal franchise. There's a 2015 OVA cross-over series, Cyborg 009 Vs. Devilman, which is streaming as three episodes totaling 90 minutes. At least some familiarity with both franchises is expected for this nostalgia trip, which sees both heroes initially coming to blows before realizing that they're fighting a common enemy, true to the spirit of classic American comic book crossovers. We don't have a review on this one yet, but the short version is that it's a good-looking and extremely graphic adventure that nonetheless lacks much inspiration or freshness. That criticism holds even truer for Cyborg 009 Call of Justice, a 2016 all-CG movie series that Netflix has broken up into 12 episodes. It's meant to be more accessible to franchise newcomers, and you can read our full take on it here.

The most recent Originals acquisition, this 2016 movie uses top-of-the-line Japanese CG animation to spin the old Gantz premise: people who thought they were dead but instead find themselves in a video game-like alien-hunting exercise directed by the black ball Gantz. No franchise familiarity is required for this nearly-nonstop action story though, and a full review can be found here.

The Best of the Lot

Honestly, that's a tough call. Of the nine Netflix Original anime that I have seen, GANTZ:O is the best-looking of the group, but I wouldn't call any of these titles outstanding in storytelling or characterization. By eliminating titles that are more inconsistent in quality, I'm left with the solidly entertaining Ajin and Kuromukuro, and of those two I'll go with the latter thanks to its more appealing visuals and likable cast.

The fact that Netflix seems to be picking up the pace and claiming titles a year or more ahead of release suggests that their experiment with anime is successful enough to warrant continuing. It's probably safe to say that anime will continue to be a small but significant part of Netflix's offerings for the foreseeable future.

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