Netflix has invested heavily in international content over the past years. Anime is no exception to this trend. Today, there are numerous Japanese anime shows available on Netflix.
To help you choose from all these shows, I’ve compiled this list of the Best Anime on Netflix, updated for 2020.
This list of 10 top anime on Netflix includes selections from multiple sub-genres: slice-of-life, romantic comedy, music, coming-of-age, and more. Classic shows and newer series all make appearances on this list.
As of publication time, we’ve checked to make sure all these anime series are available in at least the US and Canada. Many of these shows should also be available in other geographies like the UK, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Philippines, and more… though this is subject to Netflix’s whims.
Let’s now look at the 10 best anime currently on Netflix!
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10. Code Geass
Year: 2006 | Japanese Title: コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ | Director: Goro Taniguchi
I remember first watching Code Geass when I was in middle school. I was immediately mesmerized by the main character, Lelouch, who I still think is the best genius anti-hero to grace anime thus far.
Lelouch is a castaway prince who wants to enact revenge on the Britannian Empire (a fictional modern-day British Empire). He starts with the noblest of intentions, but it’s a genuine joy to watch him walk down the path of power and insanity. The only modern day character analogy I can point to is Walter Heisenberg from Breaking Bad.
To say the least, Code Geass is a modern classic. It’s well worth watching if you enjoy Machiavellian scheming and watching how power slowly corrupts even the best of us.
9. Attack on Titan
Year: 2013 | Japanese Title: 進撃の巨人 | Director: Tetsuro Araki
Attack on Titan is the gateway drug of anime. I’ve used it countless times to convert skeptics into die-hard fans—everyone from my sophomore year roommate to my younger sister. Most people are aware of it, so I won’t bore you with the details. However, no list is complete without mention of Hajime Isayama’s epic giant slaying action-horror-thriller.
Year: 2009 | Japanese Title: けいおん! | Director: Naoko Yamada
K-On! very much opened my eyes to the slice-of-life and “moe” genres of anime. Never thought I’d enjoy a show that’s essentially about… nothing. The show follows four high-school girls that start a band, sing, play music and do… cute things?
While the show might seem a bit out there for folks not used to anime, seasoned anime fans ought to give K-On! a try and go beyond well-trodden classics.
7. Violet Evergarden
Year: 2018 | Japanese Title: ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン | Director: Taichi Ishidate
More a visual masterpiece than a triumph of character or heart, Violet Evergarden impresses with its sheer beauty. I’ve come to expect great things from Kyoto Animation, but Violet Evergarden’s visual triumph puts it in the category of Makoto Shinkai. The beautiful use of lighting, vivid colors, gorgeous character designs, and the warm nostalgia of a bygone era really come through.
Violet Evergarden’s story feels like a bit of an afterthought to the visual splendor, but it follows the story of the namesake character, Violet, who was formerly a child soldier taught to shed all emotion. However, after the war, Violet wants to learn the meaning of “I love you” and works to become an “auto-memory doll”—a ghostwriter for people who cannot write or have trouble expressing their emotions.
More than anything though: watch Violet Evergarden for its incredible artwork and animation.
6. Carole & Tuesday
Year: 2019 | Japanese Title: キャロル&チューズデイ | Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Taking place in the distant future on a partially terraformed Mars, the show follows the story of Carole Stanley and Tuesday Simmons and their journey from mere street musicians to superstars. What I enjoyed the most about Carole & Tuesday is, surprisingly, its commentary on Artificial Intelligence!
Read our full review of Carole & Tuesday to learn more.
5. March Comes Like a Lion
Year: 2016 | Japanese Title: 3月のライオン | Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
I’m unfortunately no stranger to depression throughout my own life, and March Comes Like a Lion captures the struggle poignantly. The show is a slice-of-life masterpiece that follows Rei Kiriyama, a depressed 17-year old world-class Shogi player who lost his parents and younger sister to a car crash. Rei also has no friends except the Kawamoto sisters—whose parents also unfortunately suffered the same fate.
What’s most impressive to me is how March Comes Like a Lion does an incredible job of conveying depression. This occurs primarily through Rei’s understated dialogue, and making seemingly innocuous tasks seem like vast undertakings. As someone who understands what depression feels like—it certainly hit me hard.
Ultimately though, March Comes Like a Lion is a story of redemption. It’s a story of how Rei builds his relationship with the Kawamoto family and perseveres through his depression to once again find meaning in his own life. That’s certainly worth a look.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Year: 1995 | Japanese Title: 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン | Director: Hideaki Anno
What can I say? Neon Genesis Evangelion needs no introduction. Hideaki Anno’s epic mecha-psychological-thriller-horror anime still feels fresh and one of a kind nearly 25 years after its debut in 1995.
Neon Genesis Evangelion follows the tale of Shinji Ikari and the NERV organization, who must defend Earth against monsters known as “Angels”. The trials, tribulations, and inner universes of the characters feel incredibly relatable. Shinji genuinely feels and reacts like how a 14-year old would if you threw the weight of the entire world onto him. Neon Genesis Evangelion is also heavily laden with Judeo-Christian symbolism that make the plot more satisfyingly complex.
The show’s art still feels fresh to me. Its animation feels fluid, its direction is clean, and its colors are vivid. You can absolutely tell this was state of the art for its time. However – it’s the characters and the shared, mutual feeling of sheer dread that’ll chill you to the bones and make EVA a masterpiece.
Year: 2014 | Japanese Title: ハイキュー!! | Director: Susumu Mitsunaka
Coming-of-age sports thriller Haikyu!! is the best sports anime I’ve ever seen. We follow our hero Shoyo Hinata and the Karasuno high school volleyball team on their journey to become Japan’s number one high school volleyball team.
The chemistry among Karasuno’s volleyball team feels exceptionally real and captivating. That alone, even without tournament arc after tournament arc, will leave you wanting more.
In Haikyu!!, the sense of struggle, self-torment, camaraderie, and dedication feels awe-inspiring and certainly left an impression on me. If you want a sports anime, don’t miss this show!
2. Ouran High School Host Club
Year: 1995 | Japanese Title: 桜蘭高校ホスト部 | Director: Takuya Igarashi
Ouran High School Host Club is one of the best anime rom-coms. The show dazzles with a brilliant ensemble of characters and strong female lead.
Ouran centers on Haruhi Fujioka, the only commoner accepted to Ouran High School—a playground for the rich and famous. Fujioka ends up joining the school’s infamous “host” club, led by Tamaki Suoh, full of self-important philandering men of incredible wealth. It’s joyful to watch Haruhi and Tamaki’s romance blossom through genuinely hilarious banter and endearing moments of vulnerability.
1. Your Lie in April
Year: 2014 | Japanese Title: 四月は君の嘘 | Director: Kyohei Ishiguro
Topping our list of best anime on Netflix is Your Lie in April, an excellent slice-of-life series. Adapted from the eponymous manga, Your Lie in April follows the story of Arima Kosei, a young piano prodigy.
Kosei is a tragic character. His mother passed away due to a terminal illness, and he has a complicated relationship with the piano. When alive, his mother would emotionally blackmail him (by saying she might recover) to excel at piano. However, after her passing, he can’t help but think she’s haunting him. Thus, Kosei stops playing piano—until he meets another girl from his school, Kaori Miyazono.
Kaori is a violinist with an incredible passion for music. She genuinely views music as a form of self-expression, while Kosei gets mocked as a “human metronome” because of his more orthodox piano playing style. As their romance blossoms, so does Kosei’s relationship with the piano and life more broadly.
Your Lie in April’s excellent artwork only serves to enhance the experience. The whole show feels like it was pulled out of a Monet painting. Stunning depictions of cherry blossoms, cityscapes, stars, and the night sky almost feel Shinkai-esque in their quality, and just exude romance.
Admittedly, the show can feel a bit sappy at times, and occasionally uses melodrama to move the plot forward. However, the incredible artwork, well-developed characters, strong chemistry, and sheer romance left me genuinely moved for the first time in a long while. Trust me when I say that Your Lie in April is well worth your time.
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