As UK-based anime fans, we pay close attention to the comings and goings of Netflix’s otaku offerings. While there are plenty of quality shows, we’ve taken out the hard work and put together the top seven, so all you have to do is sit back, Netflix and chill.
The classic, and still a stunner. More than just a notebook and your common teen with pretentions of superior knowledge, Death Note tells of the borders between religion and faith, righteousness and evil, loathing and lust. Light’s an unusual anti-hero who, repugnant as he is, maintains a fascination through the enigma of his motivations. His dance of domination with super sleuth L is a masterclass in putting the seduction back into the hero’s triumph, and the villain’s comeuppance.
Hunter x Hunter
We aren’t quiet about our love of this show, especially its morally ambiguous magician, the hunky Hisoka. But considering it as a whole, Hisoka’s just a fragment of what makes this a rewarding watch. Its main and even sub-cast of characters all embed themselves in the heart before you’ve even realised it, so you’re soon feeling every punch right along with them. And trust me, there’s a lot of punching, and bleeding, and dismemberment, and tears. Starting from base with the loveable, simple, rambunctious hero in search of his father, it embraces the most prominent shounen tropes, and proceeds to knock them up several notches.
Here’s a different breed from the fighters we’re used to seeing on Netflix, or even in most shounen anime. Original author Nobuhiro Watsuki set out to write the 90s manga with the goal of creating something different to all other shounen series around at the time. The resulting show is serene and romantic, wavering into darker sensibilities as the story goes on. Forgiving for us and its characters, even in its deepest shadows, it always brings us back to the calm warmth with which it begins.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
“I am the bone of my sword.” Come on, who could resist that? This one might well be a grower for some, but once it gets its grip, you’re hooked for good. On its surface it’s a wish-fulfillment vehicle of grandiose proportions, especially for the history and mythology nerds out there. But as the human Masters and their Servants, warriors torn from all Earthly dimensions, clash in the Holy Grail War on epic levels of good and evil, you unlock this show’s secrets without even trying. The war and its warriors are beautiful, tragic and reflective; somehow, the stranger they get, the more we can see of ourselves.
The Mushi are primitive beings, ones that were around before the first bacteria on Earth. Ginko, a Mushi Master (Mushi-shi) is one of the few who can see them, and one of even fewer of the wanderers who attract them. He floats in the mist of dust under leaf cover, travelling from sleepy village to musty settlement, and helping people who find themselves troubled by the ancient spirits. The plot’s trajectory is drops in a river, the ripples rarely touching, the emphasis more on the atmosphere’s early morning chill.
For cowboys in space, there’s no promise of vengeance on your enemies, or even finding the job that will feed you and keep your ship in the air. Although we grow fond of the crew of the Bebop and want to see them take down that six-figure bounty, we never truly know them. We just cross them like stars in an endless night. It’s this character dynamic that makes Cowboy Bebop stand out among its fellows. Feeling in your gut that they’re only hitching rides together until they’re drawn down different roads, makes it no less heartbreaking when they go their separate ways.
Ghost in the Shell
Mamoru Oshii’s anime film speaks for itself. The apathetic eyes of Motoko Kusanagi are a more accurate portrayal of our attitudes to intertwining tech and flesh than ever before. But when you’ve watched it and wondered “who am I?”, don’t hesitate to go straight into its spin-off Stand Alone Complex. There you won’t only go deeper into the operations of the Section 9 security force and the cybercrimes they fight, but the true humanity of its characters, including Kusanagi.