Even if Netflix doesn’t have HBO Max’s monopoly on Studio Ghibli, the streaming service’s anime movie choices are still worth checking out if you haven’t yet signed up for a Crunchyroll membership. If you haven’t seen any yet, there are plenty of mecha, transformations, and even Miyazaki (thanks, Lupin III!) to look forward to. In terms of its own films, the company’s investment has been hit or miss; nevertheless, its entry into the world of anime has been mostly good.
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If you’ve finished watching JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure or Demon Slayer on Netflix, there are still plenty other anime movies to watch. Our list of the top 10 Netflix anime movies includes classics, anthologies, and Originals, as well as lesser-known titles. Although the library of a streaming service changes frequently, especially in the case of anime films, this list is current as of July 2021.
The following are the 10 best anime films currently streaming on Netflix:
10. A Whisker Away
In the movies, there have been creepier ways to get closer to a crush, but they are few and far between compared to this. It’s not like you’re going door-to-door with a boombox or anything like that. However, even this outlandish premise yields beauty and a heartwarming romance in A Whisker Away, directed by Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibayama. An moody, unhappy troupe of middle schoolers, complete with crinkly toy tunnels, is the basis of Mari Okada’s script. When it comes to the magic from the Miyazaki canon (a face-dealing feline and an entire cat-world), it works nicely with some honest examinations of the mental health of its protagonists (not quite as deeply and darkly as Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with a similarly stylish flair). In spite of the fact that the characters are a little unpleasant at first glance (they are, after all, middle schoolers), the writing’s honesty shines through, and the film’s realistic animal animation and breathtaking images of small-town life in Tokoname continue to wow us. Jacob Oller, author
9. Modest Heroes
Japanese animation, in particular, but also other animation forms, such as short film anthologies, provide some of the most spectacular examples of cutting-edge visual storytelling in animation. What one needs to do is take a quick look at anime anthologies from the past 30 years: In addition to serving as important milestones in the history of anime, anthologies have served as a platform for the introduction of new and exciting talent to the field of animation. This is true of films like Masao Maruyama and Rintaro’s Labyrinth Tales (1987), Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories (1995), and even the 2003 American-Japanese co-production Animatrix. Yonebayashi, along with former Ghibli animators Yoshiyuki Momose and Akihiko Yamashita, have pooled their considerable creative resources to produce a new installment in the storied lineage of prestige anime anthologies: Modest Heroes, the first volume in Studio Ponoc’s series of animated short films. Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s “Kanini & Kanino” is the anthology’s first and most clearly “Ghibli-esque” short.
Yonebayashi’s directorial debut, 2010’s The Secret World of Arrietty, might be seen as a prequel to this short, which tells the story of a pair of anthropomorphic crab children living at the bottom of a riverbed. Yoshiyuki Momose’s second short, “Modest Heroes,” is the heartfelt centerpiece of the anthology’s second volume. “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose” depicts the story of a young woman and her son Shun, a joyful and unassuming youngster who was born with a crippling allergy to eggs. A high bar is established by “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose,” but “Invisible,” the anthology’s closing short, meets and even surpasses those expectations. As for the director, he is well-known as a character designer for the film Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood in addition to his previous work on Howl’s Moving Castle. But “Invisible” tells the story of a man who is plagued by a malady that makes him virtually invisible to everyone he encounters in the real world. With this collection of short films, Studio Ponoc has delivered a strong follow-up to its debut effort, and Modest Heroes embodies the phrase popularized by Rod Serling: “…there is nothing mightier than the meek.” A quote from Saint Egan,
8. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Children who want to help around the house but wind up making more of a mess than they clean is a sad thought. Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s upcoming film Mary and the Witch’s Flower features her as the title character. For the sake of Charlotte’s housekeeper and her great-aunt, Lynda Baron (Lynda Baron), she is unable to remove an empty teacup from Charlotte without dumping it on the floor. A walking catastrophe, that youngster. It’s almost heartbreaking. In the beginning, she’s a good kid, but she has nothing to do until she encounters a couple of outdoor cats who take her to a clutch of bright blue flowers. With no idea what the flowers are, Mary returns them to Charlotte’s and discovers that they give everyone who touches them a brief but powerful magical ability.
When the story begins, it begins with Mary and the Witch’s Flower’s plot: Witches’ academy Madame Mumblechook (Kate Winslet) and Dr. Dee (Jim Broadbent) lead Mary to an academy for witches where they put on a kind facade to hide their darker motives. Mary and the Witch’s Flower has a familiarity to it as a narrative: Filmmaker Shigeru Yonebayashi’s prior themes are sprinkled in for good measure, making this a sort of Harry Potter-lite Studio Ghibli. As a whole, it is vivacious, soft and attractive. We all search for magic in the world around us, and when we do, the world consistently disappoints us. Art, and possibly especially animation, has magic and life in it, as evidenced by movies like these. Andy Crump —
7. Lu Over the Wall
“Family friendly” is what GKids describes Lu Over the Wall as: a harmless, offbeat alternative to the normal computer-animated films featured in today’s multiplexes. Though “strange” and “whimsical” are two different things, Lu Over the Wall goes far beyond either category before even the opening credits have aired. Very little time passes in which reality is even vaguely identifiable. Even the smallest clues of relatable features that stimulate our empathy are exaggerated, warped, and turned nearly unrecognizably by the process of exaggeration.
This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s a good thing for the average moviegoer. Despite its simplicity, the story isn’t: After moving from Tokyo to the tranquil fishing village of Hinashi, Kai (voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the English version) spends his days hunkered down in his room, shutting off the rest of the world. Lu (Christine Marie Cabanos), a manic pixie dream mermaid crafted in tiny, joins Kai as he battles his own loneliness. Xenophobic themes bolster a fish-out-of-water storyline for an emo boy isolated in a sea of strangers. There are too many joyful musical interludes to count in Lu Over the Wall’s blend of joy and political allegory with brilliant color palettes and storytelling enchantment, as well as some genuine magic. Using the term “creative” to describe the picture is an insult to the film’s ingenious craziness. Andy Crump —
He’s a visionary in the dark industrial sci-fi genre. Japanese manga artist Nihei was trained as an architect before pursuing a career as a manga author, and his work is distinguished by a unifying fascination with imagined environments. Ghoulish and bow-legged synthoids fill the Byzantine factories with gothic accents, armed with bone-swords and gristle-shooters. Blame!, Nihei’s first and most well-known series, is widely regarded as the most important text in his artistic legacy, inspiring everything from video games to music to art and fashion. Anime adaptations of the series have been attempted in the past, but none have proved successful. However, this is the first time this has happened.
Hiroyuki Seshita of Polygon Pictures has finally released the long-awaited Blame! film with the help of Netflix. To stop the city’s relentless expansion, Killy must find someone with the “net terminal gene,” a feature that is elusive but believed to be critical to its survival. Blame! follows Killy as the latter searches the planet’s layers for the person. While Sadayuki Murai, best known for his work on Cowboy Bebop and Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, created the screenplay for Seshita’s picture, which was then overseen by Nihei himself throughout production, the story was condensed and made more of a narrative than an action film. Nihei’s distinctive look is faithfully reproduced by Hiroshi Takiguchi and Yuki Moriyama, while the characters are given distinct, instantly recognizable features and silhouettes that substantially enhance the story’s comprehension, making it more accessible. In terms of faithfulness to the manga, Blame! is a perfect introduction to the series. A strong case can be made that Blame! is not just one of the most philosophically enjoyable anime films of recent times, but also one of the best original anime films to visit Netflix in a long time. A quote from Saint Egan, the poet.
5. Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro
With each film, Miyazaki adds to the continuity of the anime canon in its own right. Even those films that could be regarded his “worst,” in terms of their visual storytelling and emotional virtuosity, receive so much praise that they still stand head and shoulders above those animators who merely want to achieve his level of success. Examples include Lupin III: the Castle of Cagliostro.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Miyazaki’s version on Kazuhiko Kato’s infamous master criminal, you’ve come to the right place. Miyazaki’s infancy as a director is evident in Castle of Cagliostro, which suffers from a sluggish middle section and a basic adversary, yet nevertheless manages to shine through the baggage of a preceding film. Fans of the series were outraged by the film’s decision to represent Lupin as a gentleman thief who only steals when he has a vague sense of honor, rather than an anarchist. In any event, Miyazaki’s pre-Ghibli masterpiece, The Castle of Cagliostro, remains a vital and essential relic. Even if a Miyazaki picture has flaws, it is still a success. —Jason DeMarco and Toussaint Egan
4. The End of Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion’s final two episodes are legendary among the show’s audience. Ikari’s self-loathing and hatred plagued him throughout the story, so the two-part finale, “Do you love me?” and “Take care of yourself,” was a departure from the show’s central conflict, instead taking place in Shinji’s subconscious as he tried to overcome the self-loathing and hatred he felt throughout the story’s duration. In response to the film’s unexpected and unpleasant conclusion, some fans threatened Anno’s life and damaged the Gainax headquarters.
As a result, Anno got to work on a two-part movie conclusion for the show that would be shown theatrically. End of Evangelion isn’t your cup of tea if you’re hoping for a lighthearted, joyous finish. As a result, anime viewers were treated to one of the series’ most tragic, avant-garde, and surprisingly upbeat finales ever. To put it another way, it’s all of Evangelion’s finest and worst put together into a film unlike anything that had come before. Evangelion’s subtitle, “the joy of death is in the act of rebirth,” holds true despite the film’s relentless darkness. A quote from Saint Egan,
3. A Silent Voice
It is refreshing to see a woman of Naoko Yamada’s caliber working in a field that has been plagued by overly sexualized representations of women in the name of “fan service.” Yamada’s films, in and of themselves, are works of art unto themselves. Inspired by filmmakers like Yasujiro Ozu, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sergei Parajanov and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Yamada is a master of capturing viewers’ attention and evoking feelings of melancholy and bittersweet catharsis through the use of delicate sound compositions, quick editing, and ephemeral color schemes, as well as characters with complex inner lives full of complex and relatable struggles. In this regard, the film A Silent Voice, based on Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, is a shining example.
After meeting Shoko Nishimiya, an autistic newcomer to his primary school, Sho Ishido insults her mercilessly in front of his peers. As soon as Shoya goes too far and forces Shoko to move yet again out of worry for her safety, he is shunned and becomes a pariah among his friends. Shoya and Shoko meet as teenagers and Shoya tries to make apologies for the harm he did on Shoko, all the while struggling to comprehend his own motivations for doing so. The film A Silent Voice has a great deal of depth in terms of its portrayal of adolescent abuse, healing, and forgiving ourselves and others for the wrongs we’ve done. A quote from Saint Egan,
2. Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
Char’s Counterattack has the weight of three seasons of television behind it as the first Gundam theatrical feature and the closing chapter in the original tale launched in 1979 with the “Universal Century Timeline” of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series.
Hi-Streamer, a novel by Gundam inventor Yoshiyuki Tomino, was faithfully adapted into the film by Tomino himself. Char’s Counterattack, often regarded as the best Gundam film, concludes the 14-year rivalry between Earth Federation “hero” Amuro Ray and Neo-Zeon leader Char Aznable. An asteroid laden with nuclear weapons is dropped on Earth by Char’s Neo-Zeon force, which would free the colonies from the yoke of oppression by Earth Federation opponents, but would also wipe out the whole human race. When it comes to Gundam stories, Tomino takes a rigorous sci-fi approach, explaining how things like huge mobile suits and “newtypes” work (humans that have evolved to acquire psychic abilities). Char and Amuro’s animosities and enmities are thoughtfully explained by Tomino, who prevents the viewer from picking a clear winner. When it comes to discussing war’s horrors and how humanity, despite its many accomplishments, can’t manage to shake its baser tendencies, the Gundam series has never shied away.
Amuro vs. Char’s Counterattack tries to do the same thing, although it’s primarily focused on finishing up the rivalry between the two characters. Beautiful space battles, an outstanding score by Shigeaki Saegusa, and some of the most renowned Gundam designs in the series’ history make this film a high point of the Gundam Universe without a doubt. One drawback is that if you haven’t invested in these characters for hundreds of episodes of television, the plot can be confused and Char/finale Amuro’s will likely not resonate as powerfully. Char’s Counterattack is an important moment in the Gundam universe, and it’s worth revisiting over 30 years after it first appeared on the screen. “Blessed is Zeon!” —J.D.
Most, if not all, of Mamoru Hosoda’s original films created in the last decade have some degree of autobiographical content. It’s hard to say how much of the plot of Summer War was lifted straight from the director’s 2000 directorial debut Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, but one thing was certain: it was the story of Hosoda’s first meeting with the family of his future bride. Hosoda’s mother’s death in 2012 inspired Wolf Children, which was in part motivated by Hosoda’s own fears and dreams about becoming a parent. It was immediately after the birth of Hosoda’s first kid that The Boy and the Beast was completed, a product of his own questions about the role of a father in his son’s life.
His first-born son encountering his infant sibling for the first time inspired Mirai, Hosoda’s sixth film, rather than the director’s own personal experiences. The story of Kun, a young boy who has recently learned of the birth of his younger sister Mirai, is told from his point of view, and the result is a beautiful adventure fantasy drama that takes the audience on a journey through Kun’s entire family tree, concluding with a touching epilogue that emphasizes the beauty of love and being loved. Mirai is Hosoda’s most accomplished picture, the first non-Studio Ghibli animation to be nominated for an Academy Award, and an experience that is both educational and entertaining.