People were more open to new types of entertainment than ever in 2020. As the pandemic raged on, millions of us were unable to leave the comfort of our own homes, and we sought out a wide range of entertainment options, from Korean dramas to documentaries to cinematic adaptations of Broadway shows and musicals.
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Prior to 2020, anime already had a sizable fan base, but its popularity has skyrocketed in the United States, with Netflix subscriptions in the country increasing by more than 100% in the past year. Between October 2019 and September 2020, more than 100 million households around the world viewed at least one anime title on the site.
As a genre, anime encompasses a wide range of styles and subject matter. You can watch fast-paced action episodes with cliffhangers at the end of each episode, or you can watch heartwarming dramas. Shorter than a conventional television show, but filled with emotional punch, each episode is usually 20 minutes long. While some people identify anime with the shows we watched as children—and dropped when we were older—there are plenty of dark and serious episodes aimed at adults. It is likely that the majority of the titles on this list are inappropriate for children.)
On Netflix, we’ve compiled a list of the top anime series, ranging from thrillers to period pieces to new releases for the year 2020. Long-running series (such as One Piece, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, and others) having more than 100 episodes are excluded from this list. English subtitles and dubbing are available for all of these programs. Subbed and dubbed versions of some programmes are available in additional languages.
1. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011)
Among a group of six childhood friends, Meiko “Menma” Honma perished in an accident, and they began to drift apart. Jinta Yadomi, the group’s former departing leader who has become increasingly reclusive following Menma’s death, is visited by the specter of Menma years later. Only through granting Menma’s wish will she be able to depart this world and enter the next. Because of this request, Jinta and his pals are finally able to get back together and work over their feelings of loss after Menma’s premature departure. A key part of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day’s success is its ability to craft fascinating backstories for each of the protagonists while also seamlessly integrating their past and present. Healing and liberation can be achieved through analyzing one’s own scars in depth.
2. Attack on Titan (2013-present)
Titans, anthropomorphic, man-eating giants, were kept at bay for a century by a 50-meter wall (about 165 feet) built around the Earth. When an extraordinarily big titan comes and breaches the wall, allowing the monster creatures to stream into civilization, that tranquility is completely wrecked. Eren Yeager joins the Scout Regiment, the part of the military tasked with taking on the titans, after witnessing the death of his mother. You won’t have time to catch your breath in Attack on Titan’s storylines. Holding on to the will to live a free life is a central theme of the novel. The Scout Regiment’s cool-headed ace, Captain Levi Ackerman, makes his anime debut in this series, and he quickly becomes one of the most adored characters in the medium.
3. Beastars (2019-present)
The conflict between carnivores and herbivores simmers beneath the surface of the world of anthropomorphic animals. Even if the preconceptions connected with their species aren’t totally accurate, every character in this story is labeled with them. Despite his peaceful demeanor, Legoshi is feared and even suspected of murdering an alpaca student in the school’s theatre club because of his large gray wolf form. When Legoshi meets Haru, a dwarf rabbit, and develops feelings for her, he finds it more difficult than ever to control his predatory tendencies. At its heart, Beastars is a compassionate depiction of a person’s struggle to determine their own identity.
4. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006-2007)
It is currently known as “Area 11” in this universe, a totalitarian state ruled by the Holy Empire of Britannia. Lelouch Lamperouge gets caught in the crossfire of a terrorist attack by the Britannian rebels. Finally, someone saves him and provides him the enigmatic power of “Geass,” which enables him to exert dominion over other people. Lelouch, a British prince banished in Area 11, gains the ability to see into the past and hunt down those responsible for the death of his mother. When Lelouch uses his ability to command obedience from each and everyone, the morality of the story immediately becomes murky in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, a gripping series from the get-go. Is there a righteous method to transform the world? The show grippingly tackles this subject.
5. Death Note (2006-2007)
To Light Yagami, becoming a god is a lifelong ambition. For anyone whose name appears in the pages of the “Death Note,” the high school student learns that they will die if they write their name in it. From the get-go, he starts writing down the names of criminals in an effort to establish a world free of evil. In no time, international law enforcement agencies begin searching for the person or persons responsible for the unexplained run of deaths. A renowned but nameless detective goes by the name “L,” and the plot progresses as Light and L try to outwit one other at every turn. At the start of Death Note, the questions of justice and the difference between Light’s actions and those of the criminals he kills are immediately apparent. In addition to the social critique, the show’s cunning plans to reveal the other’s identity while concealing his own keep viewers fascinated.
6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (2016-2019)
Kusou Saiki’s only goal in life is to blend in with the background and not draw attention to herself in any way. Having a vast range of supernatural abilities, from mind reading to telepathy and even X-ray vision to psychokinesis, is quite a problem for him. There’s a lot of mental gymnastics required to make Saiki appear normal, since he does everything he can to keep his powers hidden and take the spotlight off of him at all times. The best part of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is Saiki’s deadpan internal monologue on the difficulties of possessing psychic talents.
7. Dorohedoro (2020)
Dorohedoro is a weird place in every way. Caiman awakens from a coma with his human face changed with a lizard’s and his memories wiped clean by a sorcerer. Because he lives in the barren and hopeless “Hole,” where magic users often perform curses on the non-magic, leaving them mutated or dead, it isn’t anything out of the usual in many aspects. Caiman starts on a mission to find and kill the sorcerer who cursed him in order to reverse the enchantment. Dorohedoro is a bloody retribution story infused with black comedic fun. Caiman and his equally bizarre company are just as lovable, if not more so, than an array of lethal but eccentric adversaries created by the film.
8. Erased (2016)
To Satoru Fujinuma, the “Revival” ability is a mystery, as he never entirely understands why he is given this power. After discovering his mother’s body in his apartment, he finds himself 18 years in the past. This just adds to his uncertainty and misery. Satoru is in primary school in 1988. When he learns that a kidnapping case from his classmate’s year contributed to his mother’s death, he sets out to stop the two from happening together. Murder mysteries always have a high degree of tension, and this one is no exception. But Erased’s depiction of a character who is initially walled off in life but slowly finds purpose through friendship and family draws the viewer in more than the whodunnit and time travel components.
9. Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015-2020)
As soon as you start watching Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, you’ll notice that it has an unusually sexual vibe. After eating any kind of food, the characters regularly explode out of their garments for no apparent reason. This wonderful coming-of-age tale, which boasts some of the most exquisite kitchen animation and mouth-watering food visuals in anime, isn’t going to put you off, though. Soma Yukihira, a gifted young chef who aspired to one day operate his father’s cafe, finds himself unexpectedly enrolled in a competitive culinary school where students are routinely expelled for their ineptitude. Soma is unfazed and is on a mission to become the best student at school. Whether it’s a specialist in a cultural cuisine or a distinct approach to food (think molecular gastronomy or medicinal cooking), each character has a distinct cooking personality that adds a great deal of variety to the show.
10. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)
Anyone who knows anything about anime is likely to recommend Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to you. Netflix has all 64 episodes of this cult classic adventure series. As a young boy, Alphonse and Edward Elric began training in alchemy in an effort to bring their mother back to life. However, “human transformation” is both prohibited in alchemy and very expensive. Alphonse and Edward both suffered body parts loss when they couldn’t save their mother, and it was only by fusing Alphonse’s spirit with a set of armor that Edward was able to save his younger brother. To reclaim their human identities, the brothers banded together and embarked on a trip together. Beyond its gripping story and rich setting, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood succeeds at developing diverse characters that each play an important role on their journey toward self-discovery.
11. Great Pretender (2020)
Makoto Edamura, a Japanese con artist, was certain of his abilities until he met Laurent Thierry. After being tricked by the French swindler, Edamura sets out to prove his status as “Japan’s top scammer” by joining Laurent in his heists. To begin with, they’re going after a well-known Hollywood director who also happens to be a drug trafficking kingpin on the West Coast. Edamura’s journey from Los Angeles to Singapore to London is depicted in great detail in Great Pretender, which also features a convoluted storyline. Scammers and victims are juxtaposed throughout the series, and the spectator is prompted to assess if either party is on a better moral position.
12. Haikyu!! (2014-2020)
Shoyo Hinata has been training nonstop since he suffered a humiliating defeat in a middle school volleyball match at the hands of “King of the Court” Tobio Kageyama. When he walked into the gym on his first day of high school, he was surprised to see Kageyama, a new student at the school who is now his teammate. As a squad, Karasuno High School’s “fallen champs” set out to prove their mettle and become the top high school team in the country once again. As a sports anime and coming-of-age story, Haikyu!! has long been considered one of the best, and with good reason. However, the ties that grow between the two main characters, Hinata and Kageyama, captivate the audience, as each character learns to put aside his pride and ego in order to become a better colleague and friend.
13. March Comes in Like a Lion (2016-2018)
March Comes in Like a Lion’s first episode is filled with long pauses, which effectively portray Rei Kiriyama’s loneliness. In middle school, Rei became a professional shogi player, better known as Japanese chess. Being 17 now means he’s living alone with no one to talk to. It’s only through chance that Rei comes into contact with the three Kawamoto girls and their grandfather that he finds the family he’s always wanted. At its finest, “Come over anytime” serves as a reminder of the warmth and affection that may be found in the simplest of human relationships. Rei’s steady move out of his shell is conveyed through the art and music of the film.
14. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996)
Neon Genesis Evangelion has lasted longer than any other show on this list because it was released first. We’re in 2015, and horrific creatures called “Angels” are wreaking havoc on society, putting humanity in peril of extinction. Only huge robots known as “Evangelions,” which are triggered by syncing their nerve systems with a human pilot’s, have a chance. Ikari is just 14 years old when his father summons him to be the pilot of an Evangelion and places the responsibility of saving humanity’s existence on his shoulders. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, characters of all ages deal with the effects of past tragedies and the prospect of a dismal future. Additionally, the series analyzes how conflict affects individuals who are on the front lines.
15. One Punch Man (2015-2019)
Saitama has had enough. He’s put in so much work to become a hero that he’s now so strong that he can take out any foe with a single punch. One Punch Man does not have a scenario like this. Saitama’s quick victories have robbed him of the joy and excitement of combat. Hero Association members are known for their heroic actions; he joins because he is eager to fight tough and honorable opponents who will get his pulse flowing again. When it comes to comic book heroes, One Punch Man takes a different tack. While you wait for Saitama to realize his calling as a hero, his inner monologue and startlingly blank expression will keep you entertained.
16. Ouran High School Host Club (2006)
Ouran Academy’s lone scholarship student from the poorest neighborhood, Haruhi Fujioka, accidentally walks into a room full of “handsome boys with too much time on their hands” who “entertain and allure girls who are also too busy.” Haruhi begins running errands for the Host Club after inadvertently breaking an antique vase worth a fortune. Because of her androgynous appearance, she is hired as a host to amuse girls under the pretext of a boy. While Haruhi, with her level-headed demeanor and matter-of-fact demeanor, is a dramatic contrast to the club’s over-the-top character, the Ouran High School Host Club fully embraces its outrageousness. However, the show’s comic value isn’t the only reason it’s worth watching. The show was ahead of its time when it debuted more than a decade ago by featuring a female lead who defies gender expectations.
17. The Promised Neverland (2019-present)
Despite its title, The Promised Neverland is not a children’s show. Isabella, the “Mama” of the Grace Field House, takes care of a few dozen orphans. There appears to be no problem with the children’s socialization and regular recreation in the fields until the day they are adopted, which is a long time away. In order to get away from “Mama” and the house, Emma, Norman, and Ray, three 11-year-olds, uncover the horrifying reality of the “adoptions.” The Promised Neverland is a dark and suspenseful read that will have you gripped till the very last page. It’s also filled with touching scenes of friendship, particularly among the three main characters. The representation of Mama’s aide, Sister Krone, as a Black lady in the show looks to be steeped in racial prejudices, which is a serious issue. As a result of this feature, anime fans have been debating the portrayal of black characters in the medium.
18. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)
In spite of the show’s first appearance, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is anything but. Madoka Kaname, a middle school student, receives an intriguing offer from a mysterious cat-like creature named Kyubey: in exchange for becoming a “magical girl,” Kyubey will grant her any wish. Madoka agrees, but she soon learns the contract she signed was a trap. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a dark spin on the magical girl genre, with startling transitions to trippy images and creepy soundtrack making it even more deliciously unnerving. The cheery premise of this series quickly transforms into a psychological thriller that will have you trembling in your boots.
19. Violet Evergarden (2018)
Violet Evergarden is having a hard time adjusting to her new profession as an Auto Memory Doll, which entails composing letters to customers and translating their feelings into words. Having been trained as a child soldier, she’s more used to military orders than any show of emotions. However, now that the war has ended, and she has had one final encounter with Major Gilbert, her battlefield mentor and the person she holds most dear, she feels compelled to continue her work. To better understand what he means when he says, “I love you,” Violet sets out to write letters to others. Heartbreaking from the first moments when Violet acts more like a robot than a living person, Violet Evergarden offers an insightful look into human emotions.
20. Your Lie in April (2014-2015)
At the age of eight, Kousei Arima was already performing with an orchestra as a piano prodigy. Kousei’s mother pushed him to excel in music by abusing him physically and verbally. After his mother’s death, Kousei decided to give up playing the violin because he couldn’t hear his own music anymore. However, it is only until Kousei is introduced to the violinist Kaori Miyazono that Kousei begins to play the piano again. This film is a work of art both visually and musically; the frames are full of color and the classical compositions we hear are majestic and ethereal. A sad self-discovery journey for Kousei is told in the series as he confronts his history and finds a new kind of freedom and joy in music.