Yes, there are a bunch of older classics on the streaming service, from Trigun to Samurai Champloo. But the best anime on Netflix is something fresher.
And it's not Attack on Titan. Sorry, Attack on Titan fans. That series starts real strong, but its middle is full of so much fat and unnecessary padding that it's tough to recommend as the very best.
So the best anime on Netflix right now is Knights of Sidonia. Here's why:
- The CG animation can occasionally look a little too clean, but on the whole this is one very pretty show. There's a lot of care and detail in the animation, from body language to facial expressions, that makes the whole thing feel a cut above most of the "cheaper" material available on the service.
- On the subject of looks, rarely has an anime ever felt so real. So often the biggest concern for artists in an anime are character flairs, and colourful backgrounds, and basically anything that makes a series look as slick as a cartoon can get. KoS takes a different approach, one more familiar to stuff like Alien, or Blade Runner, or Star Wars, and makes its universe look old, dirty and very much lived-in (pay attention to the scuffs on the pilot's suits, the wear on canteen seats, etc). That's always a big (and underrated) part of sucking in an audience when it comes to sci-fi, and plays a big part in setting KoS' sad, and very convincing scene.
- It's a Tsutomu Nihei joint! Well, sort of. Nihei write and drew the manga Blame!, which remains one of the most remarkable examples of world design in any medium, and much of his work from the KoS manga carries effortlessly into the anime. You especially notice it in the interior of the Sidonia, with its eclectix mix of jumbled, chaotic architecture.
- I mentioned above that Attack on Titan, as good as it is, is also very bloated. It also, like many anime, suffers from terrible pacing. KoS is refreshingly tight in this regard, as it keeps things moving at a consistent pace, never leaving you stuck on teenage drama for too long before the universe needs saving.
- KoS does a great job of handling its lore and backstory. You get to know the very basics soon enough: mankind is on the run from a rampaging alien species called the Gauna, and all that stands between them and humanity's extinction are a bunch of pilots flying mechs in space. But there's so much more (and so much more weirdness) to the show than that, from a bold and futuristic take on gender identity to...why there's a bear working in the canteen. All of these things are crucial to the heart of the story, yet many take hours to get to, if they've been explained yet in the anime at all. The way this is all handled strikes a perfect balance (perhaps fittingly given the story, in a very Battlestar Galactica way) between telling the audience what they need to know and keeping them guessing as to what other stuff means.
- One of its episodes, which on paper sounds dreadfully boring, is actually one of the best sci-fi stories in years. It involves a male and female pilot trapped in deep space after their mechs run out of fuel; stranded while their batteries recharge, they struggle to stay alive while rationing food, bathing in the sun's rays and...finding ways to drink their own piss. It's like a shorter take on Apollo 13, if Apollo 13 had a bunch of weird sci-fi shit going on around it, and the way it shrinks a sci-fi universe down to the most human of scales, and really shows off the quirks of its universes design (and the quirks of its approach to romance) makes it an unexpected series highlight.
- Perhaps most importantly for this list, though, is that it's a Netflix exclusive. So much other anime on Netflix is old, the kind of thing you may well have owned/rented on DVD and then seen again on Crunchyroll. Because Sidonia is only on Netflix, and because it's new (it was only released last year), and because it's awesome (see above), it should be the very first thing you sit down and watch if you're after anime on the service.
The Bests are Kotaku's picks for the best things on (or off) the internet.