Anime has long been a key part of the streaming wars, and it’s only recently that things have gotten more complex: Sony bought Crunchyroll; Disney tests the water; and new players have entered. Through all of this, Netflix has tried to make itself a viable target for anime. The streaming service has published a lot of of anime over the years, and the results have been pretty mixed. (This is a common theme across the company.) But over the past few months, Netflix has shown a surprisingly good streak of movies and series. Perhaps most impressive is how diverse the offering was, from a hyper-violent sci-fi series to a time-traveling tale about an architect from ancient Rome.
Here are four relatively recent releases that show the breadth and potential of Netflix’s ongoing foray into anime.
Uncle from another world
There are many stories about real-world people being sucked into a fantasy universe, however Uncle from another world takes the trope in a slightly different direction. The titular uncle awakens from a 17-year coma, during which time he was transported to a D&D-inspired alternate universe, where he survived as an adventurer of sorts. Waking up in the real world, he immediately wonders what happened to Sega in the console wars.
That should go without saying Uncle from another world is an extremely stupid series. The uncle makes a living in the real world by showing off his magical abilities on YouTube, and uses a DVR-like skill to showcase his adventurous exploits to his nephew, which almost always have a ridiculous twist. He’s lived an incredible life, but most of the time he just wants to stream Gunstar Heroes.
Like the game it spawned from edge runner not necessarily much new within the now familiar confines of cyberpunk. That means the series follows some fairly familiar storylines, like megacorporation encroachment and the future confluence of man and machine. Still, it’s a very well done example of the genre. The series is produced by Studio Trigger, the same team behind it Kill la Kill and Promareand it looks incredible, making cyberpunk’s standardized visuals – think lots of neon signs and flashy weapons – feel fresh and interesting.
The action is gripping and the show really dives into the different ways that daily life has been monetized, from an obscenely repressive healthcare system to the future of distance learning. (Imagine failing because you couldn’t afford a software update.) The 10 episodes tick by with so much momentum that I jumped back into the game just to avoid leaving the world anytime soon – and this i’m not the only one
Thermae Romae Novae
Thermae Romae Novae is a series about a Roman architect named Lucius who a) has dedicated himself to his career as a bathhouse architect and is completely obsessed with bathing culture and b) is able to randomly time travel to present-day Japan once per episode. These two things form the core of the show. In each episode, Lucius is faced with a specific problem – like designing a small personal bath or building an entire spa town – which he solves by stealing ideas from the future.
His unparalleled skill eventually catches the attention of the Roman Emperor, and before you know it, Lucius is influencing an entire country just by building baths. However, the real joy of the show comes from seeing how much he really loves bathing and the excitement he feels learning new ideas and concepts. In a charming addition, each episode ends with author Mari Yamazaki, who created the original manga, visiting an actual spa or hot spring to discover new things about the wide world of bath culture.
On the movie page there is drive homewhich comes from Studio Colorido, the same team behind the 2020 Netflix film A mustache removed and one of the better entries in Star Wars: Visions. It’s a coming-of-age story mixed with some magic and an almost post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The premise is unique, to say the least. A group of friends sneak into an abandoned apartment building, believing it might be haunted. Instead of finding ghosts, they find themselves inside the building in the middle of a vast ocean.
The childhood story of drive home covers well-trodden territory, but it’s told with a seriousness that really helps you connect and root with the kids. However, what makes the film particularly striking is how fully realized this strange alternate world is, and how it forces the children not only to face extreme dangers, but also to confront the truth of growing up. Not sure what it is this year with Netflix and floating buildings, but it makes for great animation.