i-D's guide to the best anime to stream right now
From cult classics to surreal new favorites.
Screenshot via Youtube
Better late than never — there’s now a wealth of anime to stream on all the major services, as well as more specialized platforms such as Funimation and Crunchyroll. With all this choice however, comes confusion, as we know from countless hours spent clicking through Netflix’s various genres. Would you rather watch a romantic high school drama or a sword-swinging romp? Vampires or witches? Under-the-sea or space? Here, we’ve collected our current favorites, combining a few of the classics with newer series’ that we’re excited about. All of them offer a welcome escape.
Kill La Kill
A stylish favorite, Kill La Kill combines high-school tropes with insane uniforms that transform into giant weapons (yes, really). It’s a high energy romp that follows Ryuko Matoi as she attempts to get to the bottom of her father’s mysterious death, which involves battling an evil student council with a mystical, talking outfit that turns into some huge scissors. So far, so insane. It’s the energy and gusto with which this is animated that gives the series its unique flair — the battles are utterly nuts, but just as energetic are the sequences following Ryuko and her hapless best friend Mako.
Watch it on Netflix.
With the 20th anniversary of Cowboy Bebop, it’s high time to binge watch the iconic series. It follows a group of hapless (yet stylish) bounty hunters as they cruise across the galaxy, constantly torn between wanting to earn some fast cash and saving the world (or what’s left of it — earth’s not had a great time). Cowboy Bebop is acclaimed on so many levels, from its pioneering jazz soundtrack composed by Yoko Kanno to its groundbreaking adult content. It’s also a standout in the fact that it looks really, well, cool. Main character Spike could be a Prada model in his outsize suits, while the decaying worlds the crew dash through are a mashup of Hong Kong and Tijuana. Cowboy Bebop was a gateway to anime for many in the English speaking world, and remains a seminal work.
Watch in on Funimation.
Sword Art Online
Getting caught in a MMORPG by an evil digital terrorist is the fate that befalls the heroes of SWA, who then have to fight through a seemingly endless parade of monsters to make it to the end. What has made the series a fan favorite, however, are the lush visuals and touching romance between Kirito and Asuna at its heart. It also raises real life issues. What’s it like falling in love with someone you meet online? How do the identities we create on the internet leak into our IRL selves? When are we given the chance to feel useful or heroic in the modern world? These are the kind of questions that the series has attempted to address over its three seasons, through the medium of elves ears, wings, and endless battles.
Watch it on Netflix.
On the surface, this series is about a young aristocrat singing a contract with a demon in order to avenge his parents. Fine, that’s actually all its about, but what we’re really here for is the relationship between the young Ciel Phantomhive and his handsome demon butler. The pair are animated in a superior style to many series, so every twitch of an eyebrow minutely detailed, giving one ample material for imagining a Call My By Your Name scenario. Taking place in Victorian London, or a wild reimagining of it, we follow Ciel and his undead cohort as they attempt to thwart an opium smuggling cabal while also trying to uncover the murders of his parents, aided and abetted by their thoroughly useless staff and friends.
Watch it on Amazon Prime.
One of the most gruesome on our list, and also one of the best loved, Tokyo Ghoul follows teenager Kaneki after he accidentally gets a ghoul’s organs transplanted into his body and turns into a human hungry demon. In the series, ghouls are monsters who feed on the living, and it follows Kaneki as he desperately tries to stay human, while also, you know, feeding on people and stuff. The ghouls have a weird kind of parallel society that Kaneki gets drawn into to survive, while also being hunted by the Commission of Counter Ghoul. The battles are breathtaking and intricately choreographed too, as our allegiances are split between ghouls and humans. Okay, mainly we’re on the human/ghoul hybrid side, desperately hoping that Kaneki makes it, however his internal organs look.
Watch it on Hulu.
Knights of Sidonia
If being stuck in space is your idea of hell, this series probably isn’t for you. Far in the future, what’s left of humankind drifts through space on a huge station called the Sidonia, all the while plagued by huge, evil entities called the gauna. This being anime, there’s only one way to deal with them — with teenagers piloting enormous, lance wielding robots (obviously). This might sound kind of standard, but the series is imbued with a spare aesthetic and genuinely lamentable feeling that you too might have if you thought your space station was humanity’s last outpost. The ship itself also looks divine, designed in a way that totally makes sense if you had to recycle all of your resources, but also full of doors that open onto cherry blossom strewn vistas, and huge indoor oceans. Series three is hopefully on its way, so get watching now.
Watch it on Netflix.