Netflix has been on a hot streak with anime lately

Anime has long been a big part of the streaming wars, and things have only gotten more complex lately: Sony bought Crunchyroll; Disney is testing the waters; and new players have stepped in. Through it all, Netflix has tried to turn itself into a viable anime destination. The streaming service released a lot anime over the years, and the results have been pretty mixed. (It’s a common theme across the company.) But in recent months, Netflix has had a surprisingly good run of movies and series. Perhaps the most impressive thing is the sheer variety of offerings, ranging from a hyper-violent sci-fi series to a time travel story about an ancient Roman architect.

Here are four relatively recent releases that show the scale and potential of Netflix’s ongoing foray into anime.

Uncle from another world

There are plenty of stories about real-world people being sucked into a fantasy world, but Uncle from another world takes the trope in a slightly different direction. The titular uncle wakes up from a 17-year coma, and during this time he has been transported to an alternate D&D-inspired universe, where he survives as an adventurer. When he wakes up in the real world, he… immediately wonders what happened to Sega in the console wars.

It should go without saying Uncle from another world is an extremely wacky series. The uncle makes a living in the real world by showing off his fantastic magic skills on YouTube and uses a DVR-like ability to showcase his adventure feats – which almost always have a ridiculous twist – to his nephew. He’s lived an amazing life, but most of the time he just wants to stream Gunstar Hero.

Cyberpunk: Edge Runners

Like the game it came from, edge runners doesn’t necessarily do much new within the now familiar confines of cyberpunk. This means the series follows some pretty familiar narrative threads, like the overreach of megacorporations and the future confluence of humans and machines. Even still, it’s a very well done example of the genre. The series is produced by Studio Trigger, the same team behind kill her kill her and Promareand it looks amazing, somehow making cyberpunk’s standardized visuals – think lots of neon signs and flashy weapons – feel fresh and interesting.

The action is thrilling and the series really explores the various ways everyday life has been monetized, from a obscenely oppressive healthcare system to the future of distance learning. (Imagine failing because you couldn’t afford a software update.) The 10 episodes roll by with so much momentum that I came back into the game just so I wouldn’t have to leave the world so soon – and I’m not the only.

Thermae Romae Novae

Thermae Romae Novae is a series about a Roman architect named Lucius who a) is absolutely dedicated to his career as a bathhouse architect and is completely obsessed with bathhouse culture and b) is able to randomly travel back in time to present-day Japan once per episode. These two things form the heart of the show. In each episode, Lucius faces a particular problem—like designing a small, personal bathhouse or creating an entire spa town—which he solves by stealing ideas from the future.

His unrivaled skills eventually catch the eye of the Roman Emperor, and before you know it, Lucius is influencing an entire country, just by building bathhouses. The real joy of the show, however, comes from seeing how much he really enjoys bathing and the excitement he gets when learning new ideas and concepts. In a lovely addition, each episode ends with author Mari Yamazaki, who created the original manga, visiting a real-world spa or hot spring to learn new things about the vast world of bath culture.

Drift home

On the cinema side, there is Drift homewhich comes from Studio Colorido, the same team behind the 2020 Netflix movie At a glance and one of the best entries in Star Wars: Visions. It’s a coming-of-age tale mixed with magic and an almost post-apocalyptic vibe. The premise is unique, to say the least. A group of friends sneak into an abandoned building, thinking it might be haunted. Instead of finding ghosts, they end up stranded in the building in the middle of a vast ocean.

The childhood story of Drift home covers well-trodden territory, but is told with a seriousness that really helps you connect and ground yourself for the kids. What makes the film particularly striking, however, is how fully this strange alternate world is realized, and how it forces the children to not only face extreme danger, but also face the truth of growing up. I don’t know what it’s like with Netflix and floating buildings this year, but it makes for great animation.


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