Anime has long been an important part of the streaming war, and things have gotten more complex of late: Sony bought Crunchyroll; Disney is testing the waters; and a new player has entered. Through it all, Netflix has tried to establish itself into a worthy anime destination. Streaming service has been released many anime over the years, and the results have been quite mixed. (This is a common theme for the company as a whole.) However, the last few months Netflix has been showing really good movies and series. Perhaps what’s most impressive is how diverse the offerings are, from horribly sci-fi series to time-traveling stories about an architect from ancient Rome.
Here are four relatively recent releases that demonstrate the breadth and potential of Netflix’s ongoing foray into anime.
Uncle From Another World
There are many stories about people from the real world being sucked into a fantasy universe, but Uncle From Another World take the metaphor in a slightly different direction. The titular uncle wakes up from a 17-year coma, and during that time, he’s transported to a D&D-inspired alternate universe, where he survives as a sort of adventurer. When he wakes up in the real world he… immediately wonders what happened to Sega in the console wars.
There should be no need to say that Uncle From Another World is a very silly series. Uncle makes a living in the real world showing off his fantasy magic skills on YouTube and using DVR-like abilities to show off his adventurous exploits—which almost always have a goofy twist—to his nephews. He lives an amazing life, but most of the time, he just wants to stream Gunstar Hero.
Like the game, Edgerunners doesn’t necessarily do much new within the now familiar confines of cyberpunk. That means that the series follows some fairly familiar narrative threads, such as the reach of large corporations and future human-machine encounters. Still, it’s an example of the genre done really well. The series is produced by Studio Trigger, the same team behind Kill it Kill and promareand it looks awesome, somehow making the standard cyberpunk visuals — think lots of neon signs and flashy guns — feel fresh and exciting.
The action is thrilling, and the show truly delves into the different ways everyday life has been monetized, from an oppressive healthcare system to the future of distance schooling. (Imagine failing because you can’t afford a software update.) The 10 episodes passed with so much momentum that I jumped back into the game just so I wouldn’t have to leave the world so quickly—and I’m not the only one.
Thermae Romae Novae
Thermae Romae Novae is a series about a Roman architect named Lucius who a) is totally dedicated to his career as a bathhouse architect and totally obsessed with bath culture and b) is able to randomly time travel to modern Japan once per episode. Those two things become the core of the show. In each episode, Lucius faces a specific problem — like designing a small private bath or creating an entire spa town — which he solves by stealing ideas from the future.
His unrivaled skills eventually caught the attention of the Roman emperor, and before you knew it, Lucius was influencing an entire nation, just by building a bathhouse. The real joy of the show, comes from seeing how much she really loves bathing and the excitement she feels when learning new ideas and concepts. As an interesting addition, each episode concludes with writer Mari Yamazaki, who created the original manga, visiting a real-world spa or hot spring to discover new things about the vast world of bathing culture.
On the film side, there are Drifting Housecoming from Studio Colorido, the same team behind the 2020 Netflix movie A Mustache Goes and one of the better entries in Star Wars: Vision. It’s a future story 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 apartment building, thinking it might be haunted. Instead of finding a ghost, they find themselves stranded in a building in the middle of a vast ocean.
Childhood story Drifting House covers some areas that are well mastered, but told with such sincerity that it really helps you connect and support the kids. What makes this film so striking, however, is how fully aware of this strange alternate world it is and how it forces children to not only face extreme danger but also face the truths of growing up. I’m not sure what’s up with Netflix and floating buildings this year, but it makes for some great animation.