“Animation is not a genre. Animation is an art form and can do any genre. ”
As director of the Incredibles and the Iron Giant, Brad Bird should know what he’s talking about – and looking at how the medium has evolved over the past 30 years, it’s impossible to disagree.
As early as the early 1990s, cartoons were still widely regarded as something for children. Since then, however, The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park have paved the way for more adult-oriented animation on TV, while pioneers like Pixar, DreamWorks and Laika have pushed the boundaries of what the hosts can achieve on screen.
Today’s entertainment is a vast church that encompasses everything from comedy for preschoolers to sophisticated examinations of the human soul. As with its live programming, Netflix’s animated content explores a wide range of styles, genres and themes – and many of its shows are absolutely essential for viewing.
In this list, VPNOnlineFree has put together 15 of the best Netflix Original animated series you can watch right now – whether you’re in grainy science fiction, family comedy, or warrior princesses wielding the sword, there’s something for You here.
She-Ra and the princesses of power
The original She-Ra was a spin-off from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, an 80s cartoon that was far better for whipping toys than telling stories. Few seriously believed that a return was necessary, until this successful Netflix show proves otherwise. The creator of the series, Noelle Stevenson, has focused on reinvention, creating a fun, intelligent and sophisticated saga that couldn’t be further from the source material in the face.
With He-Man nowhere, twin sister Adora takes center stage, wielding the magic sword that turns her into She-Ra and displaying refreshing 21st century attitudes towards representation. The kind of Saturday morning cartoon you encourage your kids to watch.
Love, death + robots
With Black Mirror, a restarted Twilight zone and Inside No 9, the anthology series has experienced a kind of renaissance in recent years. The genius at the heart of Love, Death + Robots, however, is that by telling its unique stories through the animation medium, the show assured that its only limits are the imagination of its writers.
Fortunately, he has an ingenious plan to overcome this particular hurdle – by adapting short stories from some of the best genre authors on the planet, Peter F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds and John Scalzi. Among the best science fiction movies currently on TV.
After creating The Simpsons, Matt Groening would have been forgiven for throwing away his pencil and moving away from the animation for good. Thank goodness he didn’t, because then we wouldn’t have been treated to the incomparable adventures of Futurama in the 31st century – or Disenchantment, a delightfully twisted interpretation of the epic fantasy.
With many Groening brand overbites, numerous references to pop culture and sharp skewers from the modern world, there is no doubt that the new show comes from the same stable as its predecessors. But it also houses more adult themes and offers a more serialized arc layout – perfect for the era of excessive television.
A cartoon of a talking horse who was once the star of his own hit sitcom? BoJack Horseman looked – at least on paper – that it was going to be the height of stupidity when he galloped on Netflix in 2014. Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s indefinable spectacle has defied expectations since, evolving from a satire hilarious and acerbic in Hollywood – although one where animals and humans live side by side – into something much more ambitious.
By turns funny, dreary and curiously awkward (and sometimes even comforting), few television shows have ever looked at the human (and equine) condition. One of the gems of the impressive crown of Netflix.
The longtime vampire-infested console actuator that has scared gamers since the 1980s is being reinvented into a television series – and shame most other video game adaptations. Richard Armitage of The Hobbit voices the monster hunter hero Trevor Belmont, teaming up with Dracula’s half-human son Alucard (James Callis of Battlestar Galactica) against the infamous Earl.
With a lot of blood, each episode written by comic book legend Warren Ellis and anime-inspired visuals is clearly aimed at fans of the old school franchise – indeed, chances are you didn’t want your kids to listen.
Voltron: legendary defender
A republished and republished reinvention of the Japanese anime Beast King GoLion, Voltron has retained a lot of cult appeal since its beginnings in the 80s. This latest incarnation takes the story of five teenage pilots whose robot lions come together to form a giant mecha fighting machine called Voltron – Earth’s last defense against evil Empire Galra.
Fortunately, the showrunners and Avatar: veterans of Last Airbender, Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim dos Santos, realize that cool iconography is not enough to carry the show, and load the series with epic action in space and fun rhythms – as well as surprisingly dark themes on PTSD and grief.
Dragons: Race to the Edge
Film spinoffs do not have to be cheap collections. Just as the Star Wars universe was undeniably improved by the existence of The Clone Wars and Rebels, this long-standing series is an essential addition to the rising Viking adventures of How to Train Your Dragon.
Okay, Cressida Cowell’s stories don’t have as much dramatic impact as the George Lucas saga, but nonetheless, the adventures of Hiccup and Toothless between the first two films are suitably epic. The CG animation is much better than you would normally expect on TV and – with most of the actors in the film taking over their roles – Dragons looks like a hit sequel in episodic form.
From Hellboy to Pan’s labyrinth, from the devil’s backbone to the shape of water, Guillermo del Toro has a long history of infusion of supernatural tales with memorable characters and lots of heart. It is therefore not surprising that the animated series he created follows a similar pattern.
There is a well-defined Buffy vibe in the show, as an ordinary child Jim discovers that he is the chosen one to protect his city from the underground beasts, taking on the coat of the very first human Trollhunter. It’s also part of a larger universe: the second series in del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia trilogy, the science fiction 3Below, debuted in 2018, while the final episode of Wizards is slated for August 2020 .
The midnight gospel
Pendleton Ward, creator of the successful animated series Adventure Time, teams up with comedian Duncan Trussell to create another slice of thrilling surreality. Where Adventure Time focuses on the fantasy world of Ooo, The Midnight Gospel defines its coordinates for space, namely a strange dimension known as the chromatic ribbon.
From there, an astronaut called Clancy (actually a podcaster with interstellar range) uses his illegal multiverse simulator to interrogate beings from other planets. Although only eight episodes are available to date, The Midnight Gospel has already proven to be infinitely inventive, visually elegant and emotionally powerful – and totally unlike anything else on TV. Cross your fingers, he gets the green light for season two.
Tuca & Bertie
With a pair of anthropomorphized birds as main characters, Tuca & Bertie looks a lot like a spin-off from BoJack Horseman. Despite the fact that it was created by BoJack production designer Lisa Hanawalt, this wonder of a season is truly its own beast. At its heart are two best avian friends, the high-mouthed Tuca toucan and his roommate Grive, Bertie.
Packed with clever word games and visual gags (anyone wanting to post on Facebeak?), The show offers a unique perspective on life and love in the 21st century. Still, its asset is the cast of the best comedians Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong in the main roles – it’s a double act that we would like to see more of.
Don’t be put off by the unsophisticated animation style. Like Netflix’s stable sex education, Big Mouth is impressively candid about bodily functions and other growth-related issues – despite the fact that her characters are regularly visited by products. surreal of their imaginations, like an assistant of shame and a hormonal monster called Maurice.
Co-creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg drew on their own teenage experiences to tell the story of best friends Andrew and Nick, but it’s hard to believe that their real lives were pretty funny – like with The Inbetweeners, Big Mouth shows that teens can get away with the kind of raw gags that no one else can.
F is for family
If you thought The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy were all the animated suburban family comedies you would ever need, think again because F is for family is a worthy addition to the subgenre. In fact, the show by co-creator / star Bill Burr instantly stands out from these other shows with its decor from the 1970s, an era that puts a very different perspective on the world.
The Patriarch of the Frank Murphy family is an angry guy, increasingly disillusioned with his lot in life and struggling to cope with a society evolving faster than he would like. With a lot of pathos to go with humor, it’s an impressive three-dimensional thing.
If there are prizes awarded for the most elegant animated series on Netflix, Carmen Sandiego’s elegant production design must make her a competitor. Based on a 1980s video game (which also spawned two game shows and a cartoon series in the 1990s), this incarnation of Netflix tells the story of the eponymous super thief, voiced by Jane’s Gina Rodriguez the Virgin.
Of course, since this is a children’s program, Carmen is not really a criminal – despite what the authorities claim. Instead, she uses her turning skills to steal what has been taken by the despicable agents of V.I.L.E – aka the Villains International League of Evil – in a series filled with fun adventures and many stories. Stranger Things and IT Wolf Finn co-stars as a sidekick player.
This cartoon series may sound like something from the 1980s, but it actually started in 2018. Based on an award-winning series of independent graphic novels by British designer Luke Pearson, the show blends Scandinavian decor that evokes the Moomins with a visual style reminiscent of the legend of Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki.
He follows the exploits of titular blue-haired preteen Hilda (voiced by Bella Ramsey, the heroic Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones) as she travels from her magical village to the big city – and discovers that it’s all happening so many supernatural things behind the scenes … The series clearly has a younger audience in sight, but there is also a surprising amount of emotional depth hiding beneath the surface.
A trio of foreign teenagers wake up to find themselves in an underground bunker. With their memories erased, they must come together to survive the bizarre, dangerous and puzzle-filled world they find themselves in – all the while finding out why the heck they were reunited in the first place.
If the ingenious premise of The Hollow’s Maze Runner isn’t enough to attract you, rest assured that there is much more to love in this super-smart children’s show. It’s fast, the main characters are memorable and there are a lot of genre jumps in a captivating serial narrative arc.