Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page and come back to see what other anime classics get added to Amazon Prime.
Updated for April 2020
Isn’t it just the worst when you’re out with friends at your favorite restaurant and everyone’s discussing RahXephon and you’re unable to jump in? How about when you’re waiting for the bus to arrive and people are discussing the latest Happy Sugar Life plot twist? Or when your cashier at the supermarket tries to make small talk and naturally namedrops the eternal equalizer, Re: Creators, and you just have to quietly look at your shoes?
Okay, so anime’s presence might not be quite at that level, but the popularity of the once-niche area of the animation industry only continues to blossom and become more mainstream. Not only are there now ample anime series that are available on popular streaming services, but this is even used as a selling point in some cases! There have never been more anime titles readily available to audiences, which is certainly exciting, but it can also be overwhelming.
Not only are more legacy titles being added to streaming services every month, but there is also a steady stream of new series that are being added. To guarantee that the various libraries of content at your disposal don’t swallow you whole, we’ve done the hard work and narrowed it down to just the top and most important titles! For both the obsessive anime fan and those entirely new to the form, here’s the top anime currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video!
Inuyashiki: The Last Hero
Inuyashiki is easily one of the best anime to come out in the past few years. Its storytelling even rivals that of great American serialized television. It’s just that good. Right from the start it presents the sort of story that immediately gets your attention and lets you know that you’re watching something special. Inuyashiki is an elderly man whose family seems to hate him and are totally unappreciative of his existence. One night he goes for a walk in the park and some sort of alien explosion rocks the area. When Inuyashiki comes to, he appears to be a super powered robot with insane abilities. He uses these new powers to help those in need and even learns that he can heal and bring people back to life. Suddenly Inuyashiki has a purpose in life and watching him reawaken straight up made me cry on multiple occasions.
A bratty teenager is also at the park when the explosion happens and he turns into the same robot that Inuyahsiki becomes. This kid, however, is a psychopath and begins mass murdering individuals at an alarming rate. It’s terrifying how callous he is and what this power brings out in him. Some scenes are genuinely hard to watch and it doesn’t take long for him to become one of the most dangerous murderers that the country has ever seen. Suddenly Inuyashiki has a “rival” and the two are pit against each other in a bizarre, infinitely interesting way. This series is a thrilling examination of what people do with power and it balances humble moments of humanity with disturbing violence and insane action. Everything it does hits hard and its ending is perfect in its precision and poignancy. The animation is also stunning in its depiction of these human/robot hybrids and the “minimalist” (ie. finger guns) approach to the violence.
Inuyashiki is a series that I will be absolutely shocked if some savvy American director doesn’t opt to turn into a movie within the next few years. It’s an absolutely beautiful story that boils down to the universal concepts of good and evil. Catch it now and get ahead of the game. At eleven episodes it’s an extremely easy commitment that you’ll wish was longer.
Kokkoku: Moment by Moment
Kokkoku: Moment by Moment is a bleak, surreal mystery that plays with time and space in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Juri Yukawa is your typical underachieving teenager who’s failed to find her calling. Kokkoku quickly pulls the rug out from under the viewer and transforms this slice of life anime into something substantially trippier. Juri’s brother and nephew get kidnapped by a cult and Juri’s uncle reveals that their family has the power to stop time, which is exactly what they’re going to do to save them.
It’s fascinating to watch Juri learn more of the secrets about her lineage as well as her own unique powers. When Juri and her grandfather freeze time, this frozen world is called Stasis, but there are also terrible monsters that lurk in Stasis that prey on those who stay in there for too long. Kokkoku creates such a rich, fully formed story with a deep history to it, but it also initially keeps the audience in the dark to simulate the same overwhelming experience that Juri is going through. Kokkoku slowly parses out answers as Juri and her grandfather become more entwined in the world of Stasis. It’s such an engrossing story that’s so much bigger than the characters and what they’re caught up in.
Happy Sugar Life
Happy Sugar Life is one of the darkest series that you’ll ever come across, anime or otherwise. It may even cause some viewers to tap out due to its extreme subject matter, but those that stick around will see a gripping character study that chronicles cyclical abuse and the worst versions of Stockholm Syndrome.
Happy Sugar Life looks at Sato Matsuzaka, a high school girl who kidnaps a small child named Shio because she’s madly in love with her. Now this isn’t a sexual love, but purely romantic and this child is just so innocent and pure that she tunes out all of the darkness in Sato’s life. Sato goes to any lengths necessary (like murder, for instance) to keep Shio locked in her home and a secret to the public. The series follows the very worst of deviants, but its dark perspective and Sato’s sugary sweet fantasies make for a strangely addictive curiosity.
Eromanga Sensei operates with a very Three’s Company degree of logic to it, but there’s such a sweet story at its core. Masamune Izumi is a budding writer, but he can’t draw to save his life. An illustrator who goes by the name “Eromanga Sensei” communicates with Masamune online and illustrates his novels. Together they build a popular manga series through their odd relationship. Masamune also has a 12-year old sister, Sagiri, who’s a shut-in and stays in her room 24/7. What’s the big deal? Masamune’s little sister is actually Eromanga Sensei, his manga collaborator!
Eromanga Sensei finds its sweet spot with the unusual but endearing relationship between Masamune and his sister. What also makes this series so much fun is that it’s all about writing and drawing. It’s an anime that gets to be about manga and anime.
Re: Creators is extremely awesome in the sense that it delivers sprawling, insane battle sequences, but is also all about the struggles of creation and failing expectations. Sota Mizushino is an avid manga and anime fan and hopes to one day create his own series that finds an audience. Suddenly, characters from all across media—manga, anime, video games— get brought to the real world and Sota somehow becomes the middleman between two factions of creations where the fate of the Earth is at stake.
Re: Creators is far from the typical “lost characters need to get home” narrative and it manages to continually add surprises throughout the season (it also features one of the more creative takes on the “recap episode” that you’ll ever find). The series mixes existentialism with flashy fight scenes and Re: Creators creates something very bold and memorable in the process. It’s a great deconstruction of the medium in general.
Vatican Miracle Examiner
Vatican Miracle Examiner is essentially “The Exorcist: The Anime” and isn’t that all you really need to hear? The series follows two priests from the Vatican who investigate alleged “miracles” and supernatural faith-based murders. Vatican Miracle Examiner operates with a fun episodic approach for the most part where each new miracle that the duo go to explore put them in the orbit of things like demonic possession, deals with the devil, and killer clowns. As the anime gets further into these investigations, it becomes clear that there’s a much deeper conspiracy afoot where a shadow organization aims to take control of the Vatican. Immortality is also on everyone’s minds and you’d almost expect Indiana Jones to show up in the final stretch of episodes.
Vatican Miracle Examiner feels like it shouldn’t be an anime, but it’s definitely refreshing to see supernatural and conspiratorial elements worked into religion and faith in an anime series.
Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic doesn’t give a fuck if you like it or not—in fact it probably hopes that you don’t—and it’s why this manic, insane series is so special. The show is a parody sketch anime that operates with unpredictable, frenetic pacing. Any topic is fair game, but the animation style also radically changes without notice and the series tries to break itself down more than it presents a polished anime. Hell, the end of every episode even presents a “Next Time On…” preview for Hoshiri Girldrop, a fake series that they made up. Just watch the show’s legendary “Hellshake Yano” sequence to get a glimpse of its crazy style and fall in love with it.
If the show’s unleashed attitude wasn’t enough, each episode is basically eleven minutes long and then the following eleven minutes is the same footage that preceded it, but with minor differences. The voice actors will be changed the second time around, animation touches will contrast, but it’s an incredibly bold experiment to play with the audience and their patience. There seems to be an equal split on the people that love and hate the show’s “Bob Team Epic” halves, but they have people’s attention. With Pop Team Epic recently joining the irreverent Adult Swim’s Toonami lineup, the cult series has become more popular than ever.
Sagrada Reset is set within the town of Sakurada, a special community where everyone that lives there possesses some kind of special ability. Kei Asai, for instance, has an exceptional case of photographic memory to the point that he hasn’t forgotten a single thing that’s happened to him in Sakurada. Kei eventually comes in contact with Misora Haruki, who has the ability to reset time for as far back as three days. This is an exceptional power, but through these resets Kei still retains his memory of the now-deleted time. Accordingly, Kei and Misora team up and use their powers in tandem to help out individuals and solve a much larger mystery that’s afoot in Sakurada.
The dynamic here between Kei and Misora is so loving and beautiful, but the show also creates an interesting world where special abilities are not only common, but monitored by a shady corporate board. One of the biggest joys of the series is watching how various abilities overpower and cancel each other out. Kei and Misora have to put some real quick thinking into play to get out of their problems and this thoughtfulness to the stories is why the idea works so well.
Okay you guys, Onara Gorou isn’t freaking Shakespeare, but it’s a supremely weird series that looks at the antics of Gorou, “the most admirable of farts.” Gorou attempts to help out individuals (all while connected to the human that’s producing him) and every moment of this show elicits questions that you’re not even sure that you want the answers.
Onara Gorou almost feels like the early seasons of South Park where this crudely presented idea looks juvenile at its surface layer, but there’s something more intelligent going on underneath. Make no mistake, Onara Gorou isn’t a smart series, but it’s unrepentantly silly and it will make you laugh and question the laws of nature in a way that more shows should. How did you live your life without having this show and its nightmarish ending theme in your world!?
In many ways RahXephon may seem like the poor man’s Neon Genesis Evangelion, and while there are ample similarities between the two, RahXephon tells a distinct story that is crazy, contemplative, and awesome in its own way. RahXephon starts as the “boy meets mecha, boy pilots mecha to save the world” start of narrative, but it turns into such a perplexing mash-up of themes and sensibilities. There’s also a delicious ‘70s flavor to the show’s aesthetics that keep it in this weird displaced time that doesn’t feel quite like the past or the future.
Where Evangelion finds its fuel from depression and nihilism, RahXephon turns to the power of music and folklore. The series still operates with all of the staples of a giant mecha action series, but RahXephon strives for more and tries to redefine what the mecha genre can do. The stylized, methodical series is not for everyone, but it should still resonate in a way that’s deeper than the standard robot brawler.
Blue Exorcist and Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
Blue Exorcist has all of the makings of a good adventure with a classic tortured hero. Rin Okumura isn’t just a delinquent that suffers from normal daddy issues, but his life gets turned upside down when he learns that his biological father is Satan. Rin goes through a lot at once when he not only learns about the existence of demons, but loses his guardian, Father Shiro Fujimoto. All of a sudden Rin has a proper focus for his rage and he pledges to become an Exorcist in order to deal with demons and ultimately kill his father, Satan.
Blue Exorcist leaps off from this strong premise and tells a satisfying story that knows how to balance its intense action sequences with the more intimate character work. As Rin heads for Satan he shows tons of growth and he’s a character that you really get worried about when it looks like he’s in trouble. There are other series like Black Clover or Yu Yu Hakusho that tread on similar territory, but Blue Exorcist presents a concise tragedy that’s effective.
GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka
Great Teacher Onizuka is such a twisted morality story that it sneaks up on you slow subtly that you don’t even realize what’s happened. Eikichi Onizuka enters the series as slacker ex-gang member with few prospects. After an unattractive teacher steals Onizuka’s date, he determines that teachers must hold a strong sexual power over their students. This random event reshapes Onizuka’s entire life and he becomes a teacher! However, through the process he inadvertently develops a strong sense of morals and is no longer interested in doing something as depraved as hooking up with students.
As Onizuka’s quest goes on, he finds himself hungry to become the best teacher of all-time and happy to dispense his unique outlooks on life to help his class. Onizuka turns into an inspiring mentor to dozens and it’s amazing to see how this “bad guy” finally figures out what his passion is in life. Great Teacher Onizuka will make you feel warm inside, but it’s also funny as hell. Onizuka’s embarrassing antics never disappoint and the show finds the perfect rhythm for its comedy. With 43 episodes available, Great Teacher Onizuka is the kind of comforting comedy that’s there for you to binge watch and relax. Live your best life.
Vinland Saga is the kind of anime that’s absolute joy for not just fans of brutal action, but also historical dramas. The anime is set during the height of conflict between warring Viking nations and the series does not hold back from the violent nature of these battles. The anime centers around Thorfinn, a child who is forced to come of age during this conflict after his father meets his end courtesy of the enemy. What follows is an impressive look into Thorfinn’s gradual evolution into a warrior as he matures. It’s a painful saga that’s both epic and personal and Vinland Saga manages to make its antagonist, Askeladd, just as compelling as Thorfinn and a complex anti-hero in his own right. It’s the perfect series for anime fans who want something a little more adult.
Also Available On Amazon Prime Video: Fushigi Yugi, Black Jack, Fist of the North Star, Onihei, Samurai Pizza Cats, Pokemon, and Masaaki Yuasa’s short film, Kick-Heart.