You may not have heard of all of these gems—but you should give them a try.
Hulu, as you may already know, has an excellent anime selection as well. It has many of the classic shows we mentioned in our Netflix and Daisuki guides, so we won’t tell you to go watch those again. But what we will do is turn you on to some of the best anime you may not be aware of that you can find on Hulu. You’ll need a subscription—but there’s plenty left to make it worth as you make your way through the classics!
The best Hulu anime
Set in the mid-1960s, three high school kids discovering a shared love for jazz in a wistful, charming slice-of-life series. Produced by the team behind Cowboy Bebop and scored by the incomparable Yoko Kanno, you know you’re in for something great from episode one. Adapted from the Yuki Kodama manga of the same name, the characters have a terrific depth and maturity, and watching their story is a pleasure. —Colette Bennett
Assassination Classroom features one of those utterly absurd storylines you can only find in anime: A class of high school kids is taken over by a powerful alien that has destroyed part of the moon and promises to do the same to Earth (but for some reason, he wants to be a homeroom teacher in the interim?). The students are offered 10 billion yen as a reward for killing their teacher, who they call “Koro Sensei.” However, their mission proves difficult as Koro Sensei progressively becomes the best teacher they’ve ever had.
This series started as a manga in 2012 penned by Yūsei Matsui, was adapted as anime, and even has two live-action film adaptions. It was the seventh best-selling manga of 2013 behind huge titles like Naruto, Attack on Titan, and One Piece, so you might want to give it some quality eyeball time. —C.B.
Food Wars! centers around the tale of Sōma Yukihira and his adventures at an elite culinary school. Foodies will notice that the show is not only hilarious, but also wholly accurate when it comes to cooking technique. The recipes in the show, as well as in the original manga, were actually contributed by famous Japanese chef Yuki Morisaki, so they’re something you could actually cook and come up with edible results.
Reminiscent of the silliness of Yakitate!! Japan but executed with more attention to detail, Food Wars! is a terrific watch. Just come knowing you’re going to be hungry, or better yet, bring snacks before you sit down for your viewing marathon. Season 2 of the series hits Hulu March 18. —C.B.
4) Death Parade
This 2015 series poses an interesting question: What’s your true nature when your life is on the line? When the dead visit a bar akin to purgatory, they face a challenge that will eventually lead to their fate after death. The bartender is their judge.
Death Parade delves fearlessly into human darkness, and it always leaves the viewer thinking. It’s also gorgeously animated and has a dark atmosphere that fans of early ’90s anime will remember fondly. As an added touch, the opening animation is very silly, a stark contrast to the serious themes to come. —C.B.
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The best reason to watch this anime is a simple one: Umaru-chan is all of us. In her daily life she’s a lovely, presentable girl, but as soon as she gets home she becomes a cola-guzzling otaku troll. She lives with her brother, who must tolerate her weird antics and help her hide her true identity. From her obsession with video games to her demands for junk food, one can’t help admire her total dedication to being a layabout (not to mention envy her a bit). —C.B.
While there’s nothing unique about a slice-of-life show with a high school setting, there is something truly delightful about the relationship at the heart of Kimi Ni Todoke. Sawako Kuronuma, a long-haired girl with poor social skills, is made fun of at school and compared to Sadako from the famous Japanese horror film Ringu (The Ring in the U.S.). She believes she is forever doomed to be a social leper, but her life changes completely when she catches the eye of popular student Kazahaya.
The reason this show hit such a chord with so many viewers is thanks to how gently it addresses the concept of being accepted. While Sawako and Kazahaya’s relationship unfolds at a pace roughly as fast as dripping molasses, it’s wonderful to watch the whole way. —C.B.
When a master player hears his favorite MMORPG (that’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the uninitiated) is going to be shut down, he’s angry, but when he tries to log out for the last time, he makes a remarkable discovery: the server has developed a mind of its own and the non-player characters around him show signs of sentience that weren’t there before. His quest to find his guildmates and accomplish world domination unfolds throughout the series. While an obvious draw for gamers, the series also makes broad statements about the human ego and the thirst for power. Like all Madhouse releases, it’s also gorgeous to watch. —C.B.
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8) Cowboy Bebop
With only 26 episodes Cowboy BeBop is a short treat, but it’s a quintessential part of anime history that needs to be seen. Universally beloved, Cowboy Bebop follows a exiled hitman turned space bounty hunter named Spike and the crew of his ship, Bebop. Part of the charm is its propulsive jazz soundtrack, which adds a kinetic energy to its action while accentuating the show’s sober and existential moments. But it could be scored to Kid Rock and you’d still fall in love with Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ein. Tackling surprisingly emotional stories, Cowboy Bebop always falls back on humor before things get too grim. —John-Michael Bond
Both seasons of the international mega-hit Attack on Titan are on Hulu, so if you’ve never watched count yourself lucky. The first season aired in April 2013, but season two didn’t debut until April 2017. Luckily you get to skip the four-year wait and dive head first into this incredible action series about a world where humanity lives in near-constant battle with a species of gigantic humanoid monsters with a thirst for human flesh. The animation and steampunk design philosophy help establish the world our heroes live in while continually escalating the incredible action sequences. Not quite horror but never purely action, Attack on Titan has earned its rabid fanbase through thoughtful storytelling punctuated by gory giant monster fights. —J.M.B.
An alien invasion is quietly taking place on Earth, possessing human beings and taking their place until the moment is right. Shinichi Izumi just found out about the invasion when his parasyte attacked. But for some reason, his parasyte couldn’t possess his brain, and now this odd couple is stuck sharing the same body. Parasyte effortlessly shifts between absurd comedy and pure horror, with gorgeous animation that brings the show’s numerous monsters to gruesome life. What’s it like to live with a monster in your arm? Shinichi is about to find out. —J.M.B.
11) Elfen Lied
Given Japan’s unique position as the world’s sole nation to endure a nuclear attack, it’s little wonder its science fiction is often tinged with pessimistic horror. Elfen Lied dives deep into the nightmarish results of a government experiment on telekinetic energy, leaving gory heaps of exploded bodies in its wake. Lucy is a Diclonius—a mutated human born with horns and telekinetic powers. After escaping from the government, she takes up with two college students who don’t know her identity. As the government’s hunt for her draws near, Lucy’s powers and sanity are pushed to their limits. If you’re squeamish stay away, this one starts brutal and stays the course. —J.M.B’
Vampire stories seldom ask you to sympathize with the monsters, but Shiki isn’t your standard vampire story. Beginning slowly as a mystery involving a series of unexplainable deaths, Shiki quickly escalates into a full-fledged exploration of blood-sucking fiends. With villains both alive and undead, Shiki doesn’t always make it easy to know who to root for, but that just adds to the drama. Plus if the mystery doesn’t move you, there’s a ton of staking to look forward to later in the series. —J.M.B
13) Blood C
The second series in the Blood franchise is a change of pace from Blood+ and Blood: The Last Vampire, leaving behind its vampiric roots for a broader horror direction. Following a teen monster hunter in her quest against the Elder Bairns, this amalgamation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and traditional Japanese folklore is full of twists and staggeringly graphic violence. Saya is a sympathetic heroine, which makes the atrocities she faces all the more harrowing, while the beautiful animation makes each fight a thrilling bloodbath.—J.M.B.
Hulu’s Darker Than Black is an oddity; possibly the first superhero takes on a slasher movie style anti-hero. Ten years ago a mysterious anomaly called “Heaven’s Gate” changed the stars themselves and led to the birth of “Contractors,” superhuman being capable of great power at a personal cost. Each time they use their power, Contractors are struck with an involuntary compulsion, from eating a specific food to self-harm. Our hero is Hei; a Contractor tasked with brutally hunting down the rest of his kind. We’ll never know what David Cronenberg’s version of The Avengers would look like, but Darker Than Blackgives us a twisted idea.—J.M.B
15) Death Note
For 10 years Death Note has been a favorite of American anime fans—and thanks in part to its wide availability. Its premise is simple, yet horrifically relatable. A teenage boy, Light Yagami, finds a notebook with “Death Note” written on its cover. Inside he finds a list of rules:
- The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
- This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
- If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, it will happen.
- If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.
- After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
At first, it seems like a joke, but when the Death Note’s magic becomes terrifyingly real Light sets out to use his powers for good, cleansing the world of crime. While Light’s intentions are initially good, the mysterious detective known only as “L” has to track him down when Light goes mad with murderous power.
If some anime is like the band Radiohead, thoughtful and challenging to fans who are willing to take the time to absorb its charms, High School of the Dead is like Motley Crue. It’s a loud explosion of fan service that pours out skimpy outfits and wall-to-wall zombie killing before asking if you want more. Part Degrassi, part Dawn of the Dead, High School of the Dead isn’t here to challenge you. It just wants to make sure you have a good time. Sadly, Hulu has a slightly censored version of the show, with some of the more graphic bits of sex and violence covered by shadows. It’s a testament to how much fun HSOTD is that we’re still recommending it.
17) Toyko Ghoul
Cities come fraught with danger, but if you’re careful it’s easy to avoid the hazards, like criminals or flesh-eating, superpowered, ghouls. Hiding among mankind by day, ghouls hit the streets at night, ready to gorge themselves on their neighbors. After surviving an attack Ken Kaneki becomes the first half-ghoul-half-human hybrid, but he soon learns that living in both worlds has gruesome consequences. Darkly funny and almost obscenely violent, Tokyo Ghoul is a treat for anyone—just don’t try to watch it during dinner.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.