Netflix has been driving hard at original content ever since they struck gold with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Netflix has had enough success stories that they declared a goal of having 50 percent original content — makes sense when you consider that Disney is planning to yank all of their stuff and launch their own streaming service within the next couple years!
Last year, Netflix pledged $8 billion in the coming year to original series and movies, and we’ve noticed something a whole lot of others have noticed — there’s a lot of anime here! Some of that cash is going toward 30 anime productions in the new year, which makes a lot of sense. We don’t have the numbers in front of us, but we’re pretty confident that an episode of anime isn’t going to cost as much as the $6 to $8 million they spent per episode on the second season of Stranger Things!
But, Netflix might also be recognizing their part to play in a cultural moment. While anime has had a small core of fans in the United States since the early ’90s when Anime Expo first came to California, its popularity stateside has been uneven.
Cartoon Network was probably responsible for the last big surge in anime’s popularity. The WB carrying the Pokémon animated series probably got things started (that theme song), but Cartoon Network introduced a bunch of kids to a whole lot more anime series with Toonami, which from the late ’90s onward carried shows like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Voltron, and Rurouni Kenshin, with the network’s Adult Swim late night slate popularizing series like Cowboy Bebop, Bleach, Naruto, and Ghost in the Shell. But, the late ’90s and early ’00s proved to be a heyday of sorts — Toonami was moved from weekdays to Saturday nights, while Adult Swim started carrying more and more western animation series. Cartoon Network currently sticks the anime series they still run on Toonami, which airs late Saturday nights. You can kinda see the same effect in Anime Expo — attendance grew from 6,400 people to 40,000 people between 1998 and and 2006, but only grew to 49,000 by 2012 (granted, the Great Recession might have had something to do with that).
The cause of the slowdown in excitement can be debated, but whatever the case, it sure looks like there’s a renewed surge. Anime Expo hit 100,000 people in 2016, and newer series like One Punch Man are working their way into the public consciousness like those older series had been able to.
Enter Netflix. Not only does Netflix see the growing popularity here, the company’s rapid growth abroad is making them high on original anime series — hence the big 2018 they have in store. Here are a handful of those series coming to Netflix this year. If you’re new to anime and have a Netflix subscription anyway, some of them might be worth a look!