Netflix has a new philosophy when it comes to anime: go big or go home.
The internet streamer announced a pick-up of a dozen new anime series and one feature, a significant investment that will make Netflix a new home for first-run original animation produced in Japan. Prior to this, most of Netflix’s anime content was licensed, but not exclusive to the streamer; for example, One-Punch Man has also had a run on its competitor, Hulu.
This intensified focus on anime puts Netflix on a collision course with anime-only subscription services like Crunchyroll and Funimation, the latter of which was acquired earlier this week by Sony Pictures Television Networks.
Netflix’s key advantage here is scale. The company boasts 100 million subscribers compared to its leading competitor in the anime space, Crunchyroll, which recently passed the 1 million mark. While Netflix doesn’t offer anywhere near the variety of Crunchyroll, it needs just a couple of original hits to start convincing anime fans to add Netflix to their monthly subscriptions.
But this isn’t necessarily a winner-take-all scenario. Netflix’s investment in anime could benefit the niche services as well, because Netflix is opening up Japanese animation to tens of millions of casual tv viewers who would’ve never considered subscribing to an anime-only subscription video service. Netflix’s exposure could potentially create millions of new fans who would then want to dive deeper into the art form through the more specialized services.
Two of the more high-profile pick-ups in Netflix’s 12-series anime binge are LeSean Thomas’s Cannon Busters (pictured at top), which grabbed online attention after raising $156K on Kickstarter to produce a pilot, and Devilman Crybaby, a Go Nagai creation that is being turned into a 10-episode series by Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, The Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong).
A complete list of series, most of which appear slated to premiere in 2018, can be found below, with Netflix’s official descriptions:
- Cannon Busters
Created, directed and executive produced by LeSean Thomas (Children of Ether), the series follows the adventures and exploits of S.A.M, a high-end, royal-class friendship droid who’s joined by a quirky, discarded maintenance robot and a brash, deadly fugitive. Together, the unlikely trio embarks on an unforgettable journey in a fantastic and dangerous world in search of S.A.M’s best friend, the heir to a powerful kingdom under siege. Twelve episodes are being produced by Manga Entertainment Ltd, Nada Holdings, and Satelight (Macross Delta).
Writers: Natasha Allegri (creator of Bee & Puppycat), Anne Toole (Writer’s Guild nominee for The Witcher video game), Nilah Magruder (M.F.K. web series) and LeSean Thomas, among others.
Story Editor: Matt Wayne (Justice League Unlimited, Niko & The Sword of Light)
- Devilman Crybaby
The protagonist Akira Fudo (Koki Uchiyama) learns from his best friend, Ryo Asuka (Ayumu Murase), that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Ryo tells Akira that the only way to defeat the demons is to incorporate their supernatural powers, and suggests that he unite with a demon himself. Akira succeeds in transforming into Devilman, who possesses both the powers of a demon and the soul of a human. The battle of Devilman and Akira Fudo begins. The series, comprised of 10 episodes, is a Science Saru production and will launch on Netflix globally in Spring 2018.
Original story: “Devilman” by Go Nagai
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Screenplay: Ichiro Okouchi
Music: Kensuke Ushio
- B: The Beginning (formerly known as Perfect Bones)
In a world powered by advanced technology, crime and action unfold in the archipelagic nation of Cremona. Koku, the protagonist. Keith, the legendary investigator of the royal police force RIS. A mysterious criminal organization. A wide variety of characters race through the fortified city as it is beset by the serial killer, Killer B, and a chain of crimes in this suspense drama by director Kazuto Nakazawa and Production I.G. The series is comprised of 12 episodes and is a Production I.G. series that is set to debut globally on Netflix in Spring 2018. B: The Beginning stars Hiroaki Hirata, Yuki Kaji, Asami Seto, Hiroki Touchi, Minoru Inaba, Ami Koshimizu, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Shintaro Tanaka, Atsushi Goto, Toshiyuki Morikawa and Kaito Ishikawa.
Original: Kazuto Nakazawa x Production I.G.
Directors: Kazuto Nakazawa, Yoshinobu Yamakawa
Producer Rui Kuroki
Screenplay: Katsunari Ishida
Character Designer and Key Animation Supervisor: Kazuto Nakazawa
Color Designer: Narumi Sakai
Art Supervisor: Yukio Nagasaki
Music: Yoshihiro Ike
Editor: Junichi Uematsu
Song: The Perfect World
Song-Arrange-Guitar: Marty Friedman
Bass: KenKen (aka LIFE IS GROOVE/RIZE/Dragon Ash)
Arrange-Programming: Koji Fujimoto
- Sword Gai: The Animation
A weapon that has drawn the blood of countless victims becomes legend, and at times takes on a life of its own. When such a weapon’s human host is filled with hate and murderous intent, he becomes a demonic combination of weapon and man that thirsts only for slaughter. An organization has faced these dangerous beings over the centuries. A young man named Gai is destined to live as a weapon. As humans are enthralled by their weapons’ power, epic battles unfold with the fate of humanity in the balance in this battle action fantasy. The series will debut globally on Netflix in Spring 2018.
- A.I.C.O. Incarnation
In Japan in the year 2035, an accident known as the “Burst” occurs during a research project, spawning an out-of-control artificial life form called “Matter” that has spread throughout the Kurobe Gorge. The research city that was once hailed as the hope for humanity is cordoned off by the government. Two years later, 15-year-old Aiko Tachibana, who lost her family in the Burst, learns something unbelievable from Yuya Kanzaki, a new student at her school. A secret is hidden within her body, and the answer to the puzzle lies at the “Primary Point” that was the center of the Burst. Aiko resolves to infiltrate the restricted area, escorted by a team of divers and with Yuya as her guide. When boy meets girl with the fate of humanity in their hands, what new truth will come to light? The series comprised of 12 episodes is produced by Bones, whose notable works include Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven and My Hero Academia. The series will debut globally on Netflix in Spring 2018.
Director: Kazuya Murata
- Lost Song
An all-new, classic fantasy starring Yukari Tamura and Konomi Suzuki as the two heroines. Rin (Konomi Suzuki), an energetic girl who loves to eat, lives in a verdant frontier village. Deep within the royal palace in the bustling capital city, the songstress Finis (Yukari Tamura) spends her days in solitude. Both share a special power no other person has. A miraculous power that can heal wounds, create water and stir the wind — the power of song. Guided by destiny, the two young women each face an arduous journey with the power of song. The shadow of war looms over the kingdom, tainting even the miraculous songs with the blood of innocents. Loved ones meet their deaths as silent screams echo through a stone prison. As two destinies intersect, will the final song be one of despair, hope or…? The series is comprised of 12 episodes, and is a Lidenfilms x Dwango co-production. Lost Song will debut globally on Netflix in 2018.
- Rilakkuma Series (working title)
Ever since its merchandise first went on sale by San-X in 2003, the “Rilakkuma” character has enjoyed immense popularity especially among women. After being featured in many merchandising and industry campaigns, it is now widely recognized both in Japan and abroad. To mark its 15th anniversary, Dwarf Studio now brings to bear its world class stop motion animation skills to produce the first animated series featuring Rilakkuma. Rilakkuma is a soft toy bear who showed up one day to live with an office worker named Kaoru. He spends his days lounging around the apartment. Although there’s a zipper on his back, what’s inside is a mystery. He loves pancakes, rice omelets, custard pudding and “dango” rice dumplings. His friends are Kaoru’s pet bird Kiiroitori and a small white bear cub named Korilakkuma who also showed up out of the blue.
- Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya
Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya follows modern day adventures of young warriors called “Knights”, who are sworn protectors of the reincarnated Greek goddess Athena. Each Knights wears a powerful armor based on their chosen zodiac constellation, and are called Knights of the Zodiac. They aid Athena in her battle against powerful Olympian gods who are bent on destroying the humankind. The series is comprised of 12 episodes and is produced by Toei Animation.
Based on original stories and characters created by: Masami Kurumada
Director: Yoshiharu Ashino
Story Editor & Head Writer: Eugene Son
Character Design: Terum Nishii
Armor Design: Takashi Okazaki
The protagonist, Baki Hanma, trains with an intense focus to become strong enough to surpass his father, Yujiro Hanma, the strongest fighter in the world. Five of the world’s most violent and brutal death row inmates are gathering to face Baki. Their objective is to taste defeat — their unmatched strength and skill have led them to grow bored of life itself, and they now seek out Baki in the hopes that he can overwhelm and utterly crush them. In this crisis, other underground martial art warriors gather to fight by Baki’s side: Kaoru Hanayama, Gouki Shibukawa, Retsu Kaioh, and Doppo Orochi. An epic showdown between violent death row inmates and Baki and his friends begins! More than 63 million copies of the original manga series have been printed and the series will be comprised of 26 episodes for Netflix, produced by TMS Entertainment.
There is one absolute rule in gambling — at the end of the day, there is a winner and a loser. The winner gains riches and prestige, while the loser is branded a failure and left with nothing. In the silence leading up to the moment that separates winners and losers, instincts are sharpened and desires reach the point of ecstasy. This is a harsh microcosm of life in a capitalist society. Why are people captivated by a world filled with risk? What lies beyond the madness? As the class system of modern society crumbles, an unprecedented adrenaline-pumping anime sweeps the world. Based on the manga by Homura Kawamoto and Toru Naomura (serialized in Monthly Gangan Joker published by Square Enix), twelve episodes of the series are being produced by MAPPA. Kakegurui stars Saori Hayami, Minami Tanaka, Tatsuya Tokutake, Yuki Wakai, Karin Nanami, Mariya Ise, Yu Serizawa, Tomokazu Sugita, Mayu Udono, Ayaka Fukuhara, and Miyuki Sawashiro. The series will premiere in 2018 on Netflix, everywhere except Japan.
Director: Yuichiro Hayashi
Series Composition: Yasuko Kobayashi
Character Design: Manabu Akita
Art Directors: Haruka Matsuda, Masanobu Nomura
Color Designer: Chikako Kamata
CGI Director: Shin Jaehoon
Director of Photography: Takashi Yanagida
Editing: Kiyoshi Hirose
Sound Director: Akiko Fujita
Sound Production: Half H・P Studio
Music: Technoboys Pulcraft Green-fund
Fourteen Heroic Spirits gather for an apocryphal Holy Grail War. In a city called Fuyuki, seven magi and their Heroic Spirits once clashed in a Holy Grail War. But amid the chaos of the Second World War, a magus made off with the Grail. Decades later, the Yggdmillennia clan holds the Grail high and secedes from the Mage’s Association, declaring their independence. Angered by the move, the Association sends assassins after them, only to have them wiped out by a Yggdmillennia Servant. The choice is made to fight Servants with Servants, and the Holy Grail War system is expanded to two factions of seven Servants each. A Holy Grail War of unprecedented scale — a Great Holy Grail War — begins in Trifas, Romania.
The series stars Natsuki Hanae, Maaya Sakamoto, Koki Uchiyama, Miyuki Sawashiro, Junichi Suwabe, Saori Hayami, Shunsuke Takeuchi, Koji Yusa, Ryotaro Okiayu, Makoto Furukawa, Rumi Okubo, Tetsu Inada, Mitsuru Miyamoto, Satoshi Tsuruoka, Ai Nonaka, Kei Shindo and Sakura Tange. Fate/Apocrypha is an Aniplex/A-1 Pictures production. The series will be 25 episodes that premiere is the U.S. and Canada on November 7, and everywhere else, except Japan, on December 2.
Original Story: Yuichiro Higashide・Type-Moon
Original Character Design: Ototsugu Konoe
Director: Yoshiyuki Asai
Story Editor: Yuichiro Higashide
Music: Masaru Yokoyama
Studio: A-1 Pictures
- Children of the Whales
In the 93rd year of the Sentence of Sand… In a world covered by oceans of sand, 513 people live in complete isolation on the “Mud Whale,” an island-like ship adrift on the sand. Children of the Whales is an adaptation by director Kyohei Ishiguro and anime studio J.C.Staff based on Abi Umeda’s hit manga of the same name (serialized in Akita Shoten’s Monthly Mystery Bonita). Chakuro, the island’s archivist endowed with special powers, meets a mysterious girl named Rikosu as he investigates an abandoned ship that drifted up to the Mud Whale one day. It is the first time anyone on the island has made contact with someone from the outside world, but is it an auspicious sign that a new world awaits?
Children of the Whales stars Natsuki Hanae, Manaka Iwami, Yuichiro Umehara, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Mikako Komatsu, Daiki Yamashita and Hiroshi Kamiya. The series will debut everywhere except Japan on Netflix in 2018.
Director: Kyohei Ishiguro
Series Composition: Michiko Yokote
Character Design: Haruko Iizuka
Art Director: Toshiharu Mizutani (Moonflower)
Color Designer: Miyuki Ishida
Director of Photography: Yoshio Okouchi
Editor: Masahiro Goto (REAL-T)
Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa
Music: Hiroaki Tsutsumi
Animation Production: J.C.Staff
Since it was first released as a feature film in 1954, Godzilla has become a colossal cultural icon loved by millions around the world. The 2016 release of Shin Godzilla, directed by Hideaki Anno, reinvigorated the franchise with a novel and realistic depiction of the iconic monster story, earning $82.5 million US dollars at the box office and capturing the imagination of new and old fans alike. Now in 2017, Godzilla evolves in an unexpected direction as a feature-length animated film.
The animated movie takes the franchise into uncharted territory — a harsh world of the future in which Godzilla has dominated the Earth for the past 20,000 years, and a fateful final confrontation with mankind looms. The animated film stars Mamoru Miyano, Takashiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuki Kaji and Junichi Suwabe. Prepare for the earth-shattering roar of a brand new Godzilla, unlike anything heard or seen before.