In its bid to produce lots of original series and movies (e.g., Stranger Things, The OA, Narcos, Okja), Netflix has also gotten into the animé business. To date, that endeavor has been a mixed success. Sure, the first season of Knights of Sidonia was solid but the second season was deeply disappointing. Netlflix’s anticipated adaptation of Blame! was pretty good, but it was also missing the weirdness that made the original manga so compelling.
That being said, Netflix is ramping up its animé production for 2018; the streaming service is investing $8 billion in original content next year, with a significant chunk of that going to produce 30 — yes, 30 — new animé series. Some of these titles include Violet Evergarden, Devilman Crybaby, Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya, A.I.C.O. -Incarnation-, and Children of the Whales, as well as the upcoming Godzilla animé from Polygon Pictures. (For more info about these titles and others, read Polygon’s coverage.)
Of all of the titles announced so far, the two that have me most intrigued are Violet Evergarden and Children of the Whales. The former is being produced by Kyoto Animation (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Beyond the Boundary) and based on an award-winning light novel by Kana Akatsuki and Akiko Takase. The series’ steampunk-ish setting is intriguing and the artwork and animation look quite impressive. (Promisingly, early reviews are very positive.)
As for Children of the Whales, it’s based on Abi Umeda’s manga series and is set on a giant vessel that sails a sea of sand, and chronicles the various adventures of its inhabitants. As with Violet Evergarden, the artwork and animation immediately caught my eye; it looks extremely detailed, almost painterly, and the desert setting is properly fantastical and intriguing.
No release dates have been set for either of these series. And who knows what else Netflix has in the works. Part of me really hopes that they’re working on a new Blame! movie (I’ve heard rumors), one that’ll better capture the otherworldliness of Tsutomu Nihei’s transhumanist manga.
All arguments about if/how Netflix is destroying the animé industry (à la its effects on the movie industry), it is interesting to see Netflix double down so much on what has often been considered a niche market.
Not to date myself, but I still remember when the only ways to see animé was to a) borrow fansubs from friends who knew people who knew people, b) buy really expensive VHS copies at places like Suncoast, c) rent VHS tapes at Blockbuster (and hope they had copies of all of the volumes of whatever series you wanted to watch), and/or d) stumble across the occasional animé title on TV.
The fact that I’m currently looking forward to sifting through 30 new titles next year that I can watch anywhere, anytime? Well, all (worthwhile) discussion about Netflix’s impact on the industry aside, that fact alone is pretty magical.