On August 2nd, Netflix announced a new list of anime and Japanese-influenced series that the service is picking up for streaming. On the list are typical strong performers in the science fiction, fantasy, and action genres. Even if the names are unfamiliar, the tropes and plot twists should sound familiar. There’s Devilman Crybaby, a Devilman revival about a race of demons trampling the earth, and the one man who has to harness the powers of the dark side in order to defeat them. There’s Knights of the Zodiac: SAINT SEIYA, which draws on Greek mythology to fuel its man vs. superhuman mega-war crisis. Fate/Apocrypha features a similar battle, but set against the historical backdrop of World War II. And Baki is a fighting anime featuring death row inmates.
That all sounds like the usual offerings — but wait, what’s this we have here? A cuddly stuffed bear with bear and birdie pals? Rilakkuma, named for a Hello Kitty competitor who often shows up as a cute keychain character in Morning Glory stores and their knockoffs, is coming to Netflix in its own fluffy, probably plotless series. The Netflix press release says “the ‘Rilakkuma’ character has enjoyed immense popularity especially among women,” but given the almost-brainlessness of Hello Kitty TV and similar ventures, this show is likely best for small children of all genders.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Kakegurui, a psychological thriller about gambling that’s critical about capitalism and sometimes veers toward the pornographic. From the premise, it sounds like an anime version of Westworld, and it’s likely to be a chance for new anime fans to see just how wacky and intellectual Japanese television can get.
While Netflix is serving up its worldwide viewers mostly “blockbuster anime” series that it can count on performing well, Rilakkuma and Kakegurui seem like the streaming service is also hedging its bets with more niche material.