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The Top Anime Picks on Amazon Prime Video

The presence and influence of anime in the west is ever-changing but most importantly, it is growing. In both North America and my native United Kingdom, there is more anime watched now than ever before. The ever-increasing streaming options and catalogues available make for a ton of great anime, new and old, at our fingertips. It’s mostly a matter of finding them. 

Of the leading streaming brands, Netflix has a very strong back catalogue with the movies of Studio Ghibli (outside of the US), a self-produced remaster of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and other brilliant exclusive productions such as the excellent Devilman: Crybaby. As for Amazon Prime Video, it might not have a deep anime catalogue, but there are some absolute gems available. As Prime Video not only streams video but also sells it, the entries below are ones included with a Prime subscription in both the UK and the US. No extra costs, no extra hassle, just readily available top-quality anime entertainment. Let’s go!

Space Adventure Cobra

Cobra creator Buichi Terasawa’s favourite movie is Star Wars. Picture for a moment then, a fusion of both Han Solo and James Bond, a space pirate and secret agent respectively, along with a mullet of blonde hair and unavoidable attraction to danger, and that’s Space Adventure Cobra in a nutshell. Cobra is a sleek operative not adverse to danger, and with his trusty aptly named arm-laser Psychogun and cyborg companion Lady Armaroid by his side, Space Adventure Cobra is a rip-roaring, space pirate adventure.  

Amazon’s inclusion of the entire 30+ episode anime television series is an excellent addition to the catalogue and an early 1980’s gem. Its release in the UK is of particular significance, with only the feature film of the same name being the only Cobra release by Manga Video in 1995, albeit with an entirely different soundtrack. But this series, a true adaption of the original manga, is displayed in all its original glory, with no edits in sight. Just the way It should be.    

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

Kenichi is a wimp. His heart is in the right place but can’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. When he meets transfer student Miu, he desires to end being a target for bullying. It’s just as well Miu lives at a dojo with six martial arts masters who are about to give him the training of his life. Maybe if he’s lucky, Kenichi might get the girl too.

Where many shows pitch what to expect from its first/pilot episode, Kenichi may arguably put many off from the outset. As a protagonist Kenichi is in a constant state of petrification, his actions overly hysterical, and his overall portrayal can be a tough one to bear. At first. If nothing else this serves as great fodder for its voice actors, both English and Japanese, to be their exuberant best. As the seasons wear on, of which there are four to grapple with, the show develops into an intricate and interesting showcase of true martial arts techniques and principles. Kenichi does take a little while to bed in but stick with it and reap the reward it brings. 

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

Inuyashiki Last Hero

After Ichiro Inuyashiki, a down-trodden family man on the verge of fatal illness, and Hiro Shishigami, an everyday high school student, are inadvertently transformed into cyborgs by an extra-terrestrial presence, their lives are changed forever. Where Ichiro uses his new-found desire for life to help others, Hiro in contrast becomes one of anime’s most detached and chilling psychopathic killers in years. 

A highly emotionally charged science fiction mini-series from MAPPA (Attack on Titan's Final Season), Inuyashiki is a direct translation of the manga. It pulls no punches, with some truly graphic scenes that few series would dare deliver. The visual palette is very impressive, with some architectural shots easily mistaken for the real thing. The cherry on the cake is the excellent theme song My Hero from the often-equally impressive Man with a Mission. With only eleven episodes Inuyashiki is a fast-paced affair but prepare to be captivated, emotionally invested, with your jaw ready to drop for the shocks in store.     

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

Banana Fish

An action-packed tale set in America, Banana Fish tells the tale of Ash Lynx, a New York gang leader who breaks his criminal ties to solve the mystery of Banana Fish, a drug that drove his older brother to madness during the Vietnam War. When a pair of journalists arrive from Japan, they experience first-hand the gangs they are there to report on and team up with Ash and other allies on the way. 

Updated for modern times from the original manga set in the 1980’s, Banana Fish is another great production from MAPPA, and a joy to watch as everything unfolds. Its thirty-forty-year time jump leads to a few inconsistencies, particularly the amount of crime in present day New York City compared to the 1970/1980’s, but other than that, director Hiroko Utsumi of Free! and Sk8 The Infinity fame helms an absolutely stellar adaption of Akimi Yoshida’s manga.

Banana Fish quickly establishes a very absorbing dynamic between the brutally trained and childhood abused Ash and the pure-hearted, positive-thinking journalist Eiji. Add to that a hugely intriguing plot from the outset, with an equally interesting and provocative background cast, and you have yourself a very addictive twenty-four-episode serial. The end of every episode leaves you needing to know what happens next. 

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

Lupin the Third 

The western world was introduced to the world of Lupin the Third through the superb Hayao Miyazaki feature film The Castle of Cagliostro. That movie, one of many, is based upon the TV series Lupin the Third, a series that has been in production in various forms for over forty years now. Prime Video has one of the oldest series in its entirety as part of its catalogue – Lupin the Third Part 2 – and it is an absolute riot. 

Lupin and his criminal associates have been on their separate ways for five years. That is until the arrival of mysterious invitations to a cruise ship reunites the gang – Jigen, Goemon the samurai and the beautiful Fujiko – and quickly becomes their first of many new capers together. Add to that mix Inspector Zenigata, the ever-determined lawman desperate to catch Lupin in the act, as he chases the master thieves across the globe. 

Every episode is a different crime caper, and Arsene Lupin may be attracted to danger, but he always has the upper hand on anyone and everyone he comes up against. For me it evokes memories of Saturday morning cartoons such as Inspector Gadget with its formulaic nature, seemingly countless crime capers, and usual suspect cast of characters. Lupin the Third is unlawful by comparison of course, but it’s always amusing to see how the criminal evades the law every episode. And if that wasn’t enough, another favourite Saturday morning cartoon trope also comes to light - expect to have the theme song stuck in your head as you’ll be hearing it a LOT.

Given its age, Lupin the Third Part 2 looks a bit crude by today’s standards. The writing is sub-standard, some of the stories are ridiculously contrived, even the protagonist’s attempts at female flattery are borderline inappropriate. And yet when put together, there is no denying that Lupin the Third is a wonderful creation to watch. Its no Castle of Cagliostro of course, but the Wily E. Coyote nature of the show and its great characters will live long in the memory.    

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     


Shin Tetsujin 28

Shin Tetsujin tells the story of a boy, Shotaro Kaneda, who inherits a super-powered robot, Tetsujin, from his father to protect the Earth from those that wish to destroy it. Dragons, aliens, rival robots and even acid rain try their hand and it is up to Shotaro, as the sole controller of Tetsujin, to save the day. Tetsujin 28 was very much the first series of its kind when originally penned and inked back in the 1950s by creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama and remains a hugely influential series even today as the first anime to feature a giant robot controlled remotely by a human operator.

This nugget of a series from the early 1980’s is the second adaption of the manga of the same name- the "Shin" in the title meaning "New". Fans of the UK anime 1990’s video label Manga Video will no doubt be aware of the seven-part OVA series Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, which itself is an adaption based on Yokoyama’s follow up manga, again of the same name. And while the young boy/giant robot theme is similar in both works, Shin Tetsujin focuses on crime fighting and disaster prevention as opposed to Giant Robo’s more fantasy-driven affair. With an US name change of Gigantor when the first series was released in the 1960’s, this second adaption was better known as The New Adventures of Gigantor, with fifty-one episodes in total. Prime Video has the lot in their original Japanese glory and serves as perfect Saturday morning cartoon fun. 

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     


Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories is for certain one of the special entries in this list. When student Satsuki Miyanoshita and her younger brother move to a new neighbourhood, inevitably new school vibes follow suit. Following the discovery of genuine paranormal activity in the old schoolhouse situated next door to the newly developed school, the anxiety of making new friends is quickly resolved. Satsuki’s neighbour Hajime and the paranormally curious Leo tag along as this new scooby-gang-of-sorts solve several spiritual issues in a typical villain-of-the-week format. 

This Studio Pierrot/Aniplex effort comes from Noriyuki Abe (Bleach), with an animation style reminiscent of the second OVA adaption of Yuzo Takada’s 3 X 3 Eyes just five years previous, including Kaoru Wada on scoring duties. Its notoriety comes purely from the American dub, and when I say American, I mean really American; despite being obviously set in Japan, all location references are to US states/cities. Speaking of references, Ghost Stories is inundated with them, from the mention of popular actors of the 1990s to the less-comfortable constant ridicule of Jews (“Jews can run, who knew?” – really?) to many a teenage-masturbatory trope. The results rank from hilarious to hideous, and completely detracts from the fact that Ghost Stories is at its source kids show. But you’ll be admiring the effort of the dub too much to care.     

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

Ronja The Robber’s Daughter

If you like an adaptation that is truly faithful to its source text, then look no further than Ronja The Robber’s Daughter. This Studio Ghibli co-produced (with Polygon Pictures) take on Astrid Lindgren’s 1981 children’s fantasy novel of the same name treads unknown ground, even by Japan’s most lauded animation studio standards, as the studio’s first ever series for television. Helmed by Goro Miyazaki in just his third project for Ghibli, Ronja serves as a precursor of sorts to the studio’s transition into 3D computer graphics, most recently displayed in the more recent (and divisive) Earwig and the Witch. But fear not, as Ronja is more of a CG boost of Ghibli’s more traditional character models, boasting some of the smoothest animated movements you’ll ever see on screen. 

As for its faithfulness, its twenty-six episodes are scripted almost word for word from the English-translated text. While nothing (literally almost nothing) is missing, there are some allowances to be made by anyone watching as a result; the pacing is rather slow throughout, which doesn’t exactly make it a bingeable series. However, this is at heart a children’s show, so the twenty-six multiplied by twenty-five-minute chunks certainly works in the favour of the target audience. The English dub, although the only option available, is also a delight – Gillian Anderson’s narration is soothingly delivered, and Rufus Hound is clearly having a lot of fun as Ronja’s dad, Mattis. It may be a slow burn, but what Ronja the Robber’s Daughter does deliver is a beautiful and interesting series.      

Watch on Amazon Prime | Watch On Amazon Prime UK     

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Kevin Kissane is an Information Security Specialist by day, and avid animation, movie/TV and video game fan by night. WIth a love for animation since the Saturday morning cartoon era of the 80s, and riding the crest of the 90s anime wave in the UK, I continue to celebrate the medium as much as possible. If it is retro, it is likely to turn my head. Follow him on twitter here.