Table of Contents
As brutal as the streaming wars have become, Netflix is still hanging in there and holding its own with a steady stream of original films and series tailor-made to keep us all entertained. While the content must flow, Netflix’s front page still only does a so-so job of actually letting you know about all the solid stuff the streamer has to offer. So we’ve put together a little list of some highlights that are worth checking out whenever, but especially during the holiday season when you’re at home and just looking for something to watch.
Based on Capcom’s game series by the same name, studio Sublimation and director Shinya Sugai’s new Onimusha series follows a fictionalized version of legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto (Akio Otsuka) as he embarks on a journey across Edo-period Japan to rid the country of a growing demonic threat.
Netflix’s Onimusha keeps its direct references to the games’ lore light, and its story feels much more like a fantastical dramatization of the real Miyamoto’s life than a faithful adaptation of the games. But if you’re into flashy, animated, period pieces that temper their historical accuracy with heavy doses of gory action and magical mystery, Onimusha might be up your alley.
Blue Eye Samurai
Like Onimusha, studio Blue Spirit’s Blue Eye Samurai from co-creators Michael Green and Amber Noizumi is set during Japan’s Edo period. It chronicles the journey of a solemn warrior on a mission to bring peace to the country by mowing down hordes of dark-hearted villains.
But whereas Onimusha’s demons are quite literal, Blue Eye Samurai pits its lethal heroine against monsters who are all-too-human and more accepted by society than she could ever hope to be. Blue Eye Samurai definitely leans into tropes of the genre, and its story takes a couple of episodes to really kick into gear. But the show’s animated action is gorgeous, and there’s a consistent strength in its lead cast’s performances that bring these characters to life in a fantastic way.
Set over three decades after Junichi Sato’s original anime adaptation of Shigeru Mizuki’s manga Akuma-kun, Toei Animation’s new revival of the series is something of a family story that focuses on different generations of magical child prodigies working together to save the world from supernatural threats. Though they appear to be ordinary kids, both Shingo (Alex Cazares) and his adopted son Ichirō Umoregi (Michael Johnston) are part of a long line of powerful demon summoners referred to as “Akuma Kun” who are only born once every 10,000 years.
In the past, it fell to Akuma Kuns like Shingo to harness demons’ power in hopes of creating a paradise where humans and monsters could live in peace. But the mortal world’s become a very different place in the time Shingo was the only Akuma Kun, and even though he and his son don’t always see eye to eye, working together is the only way they can hope to keep the forces of darkness at bay.
By using its most recent season to shift focus from Imelda Staunton’s Queen Elizabeth to Elizabeth Debicki’s Princess Diana, The Crown was able to reenergize and reestablish itself as a dynamic period drama capable of truly humanizing the British royal family.
In its sixth and final season, The Crown shifts gears once again as it becomes a somber account of Diana’s last days in 1997 and an exploration of how her untimely death devastated the nation as a whole. While previous seasons of The Crown deftly toed the line between nuance and soap operatic spectacle, these last episodes lean into the overwrought and maudlin to varying degrees of effectiveness.
The entire point of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s original Squid Game series was to pointedly criticize the capitalistic systems that keep poor people trapped in cyclical poverty, but that hasn’t stopped Netflix from turning the eponymous, lethal competition into an actual reality TV show.
Squid Game: The Challenge isn’t a particularly imaginative competition, and its attempt at fashioning compelling narratives out of contestants’ confessionals pales in comparison to the original’s gripping storytelling. But the show’s a morbidly fascinating example of Netflix milking as much money as it can out of one of its most brilliant properties, and in doing so, letting viewers know where its priorities are.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off spends a solid chunk of time (an episode or so) rehashing the familiar events of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original graphic novels.
Once it’s through playing the hits, though, the Science Saru-produced series becomes a thoughtful expansion of the world around Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) that gives supporting characters like Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) a new level of complexity.
By setting Scott’s love story with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) slightly to the side, Takes Off has the flexibility to experiment with new perspectives. And while the show’s definitely a love letter to Edgar Wright’s live-action Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, it’s a testament to how, sometimes, animation really is the way to go if you want to do a comic book justice.
Rather than directly adapting the story from Far Cry 3, Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix pulls together characters from a number of different Ubisoft properties to tell a dazzling, mixed-medium story about revolutionaries resisting oppressive governmental rule. By using video game icons like Rayman to illustrate how fascistic regimes need their populations to be overstimulated and fed constant streams of propaganda, Captain Laserhawk makes explicit its intention for viewers to walk away from it thinking about why they pledge allegiance to brands they love.
Like the animated adaptation it’s spun-off from, Castlevania: Nocturne weaves a substantial amount of the mythology from Konami’s video game series into its chronicle of the Belmont family’s centuries-long crusade to rid the world of demons. But after multiple seasons of Castlevania taking the big-picture view of humanity’s fight for survival in a world that’s besieged by ghouls, Nocturne brilliantly switches up the formula with a zoomed-in focus on the smaller pivotal moments that shape the arc of history.