Avatar Is Getting Two More Seasons, So Which Anime Will Netflix Adapt Next?

Well, it's official — Netflix's live-action remake of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" paid off (for the company at least). Avatar Aang (Gordon Cormier) will get to continue mastering the elements, now that "Avatar" has been renewed for seasons 2 and 3.

"Avatar" is just the latest anime (well, anime-inspired series) that Netflix has brought to live-action. On this spectrum, "Avatar" falls below the well-received "One Piece" remake but ahead of the swiftly-canned live-action "Cowboy Bebop" (that even original series creator Shinichirō Watanabe couldn't finish).

Netflix hasn't stopped there. The streamer is letting "Stranger Things" creators the Duffer Brothers take a crack at "Death Note" and has had a live-action "Gundam" movie in development since 2021 (whether it actually sees release, well, take your bets). Other studios are getting into anime properties as well: Lionsgate has recruited "Shang-Chi" director Destin Daniel Cretton to adapt "Naruto" into a live-action movie.

Anime YouTube critic Bennett The Sage has speculated that Netflix is leaning hard into anime adaptations because, as a relatively new studio, it hasn't had decades of time to scoop up other intellectual property like its competitors. Between this and the success of "One Piece" and "Avatar," I can only imagine this live-action anime train will keep going — whether we weebs like it or not.

Here are some anime series that could be on Netflix's radar, listed in order of how well they could work in live-action.


"Monster" is the rare anime that most people agree fits a live-action retelling. Story-wise, "Monster" is closer to something from HBO than Weekly Shonen Jump. The art style (as drawn by original mangaka Naoki Urasawa) also hews realistic, both in the line art and color palette of the character designs and settings. 

Set in 1990s Germany, "Monster" was inspired by "The Fugitive." Neurosurgeon Dr. Kenzo Tenma discovers that an old patient of his, Johan Liebert, grew up into a serial killer; Tenma, framed for these murders, goes on the run to find Johan while being dogged by the police. Along the way, Tenma helps out many people with his medical skills and questions whether, as a doctor, he can take a human life. Can a monster like Johan be saved?

"Monster" has to be on Netflix's radar. In 2023, the streamer added the series to its library, making it available stateside (legally) for the first time in years. That year, they also produced "Pluto," an anime adapting another Urasawa manga (read my "Pluto" review here). 

Guillermo del Toro has tried to adapt "Monster" into a live-action series before. These days, del Toro is working with Netflix; that partnership has produced "Pinocchio," the anthology horror series "Cabinet of Curiosities," and soon a new "Frankenstein" movie. Could "Monster" be the next passion project del Toro brings to life? If he's too busy, then lean into the series' setting and get Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese, creators of Netflix's German-language mystery series "Dark."

Vinland Saga

Just beneath "Monster" on the anime realism spectrum is "Vinland Saga." It's a historical epic set in the Viking age. There are a few heightened parts, granted; the historical figure Thorkell the Tall is drawn as around eight feet tall. Then in "Vinland Saga" season 2 (which shifts gears from the vengeance story of season 1 to contemplative atonement and farmwork), the lead Thorfinn dreams of a hellish afterlife where slain Vikings continue fighting as their bodies decay.

Compared to some other anime, though? These flourishes are easily doable in live-action. The costumes and setting of "Vinland Saga" are period-accurate too. So, to adapt "Vinland Saga," just take a page from similar historical epics like "Vikings," "The Last Kingdom," or "The Northman." Recreating the real past is a whole lot easier than trying to cram the square of fantastical penciled drawings into live-action's round peg.

The storytelling of "Vinland Saga" itself fits live-action too. The initial premise — Thorfinn is out to avenge his father Thors by challenging his killer, Askeladd, to a duel — is a great hook; you don't need to be an anime fan to enjoy a revenge story. For better or worse, we here in the West also associate live-action filmmaking with greater "seriousness" than we do animation. The slower pace of "Vinland Saga" season 2 might go down easier for viewers if they aren't expecting the flashy action of an anime while watching.

Black Lagoon

"One Piece" isn't the only anime about pirates out there. "Black Lagoon" (created by Rei Hiroe) has nothing to do with a water-dwelling Creature — it's a guns-blazing crime story, inspired by Quentin Tarantino and Hong Kong action movies.

Rokurō "Rock" Okajima is a Japanese office drone who, while on a business trip, is abducted by a trio of pirates: ringleader Dutch, bloodthirsty Revy (short for Rebecca), and tech guy Benny. After some Stockholm Syndrome and his bosses leaving him out to dry, Rock decides it's a pirate's life for him and joins the Lagoon company. The gang is based out of Roanapur, a fictional port city in Thailand and a hive of scum and villainy rivaling Mos Eisley. The other inhabitants include Russian mobsters who double as Soviet Union lost-causers, gun-running nuns, CIA-affiliated drug traffickers, and assassins galore.

The violence of the series and the setting's corruption are over the top (and hard R-rated). After how Netflix "Avatar" turned down Zuko's scar, a live-action "Black Lagoon" would probably do the same for the Russian boss Balalaika.

The stories of "Black Lagoon" aren't that out there, though. No, each arc has a high-concept action movie logline. In one arc, Rock and Revy are hired to salvage gold from a sunken German submarine and run afoul of a Neo-Nazi gang. In another, they visit Japan and get caught up in a Yakuza power struggle. Just invest in making the action scenes as brutal as they should be and the series could easily handle the jump in medium.

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Fullmetal Alchemist," one of the most beloved manga out there, follows the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, on their search for the Philosopher's Stone throughout their country Amestris. It has been adapted into both two beloved (but quite different) animes and a (less beloved) trilogy of live-action films.

The films were made in Japan with a native Japanese cast and crew but were distributed in the U.S. by Netflix. Those movies, in how crammed they feel, also prove "Fullmetal Alchemist" is best when told in its original format: as a long-form serialized narrative.

While Netflix hasn't had either "Fullmetal Alchemist" anime streaming on its platform since 2021, it must be aware of how popular the series remains. The series is similar to "Avatar," with elemental magic and the same blend of drama, comedy, action, and adventure. The political commentary, though? That might be too biting for Netflix. In the show's backstory, Amestris waged a genocidal campaign against the brown-skinned Ishvalans (some of the leads, like Colonel Roy Mustang, have that blood staining their hands). The final arc is the heroes leading a revolt against the fascist Amestrian government. In most American blockbusters these days, the revolutionaries are the bad guys (see: Killmonger)

Looking at just the style, though, could "Fullmetal Alchemist" work as a live-action series? Well, it'll face the same challenges as "One Piece" and "Avatar," in adapting characters and actions that were designed to be animated. I can also easily picture a writers' team trying to transmute the two animes into a whole, whereas I think they work best apart. I wouldn't put it past Netflix to try though, and if they fail? I've got other fantastic versions of "Fullmetal Alchemist" to cherish.

Hunter x Hunter

One of the live-action anime that Netflix distributed was "YuYu Hakusho," released in 2023 and adapted from the classic 1990s manga/anime about a Japanese punk who becomes a demon-slaying "spirit detective." Launched between "One Piece" and "Avatar," it fell between the cracks even with some decent buzz.

In 2022, industry insider Daniel Richtman reported that Netflix's ambitions might not stop there. According to him, Netflix is (or was) interested in adapting the other famous action manga/anime from "YuYu Hakusho" creator Yoshihiro Togashi. That series is "Hunter x Hunter."

What is "Hunter x Hunter" about? That's hard to nail down since the series often makes hard swerves, jumping forward to new settings and supporting casts before the previous ones overstay their welcome. At its core, though, it's about a young and naive Hunter named Gon Freecss searching for his father and all the people he meets along the way.

"Hunter x Hunter" is more violent and less linear than most other Shonen series, so add that to the challenges of adapting it alongside its colorful, out-there characters. Many of the characters, from the thickheaded Gon to Hisoka — a serial-killing pedophile clown — would also be less enjoyable if brought closer to Earth. To get this one right, Netflix would have its work cut out.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Here's where I tell Netflix, "Don't you dare." "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is my favorite anime of all time and a profound and personal piece of art. Creator Hideaki Anno channeled his depression, loneliness, and career anxiety to tell an allegorical story, mixed together with his nerdy passions for mecha and tokusatsu. "Evangelion" is Anno; as he makes his art, he bares his soul so deeply it's scary. His characters — Shinji Ikari, Asuka Soryu, Misato Katsuragi — are all messed up people, and yet as embarrassing as it is to admit this, I'd be lying if I said I don't feel a deep kinship with them all and their struggles. 

Then there's the matter of medium. The editing of "Evangelion" is the lynchpin of its craft (I'd recommend Willow Maclay's writing on the series over at Mubi for a deeper dive). Frames often look like a kaleidoscope, images swirling together and fading faster than your eye can process them at 24 frames per second. In the series' most surreal moments, the characters will fade away into simple, colorless line art or still drawings. 

There have been attempts at a live-action "Evangelion" before (WETA Workshop whipped up concept art for a canceled film), but the story is beholden to its medium. If Netflix or any other studio tries to turn this profundity into a cash grab, I'll say, "No thanks."