An animated series is so much more than a cartoon — which isn't necessarily a derogatory term, but some use the label to downgrade this medium to something childish, primitive and just plain dumb. Yes, like any piece of entertainment, animated series can be all of those things, but they can also be some of the funniest, most heartwarming and truly thought-provoking programming you'll find anywhere — live-action, computer-animated or hand-drawn.
That's the case with BoJack Horseman, a Netflix Original animated series that chronicles the protagonist's misadventures as he copes with insecurity and self-loathing in his downward spiral from '90s TV star to has-been. The show tackles deep subjects like depression, fame and identity — but never without a sight gag too far behind.
Season 2 of BoJack Horseman premieres on Netflix Friday, bringing with it 12 all-new episodes. This time around, it looks like BoJack will try to leave his bitterness behind and become a better horse. Will he actually be able to do that? Part of me hopes not — because then how would we have BoJack Horseman the series? But then again, there's always the chance that this new-and-improved version could be even better.
Of course, BoJack Horseman isn't the only animated series currently available to stream on Netflix that's worth your time. If you dig into Netflix's TV offerings, you'll find many animated series that will delight, astound and confound — basically giving you all of the emotions any live-action series could. Here are the very best ones you can stream right now.
1. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman is a colorful show that features talking animals — but this isn't kids' stuff. As previously mentioned, this animated series tackles many serious subjects with a lot of humor and heart. It also helps that the cast is jam-packed with famous voices, including that of Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris and a bunch of other celebrity cameos. Watching BoJack Horseman will probably give you anxiety, but that's only because the characters are so well-developed that you, in turn, develop empathy for them. And isn't that what a great TV series is all about?
2. Bob’s Burgers
Bob's Burgers both is and isn't the traditional family sitcom. In this animated series, patriarch Bob Belcher is at the helm of a burger joint, which he runs with the help of his wife Linda, daughters Tina and Louise, and son Gene. The Belchers combat a vindictive health inspector, a cold-hearted and clueless landlord and the occasional family drama — all while trying to keep their tasty yet struggling business afloat. But at the end of the day, the stuff that looks like it's going to tear the Belchers apart actually brings them closer together. Watching this show will make you wish you could be a Belcher too.
When you think of spies in movies and TV shows, then British hunks, glamorous women and death-defying stunts are usually what come to mind. Archer proves that a spy TV show doesn't have to be live-action for its principal secret agent to be good-looking, debonair and highly skilled at saving the world. Titular character Sterling Archer is all of those things and more. When Archer doesn't have you at the edge of your seat, it'll have you trying to catch your breath from laughing too hard. Plus, the animation on this show is just so darn gorgeous, watching it is always a spectacle, no matter what actually happens.
4. Attack on Titan
OK, so Attack on Titan is anime, which is technically a subgenre of animation, but this is one of the hottest anime shows out there today — so its accessibility on Netflix must be noted. The premise of Attack on Titan is a variation of your typical post-apocalyptic tale. Main protagonist Eren Yeager makes it his mission to defeat the man-eating creatures called Titans before they destroy the world. This animation on this series is just so beautiful and, frankly, scary that you've probably only come across something like Attack on Titan in your dreams — or your nightmares.
5. Courage the Cowardly Dog
With all sorts of weird things coming to life to terrorize elderly couple Muriel and Eustace, Courage the Cowardly Dog terrified me as a kid. But never as much as it did the lead canine tasked with saving his owners and the small town of Nowhere in every episode of this Cartoon Network show. Courage the Cowardly Dog sure was creepy, but it was one of the funniest, most suspenseful and most inventive animated series I had seen up to that point — and that still holds up even now. Since Turner Broadcasting gave Hulu exclusive streaming rights to most Cartoon Network shows, it's really the only animated series from that network you can watch on Netflix now. That in and of itself is special.
6. Total Drama
With a name like Total Drama, this animated series has to be entertaining, right? And it is. You would think that it'd be nearly impossible to create an animated reality show — since, in theory, you need real people for that sort of thing. Total Drama brings us just that — though obviously a satire of reality TV competitions, not an actual one. I'd say that I hope this Canadian animated series gets an American remake, but then again, I'd be too afraid it would end up getting ruined.
7. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Fans were bummed when – after Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise – the fate of the sixth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which had previously aired on Cartoon Network, was uncertain. Because of that, the 13 episodes of the sixth and final season were deemed "The Lost Missions." Thankfully, Disney and Lucasfilm later struck a deal with Netflix to exclusively stream Season 6 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as well as Seasons 1 through 5.
Show some respect for what it took for Star Wars: The Clone Wars to reach Netflix by streaming the whole series now. It includes all of the animated adventures of Anakin Skywalker you could ever ask for. And as the only Star Wars-related content currently available on Netflix, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will satisfy your craving for some intergalactic entertainment — at least until you break down and buy all six films of the saga on digital HD already.
8. Young Justice
The title of this series may sound more fitting for a TNT crime drama, but it actually follows the teenage members of the Justice League as they do their thing and fight to save the world. Now that title makes a whole lot more sense, doesn't it? Young Justice may not be as beloved as the fellow DC Animated Universe series Teen Titans that preceded it, but who doesn't love seeing what their favorite characters were like before they hit their prime? Unfortunately, only one season is currently available on Netflix, but it has 26 episodes in it — which is almost like two seasons in one, right?
9. Jem and the Holograms
Jem and the Holograms is getting revamped as a live-action feature film about shooting to superstardom for the YouTube generation. Before watching the movie in theaters this fall, you should really see how it all began. In the original Jem and the Holograms animated series, Jem is like a superhero whose superpower is her singing voice. The animation is bright and colorful and everything you think the '80s should look like. Plus Jem – whose real identity is Starlight Music owner Jerrica Benton – has a boyfriend named Rio who has purple hair. PURPLE. HAIR. You'll be wishing you could be as cool as Jem and the Holograms — whether you're an '80s kid or not.
10. Danger Mouse
All 10 seasons of the beloved British animated series are available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix right now, which is good — because once you see one episode of this action-packed and completely bonkers show about a rodent secret agent and his trusty sidekick, you will have no choice but to binge-watch the rest. Even though you know Danger Mouse is always going to save the day in the end, the fun of this show is thinking that he won't, for the first three-quarters of the episode. Netflix is also rebooting this series for a Spring 2016 release with Stephen Fry, John Oliver and Lena Headey lending their voices to the project, so there are plenty more stealthy adventures to come.
11. Totally Spies
Speaking of spies, Totally Spies also puts a twist on the genre. The show had the look and feel of anime, but it was actually created by the French production company Marathon Media. The series follows Sam, Clover and Alex — three teenage girls trying to deal with all the drama of high school while also being spies for a super-secret organization. Which one is more difficult is really a toss-up. If you're looking for some campy fun between action scenes, Totally Spies is totally for you. It's always cool to see women kicking some butt too.
12. Star Trek the Animated Series
If you've ever wondered how the crew of the USS Enterprise would look as illustrations, this is your chance. Star Trek the Animated Series brings all the out-of-this-world adventures of the original Star Trek series, but possibly in an even more fantastical way – if you can believe that – since you can essentially bring anything to life with animation. What's really great about this series is that the members of the original Star Trek cast – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, et al. – lend their voices to their animated counterparts, which doesn't always happen.