It’s a strange and upsetting time now as we all now need to spend much more time at home and not explore the world outside. But it does give us time to explore the amazing worlds and characters of animation, where only imagination is the limit, making the possibilities for exploration limitless. Here are seven of my own favorite animated series, most of which are available on streaming platforms, that I highly recommend you watch during our time in quarantine.
Steven Universe/Steven Universe: The Movie/Steven Universe Future
Steven Universe, Steven Universe: The Movie and the epilogue mini-series Steven Universe Future are a constant ride of emotion, laughs, and wonder. It’s truly one of the best animated series ever made. The series has just ended, making it a perfect time to hop on board if you haven’t yet. Rebecca Sugar and her team’s universe of characters showcase a wide range of human (or gem) experience, presenting mental health issues, exploring LGBTQIA+ topics, showing the importance and complexities of various interpersonal relationships, all while having wonderful humor and dazzling animation. While the Gems, their fusions, and powers are very cool, it’s the show’s incredible heart that makes it stand out among the rest and makes it revolutionary. Steven’s (Zach Callison) story is a deeply moving and elating journey to watch unfold, as are those of Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno Hall) and the other Crystal Gems. This series is not afraid to “go there” as an animated series primarily aimed for children, teaching them and adults alike invaluable lessons to help us all realize we can make a change.
You can find the first four seasons of Steven Universe streaming on Hulu, while Steven Universe, Steven Universe the Movie, and Steven Universe Future are available on Google Play.
Matt Braly’s Amphibia takes the traditional set-up of a young protagonist swept away into a fantasy world and making it more grounded, relatable, and fun than maybe it’s ever been. When Anne Boonchuy (Brenda Song) finds a magical box on earth, it takes her to Amphibia, an island filled with rivers, lakes, swamps, mountains, and the various anthropomorphic frogs, toads, salamanders, and various other creatures that inhabit it. Thankfully, Anne is taken in by a friendly family of frogs who teach her the ropes of living in this new world. Filled with humor, heart, and adventure, Amphibia takes Anne on a journey of self-discovery and reflection, while presenting the wonders of the island as she tries to get home. Anne, like Braly, is Thai-American, and aspects of Amphibia are inspired by Braly’s visits to his mother’s home country Thailand as a kid. It’s a delightful and colorful series that will keep you stuck to your seat eager for what happens next.
You can watch the first season of Amphibia on Disney Plus.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Radford Sechrist and his team, with Dreamworks Animation and the exemplary Studio Mir, show that a post-apocalyptic world, while terrifying, can also be filled with joy and wonder! Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts follows its titular character Kipo (Karen Fukuhara) and her friends as they navigate the surface world and meet the various anthropomorphic and giant animals that populate it (called “Mutes” for being mutated animals). The characters are richly complex, the world is expansive and filled with wonder and calls to be explored, and the heart shown by Kipo, Wolf, Benson, and their friends is incredibly moving. With the stunning animation by Studio Mir of The Legend of Korra fame and exciting action and stories, you’re in for a real treat with this series.
You can watch the first season of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Noelle Stevenson and her team, with Dreamworks Animation, have created one of the best reboots of the various reboots that have populated film and tv of the past several years. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power sees the adventures of Adora (Aimee Carrero) as she realizes her destiny as the legendary warrior She-Ra and joins her new friends in their fight against the tyrannical Horde. The animation is top-notch, the main story and various plotlines are almost always compelling, and the relationships between the various female characters are varied, complex, and filled with equal parts drama and joy. This series will always give you joy, the feels, and great lessons for both kids and adults, making it an exceptional watch.
You can watch all of She-Ra and The Princesses of Power streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Lesean Thomas’s Cannon Busters takes you to a technologically advanced fantasy world of sentient robots, kingdoms in crisis, all set against the background of a Wild West. Thomas, having made a crowdfunding Kickstarter for his original comic, ultimately succeeded to have S.A.M. (Kamali Minter), Philly the Kid (Kenn Michael), and Casey (Stephanie Sheh) and the other characters to have their own series on Netflix. Animated and produced by Japanese animation companies Yumeta Company and Satelight, Cannon Busters is an anime series that centers black and dark-skinned characters. This is rare in the often colorist realm of anime, and it is so refreshing to watch. S.A.M. is a wonderful and vibrant character, who, with her best friend Casey, sets out on a quest in this world to find their lost prince. Accompanying them is the decidedly anti-heroic Philly the kid, who has his own reasons for finding this member of the royal family. Filled with action, fast-paced and luminous animation, with drama and a killer soundtrack to boot, Cannon Busters is an excellent page-turner of a series.
You can watch the first season of Cannon Busters streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Álvaro Rodríguez and Brad Graeber, working with Powerhouse Animation Studios and Viz Media, created this supernatural martial arts epic set in the heart of Mexico in the 1970s. Three orphans trained in Kung Fu, Isabela (Aislinn Derbez), Jesús (Johny Cruz), and Silencio, must band together with policewoman Garcia (Angélica Vale) and American DEA agent Brister (Mike Colter) against criminals and other dangerous forces after a tragedy befalls their mentor (Vic Chao). Each character is richly drawn in their motivations, often having to face the traumas of their past and present as they press forward. Blending elements of anime, Mexican folklore and culture, and Chinese martial arts, Seis Manos balances grounded storytelling with fantastical elements that will keep you constantly intrigued. It is also a true celebration of Mexican people and characters, which is all too rare in animation.
You can watch the first season of Seis Manos streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Tangled: The Series
Rapunzel’s (Mandy Moore) journey did not end with Tangled and Tangled Ever After. Tangled: The Series (aka Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure), shows us how our favorite long-haired princess adjusted to life outside the tower and in royalty. Accompanied by her new best friend and effective co-protagonist Cassandra (Eden Espinosa) and her boyfriend Eugene (Zachary Levi), Rapunzel must uncover the mystery of how and why her hair grew back, establish better relationships with her parents and people, all while learning how to be a future ruler of Corona. With unique 2D animation and vibrant colors, a great balance of comedy and drama, and wonderful songs by Disney legend Alan Menken, Tangled: The Series is a superb sequel series that builds upon and continues the story in Tangled to elating effect. But especially watch it for Cassandra.
You can watch the first two seasons of Tangled: The Series on Disney Plus. The third and final season should be arriving there soon.
With so many different worlds, target audiences, and animation styles, my list of animated series to watch while social distancing still only scratches the surface. What are your favorite animated series? Let us know on social media.