The Best Adult Cartoons to Binge-Watch Over the Holidays Aside from the obvious, some you may not have seen yet
Scott Meslow is a culture critic whose other bylines include GQ, Vulture, The Week, and The Atlantic
To quote a phrase I just made up off the top of my head: There’s no place like home for the holidays. There’s nothing like revisiting your hometown to hug your parents, eat too much food, and drink too much booze. And at some point over the holiday bustle, you’re probably going to need a little downtime—if only to work off that wine hangover or that second plate of turkey.
Why not cozy up on the couch in your pajamas and watch cartoons like an eight-year-old on a Saturday morning?
Fortunately, there is no shortage of options for you to stream right now. And look: You’re reading an article about cartoons for adults, so I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with The Simpsons and South Park.
Let’s try a little harder than that. I’ve done my best to curate a list that gives the full range of what cartoons for adults can do. Some are funny, some are sad, some are scary, some are full of action; some are, frankly, pretty much unclassifiable. And even if you’re a dedicated cartoon viewer, I’m betting at least one of these has slipped right by you.
Here are six (more) adult cartoons you might not have watched yet—but definitely should—this holiday season:
Sure, you’ve probably heard of Archer—but have you actually kept up with it? A weird, risqué James Bond parody about a caddish super-spy, it seemed Archer might’ve run out of ideas after four seasons.
But where another series might have called it quits, Archer expanded its palate by backing away from the spy stuff. The later seasons feature parodies riffing on everything from Indiana Jones-esque adventures to hardboiled detective noir to Miami Vice. Through it all, Archer has retained the sharp writing and top-notch voice acting that made it one of TV’s most enduring adult-oriented cartoons.
Where you can watch it: Seasons 1-8 are streaming on Hulu. Archer: 1999 will being airing on FXX sometime in 2019.
2. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman is one of the best shows on TV right now. It’s also one of the hardest to write about. So it’s a Hollywood satire set in a world where people and animals live side-by-side. Interested yet? Well, what if I told you it’s also about depression?
Take my word for it: You’re not going to regret watching BoJack Horseman. Will Arnett voices Bojak, a washed-up former sitcom star fumbling through life in a cleverly tweaked version of Los Angeles. The show’s creativity and depth of character continue to grow every season. My advice: If you’re underwhelmed by the first few episodes, stick with it until episode 7. It’s not that the earlier episodes are bad, but the show reveals its full scope in emotional range in the back half of season one.
Where you can watch it: Seasons 1-5 are streaming on Netflix. Season 6 will premiere sometime in 2019.
Last year, Netflix debuted a four-episode adaptation of the popular video game Castlevania. It follows the whip-wielding drunkard Trevor Belmont—the latest in a long line of vampire hunters. He gathers allies and prepares to enter Dracula’s castle to square off against the Count himself. The first season was so bite-sized that it was a minor disappointment (among other flaws, Trevor never even steps inside Dracula’s castle).
But fortunately, season one was just a prologue for the eight-episode second season that premiered just weeks ago. Weirder, bloodier, and all-around more enjoyable, Castlevania’s second season introduces a slew of new characters. And the whole thing is infused with a wickedly dark sense of humor. It’s the animated action-horror series you never knew you wanted.
Where you can watch it: Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix. Season 3 has been ordered, but no premiere date has been announced.
4. Clone High
This animated cult classic starts with an irresistible premise: What if the government funded a secret experiment to clone all of history’s most important people… and sent them all to high school together?
It’s already a blast to watch Abraham Lincoln and Joan of Arc fumbling through awkward teenage years. But Clone High has a surprisingly thoughtful take on the pressure of growing up while knowing your predecessor was one of most famous people in history. Then again, maybe it’s not surprising that Clone High manages to balance humor and sophistication so expertly. The series was the first major project by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who went on to greater fame with 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie.
5. Cowboy Bebop
Widely regarded as one of the greatest anime series of all time, 1998’s Cowboy Bebop is a gorgeous, absurdly stylish sci-fi/western series. It follows a team of morally dubious bounty hunters as they float around the galaxy, trying to make money and avoid enemies on both sides of the law.
In over 26 episodes, Cowboy Bebop deftly leaps from genre to genre. It offers a slew of twisty one-off adventures while laying the groundwork for its famously ambiguous thread. (And if that’s not enough to hook you, the spaceship’s crew also includes a super-smart Corgi who is goddamn adorable.)
Where you can watch it: Season 1 is streaming (both subtitled and dubbed) on Hulu.
6. Neo Yokio
Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig created this oddball comedy of manners, satirizing the upper class. It plays like a crossover between your favorite Wes Anderson movie and your favorite anime. Jaden Smith voices Kaz Kaan, a melancholic young bachelor making his way through high society alternate-universe New York City, full of rich people and demons. (He also has a robot butler, voiced—perhaps inevitably—by Jude Law.)
Surreal and ridiculous, Neo Yokio isn’t for everybody — but if it’s for you, you will to love it. And if you devour the six-episode first season in a single binge, don’t worry: A brand-new one-off Christmas special, titled “Pink Christmas,” will help you ring in the season next month.
Where you can watch it: Season 1 is streaming on Netflix. Pink Christmas arrives on December 7.