Briefings Magazine

Animate This

The best adult animation series feature richly complex characters and offer pointed social commentary.

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The pandemic precipitated many surprising cultural materializations, among them the boom in demand for cartoons among grown-ups. Viewership surged 150 percent from 2020 to 2023, while adult animation was the most popular genre on Hulu last year. Some reasons are obvious: The format allowed production to happen remotely and was more cost-effective amid labor strikes and increasing set costs. Other factors are less apparent.

Animation has allowed creators to explore storytelling beyond the boundaries of live action. The best adult series feature richly complex characters and offer pointed social commentary that connects differently to audiences when told through vibrant hues and imaginative worlds. There are still the irreverent and familiar comedies, à la The Simpsons, but also a number of office satires, technological dystopian thrillers, and even historical dramas.

Disney reports that 60 percent of adult animation viewers are older than 35 and one-third have a household income above six figures. Indeed, this niche has matured beyond the demographic of college audiences to a new stage of sophistication.

Aggretsuko Netflix
In this adaptation of the Japanese anime original, a reserved and compliant red panda blows off office stressors and micro aggressions by belting out death-metal karaoke.

Bob’s Burgers Fox

The lovable and relatable Belchers operate a family burger joint, learning along the way important lessons on running a business and navigating relationships.

Arcane Netflix

This steampunk action-adventure was the first streaming adult cartoon to win a Primetime Emmy and follows sisters fighting on opposing sides of a war between clashing technologies and ideologies. 

Archer FX

A parody of the slick and stylish spy-adventure genre, the hilarious show follows the shenanigans of secret agent Sterling Archer and his cast of clumsy coworkers and clients.

Love, Death & Robots Netflix

Often put in the same category as Black Mirror, this poignant collection of animated shorts ranges from sci-fi horror to futuristic dystopia to philosophical musing. 

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