As Netflix Inc. prepares for a bruising battle against the Walt Disney Co. and Apple Inc. for streaming subscribers, it's playing a card that may deliver enough of an edge to fend them off in Asia: Japanese anime.

Although Netflix has featured animation for years, the leading streaming provider of 158 million users is stepping up its anime efforts as such new rivals as Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia's HBO Max roll out their services. All have identified animation as a way to lure viewers — from Disney's historic archive to a recent victory by HBO Max in clinching the coveted U.S. distribution rights for most of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli films.

Facing such competition, Netflix is extending its strategy of paying for original content to new animated shows such as "Ultraman" and "Eden." It's also holding out for a chance to feature Ghibli's content, including the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro," in Japan and other countries outside the U.S.