between two frames

Not All Anime-Streaming Services Are Created Equal

Simulcasts? Dubs? Free subscriptions??? Let us guide you.

From the top: Ping Pong the Animation, Akira, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Evangelion 3.0+1.0. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Funimation, CrunchyRoll, Hulu and Amazon Prime
From the top: Ping Pong the Animation, Akira, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Evangelion 3.0+1.0. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Funimation, CrunchyRoll, Hulu and Amazon Prime

From the moment Astro Boy was first broadcast on NBC in 1963, anime has been a part of American TV-watching habits, whether audiences knew they were watching anime or thought it was just another cartoon. But we’re long past the times where anime shows were reedited and repackaged into entirely new shows like Robotech and Voltron. And, for the most part, we’ve moved beyond the dark days of groan-inducing censorship and mistranslations, even if the differences still persist.

Nowadays, anime is so accepted and widely available that you no longer have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a VHS set or rely on pirated versions of new episodes with subtitles made by fans who took liberties of their own in the translation. It’s never been easier to be an anime fan, with dedicated streaming services offering the latest episode of the biggest shows mere hours after their initial Japanese broadcast, and even mainstream services diving into the medium with original productions or exciting acquisitions. But with great availability must also come great responsibility, as every company has realized the potential of a hit anime show on their service, and new mergers between streamers make it harder to know where you can watch what.

That’s where we come in. The list below breaks down the many streaming services offering anime shows and movies, and we’ve split it up between the many services specifically made for anime fans and the general streamers that feature large anime hubs and libraries. Here’s what they each have to offer.

Streaming options tailored for anime lovers

Crunchyroll, which has titles like Jujutsu Kaisen and a just-announced Nintendo Switch app. Photo: Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll

What Netflix is to streaming, Crunchyroll is to anime streaming. If you want the biggest library of titles, with a mix of both classic titles like Captain Harlock and new hits like Jujutsu Kaisen, you can’t do much better than Crunchyroll. The service also offers plenty of exclusive titles season by season, like 2021’s excellent Odd Taxi, as well as original productions in collaboration with Adult Swim, like Fena: Pirate Princess or Blade Runner.

Want Crunchyroll?

Though many of the bigger titles on Crunchyroll you can also find on other services, like Attack on Titan, Crunchyroll’s strength lies with its exclusives library, as well as its interface, which is more intuitive and responsive than its direct competitors. If you want more than just anime, Crunchyroll also has an extensive library of manga, released just a few hours after they first hit the stands in Japan. Now that Crunchyroll is also adding the entire Funimation library of anime titles, there is no escaping the behemoth that is Crunchyroll’s library, which will exclusively stream most new seasonal anime shows, and even contains part of Funimation’s rich library of classic dubbed anime.

Availability and support: Crunchyroll is available on consoles (now including the Nintendo Switch, which doesn’t offer wide streaming support), mobile devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire. Crunchyroll offers subtitles in multiple languages, from Spanish and German to Russian and Arabic.

Cost: The service does have an ad-supported free tier that even includes some new shows, but if you want every new episode, you’ll want to pay for the premium subscription that starts at $8 a month or $80 a year.

Funimation

Now that the Funimation/Crunchyroll merger is complete, it is time to say goodbye to one of the titans of the anime streaming industry. The entire Funimation library will eventually migrate over to Crunchyroll, and you won’t get new shows added to the platform starting in April 2022. Not all is lost, however, as you can still put your Funimation subscription to use. For starters, established shows will continue to get new episodes on the platform, at least for the time being, and all the older titles will remain on the service. And truly, it is with its library of older titles that Funimation shines. If you prefer to watch dubbed anime, Funimation even has its own dub studio that produces some of the best dubs around (their dub for Kaguya-Sama at times rivals and even surpasses the original).

Want Funimation?

Though its interface could definitely be better, Funimation’s library also excels in providing access to classic titles like the entire Dragon Ball (and Dragon Ball Z) series, as well as Akira, and Robotech. Though Funimation will no longer have exclusive titles, if you have to keep your Funimation subscription, there is enough content to last you a lifetime.

Availability and support: The Funimation app is available on gaming consoles (including the Nintendo Switch), mobile devices, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, and Samsung, Sony, and LG smart TVs. Funimation offers subtitles in English, Spanish, and Portuguese on most of its titles, including shows that are simulcast (released globally at the same time).

Cost: The subscription starts at $6 per month, or $60 a year, and includes off-line viewing.

HIDIVE

If you want something more grown-up than the teenage-aimed action shows that other streamers focus on, HIDIVE is the service for you. This streamer prides itself on offering edgier or more cultured shows like Redo of a Healer and Elfen Lied, but also Made in Abyss and the earlier Lupin the Third seasons.

Want HIDIVE?

Even if you aren’t interested in the more mature content, what makes HIDIVE stand out is its large library of shojo anime (aimed at teenage girls) and classic titles. While you won’t find mainstream titles like Hunter x Hunter or Dragon Ball, HIDIVE boasts hugely influential titles like Patlabor; Hideaki Anno’s first masterpiece, Gunbuster; and the anime that could ruin other anime for you, Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Think of HIDIVE as the Nintendo to Crunchyroll and Funimation’s Xbox and PlayStation. The app is somewhat lackluster and offers no off-line viewing, but many titles offer subtitles in multiple languages.

Availability and support: The app is available on mobile, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, and Xbox One (sorry, PlayStation gamers).

Cost: The HIDIVE subscription is one of the cheaper ones, at $5 a month or $48 a year.

VRV

What was once the best deal in anime streaming has now sadly become a husk of its former self. More than an actual streaming service, VRV bundles together different services in a subscription package — Crunchyroll and HIDIVE for the price of just one of them.

Want VRV?

In late 2021, it was announced that HIDIVE would be leaving VRV, meaning now the only anime content on the service is from Crunchyroll, but you are paying more than the cost of a Crunchyroll subscription.

Availability and support: VRV works on web browsers, Xbox, PlayStation, Chromecast, and most mobile devices, as well as Android TV, Fire TV, Apple TV, and newer Roku devices.

Cost: A VRV subscription runs at $10 a month.

RetroCrush

Enough about all these mainstream shows with clean animation and formula-heavy stories; take me back to the good ol’ days! If that’s you, then RetroCrush is your streamer. Rather than focus on new buzzy titles, RetroCrush collects the bloody, sexy, often subversive anime from before the turn of the century, when it was an underground obsession for American fans. Bubblegum Crash, Ninja Scroll, and City Hunter are some of the classic titles that make RetroCrush a great alternative to more mainstream streamers, but the service also includes Ashita no Joe; even older titles like the anime adaptation of The Three Musketeers; and the recent addition of Otomo Katsuhiro’s anthology film Memories.

Want RetroCrush?

What RetroCrush lacks in fancy aesthetics or wider platform support, it compensates for with a “randomize” button that replaces hours of deciding what to watch with just the click of a button — kind of like channel surfing, but for anime.

Availability and support: RetroCrush is only available on mobile, web browser, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Cost: The service is free, but if you want an ad-free experience, a premium subscription is $5 a month or $50 a year.

The mainstream services great for watching anime

Hulu’s anime hub, home to new simulcast anime like Attack on Titan and classic films like Akira. Photo: Hulu

Netflix

At this point, do you really need someone to pitch you on Netflix? What you may not know, however, is that it has a pretty great anime library too. Though the streamer has plenty of modern classics and recent hits like Demon Slayer, Gurren Lagann, and Cowboy Bebop, what really brought it into the conversation as a competitor to Funimation and Crunchyroll are its exclusive Netflix Original titles.

Want Netflix?

Ever since the streamer debuted Devilman Crybaby, Netflix has become a sort of modern revival of the ’80s “original video animation” (or “OVA”) model: short, auteur-driven anime that was not limited by a need to break into the mainstream and run for years on end, but could tell a unique and concise story with a definitive ending. From the sci-fi tunes of Carole & Tuesday to the dark-fantasy weirdness of Dorohedoro, the steamy-hot furry romance of Beastars, and the tear-jerking Violet Evergarden, Netflix has vowed (threatened?) only to increase its anime-production output, partnering with some impressive studios to produce exclusive titles. Plus, this is the one place you can stream the masterpiece that is Neon Genesis Evangelion or the new JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

The huge downside with Netflix, however, comes with the so-called “Netflix jail,” wherein titles that air on Japanese TV and are acquired by Netflix for international distribution get delayed by months at a time before they finally drop on the platform, at which time they often and quickly disappear from the public consciousness. Still, if you’d rather binge a show than watch week to week, you can do a lot worse than just using your Netflix subscription for your anime needs.

Availability and support: Netflix is widely supported and works on most devices.

Cost: Netflix’s price starts at $10 per month for the basic plan, with the 4K plan setting you back $20 per month.

Hulu

If you are new to anime or simply don’t want to commit to a dedicated streaming service just for that medium, then consider Hulu. Rather than license exclusive titles to try and compete with other streamers, Hulu hosts a collection of shows and movies from Crunchyroll, Funimation, and even HIDIVE. Here, you’ll find Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, and My Hero Academia, including the feature films for the latter, but there’s also Bleach, One Piece, and the original Sailor Moon. Hulu’s breadth is exciting, carrying modern classics, lesser-known gems, weird genre titles, magical-girl shows, and even older movies like Ninja Scroll.

Want Hulu?

Hulu also does the best job at actually recommending relevant and interesting anime depending on your viewing history, so you can quickly get acclimated just by following the recommendations. Still, the lack of exclusives and a lack of focus on simulcast means you will only get the absolute biggest of current titles, so if you’re following new seasonal releases, you won’t find everything you want to watch in here. In 2021, it was announced Disney+ will be the latest streamer to enter the anime game with its first licensed anime shows, so it will be interesting to see how Disney improves Hulu on the anime front.

Availability and support: Hulu works on most devices (including the Nintendo Switch), but it only offers English subtitles.

Cost: A Hulu subscription starts at $7 a month (or $70 for a year) for the ad-supported plan, or $13 a month with no ads.

HBO Max

Like Hulu, HBO Max is best for viewers who want to dip their toes in the anime medium without fully committing to a service full of hundreds of titles. With an even more curated selection than Hulu, HBO Max is partnered up with Crunchyroll (though the service has removed the Crunchyroll logo from its content hub) to deliver a small but significant selection of anime shows and movies.

Want HBO Max?

You won’t find any simulcast shows here, but fairly recent shows like Jujutsu Kaisen and Tokyo Revengers or To Your Eternity can be found on HBO Max. There’s also modern hits like Food Wars!, Your Lie in April, Re:Zero, Erased, the absolutely stunning Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, and Hunter x Hunter. There are a couple of big exclusive titles, however, like blockbuster movies Promare and Weathering With You. The biggest draw for HBO Max is without a doubt the exclusive streaming rights to the entire Studio Ghibli collection, which is already more than worth the subscription price whether you’re a longtime anime fan or just a newcomer looking for the essentials and child-friendly anime programming.

Availability and support: HBO Max only offers subtitles in English, but it is available on all major devices.

Cost: The ad-supported plan is $10 a month or $100 for a year, while the ad-free plan is $15 a month or $150 a year.

Amazon Prime Video

The dark horse of the anime-streaming race, Amazon Prime Video is hard to recommend for newcomers given how difficult Prime Video is to navigate and how little the service’s spectacular exclusives are marketed. Even if you are on the lookout for new shows, chances are you’ll miss a great title, so to subscribe just to watch anime may not be as rewarding as other services.

Want Amazon Prime?

Still, if you already have Prime and are interested in some of the best shows and movies of the past decade, Prime Video does have Made in Abyss, Princess Tutu, and GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka. Then there’s arguably the two biggest titles on the entire site: the utterly incredible historical action show Vinland Saga, which will be back for a second season (think History’s Vikings, but edgier, more violent, and with one of the greatest antagonists in the medium), and the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. It is the only place to watch Hideaki Anno’s latest masterpiece Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time.

Availability and support: Amazon Prime Video is available on most major devices, but its language support can vary by title.

Cost: Amazon Prime Video will set you back $99 a year and includes plenty of other perks alongside your Prime Video membership.

Tubi

If you want an anime tasting menu that’s free and includes a vast library with a good mix of old and new, why not try Tubi? The ad-supported streaming service includes movies like Akira, Millennium Actress, Belladonna of Sadness, and even Redline. On the TV front, Tubi is full of crowd-pleasers that show the variety of anime as a medium, with Cardcaptor Sakura standing side to side with Diebuster, Digimon Tri, Death Note, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Daily Lives of High School Boys. There are even more recent titles, like the first season of Attack on Titan. You may not want to have Tubi as your only source of streaming anime, but it serves both as a great introduction and also a free complement to a more dedicated service with newer titles.

Want Tubi?

Availability and support: Tubi works on most devices, despite its less-refined interface compared to most paid streaming apps. One aspect where it stands out from other services, even anime-centric ones, is that it has a Spanish dub for several of its shows, including Knights of the Zodiac (a show that is infinitely superior in Spanish over English).

Cost: Nada, zip, zero, zilch.

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Not All Anime-Streaming Services Are Created Equal