Streaming services are the easiest and most convenient way to watch TV, but there are way too many of them now! So I decided to run down the ones that I’ve tried, and figure out which is the best service out there for the otakus, weebs, and even filthy casuals among us.
Netflix has become a big player in anime, with a solid mix of mainstream hits and innovative exclusives. There are even a ton of great anime-inspired Western cartoons on there like Castlevania and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Unfortunately, their distribution model is crap. US subscribers are locked out of amazing titles due to licensing and outdated copyright laws (including the entire Studio Ghibli oeuvre), and Netflix-exclusive anime is often released half a year later here than everywhere else. Still, Netflix has more content than anywhere else, and chances are you already have it. As long as you don’t mind the cost and their frustrating interface, chances are there you’ll find something good on there.
Price: $8.99 for Basic, $15.99 for Premium
Hulu has a ton of classic 90’s and 2000’s anime, and it’s the only place where you can watch the original Sailor Moon. You can also bundle them with Disney+ because Disney owns everything now. The problem is, Hulu has barely any exclusives. Most of their anime is licensed by Funimation, and a lot of it is also on Netflix or other services. Even worse, it’s only available in the U.S. I guess if you only can afford one service, it’s okay, but even then there are better ways to watch anime out there.
Price: $5.99 with ads, $11.99 without ads
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime is a convenient service… for shopping. But their streaming service sucks! Their app crashes all the time, and the cluttered interface makes it hard to find what you want. Their anime selection is tiny, and a lot of the best stuff is rental-only – meaning you have to pay for it in addition to your monthly subscription! Unless you already have Prime, there’s not much you’ll get out of this one.
Price: $8.99 for just videos, $12.99 for all of Prime
This is the one all the weebs use. Crunchyroll has more anime than anyone else, including tons of exclusives, and new shows are added just an hour after they air in Japan. They have a paid subscription, but you can also watch for free if you don’t mind waiting a week for new episodes and sitting through obnoxious ads. But they lack the quality control of the big dogs: their mobile app is buggy, and the site crashes a lot (though not nearly as much as Prime Video). Still, Crunchyroll is a must for anime fans, and worth the occasional aggravation.
Price: Free with ads, $7.99 for Premium
I want to like Funimation. I really do. They have a ton of some of the best anime of all time, both old and new, and like Crunchyroll they also have a free option with ads. But their functionality is SO. BAD! The app is terrible, the website crashes all the time, and tons of shows are on there that have no actual episodes for you to watch (?!) It’s so hard to actually watch anime on Funimation that usually I just give up and try to find the same show anywhere else. I guess it’s worth popping in from time to time for their exclusives, but I really don’t think they’re worth even the comparatively cheap subscription cost.
Price: Free with ads, $5.99 for Premium
Okay, how many streaming services does HBO have at this point? We had HBO Go, HBO Now, and now HBO Max – this is too confusing! HBO Max is the newest (and most expensive) of the bunch, at $15 a month. I’d say it’s not worth it for anime fans, except for the fact nearly every Studio Ghibli film is exclusive to it in the US! That’s some classic shit and always worth a rewatch. My suggestion? Sign up for the 7-day free trial, binge as many Ghibli classics as you can, and cancel before the trial is up. You’ll have rosy cheeks for weeks on end.
I’m linking these two together since VRV is just a bundle with HI-DIVE, Crunchyroll and other geek-oriented streaming services. HI-DIVE is fairly obscure, but they have some groundbreaking anime that’s hard to find elsewhere. If you’re a fan of “hidden gem” anime that no one else knows about, HI-DIVE has got your back. And if you just want an all-in-one package that has the most possible anime available, a VRV subscription might actually be your best bet!
Price: $4.99 for HI-DIVE, $9.99 for VRV
TL;DR So which is the best?
If you are a casual fan and want to watch anime and a bunch of other things, use Netflix (if you don’t have it already).
If you just want the most anime for the lowest possible price, subscribe to Crunchyroll or VRV.
And if the only anime you watch is old re-runs of Sailor Moon (fair) watch Hulu.