Anime, which simply means “animation” in Japan, has become one of the country’s most famous exports. Anime has been around since the early 1900s and started going mainstream in Japan in the 60s. However, in the West it wasn’t until the mid-80s when audiences began to take notice.
Anime starting out as a dedicated sub-culture on VHS tapes and later digital fan-subtitled copies of shows, it has grown into a global phenomenon. These days all you have to do in order to watch anime is switch on your TV, but the quality of streaming offerings can vary widely.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the six best places to stream anime online.
Crunchyroll (Free With Ads or $7.99/mo Premium)
Without a doubt, Crunchyroll is the undisputed king of dedicated anime streaming services. Not only does it have a wide international footprint, but it also comes with a staggering library of shows spanning multiple years. You can watch simulcast episodes that are available just a few hours after they air in Japan.
Most of the shows on offer are subtitled, with dubbed versions of some shows available a few weeks after airing. Almost all the shows anyone cares about are on Crunchyroll. You also get an included subscription to their Manga app if you pay for the premium service.
If you’re a free user, expect frequent advertising and a delay between when a new episode airs and you can watch it. There’s a 14-day trial for new users to give you a taste of Premium. For $7.99 a month it’s very hard to recommend going the free route if you can afford it.
You can stream anime online with Crunchyroll on a browser as well as Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Roku, Apple TV, Android, iOS and a few others. Sadly Crunchyroll no longer makes smart TV apps, but they do state that they develop apps as new platforms come along, so we expect support for future consoles as well.
Who Crunchyroll is for: If you are OK with reading subtitles, want access to most of the new shows as they air and have a supported device, this is the #1 service we recommend to everyone. Especially if you live outside the USA.
Funimation (Multiple Tiers Starting At $5.99/mo)
Funimation is the other major player in the anime distribution world and offers a deeper catalogue with a stronger focus on dubbed anime. When it comes to new, simulcast shows you’ll find plenty of overlap with Crunchyroll, but there are more classic shows and additional features such as the ability to download episodes to mobile devices.
Speaking of which, Funimation has apps for Apple TV, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Kindle, Roku, Xbox One, PS4, Chromecast and certain Samsung and LG TV models. That Smart TV support definitely gives it a leg up over Crunchyroll.
Who Funimation is for: Funimation is limited to the USA at this point, so anyone outside of that territory should turn to Crunchyroll. If you are in the USA and have to choose, then go for Funimation if you want to stream classic anime you might have missed or strongly prefer dubbed anime over subtitled anime.
If you live in the United States, you can use VRV to bundle Crunchyroll and HiDive together and also get quite a few other geek-friendly tech and sci-fi content streams in for good measure. There’s also a pretty good reason to do this. Within the US, HiDive has exclusive rights to certain popular anime studios, such as Sentai Filmworks.
The service offers some unique perks as well, such as the home video editions of some shows, and dubbed versions of shows within two weeks of the episode airing. Similar to Funimation.
HiDive supports quite a large number of devices. These include ChromeCast, Android, iOS, Xbox ONe, Fire Tablet and Roku. It will also work everywhere the VRV app works.
Who HiDive is for: If you are in the USA and want Crunchyroll, we strongly suggest taking advantage of the VRV bundle that also includes HiDive. The two anime services are complementary and the exclusive shows HiDive hosts are definitely worth the asking price.
Netflix (Starting At $9/mo)
Netflix needs no introduction, it’s the world leader in on-demand streaming services and famous for original content such as The Witcher and Stranger Things. When it comes to streaming anime online with Netflix, it’s certainly not the largest and most varied selection around.
But Netflix has a number of high-quality original and exclusive anime on offer. Titles such as Knights of Sidonia, Devilman Crybaby and Violet Evergarden are definitely worth subscribing for.
Who Netflix is for: If you somehow don’t already subscribe to Netflix and are only interested in anime content, then it is definitely worth subscribing to the service for a month or two just to watch shows that are exclusive to the streaming service. Even then, the asking price still represents an amazing deal.
Amazon Prime Video ($5.99/mo)
Amazon’s Netflix competitor doesn’t have a massive selection of anime either, but just as with Netflix there are some important titles exclusive to this service that any anime fan will want to stream.
Standout titles include Vinland Saga and Dororo. Some shows have seasons split across Amazon and other services, which means if you want to see the entire show you have to subscribe to more than one service. The good news is that Amazon is one of the cheapest streaming services of all when it comes to streaming anime online.
Who Amazon Prime Video is for: As with Netflix, if you aren’t an Amazon Prime Video Subscriber and only care about anime content, it’s worth briefly subscribing to catch up on their exclusive shows. Which can easily be consumed within 30 days.
Hulu (Starting at $5.99)
The last streaming service on our list is also a mainstream competitor to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but is US-only with no published plans to expand outside that territory. Hulu has a massive library of general content, especially older classic shows.
This extends to their anime selection as well. Although there aren’t exclusive anime shows on Hulu, their selection of shows is impressive. There’s a lot of quality, classic anime here and it would take a long time to watch all the good stuff. Just remember that the base price isn’t ad-free. You’ll have to pay $11.99 per month to get the ad-free experience.
Who Hulu is for: While we advised you to do a hit-and-run subscription on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for their small but excellent selections, when it comes to Hulu it’s worth subscribing to as an anime service in its own right. In fact, if you can only afford one streaming service and want to stream both general content and anime online, then Hulu is hands-down the best overall choice.