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The Best Ways to Watch Anime (FREE and Paid)
Welcome to Anime Streaming 101. First, make sure you have a device capable of streaming. Good? Ok, then. Here are all the best places to stream anime online, including both free and paid streaming options.
Hey, wanna watch some anime?
Good, because there's a lot of it out there and lots of options to watch it with, many of those options are of, shall we say, dubious legal merit, so we're gonna skip those and stick with the services that definitely will not load malware onto every device you own.
Let's dive in.
- : Best for Anime Beginners
- : Best for Classics
- : Best for Anime Enthusiasts
- : Best for Anime Subs
- : Best for Anime Addicts
Now, as we're getting started, big shout out to r/anime, the subreddit was a big help as I was getting started researching this one.
I want you to think of this as anime streaming 101. If you're new to this topic, you'll learn a thing or two. If you're already a master streamer of anime, then you'll probably know most of this stuff, but I want you to stick around and check out the advice that I'm giving, and then hit comments below when we're done to dispense any additional wisdom you might have.
Now, first up are the services you probably already have honestly, Hulu and Netflix.
Netflix: Best for Anime Beginners
Just like with the rest of its content library, Netflix's anime strategy seems to be to get the rights to a well-known property to get you in the door, and then keep you there with some quality originals as well. In this case, Netflix is the exclusive streaming home of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and their originals now include things like Seven Deadly Sins and Knights of Sidonia, pretty good.
Hulu: Best for Classics
Hulu's library might not be as deep as some of the more specialized streaming services that we're gonna get to, but it's still got a surprising amount, especially after the deal they struck with Funimation. Now Hulu's got its own anime section featuring big names like Naruto, My Hero Academia, and Bleach. It's also the only place you'll find the immensely popular Cowboy Bebop.
Funimation: Best for Anime Enthusiasts
If Hulu and Netflix are for the casual fan, then Funimation is for the more serious anime obsessive. It's more narrowly focused for anime fans. Funimation has got a deeper library than Hulu, tons of Dragon Ball content for instance, plus you get simulcast, so you don't have to wait around for the next season of Fire Force to drop before you can watch it with everybody else.
Funimation is available on every major streaming device, and so you won't have a problem finding a place to watch it, there's a free ad-supported version that you can go with, or you can go the $5.99 Premium route which gives you ad-free access to the full library, plus two simultaneous streams. If you go for the $7.99 Premium Plus plan, then you get five simultaneous streams and you get to download your content to watch on the go.
Crunchyroll: Best for Anime Subs
Crunchyroll is similar to Funimation in that it's geared towards serious anime devotees. It's slightly different though. While both services provide both subbed and dubbed shows, Funimation holds a lot of exclusive rights to dubbed content while Crunchyroll is more of a destination for subbed stuff. Crunchyroll has got some top-tier exclusives like A Place Further than the Universe and Laid-Back Camp, and some classics like Demon Slayer:Kimetsu no Yaiba and Yuri on Ice.
Now, there is a lot of free stuff that is ad-supported of course or you can pay $7.99 a month for the Crunchyroll Premium and strip out the ads. You only get one simultaneous stream for that though, but for $9.99 a month, you can get Crunchyroll Premium plus VRV Premium.
And that brings us to VRV.
VRV: Best for Anime Addicts
VRV, similarly to Crunchyroll, is owned by Otter Media, which in turn is owned by WarnerMedia, this will be important a little later on.
Now VRV has its own library of originals like HarmonQuest (VRV’s kind of hybrid animated show) but the real appeal for VRV comes in the collection of properties. They've got Crunchyroll, Mondo, HIDIVE, Rooster Teeth, Boomerang, and lots more. So for $9.99 a month for VRV Premium, you're pulling in a whole bunch of stuff, including that Crunchyroll content.
Which anime streaming service is best?
So, that leaves us with the question of what you should get. Well, if you dabble in anime, then Hulu and Netflix might be good enough. They are good . . . but if you're an anime addict, or if you suspect you might become one, then you can get VRV for $10 and Funimation for $6. That's $16 a month for more anime than you could ever possibly consume if you're also a functioning and contributing member of society.
And one last note—this is about HBO Max—we've talked about the coming rollout of HBO Max, and we're not sure how this is gonna shake out for anime fans because Crunchyroll has been listed as part of the content lineup for HBO Max. AT&T owns both so that makes sense, but it also owns VRV, so will the rest of VRV's content also be available on HBO Max, will Crunchyroll ever be an HBO Max exclusive?
As of now, we don't know the answer to these questions or how this is all gonna fit together, so we're gonna have to keep an eye on it.