We guide you through 8 popular anime streaming services to help you figure out the best anime streaming service for you.
Anime’s popularity is growing exponentially every year. Nowadays, even big corporations like Netflix and Amazon are throwing their hats into the ring of anime content. Unlike TV, however, legal anime viewing is done primarily through online subscription services. And, unfortunately, if you want access to everything, you might end up paying more than is worth your money.
So, which subscription is right for your viewing habits? Or an even bigger question: What is the best anime streaming service? Let’s take a look at all the major sites that stream anime to decide which plan is right for you:
[Site availability and pricing may vary from country to country]
1 – Crunchyroll (AUD $6.95/month)
Crunchyroll is the most popular anime streaming site by far. Primarily, it licenses newer, seasonal shows that are just coming out in Japan like Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia, and Boruto. But it also has a healthy backlog of older content as well, including Gurren Lagann, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Gundam Wing.
However, around 99% of CR’s content is subs only, with only the most popular titles like Sword Art Online and Madoka Magica having dub options.
Crunchyroll also has a slowly-growing digital manga collection, with chapters of Attack on Titan and Ajin receiving simulpublications soon after their release in Japan. CR is also one of the cheapest option out there, with additional 3-month ($20) and 12-month ($60) options. It also has its own dedicated merchandise store providing access to clothing, figures, and more.
Pros: Massive catalog; cheap; mobile/gaming console apps; Chromecast-enabled; manga library; dedicated store & discount for members.
Cons: Mostly subs only; in-browser video player can become unstable on slow connections; region-locking on certain titles.
Recommendation: Very high. Crunchyroll is a vital service for most anime fans, especially seasonal watchers, though dubs-only fans might not find much value here.
2 – FUNimation (AUD $5.99/month)
Of all the sites on this list, FUNimation has been around the longest and has a massive catalogue almost on-par with Crunchyroll. Additionally, as per a cross-streaming agreement with Crunchyroll last year, every seasonal title that CR licenses in the future will be given a dub by FUNimation. Unfortunately, FUNimation has slowly been losing some of its more popular Aniplex-related titles, including Fullmetal Alchemist and Darker Than Black, some of which have reappeared on CR.
FUNimation also has its own e-store, primarily to sell blu-rays and DVDs of the anime it licenses at reasonable prices, as well as additional merchandise. They also offer bulk subscriptions similar to CR, with the yearly subscription set at around $60. Recently, both the website and apps have undergone a complete overhaul, though I’m not entirely sure how beneficial this was overall yet.
Pros: Massive catalogue; access to all dubs; fairly cheap; tied into home video market, mobile/gaming console apps; Chromecast enabled for mobile app; dedicated store & occasional discounts for members.
Cons: Slightly annoying to navigate; lack of subtitle option for post-Summer 2016 shows; major region-locking issues.
Recommendation: High. If you’re a dubs-only fan, FUNimation is an absolute must, though I am a bit concerned about their streaming future since seasonal watchers tend to be more subs-oriented.
3 – Anime Strike (AUD $4.99/month Prime Membership)
Anime Strike, an Amazon-based service, is the newest contender in the business, being less than three months old at the time of writing. Amazon has been dabbling in anime streaming for a while now and recently signed a contrast with NoitaminA, a Japanese TV channel, for exclusive content such as Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and The Great Passage.
As of the Spring 2017 season, it’s clear they intend to be a major player in the seasonal market, licensing shows such as Anonymous Noise, Re:CREATORS, and Atom: The Beginning. Additionally, unlike other streaming sites, Anime Strike has several films in their catalog, including Satoshi Kon classics like Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers.
Unfortunately, depending on your Amazon habits, Anime Strike might come with a huge drawback. In addition to the $5/month subscription fee, an Amazon Prime membership ($10.99/month or $99/year) is also required. This puts the yearly cost for an AS membership at $159; well above all other competition.
Of course, if you are a frequent Amazon shopper, then a Prime membership would actually save you money in the long run. I also have a few gripes with Amazon’s video player, as well as the borderline insane requirement for downloading the Amazon Video Android app, but hopefully this will be updated in the future.
Pros: Growing catalog of exclusive content; film streaming; dub option on several titles
Cons: Very expensive; lack of big-name classic titles; questionable video player quality and app-friendliness.
Recommendation: Mixed. If you’re a hardcore seasonal watcher, then it appears that Anime Strike is going to be a necessity if it survives the next few seasons. If not, then I honestly don’t see much value in it yet, though this could change in the future.
4 – Netflix (AUD $11.99/month for HD package)
Netflix has been steaming anime for a while now, picking up the most popular titles of both the past and present. Be it Rurouni Kenshin or Aldnoah.Zero, Netflix has a fairly solid genre spread. Additionally, some titles, such as The Seven Deadly Sins, Ajin, and Little Witch Academia, are Netflix exclusives.
However, at least in my personal experience, Netflix has a long history of not treating their anime properties with as much respect as they should. Be it bad file encoding or misplaced subtitles, there’s always something that’s not quite right with a given stream. Netflix is also very slow to add new shows to its ranks, and new batches tend to be very small.
Pros: Lots of popular titles; mobile/gaming console apps; Chromecast-enabled; dub option on most titles
Cons: Total catalog is very small; subtitles seem less than professional at times; moderately expensive
Recommendation: Low. If you already have Netflix for western TV shows and movies, then by all means check out their anime titles if you’re just starting out, but it definitely should not be your main source of anime consumption if you want a wider range of titles.
5 – Hulu (USD $7.99/month)
First and foremost I should make clear that this is not available in Australia, and is targeted towards a US market. Sorry Aussies </3.
While Hulu might seem similar to Netflix at first since they are both general streaming sites, they are very different in terms of anime content. Hulu has a significantly larger range of titles than Netflix that updates much more frequently, and their subtitles have generally been very solid in my experience.
However, with a few exceptions, you’re not getting anything that you couldn’t get on Crunchyroll or FUNimation. Hulu also seems to be dabbling in the exclusives market as well, with Chivalry of a Failed Knight being their first exclusive anime, but they don’t seem entirely focused on this strategy.
Pros: Relatively cheap; decent catalog size; mobile/gaming console apps; Chromecast-enabled; dub option on most titles.
Cons: Not many exclusive titles.
Recommendation: Mixed/Low. I’ve never come across anyone who uses Hulu as their primary anime service, since it doesn’t really do anything to stand out in the market. It’s not a terrible service, but if you want access to the very best titles, you’re better off somewhere else.
6 – The Anime Network ($6.95/month)
Once again, not available in Oz. I’m sorry okay!!!?
The Anime Network is a strange creature. Formerly an American TV channel, TAN transitioned to an online streaming service in the early 2010s. While it does have a lot of exclusive titles such as Highschool of the Dead and Detroit Metal City, most of these exclusives are very low on the popularity scale.
For every Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, there are five or six titles that will never see popular discussion in any circles ever again, and most of the popular titles it does have can still be viewed on other platforms. Fortunately, it does make up for this by providing dubs for shows that most other sites don’t have, particularly Sentai Filmworks titles like Clannad and From the New World.
Pros: Cheap; dub option on several titles; several exclusives
Cons: Most titles are either available elsewhere or not really worth watching; no mobile or gaming console apps; login and account systems can turn into a cluttered mess; search engine is not very intuitive
Recommendation: Low. The only way I could recommend The Anime Network is if you desperately want to watch the exclusives that it has. Otherwise, there’s not much here worth your time.
7 – Animelab (Free for basic or AUD $6.95/month for premium)
Of all the sites on this list, Animelab is the only one not based in the US, but rather in Australia (Aussie Aussie Aussie). In fact, it was created by none other than Madman Entertainment, the largest anime licensor in the region.
The site has nearly 300 titles total and growing, much more than Netflix but nowhere near Crunchyroll. The titles it licenses tend to be a mix of the seasonal (Atom: The Beginning) and the super popular (Attack on Titan). Animelab also offers mobile and console apps, as well as access to certain dubbed series.
Pros: Cheap; decent catalog size; ties to home video licensor; mobile/gaming console apps; dub option on several titles.
Cons: No clear edge in market other than location.
Recommendation: Mixed/High. Personally, I’ve had some issues navigating their website to find more information. What I have found is fairly promising so far, especially for a fairly young streaming site.
8 – Daisuki ($5/month)
Unless you plan on watching One-Punch Man ten times in a row, don’t bother. What started as a free, Japanese-based streaming service meant to combat piracy has quickly devolved into a bottom-tier competitor. Even Amazon and Netflix have better selections than Daisuki.
What’s worse is that even with the highest tier subscription option, you still get occasional ads on videos, a practice that subscription services were practically created to avoid. One-Punch Man is literally the only exclusive title it has, so the newly-released blu-ray set makes it completely obsolete.
There are a few other small, free sites such as Manga Entertainment, but these are mostly for purchasing DVD sets or viewing classic media such as Ghost in the Shell.
So what is the best anime streaming service?
Personally, I’ve gotten by on a Crunchyroll and Funimation subscription for a while, totalling $120/year, and made out just fine. However, considering Amazon’s fast-growing library and the fact that I already have Prime, I will probably add that as well as this season comes to a close.
Additionally, the only time I watch dubs is when I’m watching anime with my dad, so FUNimation is definitely much more ancillary to me now than in the past. I’m also in the middle of checking out different bundling options that have popped up recently, such as VRV’s standard bundle which includes Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and 6 other non-anime platforms like Roosterteeth and Cartoon Hangover.
If you only plan on occasional anime viewing alongside other media, Netflix and Hulu might work out fine for you. Plenty of my friends who only watch anime every so often have been using these for a while without much complaint. However, as you grow to become a more hardcore anime fan, Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and possibly Anime Strike are definitely the way to go.