There is no doubt in my mind that this is the golden age of anime fandom. Why? Because of streaming services and cheap internet bandwidth.

Back in the day, we had very few choices when it came to getting translated copies of series that we found interesting. Usually someone who had access to broadband at a university would download fansubs (that was in a legal grey area) and then we’d come hat-in-hand with external hard drives and blank DVDs to get copies of the shows we wanted. As the popularity of these shows grew, local importers popped up who would sell you DVDs at grossly-inflated prices.

Now things could not be better. Streaming services provide us with more anime than one could reasonably watch. The only real downside to this is the fact that plenty of low-quality shows are now also making it over and so it can be hard to find the real gems on your own.

Regardless, in this article I want to point you in the direction of the specific streaming services you can turn to in order to get your anime fix. All of these services are based in the US, with some of them offering shows globally as well. By the time you’ve read this things might have changed, but at the time of writing I tried to be as accurate as possible.

Netflix – $8

Netflix Logo

If you don’t already have a Netflix subscription then getting it for the anime alone might not be the best idea. US Netflix offers a moderate number of anime shows at the moment, but if you’re in a different region they have much less to offer.

I will say, however, that Netflix has sponsored some brilliant original anime. In particular, Knights of Sidonia and Seven Deadly Sins are excellent titles. I expect Netflix will continue to get more global anime licenses and also produce more original anime content. Honestly, it’s a great service to have overall. If you’re already a Netflix subscriber you can go delve into their anime selection right now. They also have a free trial, which might be long enough to see most of the good stuff, if you really don’t want to put down any cash.

Oh, and they have recently added the ability to download certain shows over wi-fi in their mobile apps, so you can watch them on the go without using data. This also includes many of their own anime series.

Hulu $8 – $12

hulu logo

Hulu is a US-only service that provides a lot of contemporary TV as well as older series. It’s not nearly in the same league as Netflix, but if you’re an anime fan it has a large selection of both classic and new shows. If you are a US resident, Hulu actually provides one of the most cost-effective deals for someone who wants traditional Western programming as well as anime.

Just be warned that the lowest price tier comes with lots and lots of advertising. It’s totally worth paying the extra few bucks for ad-free viewing. The apps work pretty well, but there’s no offline viewing here. If you are only going with one streaming service to cover all your needs, then Hulu makes a lot of sense.

Amazon Prime Video – $6

amazon prime video logo

Amazon got a little left behind in the streaming wars but, boy, is Jeff Bezos flexing his muscle to catch up with the likes of Hulu and Netflix. As part of its Prime Video offering you can now also watch anime through this service. If you are already a Prime annual subscriber then Prime Video is included for you. You can, however, just get the video part of the service for about six bucks a month.

Amazon actually had a premium anime add-on called “Anime Strike”, which meant you had to pay twice in order to access some of the shows for which they have the exclusive streaming rights. Many of these shows are now moving to plain old Prime Video. Great shows such as Made in Abyss, Re:Creators, Scum’s Wish, and more are now no longer behind a double paywall.

Crunchyroll – $7

CrunchyRoll Logo

Crunchyroll is the absolute top banana when it comes to anime streaming. They have global streaming rights for most of their catalog, are available on almost every platform, and carry just about every simulcast show worth showing. Almost the entire collection is subs-only, though.

On top of this, your Crunchyroll subscription ALSO comes with a manga application with legal, officially translated manga. It’s free to read as long as you subscribe. You can also watch quite a few of the shows for free as long as you are OK with advertising and waiting a week before getting to see the latest episode.

I really love Crunchyroll and think that any semi-serious anime fan should be a subscriber. There are some minor caveats, however. On a technical level these guys don’t quite match Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. The streaming doesn’t work all that well on lower-bandwidth connections and the apps can be a little problematic at times. For example. The PS4 app tends to skip and loop sections of shows for some reason – something I have been complaining about for years now. Minor niggles aside, however, this is currently THE main recommendation for serious anime nerds. If you are a US subscriber you can also add Funimation to your Crunchyroll subscription, combining the two catalogs for a price cheaper than each service by itself.

Speaking of Funimation…

Funimation – $6

Funimation logo

Funimation made a name as a localizer of anime series producing subs and dubs of many shows. If you’ve watched even a moderate number of localized titles you’ve undoubtedly seen their little “Funimation, You Should Be Watching” splash screens.

Thanks to the deal with Crunchyroll, Funimation has started to move towards a purely dub approach. Crunchyroll handles the subtitled Japanese-audio versions. This means you’ll find roughly the same titles on both services, but of course dubbing takes longer than subbing so it might take a while to get on the Funimation service. That being said, they are probably the fastest dubbers out there. Personally I can’t stand dubs most of the time, but if that’s your preference this is probably the perfect service for you. Just remember that this service is US-only.

The Good and the Bad

Streaming is probably the greatest blessing anime fans in the West have received in the history of the medium. For most of us who want to stay legal, streaming is an affordable solution for a ravenous anime appetite. Fans outside of the United States don’t have it quite as good. If a streaming service is available outside of the US, the catalog tends to be significantly smaller.

Now you can use a service like UnoTelly or Unlocator to get past geographic restrictions. This is technically illegal, even if you are paying for the service the same as any US resident. If the company did not buy worldwide rights to a show it is not allowed to let viewers outside see it. The problems is that chances are no local distributor would have bought the rights either for such a relatively niche medium.

I’m in no position to tell you what the moral thing is to do but, on the scale of morality, using an unblocker is better than getting fansubs where the creators don’t make a cent. Of course, if the show in question IS licensed in your region by someone else, then you should get it there.

Streamed versions VS BluRay

Streaming is also a great way to decide which shows you want to own permanently. If you really love a particular program there are more than a few benefits to getting the BluRay version. There are often special features on disc that are never offered via streaming. Some OVA episodes are also BluRay exclusive, at least for a while.

One of the most curious things about BluRay releases, however, comes from actual changes to the animation. Some anime studios actually go back and improve the animation and artwork for the BluRay edition of a show. Sometimes the changes can be really dramatic too. This means that the BluRay edition is often the best version of a given show, with any errors or janky drawings fixed up before committing them to disc.

Between BluRay and streaming, we sure have it good!

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