Years ago, life was hard for American anime fans. A few influential shows made it to broadcast, but US studios either meddled with the editing, produced subpar dubs, or both. By the early 2000s, US fans traded illegally duplicated VHS tapes or (if they were lucky) tiny RealPlayer files of their favorite shows on CD-R.
All that changed with the advent of legal, subscription-based video streaming services. Anime streaming services give fans huge libraries to peruse and, for the first time, subtitled or dubbed releases within hours of an episode's overseas premiere. If you want to start watching anime online, these tested, highlighted services represent the top places to stream animation. Then keep reading to learn how to get the most out of the experience.
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Best for Original Anime
Why We Picked It
Netflix is the standard-bearer for streaming video services. It hosts an impressive selection of content, with new titles appearing on a monthly basis. Then there's the company's constantly growing library of premier original programming, which outclasses every other streaming service. Netflix's impressive anime catalog includes Aggrestuko, Beastars, Cannon Busters, Devilman Crybaby, and Yasuke,
Who It’s For
Netflix is a premium service for people willing to pay premium prices. It recently raised the price of its two, higher-end subscription plans. For $9.99 per month, you can stream unlimited standard-definition content on a single device. The Standard tier, which now costs $15.49 per month (up from $13.99), unlocks HD content and supports simultaneous streaming on two devices. The top-of-the-line Premium plan costs $19.99 per month (up from $17.99). This tier gives you four concurrent streams and access to 4K content where available. Notably, Netflix no longer offers a free trial option. The ad-supported version only costs $6.99 per month, but comes with many limitations.
- High-quality original programming
- Excellent apps and features
- Offline downloads on mobile
- Physical media rental option
- Free mobile games
- Compromised ad-based tier
- Little to no information about changes to availability of content
Best for Hard-Core Anime Fans
Why We Picked It
Crunchyroll is one of the most complete anime streaming services, with more than 1,300 titles in its library. Popular shows on the service include Attack on Titan, Death Note, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hunter X Hunter, One-Punch Man, several Naruto series, and Yuri!!! on Ice. Crunchyroll has some original series, such as A Place Further Than the Universe, In/Spectre, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. It also maintains a respectable lineup of about 40 simulcast shows. You can even purchase relevant merchandise, manga, and more from the Crunchyroll shop.
Who It's For
Crunchyroll gives anime fans a convenient (and legal) way to watch shows that years ago would never have come to the West. It supports HD streams for both free and paid accounts, but you must opt for the premium tier to get rid of ads. Most of its content supports subtitles, but after absorbing Funimation (along with VRV), its dubbed library is also now much stronger.
You can download the Crunchyroll apps on media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), mobile phones (Android and iOS), and several gaming consoles (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X). It supports as many as six simultaneous streams, depending on your price tier, as well as offline downloads.
- Expansive anime library, now including Funimation dubs
- All tiers support HD streaming
- Many simulcast shows
- Some original series
- Manga and apparel store
- Offline downloads
- Some interface clutter
- Few subtitle options
Best for Classic Anime
Why We Picked It
Hulu is one of the best all-in-one options for cord-cutters, given its diverse set of streaming options. In addition to a strong library of classic shows and a good selection of movies, Hulu offers a robust live TV option (more than 70 channels of news, sports, and entertainment programming). Its classic anime offerings include Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, Ranma 1/2, Slayers, and Trigun.
Who It’s For
Hulu is great for anyone seeking streaming convenience without abandoning traditional live TV. Hulu's basic on-demand streaming plan currently costs $7.99 per month, while the ad-free version is $14.99 per month. College students can get Hulu's ad-supported version for $1.99 per month. The Hulu + Live TV plan costs $69.99 per month, and it combines Hulu's live TV service with the ad-supported streaming plan. All subscribers now enjoy Enhanced Cloud DVR that increases the available DVR storage from 50 hours to 200 hours. You can also add the Unlimited Screens package (it allows an unlimited number of concurrent device streams in your home, and up to three outside of it) to your plan for $9.99 per month.
- Excellent selection of TV series
- Extensive live TV channel lineup
- Robust cloud DVR option
- Available on nearly every media streaming device
- Base on-demand plan includes ads
- Offline downloads feature requires premium account
- Fewer high-quality originals than competitors
- Missing most SportsNet and all Bally Sports RSNs
Best Overall for Free Streaming
Why We Picked It
Tubi is a completely free streaming service that features movies and TV shows from across various genres, including anime. With Tubi, you can enjoy recognizable shows like Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Naruto, and One-Punch Man. Note that every season may not be available, and the library may change over time.
Who It's For
Tubi is for people who want a free streaming service that doesn't feel cheap. Tubi's web interface and mobile apps have clean designs and organize everything neatly into descriptive categories. One limitation with Tubi is that the streaming resolution is capped at 720p. As expected, Tubi lacks offline downloads to mobile devices. The parental control tools are a bit limited, but at least they're an option. In addition, the service keeps track of the content you've watched and lets you manage a watchlist.
- Extensive library of movies and shows
- Live TV
- Modern apps and interfaces
- Supports watchlists
- Parental control features
- 720p streaming resolution cap
- Lacks an ad-free option
Best for Free, Retro Anime
Why We Picked It
RetroCrush is a completely free anime streaming service. You can watch everything in its library, and don't have to endure many ads. The flip side is that the small library is limited to older shows and movies, not contemporary content.
Who It’s For
Classic anime should be seen as a genre unto itself. Even if you don’t like or keep up with what the kids are into now, anime from 20 or 30 years ago provides a curated nostalgia blast. RetroCrush is for fans who care more about Golgo 13 and Urusei Yatsura than Attack on Titan.
- Completely free
- Exclusive retro anime shows and movies
- Surprisingly infrequent ads
- Small library
- Lacks community and accessibility features
Best for Uncensored, Exclusive Anime
Why We Picked It
A slightly more obscure anime streaming service, Hidive nevertheless has titles that excite viewers looking to dig deep. The shows include Darwin’s Game, Food Wars!, and Made in Abyss.
Who It’s For
Cultural standards don’t always translate across countries, so anime fans have become used to a certain amount of censorship depending on where they watch their shows. That said, they can rest easy knowing that Hidive is uncensored. It also has mature exclusives.
- Exclusive, mature shows
- Dubs and simulcast subs
- Lets you create private chat rooms
- Supports three profiles per account
- Few recognizable shows
- No offline downloads
- Bare-bones mobile app
Is Streaming Anime Legal?
Anime fans have long been at the mercy of gatekeepers. First, it was media importers, who brought over only the series they felt would work with American audiences. Later, it was the fansubbing community that labored to bring their favorite shows to their peers through file-sharing services of dubious legality.
Video streaming services changed all of that. Sites like Crunchyroll and Hidive provide all-you-can-watch viewing for a single monthly price, and they're completely legal. These options are also far, far cheaper than physical media—which, for imported shows and movies, has been disgustingly expensive for decades. Plus, digital distribution means there's no scarcity of product, shipping fees, or physical overhead for the provider.
As far as pricing goes, anime streaming services won't break the bank. In fact, most services come in under $10 per month. Crunchyroll even offers a free tier. Of course, you get more features and quality-of-life improvements with the paid tiers. For instance, Crunchyroll's premium version removes ads from the experience. Hulu’s premium tier adds offline downloads and gets rid of most of the ads on the service, save for a select few programs. A Hidive subscription costs $4.99 per month.
Some completely free streaming services may have some anime worth watching, too. RetroCrush’s curated catalog of cool and mostly exclusive, classic anime is entirely free with surprisingly infrequent ads, but it doesn’t even offer the option of premium features. The iconic Gundam franchise sidesteps streaming services entirely, with the rights holder putting episodes up for free on its own channels. Still, nostalgia is hard to resist when it doesn’t cost anything. And yes, there are dozens of websites that let you stream anime and cartoons for free. We don’t recommend them because of their sketchy legality. If you decide to take your chances anyway, consider using the Tor browser or a VPN, at the very least.
Which Streaming Service Has the Best Anime?
One of the biggest differentiators between services is the size of the catalog. Of the standalone services, Crunchyroll currently leads the pack with around 1,300 anime series, a library that has grown even bigger after absorbing Funimation and VRV(Opens in a new window) in 2022. Hulu and Netflix, each with an impressive anime library of its own, sit well behind Crunchyroll with each having between 200 and 300 combined anime shows and movies. Hidive has approximately 500 series and movies in its collection. RetroCrush features 100 shows and 40 films.
Of course, it's not just the quantity of the shows that matters. Although many popular shows are available on more than one platform, each service we reviewed has a specialty.
For instance, Crunchyroll generally has a lock on current, popular, and widely acclaimed shows, while Netflix has the distinction of original programming, such as The Seven Deadly Sins and its reboot of the Japanese collaboration Voltron. Netflix also frequently strikes deals with Japanese creators for new, original anime series, and it even features a new dub of the crown jewel that is Neon Genesis Evangelion.
RetroCrush’s catalog is small, but it’s the only place you’ll find Golgo 13: The Movie, Urusei Yatsura, and more vintage hits from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Hulu similarly offers older anime, such as Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, Ranma 1/2, Slayers, and Trigun. With Hidive, you can watch Darwin’s Game, Food Wars!, and Made in Abyss, as well as uncensored mature exclusives.
Anime Dubs vs. Subs
The fight between those who prefer subtitles (the correct way) and those who prefer English dubs (the incorrect way) is as bloody as historic Japan's Meiji period and as pointless as the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Fortunately, most services let you have it both ways. And, truth be told, there are advantages to both methods.
The 2016 partnership between Funimation and Crunchyroll(Opens in a new window) pushed dubs to Funimation and subs to Crunchyroll. Now that both services are owned by Sony, and with Funimation being absorbed under the Crunchyroll brand, you can now enjoy a one-stop anime shop for subs and dubs.
Netflix has numerous language and subtitle tracks for most of its offerings. Hulu is spottier with subtitled films, but has Japanese language offerings for most shows. In contrast, subbed and dubbed videos on Hulu are presented as separate videos, and not just as an option in the video player. Crunchyroll and RetroCrush do this, too. That's a little annoying, but at least you have a choice. Hidive offers a mix of subs and dubs.
How to Watch Live Anime
Import television and movies have always come at a premium cost, and are often released sporadically and after long waits. Thankfully, the Internet is here to help with simulcasts.
The top services focusing on contemporary anime offer at least some simulcast programming. While the name implies a simultaneous release, it's actually usually a matter of hours after an episode premieres. Simulcasts let fans stay on the cutting edge of anime and stoke popularity in a way that binge-watching never could.
Crunchyroll currently has about 45 shows in its simulcast roster. Other services have far fewer. And since its merger with Funimation, Crunchyroll has also gained a rather unique service called SimulDub, which currently applies to about 25 shows for which it posts new English dubs on the same day that they air in Japan. For dubs fans, that's an incredible turnaround, and we hope to see the newly-merged Crunchyroll continue it.
How to Stream Anime
Most video streaming services are available on every device you own. Any modern web browser should be sufficient for streaming from any of the latest services. All the services in this roundup also offer apps for Android and iOS devices, so you can watch your favorite shows wherever you go. Each service also supports at least two simultaneous streams, so one person can watch on the TV while another person watches on a separate device. RetroCrush doesn't even ask you to create an account.
Crunchyroll now lets you download videos for mobile offline viewing. The other premium services also all support this feature in their paid tiers.
The TV experience is no longer a major differentiator, either, given the affordability and prevalence of media streaming devices. All the anime streaming services in this roundup support Chromecasts, Rokus, Apple TVs, and Fire TV Sticks. Support for gaming consoles is a similar, if more mixed, story. RetroCrush isn’t on any game consoles. Crunchyroll and Hulu are available on the Nintendo Switch.
Which Service Offer More Than Just Anime?
Anime is a rarified, fan-driven experience, so many streaming services do a lot more than merely serve up shows. For example, Crunchyroll has integrated and lively forum communities. It also offers stores. Crunchyroll's shop is mildly disorganized compared with other services, but you do get in-store bonuses and special access to convention events with a top-tier account. The relatively sparse RetroCrush could use these community features, but a shop would feel out of place on a free service. Hidive lets you create and share chat rooms so you can watch synced videos with friends while adding your own commentary.
Crunchyroll also offers digital comics, with a decent digital library of manga titles you can read in the browser. A DC Universe Infinite membership grants you access to about 25,000 online comics. In fact, DC Universe Infinite has pivoted entirely to comics, as its original shows, like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn, moved to HBO Max. If digital comics are your game, you're better off with Comixology, though.
What Is the Best Anime Streaming Site?
If you don’t want to go over budget, make sure to think about the value these services provide, especially if no one else in your household watches anime. In that case, Netflix and Hulu have a clear advantage because of their mainstream original productions and massive catalogs of other shows. Crunchyroll's expansive and singular anime collection, which now includes Funimation's dubs and VRV's indie cartoons, earns it our Editors’ Choice award for the category. Note that for this roundup, we count animation and anime series jointly as the distinction between the two genres is not always clear, and arguably arbitrary in a current global, geeky world.
For more on streaming, check out five reasons why you may want to ditch your video subscription and keep cable, and read how streaming has ushered in a new trash TV golden age.