These days anime is easy to find for cheap (or even free) – and it’s easy to find the official, licensed stuff, too. Not everyone knows where to find all these shows, though, which is why I’ve put together a little reference guide for the best spots to satisfy your anime cravings.
- Subscription Fee: $6.95/mo
- UGGGGGH. Do I HAVE to subscribe? No, they have a free version
- Subscription Perks: Simulcasts available immediately (otherwise you have to wait a week); no ads; extended library of titles
- Pros: Simulcasts of just about every show airing each season; huge library of newer titles, including a lot of “under the radar” series that will likely never see a dub or DVD release; app available on a variety of TV/mobile devices; no ads for subscribers; both site and apps are well-organized and user-friendly
- Cons: Very few dubs (some might see this as a “pro,” but I’m actually kinda fond of dubs); the HD stream tends to freeze when you’re watching in a web browser, although it works great on all the TV/mobile apps; not much in the way of titles before the mid-2000s (although they did just add the Cardcaptor Sakura re-release, so that may be changing).
While CR began its life doing some pretty dodgy stuff in terms of illegal anime streaming, they’ve since cleaned up their act and become the premiere spot for streaming simulcast anime in the U.S. And I love them for it. Love the title selection, love the site and app layouts, generally very pleased with the translations, too. Really, I think everyone should have a CR account. I want to be able to give CR accounts out the way Oprah gives out cars.
Worth a Subscription? How is this even a question? Yes. Go. Subscribe. Right now. It’s cheaper than most novels and you’ll find your life filled with strange, lovely series you never would have found otherwise. All ad-free, too. You have no excuse not to do this. Here. I’ll wait.
…All done? Perfect. Now let’s take a look at some other options. I won’t force you to subscribe to these. I’ll just nudge you oh-so-gently towards them.
- Subscription Fee: The monthly subscription is $7.95/mo, or you can do a yearly subscription for $54.95 (which comes out to $4.58/mo)
- UGGGGGH. Do I HAVE to subscribe? No, there’s a free version
- Subscription Perks: Simulcasts available immediately (otherwise you have to wait a week); tons of available dubs; HD quality; no ads; “video extras”
- Pros: Lots of dual language series from the past couple decades; app available on some TV/mobile devices; no ads for subscribers
- Cons: Most of their shows are available subbed on Hulu for free; simulcast selection is fairly small (although it’s been much recently); website is cluttered and clunky
I finally got a Funimation account during the Summer 2014 season because I couldn’t stand to wait a week for new Terror in Resonance or Book of Circus episodes, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it. Their website is a bit of a mess, but the watchlist system has a decent layout, and the streams are smoother than the ones on CR’s website. Plus if you have a Chromecast (which you should, because it’s awesome) you can still run the episodes on your TV regardless of app availability. The ever-growing backlog of dual-language series is a huge bonus, too.
Worth a Subscription? I recommend it (especially the absurdly cheap yearly subscription), but I do think this one really depends on you. Like dubs? Can’t wait a week for new episodes? Have a device that supports the app or a Chromecast to run the stream to your TV? If you checked one or more of these boxes, then yes, definitely. Funi owns the rights to a stupid amount of great and/or popular shows, so it really is a good deal for the number of titles you’d be getting.
- Subscription Fee: $7.99/mo
- UGGGGGH. Do I HAVE to subscribe? No, you can use regular Hulu
- Subscription Perks: Available on TV/mobile devices; larger library of titles
- Pros: App works on just about every mobile/TV device; probably the largest library of titles on the web; some shows available in dual language (sub/dub); the size of the anime library really doesn’t shrink much even if you don’t have a subscription
- Cons: Ads; sometimes the subtitles are really wonky on the TV/mobile apps; inconsistency of dub/sub availability (sometimes you get both, sometimes one but not the other); tend to get simulcast episodes 1-3 weeks behind the primary streamer (e.g. Crunchyroll)
There are a lot of things that annoy me about HuluPlus, but it makes up for its shortcomings in terms of sheer volume. Most U.S. licensors (Crunchyroll, Funimation, Viz, etc.) eventually chuck their shows up on Hulu, so it’s kind of a “one stop shop” for anime series. Simulcast shows don’t air right away, but if you don’t mind waiting a few weeks, then Hulu is a great place to catch shows old and new alike. (Coin toss on whether it will be dubbed or subbed, though. ^^;)
Worth a Subscription? If you do most of your TV-watching on TVs or tablets, then definitely. Otherwise it’s not really worth the money, since you still have to deal with ads, and the anime selection doesn’t change much between free and Plus members.
- Subscription Fee: None
- Pros: Dual language Viz series; free to watch
- Cons: It’s all run straight through Hulu, so it comes with all the “cons” of a Hulu/HuluPlus account; smallish selection
Viz had this idea for an online anime TV station, which is a neat concept but in this day of on-demand streaming, it was pretty silly to think people would want to pay for that. Now they’ve switched Neon Alley over to free on-demand streaming. Thing is, at this point, Neon Alley is basically just Hulu except not on Hulu. So unless you really want to give Viz some extra site hits, there’s no real reason to come here.
- Subscription Fee: $7.99/mo
- UGGGGGH. Do I HAVE to subscribe? Yarp.
- Pros: Great selection of dubs, especially kids’ classics (like Pokemon and Digimon); no ads; solid selection of older titles, especially from Funimation; app available for just about every device
- Cons: No “free” version; a lot of shows are dub-only, although this has been changing recently; Netflix usually works with DVD releases instead of stream releases, so new titles can sometimes take a while to get posted
I love Netflix for lots of reasons, but most of them have nothing to do with anime. A few years ago I would’ve told you to come here for all your online anime needs, but their library hasn’t done much growing in recent years. As it is, there’s some decent older stuff on here, especially if you prefer dubs, but almost nothing in terms of series released in the past few years. Although theydid just license the Spring 2014 series Knights of Sidonia, so there’s a chance they’re anime practices are changing. It’s worth keeping an eye on, at least.
Worth a Subscription? Not if you’re just in it for the anime. But heck, you probably already have a Netflix account, so as long as you have it, go see if you can find a show that catches your fancy.
Local Video Rental Stores
A dying breed, but not dead yet! Most major chains are woefully lacking in anime titles, but if you can find a local place (especially in a college town), there’s a good chance they’ll have at least a few shelves crammed with anime discs. An eclectic local rental store is how I became such a huge anime fan during a time when anime was not easy to find, so these little places are near and dear to my heart. Plus you can make friends with the staff and get series recommendations, which is always a nice bonus, too. Support them if you can!
You know, if you’re into that sort of thing. I haven’t had cable in three years so I’m decidedly out of the loop about this one, but I do know the Adult Swim Toonami block on Cartoon Network is doing some great things in terms of bringing anime to a wider range of viewers (much like they did when I was a kid, actually). Plus that whole “simulcasting a dub” deal they worked out with Funimation and BONES for Space Dandy is so groundbreakingly awesome I can’t even…
Wow, you guys. I seriously I can’t even. Guess that’s my cue to stop typing, then.