The 5 Best Anime Streaming Services
With the Streaming Wars in full swing, it’s time to take a look at the best Anime streaming services.
While the release of Apple TV+ kickstarting the Streaming Wars of 2019, content is becoming more readily available to fans. And with the Disney+ launch followed closely by HBO Max, things are heating up when it comes to streaming content.
Anime is becoming more and more prevalent in this streaming content age. With Netflix investing heavily in Anime content, this previously thought of as a niche genre has completely exploded into the mainstream.
HBO Max is the Newest to Invest in Anime Streaming Content
HBO Max is the only new streaming service making a big play to step into the anime streaming market. Their recent announcement about the licensing rights to all Studio Ghibli movies is unprecedented. It’s an a huge move that positions HBO Max to the forefront of a large demographic.
While everyone else is fighting over content, Anime content has also become incredibly easy to find on a streaming app. But which is the best? We take a look into the 5 best Anime streaming services.
How Anime Accessibility Has Evolved Over the Years
It’s surprising for audiences that have grown up with Anime, to be discussing the various online platforms for streaming Anime. It’s surprising because there was a time when Anime was not easily available anywhere.
No television channels aired it. Blockbuster or other video stores didn’t have any VHS copies. The only way that you could get anything Anime related is by finding bootleg VHS copies from flea markets. Or you had to know someone, who knew someone with the inside hook-up. It was an incredible niche market that has taken years to become accessible to the general public.
Over time, certain Anime crossed over into the North American mainstream. Certain TV channels began airing kid-friendly Anime such as Digimon, Pokemon, and heavily edited Dragon Ball Z. But even then, the English dubbing wasn’t great and subtitling the original Japanese voices wasn’t a priority or most distributors. It wasn’t a big enough market for makers to justify spending that much time and money for American audiences.
Oh, how things have changed.
The Leaders of Anime Streaming Services
Crunchyroll originally started in 2006 by some University of California, Berkley students as a site for East Asian content. As I mentioned above, Anime was only available through illegal bootleg VHS copies back in the day. So with the rise of the internet and streaming media, Crunchyroll became the place where those same bootleggers would distribute their content through the web.
Image via Crunchyroll
Eventually, Crunchyroll’s significance and rise were such, that they became a legitimate Anime streaming service. They removed all content that had copyright infringement, and the site became one of the larger providers of streaming Anime in the world.
The Rise of the Crunchyroll Anime Streaming Service
Through investments and partnerships, Crunchyroll became a pretty big streamer. They even collaborated with a somewhat competitor in Funimation (more on them later). They also tied up with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment branch to distribute their home video catalog. Most significantly, as of 2018, Crunchyroll, through its owner at the time, Otter Media, has now become part of WarnerMedia. So Crunchyroll is now owned by the same corporation that owns HBO Max and the DC Universe streaming services.
I wonder if this sort of vertical integration had anything to do with HBO Max’s landmark deal to stream all Studio Ghibli films as well.
What Kind of Anime Streaming Content is On Crunchyroll?
Image via Crunchyroll
Similar to Netflix, Crunchyroll’s model is very much licensing existing shows and purchasing distribution rights for those shows to stream worldwide. This doesn’t always work out due to those licensing restrictions in various countries. But Crunchyroll has definitely become the place to go in recent times for classic and new Anime content, soon after it’s aired originally on Japanese television.
Crunchyroll currently has over 900 anime shows consisting of series like Dragonball: Super, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, Sword Art Online, My Hero Academia, Good Wars!, Bleach, The Ancient Magus Bride, and so much more.
Crunchyroll has a subscription fee of $7.99 a month, with a 30-day free trial, and is available on most platforms.
Funimation is the other exclusive big Anime streaming service that rose out of motivation entirely different than that of Crunchyroll’s. The company’s origin story was deeply seeded within Anime itself, making the company today an authority in the Anime streaming service industry.
Image via Funimation.
Founded in 1994 by Gen Fukunaga, Funimation’s creation was specifically for Dragon Ball, one of the most classic and iconic Anime franchise. Fukunaga has a relative that worked with Toei Company, an Animation studio that is the equivalent of Disney in Japan. That relative offered Fukunaga the licensing rights of Dragon Ball for the US, and thus Funimation was born to facilitate that deal. Which of course, as history is witness, was hugely successful.
While it’s creation was due solely for one specific Anime, Funimation has since grown into one of the leading Anime streaming services and distributors, not to mention also a leading provider of dubbed Anime as well.
The Apple-like Saga of Funimation’s Success
The licensing rights of Dragon Ball in the U.S. was only the beginning. Dragon Ball allowed Funimation a toe-hold into the American market, followed by licenses to other shows as well. As with any long-standing company, Funimation went through many changes. The company started as an independent, then other corporations acquired them resulting in more capital and growth. Founder Fukunaga’s significance and title in the company also went through as many changes as Funimation itself. However, he was always an influential part of the company’s success, no matter what their actual end-product was.
Before making the jump to streaming, Funimation was the only company that could provide U.S. audiences with property English dubbed Anime content. The iconic Dragon Ball Z dub remains the most sought after, given how they improved on the TV released in North America. The Funimation dubs are one of the most reliable and legitimate English dubbing of Anime content.
Image via Funimation.
Funimation’s Official Entry Into Anime Streaming Content With Sony
In 2017, With Funimation’s acquisition by Sony Pictures Television, they have firmly become a part of the American production industry. Doing so allowed the streaming service a lot more reach and accessibility to the market. Despite recent scandals at Funimation, the company remains one of the larger Anime streaming services.
Anime Streaming Content Found on Funimation
Funimation is the home to most of the Dragon Ball series, including the original, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball Super and various of the films. The anime streamer also has Attack On Titan, Sword Of The Stranger, One Piece, My Ordinary Life, Special 7 and many many more. Funimation is also the best source for the DVD or Blu ray boxed sets of most highly revered Anime content, properly dubbed in English.
All this anime content is streaming on Funimation for $7.99 a month, with a 30-day free trial option as well.
Amazon Prime Video
For those unaware, Amazon Prime Video is the media streaming side of the world’s biggest online store, Amazon. While the streamer has gone into original content creation through its many TV series like Jack Ryan and Carnival Row, as well as movies like The Big Sick, their original anime is very scarce.
Image via Prime Video
This is probably why Amazon Prime Video doesn’t enter the conversation when it comes to Anime streaming content. But the streamer has a pretty significant library of Anime. While Amazon Prime’s have much original Anime content, they do have a massive library of impressive Anime titles that can are classics.
Amazon’s Marketing is Just as Scarce as Their Original Anime Content
The biggest problem with Amazon, which is a little confounding as well, is its complete lack of marketing when it comes to any of their media content. While the original series have great marketing, everything else seems to fall on the wayside. While Netflix (more on them later too) proudly boasts of their old and new library, announcing the rights of classic movie and TV franchise as they sign them, Prime Video seems less concerned with promoting their content.
Image via Prime Video
Which is probably why they’re not discussed as much when it comes to the big Anime streaming services. So when talking about Anime, Amazon seems like it’s completely not even in consideration. But the reality is completely different. Their list of streaming anime content is pretty huge. With shows like Vinland Saga, Dororo, ONIHEI, Blade Of The Immortal, Robotech and so many more, Amazon is slowly but surely bringing up the rear of best Anime streaming services.
Amazon Prime Video is available for $8.99 a month or included with Amazon Prime delivery for $12.99 a month, or the annual cost of $119.00.
And then there was Netflix.
The streaming giant has disrupted the film and television market over the last few years. Netflix is redefining the way we consume content is very much . And while Crunchy Roll and Funimation were exclusive to Anime, Netflix’s influence on their current business model is undeniable.
Image via Netflix.
The Netflix and Anime Connection
In regards to Anime, Netflix is just as big of a rival to exclusive Anime streaming services, as they are too big studio movies and television. Their awareness of the Anime fandom is incredibly high and their investment into the genre reflects that understanding that much more.
Over at ComicYears, we’ve exhaustively covered the various streaming Anime content available at Netflix. Be it classic Anime franchises adapted for Netflix, or Netlix original Anime content created exclusively for the service. And the additions to their comprehensive Anime list keeps on growing with each passing day, such as with the upcoming Dino Girl Gauko.
How Netflix is Streaming Anime Content for Brand New Western Audiences
Image via Netflix.
On top of importing and creating Anime franchises from Japan for North American audiences, Netflix also has anime content that is specifically for American audiences. Shows like the recent hit Seis Manos, and the upcoming Masters Of The Universe sequel have the Anime style of animation through Powerhouse Animation. This way, Netflix covers both Anime fandom as well as just creating original Anime styled streaming content for all audiences.
Access to Netflix’s Anime content, as well as its entire library, starts as a subscription price of $9.99 a month.
Honorable Mention: Hulu
I’m reluctant to add Hulu to this list of the best Anime streaming services, give the uncertainty with the service. With Disney+ launching, and Disney owning the majority of Hulu stock, the kind of content on Hulu remains uncertain. Hulu may live on as the live TV component of Disney’s subscription, their future as a streaming services is cloudy.
Image via Hulu
However, if it wasn’t, Hulu would definitely be a competitor to the larger Anime streaming services. While many of Hulu’s Anime content is also found on Netflix or Crunchyroll, the service offers unforgettable classics that are on the lists of the best Anime ever. Content like Sailor Moon, InuYasha, Afro Samurai, Cowboy Bebop and Akira make Hulu service to look out for.
All of Hulu’s content is available for a monthly price of $5.99 with a free trial option.
Which of these Anime streaming services if your go-to for the genre? Let us now in the comments below, or on social media.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.