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Streaming Anime: Choosing a Service That Suits You

Updated on January 9, 2018
The current platforms, paid and free, where you can legally stream your favorite anime titles.
The current platforms, paid and free, where you can legally stream your favorite anime titles.

Anime's Value As A Digital Commodity

Depending on what your viewing choices are, you could have anticipated or be incredibly surprised at the increasing value of anime as a commodity. Anime enjoyed an underground culture outside Japan before being accepted as mainstream entertainment, gradually, when Spike TV aired Afro Samurai (the titular role being voiced by iconic actor Samuel L. Jackson).

Now we can stream anime on demand through any number of services.

What do you prefer?

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Today's Choices Of Anime Platforms

You may be content with one or two platforms, but may entertain the idea subscribing to a third platform to get your anime fix.

Not all of the titles you want to watch will be on what platforms you choose for the reason being that their licenses are purchased by different studios like Funimation, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, Bandai Visual, Ocean Productions, Viz Media and Section23 Films.

Current choices of streaming anime, the LEGAL WAY, of course are through the following: FunimationNow, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video, Crackle, Viewster, YouTube, VIZ Media and HIDIVE.

There are other platforms, but I chose to omit them because they sell anime by episodes and seasons rather than pay for a monthly to yearly subscription.

Keep in mind that these options available mainly to US subscribers.

FunimationNow:

I consider Funimation to be the “conglomerate” of the streaming platforms.

Given the recent partnership with Crunchyroll, I feel Funimation should lower the yearly subscription price a bit.

Simulcasting became a new thing where platforms such as Funimation would stream new episodes of current anime one hour after airing in Japan, then Funimation would release the dubs to those same episodes a few weeks later.

The partnership between Funimation and Crunchyroll allows both to share their respective libraries with each other.

Virtually all of the English dubbed content going to Funimation and most the English subbed content going onto Crunchyroll. Whenever Crunchyroll streams a new simulcast, you can be sure that a dubbed version of that same episode will be available on Crunchyroll in a couple of weeks.

The subbed content that remains on Funimation are usually risque like Prison School and Shimoneta.

Great if you want to watch dubbed titles.

Which platform do you prefer?

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Crunchyroll:

Crunchyroll is the platform where most studios choose to stream their content on once they grab the licenses.

The partnership allows you to stream original Japanese versions (with English subtitles) of titles like Cowboy Bebop, Psycho Pass and many other titles along with its catalog of other content.

While Funimation does have live-action content, Crunchyroll has a bigger library of content with titles like Great Teacher Onizuka and Ultraman.

Crunchyroll does have a limited library of English dubbed titles such as Gintama (third season only), Durarara!! and Tenjho Tenge.

The subbed and dubbed versions of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which streamed on Funimation, are streaming on Crunchyroll.

In a nutshell, you can use Crunchyroll for the subs and Funimation for the dubs.

Titles in Crunchyroll's current lineup include Seven Deadly Sins (not to be confused with The Seven Deadly Sins), Gintama, Naruto Shippuden, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, Ace Attorney, Amnesia, Another, Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Asura Cryin', Monster Strike, Evil or Live, Sengoku Strike, Elegant Yokai Apartment and many more.

Do you like the current partnership between Crunchyroll and Funimation

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Hulu:

Hulu used to have a free subscription plan but it has been scrapped since then.

The platform has a sizable library but getting a subscription to Hulu is redundant because most of its content can be viewed on Crunchyroll and Funimation. If you plan on using using Hulu for more than watching anime, go ahead and pay for a subscription.

Hulu's library of content come from Funimation and other North American studios through their specific content channels. If I wanted to watch Log Horizon and Sword Art Online, then I'd respectively check out the Sentai Filmworks and Aniplex channels.

The anime library contains content sub-licensed from Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, Funimation, NIS America, Media Blasters, Discotek Media and Viz Media.

Hulu is slowly building up its library of exclusive anime content with titles such as God Eater.

Ironically, you can go onto VIZ Media's website and view its library for free in subs and dubs. The video player is powered by Hulu with ads.

Viewster:

Viewster is one of the few legal platforms where you can stream anime for free.

The library is limited, but you don't need a subscription to Viewster. It did try a streaming service called Omakase, but it was met with failure because the business model.

At least Viewster is free to use.

Crackle:

Crackle, like Viewster, is another place where you stream anime for free.

The library of anime is rather small, but the library contains content not found on other platforms like Marvel Anime.

A small number of full-length films like Tokyo Godfathers.

Given that using Crackle is free, you should definitely look to that service to stream anime.

Netflix:

Netflix is a pioneer when it comes to streaming movies and TV shows.

While the streaming platform has a decent library of anime titles, getting a subscription is redundant (if you have Funimation and/or Crunchyroll) UNLESS you plan to watch more than just anime.

Netflix recently increased the subscription cost to new customers.

According to the service, this is to ensure that Netflix will have the funds to acquire the licenses for more exclusive content and to invest more in making more original content. The latter has proven fruitful given more flexibility that's not granted when making a show for network TV.

Netflix understands the value of anime and has gradually acquired exclusive licenses for title like Knights of Sidonia, Little Witch Academia, The Seven Deadly Sins (not to be confused with Seven Deadly Sins), Ajin: Demi-Human, Blame!, and ID-0.

The service has is slowly investing in the production of original anime content with the first series being Castlevania which is adapted from the original video game series. Netflix will likely invest more money to develop more original titles for its content library.

Netflix invested in the production of the live-action Hollywood adaptation of Death Note.

If you're looking to just watch anime, Netflix is an all right option but not great.

If you would rather listen to English audio instead of reading subtitles, the anime titles are available in English dub.

I use Netflix, but not for the sole reason of viewing anime.

In Netflix's defensive, the service does offer dubbed versions to titles such as Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (the series, not the movie from several years back), Sword Art Online, Aldnoah.0, Gurren Lagaan, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Fate/Zero, Kill La Kill and Your Lie In April.

Are you satisfied with Netflix's current anime lineup

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Amazon Prime Video:

Amazon Video is a growing contender in competing against other established anime streaming services because of a deal the company made with Japan's Fuji TV.

The deal gives Amazon the right to exclusive stream anime that airs on Fuji TV's Noitamina block. There is criticism towards the deal because Amazon Video is limited to a few countries at the moment.

On a side note, Funimation is rolling out the dubbed version of the title on Blu-Ray and DVD. Given the recent partnership between Funimation and Crunchyroll (which was originally going to do the dubbed version), it is likely that the dubbed version will be available on Funimation.

If you subscribe to the Starz channel, too, you do have access to a relative small library of anime with titles such as Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and His & Her Circumstances.

Amazon had a bumpy start by introducing a "double paywall" through its Anime Strike channel, which was abolished a few days ago.

The additional $5 a month "double paywall" for Anime Strike was met with harsh criticism from fans and industry insiders.

HIDIVE:

HIDIVE is a relatively new streaming anime service that is currently in its beta stages with free and premium subscriptions.

Apparently a lot of titles acquired by Sentai Filmworks is available to stream on this service. That also includes the English dubs to those same titles.

Premium subscribers get access to dubs, HD viewing, simulcasts, live chatting w/streaming, and simultaneous viewing (for an additional price).

If you're not in the mood to read the subtitles, HIDIVE is worth looking into because its dubbed library won't be found on other platforms. That alone might be worth getting a premium subscription to HIDIVE.

For the sub-only crowd, you likely won't need a HIDIVE account if you already have a Crunchyroll and/or Hulu account.

HIDIVE's dubbed library contains titles such as Amagi Brilliant Park, Akame Ga Kill!, Aoharu X Machinegun, Beyond the Boundary, Log Horizon, Black Bullet, Broken Blade, Brynhildr In The Darkness, Cross Ange, Devil Survivor 2, DRAMAtical Murder, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, GATE: Thus The JSDF Fought There, Gatchaman CROWDS, Golgo13, Hamatora, Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, Kokoro Connect, K-On, and more.

Remember that HIDIVE is still in its beta stages.

Do you have a HIDIVE subscription or plan to get one?

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YouTube:

YES, there are titles that still legally stream on YouTube though the library is more limited. It should be no surprise IF YouTube gets into the bidding war for exclusive anime licenses.

Funimation used to have a library of subbed-only content but that's virtually gone with the Crunchyroll partnership.

Bandai's official GundamInfo channel has a free-viewing library of titles such as Gundam Build Fighters, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE: 0096, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00.

WB's Beyond the Lot channel contains the full series to Supernatural: The Anime. It is the adaptation of the ongoing live-action series of the same title that airs weekly on the CW network.

SNK is streaming the CGI series King of Fighters: Destiny, which originally aired in China.

Do you think YouTube Red could get exclusive licenses to future anime?

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Toonami:

You can go onto Cartoon Network's Adult Swim website and steam anime that's currently airing on its Saturday night Toonami block. It's not video on demand like the other streaming platforms, but Toonami is still a good place to get your fix.

What's your go to service for your anime fix?

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Your Overall Choices:

These are your overall anime streaming choices so far.

You could use one or any combination of these services listed above depending on your tastes and what titles you care to see.

Funimation, Crunchyroll and HIDIVE (though still in beta) are the best choices so far when it comes to streaming anime.

Netflix and Hulu are great if you are using streaming services for more than anime.

The rest serve as great places to watch free anime.

Anime is a hot commodity given the increasing demand and more platform services could come up to provide competition with the current services.

Service
Price
Mobile App
Content Library
Free Trial
Funimation
Free w/Ads & Limited Streams, $5.99/Month, $59.99/Year, $9.99/Month Bundled With Crunchyroll via VRV Subscription
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), Playstation Network (PS3, PS4, PSV), Roku
Mostly dubbed with some subbed, exclusive dubbed library
14-Day
Crunchyroll
Free w/Ads & Limited Streams, $6.95/Month, $19.95/3 Months, $59.95/Year, $9.99/Month Bundled With Crunchyroll via VRV Subscription
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), PSN (PS3, PS4, PSV), Nintendo eShop (Wii U), Roku
Mostly subbed with some dubbed
14-Day
Hulu
$7.99/Month with limited ads, $11.99 with no ads
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), PSN (PS4, PSV), Nintendo eShop (3DS, Switch), Roku
Mostly subbed titles, lots of content from VIZ Media
30-Day
Netflix
$7.99/Month basic, $10.99/Month stream on 2 screens at once, $13.99 stream on 4 screens at once
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace, PSN, Nintendo eShop (3DS, Wii, Wii U), Roku
Virtually an equal amount of subs & dubs, growing library of original and exclusive content
30-Day
Amazon Video
$8.99/Month, $99/Year
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Fire OS (Standard), Fire TV (Standard), Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), PSN (PS3, PS4), Roku
Mostly subbed library, streams exclusive content airing on Fuji TV's Noitamina block
30-Day
HIDIVE (Beta)
Free w/Ads & Limited Streaming, $3.99/Month (Introductory Price) w/simultaneous stream for additional $1 (Limit 2)
iOS, Android
Virtually an equal amount of subs & dubs, most of the content comes from Sentai Filmworks, exclusive dubbed library
7-Day
Viewster
Free w/Ads
iOS, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One), Roku
Limited library of subbed content, some exclusive content
Free To Use
Crackle
Free w/Ads
iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), PSN (PS3, PS4, PSV, PSTV), Roku
Limited library of subbed content, some exclusive content
Free To Use
YouTube
Free w/Ads, $9.99 no ads with YouTube Red
iOS, Apple TV, Android Chromecast, Fire OS, Fire TV, Microsoft Marketplace (Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Phone), PSN (Playstation 4), Nintendo eShop (3DS, Wii U), Roku
Select Gundam series from Bandai's Gundaminfo Channel & Supernatural: The Anime from WB's Beyond The Lot
30-Day Trial for YouTube Red

Anime Streaming in General

Shortly after anime and video games were accepted as mainstream forms of entertainment, YouTube came along and kickstarted the age of streaming entertainment. This would lead to the upload of fansubs, which are translated by fans.

But fansubs are akin to P2P file sharing (Kazaa, Napster, Limewire & so on), both illegal.

Site popped up left and right where you could stream anime before the legal crackdowns. You also had to be careful because the “free” streaming anime sites were not secure and you would put your computer at risk of getting infected.

YouTube was where I binge watched Bleach.

When I got a better and faster computer, I binge watched on Crunchyroll before it had to retool itself.

I learned the problem was severe when I attended my first anime convention, Philadelphia's Tandokucon, in November 2007. It was the opening panel with guests such as Liam O'Brian (Gaara from Naruto), Vic Mignogna (Edward from Fullmetal Alchemist), Lex Lang (Sanosuke from Rurouni Kenshin), Kyle Hebert (Aizen from Bleach) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Riza from Fullmetal Alchemist).

One of the girls in the audience asked about their views on fansubs.

Colleen spoke in-depth on how much fansubs have hurt the industry and she added that the distribution companies like Funimation were trying to sell the merchandise at a more affordable price. The panel was a valuable business lesson as to how and why anime was expensive to buy in the past.

The anime series I've watched in the past were being picked up by Funimation, ADV Films (now defunct), Aniplex, Sentai Filmworks, 4Kids (notoriously known for watering down anime), Media Blasters, Ocean and more.

Funimation is the most active in cracking down on illegal streams, uploads and downloads. The company will likely be more active as it was recently acquired by Sony.

The streaming media boom allows us to stream anime legally and at an affordable price.

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