Ria is an avid anime and sci-fi fan who loves gushing about her latest favorite shows.
As of May 2020, there are at least 7 online streaming services that offer anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of anime series. While a handful of these have at least some services completely free and supported by ads, you'll need to pay a monthly subscription fee to access the best content.
Naturally, it's not worth paying for every single service. There tends to be heavy overlap between streaming platforms, especially since so many of them license content from Funimation or Crunchyroll. The best options for you will partly depend on your budget, what you want to watch, and how old the shows are.
Popular series can be found scattered across most of these platforms, while older, niche series are often only available on Funimation, Crunchyroll or Hi-Dive. Here's the rundown on what you can expect from each service.
Anime Selection Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)
Netflix is the go-to site for streaming, and its anime selection is fine but not amazing. Their selection includes classics like Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion plus a wide range of newer anime.
Older shows tend to be removed from Netflix after about a year, unless they are exceptionally popular or get a sequel. The exception to this is their exclusive shows, including Little Witch Academia, Castlevania, and the Violet Evergarden TV series.
Netflix tends to have a different selection of anime in each country. Sometimes, an anime will be available on Netflix in Japan but not in North America or the EU. If you see something you want to watch, it's best to watch it soon before it disappears.
Anime Selection Rating: 3 Stars
Like Netflix, Hulu does not specialize in anime, so older and less popular titles tend to be taken off the site eventually. Hulu currently has lots of recent isekai anime, classic hits like Bleach, and multiple Gundam series for North American subscribers. The selection of shows and subtitle options can vary between countries, but there are several dozen anime available in the U.S.
Hulu is a little less expensive than Netflix thanks to its ads, so it's worth getting even if you don't plan on watching that much. However, its selection also tends to have heavy overlap with Netflix, plus a handful of Funimation titles. With the exception of a few older series, there's rarely something on Hulu that isn't also on Netflix or Funimation.
Anime Selection Rating: 4 Stars
Crunchyroll actually started out as an illegal streaming site, but eventually signed agreements with U.S. licensing companies and is now perfectly legal. Some of its library is available for free and is ad-supported, but the newest and best shows often require a subscription.
Crunchyroll is available in most countries, but the selection of titles can vary. In the U.S. they have hundreds of anime, including many of the most recent hits and a healthy selection of classics like Naruto Shippuden. Though Funimation once cut ties with the site, they ended up reinstating a handful of anime.
Plus, Crunchyroll has titles from a variety of licensing companies and is working on co-producing original anime. It's a great subscription service for anime fans who want a mix of old and new shows.
Anime Selection Rating: 4.5 Stars
Funimation's online library includes almost every anime the licensing company has worked on in the past 20 years, and though they don't advertise an exact number, it's at least 500 titles. They have older and more obscure series like .hack//SIGN and Noir, plus newer shows like Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia.
Funimation has also become known for rescuing titles from defunct licensing companies like Bandai and ADV. Trigun, Excel Saga, The Vision of Escaflowne, and much more are all still available in the U.S. thanks to Funimation's efforts.
Usually, Funimation is able to release exclusive dubbed episodes of popular anime about two weeks after they air in Japan. Funimation's usual simulcast dubs have been somewhat delayed due to COVID-19, but they are still able to release new episodes on a limited basis. As the coronavirus pandemic wanes, they will hopefully return to regular releases.
Funimation is also not available outside of the U.S. Residents of other countries will want to use a different service, especially since Funimation's site tends to not work with VPNs.
The most popular titles on Funimation's subscription service are often available subtitled or on Netflix or Crunchyroll, so the subscription isn't a must-have. However, it's a great buy for anime fans who want to rewatch classics or want faster access to new dubs.
Anime Selection Rating: 2.5 Stars
Though VRV has a smaller selection than some of the others, it also includes a selection of other cartoons and live action sci-fi shows. Most if not all of its anime are also available on Crunchyroll, Hi-Dive, or Funimation, so you don't need this service for anime if you have the other three. Also note that VRV only seems to be available for U.S. residents.
VRV's anime tend to be either recent hits or popular classics from the above three listed streaming sites. It seems to have most, if not all, of Crunchyroll and Hi-Dive's libraries, but only a handful of Funimation's titles due to their reduced offerings through Crunchyroll.
VRV has many episodes available for free, with a few ad breaks per episode much like Crunchyroll. Their offerings are somewhat subject to change, so if they have a show you want to see, try to watch it as soon as possible.
Anime Selection Rating: 2.5 Stars
Hi-Dive has a limited selection of anime, but like Crunchyroll and Funimation, they have a diverse selection of genres. They also have some dub and sub simulcasts, including some of the same series other services have. They are currently only available in the US and Canada, though.
Their classic shows include Familiar of Zero, Clannad, Getbackers, You're Under Arrest and Azumanga Daioh, just to name a few. They don't have the most popular new shows, but do have some gems including Ahiru no Sora, Magia Record, and We Never Learn. They also have some movies and OVAs like No Game No Life 0 and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works.
A few fan-favorite series like Monochrome Factor and Space Runaway Ideon are available exclusively through Hi-Dive, but for the most part, the selection of series is also available through other sites. If you have Crunchyroll and at least one other subscription service, you probably don't need Hi-Dive as well.
Anime Selection Rating: 2.5 Stars
Amazon Prime has dozens of anime from the past 3-4 years, but also has some surprising older titles like Elfen Lied and Itazura na Kiss. They have a variety of genres, although a slightly heavier emphasis on shoujo romance and sci-fi in their U.S. service.
Sadly, Amazon has a bad habit of making anime available on their site, letting the streaming license expire, and then leaving the show information up with "This show is currently unavailable" under the title. If you're looking for older anime that were formerly on Amazon Prime, check Crunchyroll or Funimation.
The biggest reason for the mediocre star rating for Amazon Prime, though, is that many of its series aren't included for free with the service. Some of the dubbed anime is an addition per-episode or season fee. Like with Hi-Dive and VRV, you probably don't need an Amazon Prime subscription in addition to other streaming sites.