So, you’re just getting into anime, maybe you’ve read some cool stuff about some shows and you’re pumped to start watching some anime yourself. It’s great to talk about anime, but it’s kind of useless if you can’t actually watch it. There are thousands upon thousands of sites that offer anime, some more legal than others, and it’s hard to know where to go or what to use sometimes. So I’ve created a list of my top five (mostly) legal ways to watch anime so that you guys can become obsessive otakus like moi. And here. We. Go.
Where would any list about places to watch anime online be without mentioning Crunchyroll? Crunchyroll is one of the best-known and most respected anime sites out there. The American-based site began as an illegal streaming service back in 2006, but with the help of careful investments and the attention of large publishers, they legitimized their business and at this time have over 200 anime and Asian drama hosted on their website. Crunchyroll is where I first began watching anime, and right now it’s the most likely site to take my money. You can watch most hosted there anime there for free, as long as you don’t mind ads, but they do offer Premium memberships starting at $6.95 per month for those who would like full HD anime with no ads, and simulcast streaming of an anime as it is released. Some of their anime is restricted to Premium members, like the entire original Naruto series and most of the Toradora series, but most other anime are available for free. Plus, you can always begin a free 2-week trial membership to have access to all that premium content if you really need it. Crunchyroll also offers an app for mobile devices that lets you watch any anime they have right from your device, which is a nifty little feature. The only gripe I have with this is that unlike the Crunchyroll website, you can’t clean out ads from your video with AdBlock: you either have a Premium membership that lets you watch ad-free anime, or you suffer through the 4 ads they place in about every video. Not too bad, but sometimes the ads have a way of popping up in the middle of a very emotional or pivotal scene, which tends to break the immersion for me. Crunchyroll also has an online store where you can purchase memorabilia and items related to your favorite anime franchises, and they have a fairly wide selection, though not as much as a site like Tokyo Otaku Mode or OtakuShop. Nevertheless, Crunchyroll is definitely a site to check out.
Right on Crunchyroll’s heels for a good streaming service is Daisuki, a Japan-based website that offers mostly free anime across the board, with some paid content here and there. Daisuki is a fairly new service, as it began in 2013, and thus has a smaller selection of anime than mot sites, clocking in at around 35 series hosted on their website, at the time of this post. However, out of the 35 shows, I only found one that I would’ve needed to pay to watch, which is very good when compared to some of Crunchyroll’s titles, but the overall lack of anime is the sites biggest downfall. On the plus side, it does boast a good amount of newer series, such as Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works, The IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, and ongoing series for the Summer 2015 season, such as Charlotte, God Eater, and Classroom Crisis. Their mobile app also offers the same anime hosted on the desktop website, with a clear and easy-to-use interface that really stands out to me. Another feature that I enjoy about Daisuki is that while you can’t avoid their ads, the are tasteful with how they place them: you’ll often get one before the anime starts, one right after the opening theme song, and maybe one or two more at the ends of individual scenes during the anime. It works a lot more like a commercial break during a TV show, rather than a web ad jumping up when you don’t want it to, which is a nice touch. They also have a web store where you can purchase anime-related content; mostly figures, but with other accessories like posters and towels thrown in for good measure. All in all, Daisuki is a very good choice for those who like to keep up with new shows as they come out, and offers more free content in proportion to their library than most other sites.
Ah, Funimation. The largest and longest-lived anime distributor here in the US, Funimation has been the big fish in the pond for a long time, offering services to entertainment outlets like Cartoon Network since the ‘90s, and they were the driving force behind the huge success of the Dragon Ball series here in the West. They offer a large amount of anime on their website, and offer a lot of free content, as well as an online store and premium memberships for those who want ad-free anime. But I think the biggest downfall of the site is not their main website, but their mobile app. It’s extremely lacking: it doesn’t allow you to access their full library of anime, and it only lets you watch a few (usually the first two or four) episodes of an anime. While this may be to let the users try an anime to see if they like it, I feel that this is a big misstep for the app, as other services allow you to access their entire libraries from your mobile device. And as we live in an increasingly mobile world, it seems that the lack of full mobile support is a large blight on an otherwise good streaming service.
Kissanime holds a special place in my heart, for various reasons. It has many, many anime titles available on it, it allows you to download anime episodes, and it’s completely free. It’s saved me many times during school, where I would just set an anime to download while I was busy, and watch it when I was free. The site even has both a Flash and HTML5 player available when you’re watching episodes, so that you can watch an episode on your mobile device as easily as you can on a desktop. It seems nearly perfect…except for the legal standing of the site. Kissanime is kind of in a gray area, where it’s not entirely sure whether or not the anime on the site is there legally. It does not do streams or simulcasts, but neither does it really contribute to the licenses of the shows it holds, making it fairly vague, perhaps intentionally so. Personally, I use kissanime when I can’t find an anime I want to watch on another website, and it’s good if you’re looking for older or less-known anime, such as Black Rock Shooter.
5. Amazon Instant Video/Hulu/Netflix
Coming in last, but also probably the most used, are the triumvirate of home tv streaming. Each of these has a nice amount of anime, mostly popular series such as Naruto, Bleach, and Sword Art Online, but also a few lesser-known titles, like The Devil is a Part-Timer. Most of the Hulu titles can be seen for free without an account, but Amazon Instant Video and Netflix both require paid accounts to view anime. Netflix and Amazon do have the more extensive libraries though, so I do believe it’s worth it. Also, you can stream any show you’ve purchased to your mobile device, console, or blu-ray player, so these are by far the most versatile outlets for anime watching.
Phew! That’s it, my top 5 recommended services for watching anime. A quick shoutout to the other services that didn’t make my list, like Crackle and The Anime Network, those are also pretty good in their own ways. I hope this guide was beneficial to you all, and as always, God bless, and happy watching.