Streaming Anime: Netflix, Hulu, or…?
Ed West here with the good word on where to go to get your Anime fix on the internet. Much like you, dear reader, I am absolutely burnt out when it comes to downloading whopping folders of anime (Blue Exorcist HD Blu-ray rips recently cost me a hefty 66GB of hard-drive space!). So where does that leave us? Streaming anime, of course, because it’s totes the 2013 thing to do anyway. Right now we’ve got the two top dogs in terms of general service streaming–Netflix and Hulu–which offer not only a selection of movies and television shows but have their own dedicated anime sections! “But what about Amazon’s Prime Instant Video?” – I love you Jeff Bezos, but $79/year for Prime is a little rough, don’t ya think?
So Let’s Check Out Netflix First
I subscribed to Netflix around December 2012 with the sole intent of streaming shows that I was way too busy to watch during their first run. I have to say that I’ve been quite pleased so far. Another thing that my long distance friends and I like to do is hold “committee” meetings on Skype where we pick a movie, click play at the same time, and proceed to critique ruthlessly a la some crude imitation of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
While Netflix has me covered on ad-free playback of movies and TV shows, of which there exists a wide variety to choose from, I have to note that there has been a severe drop in anime titles occurring steadily over the last year. Especially rough is the fact that I like to re-watch anime alongside my friends, and streaming allows for everyone to almost instantly get a copy for viewing (provided they have an account, but $7.99/month isn’t so tough). They still do add new content in the anime section however, and what is there now (Samurai Champloo, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Sekirei, Trigun, Eden of the East, and Chobits, to name a few) is definitely worth seeing. If you have a passing fancy in anime, and not the full blown otaku-shakes, then Netflix is a fine choice indeed.
Good Lord, Hulu’s Anime Selection is Boss
Hulu has a massive catalogue of anime. Since I already toss money at Netflix for my movies and TV shows, anime was the only reason I considered picking up Hulu as my secondary. From old titles to new releases, I found Hulu’s anime annexes to be jam packed with impressive episode counts for even some of the big anime (Bleach, Naruto, One Piece), but my love affair with the tempting Hulu was not to be. Hulu makes its way in this world through ad revenue, which is okay because they allow free access to a lot of content. What’s the downside? Sign up for a $7.99/month subscription and you still get ads. Not cool. If you can deal with ads, then you and Hulu have much to discuss, but for me this was a deal breaker.
Hulu’s Ads Disappoint, So What Now?
Simple–go straight to the source. Viz and Aniplex have their own sites up, and it would seem that they have their own streaming services, but they still outsource to Hulu & co. Luckily, Funimation has anime fans covered with an extensive catalogue featuring classics and newer hits (from Dragon Ball to Attack on Titan–there’s a lot to look at). There’s a good selection of anime with dubs for those of us who like having anime on in the background when gaming, and of course subs for those of us who can’t stand the American voice actors and translation/localization. You often get the option to stream in HD as well, and with ad-free playback for subscribers ($7.95/mo) it’s a sweet deal. Note: Funimation’s mobile apps are currently in need of a serious update at the time of this writing, and I’ll be blunt–the android app doesn’t work (for me at least). Still, if you’re going at this on your PC then you’re set.
Another massively awesome anime streaming site is Crunchyroll. They’ve got a well stocked library–and they better, because they’ve been around for a while. A lot of popular and less mainstream anime can be found within their realm, and chances are if your friends are talking about it, you can roll over to Crunchyroll and catch up. They too offer a subscription service ($6.95/month) which provides access to their full catalogue as well as ad-free playback. The only set-back here for me was the lack of dubs, but this isn’t so major overall when you consider that Crunchyroll is fast in updating their content. If you’re down with the sub-set then Crunchyroll is a sure bet.
If you can’t tell by now, I run a combination of Netflix and Funimation, but perhaps the best thing that can be learned from this article is that today’s otaku and casual anime fans now have options. Who here remembers downloading episodes weekly on a 56k connection via BitTorrent? Shifting around IRC chats, trying to hunt down the best rips? It’s all over my friends, and now we can get back to what matters most–sitting down and watching some anime.