One of the biggest problems for the anime industry today is piracy. With an internet connection available to most anime geeks it is now easier than ever for an anime fan to choose illegal ways to view their favorite shows instead of going through the proper channels. Watching fan-subbed or fan-uploaded videos instead of buying or renting DVDs and digital downloads is not only illegal, but it is hurting the anime industry now more than ever before. Luckily, there is a happy medium between buying loads of DVD box sets and watching your favorite shows on some random website. The compromise: legal streaming services.
The three best services worth your money that stream anime are Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll. What’s great about these services is not only do they stock up on many popular titles, but many of them have older shows that fans might have missed the first time around. Also, with Hulu and Crunchyroll, they offer simulcasts services that subtitle new shows and episodes that are aired either same day as in Japan or next day. This way, if you really want to see a show that hasn’t hit U.S. Shores yet, you can do so without the hassle of looking for it subtitled online by amateurs.
Hulu offers both a free and a premium service. The premium service has a wider selection of titles that goes for $7.99 a month as well. It has a slightly smaller selection of anime titles but also offers options in languages and subtitles as well as a selection of early release shows.
Crunchyroll specializes in anime and Asian drama series. With both free and premium service options like Hulu, It has the widest range of anime selections, ranging from older, titles or shows with a limited, unknown release, to shows that just aired earlier that day in Japan. With the most anime and the biggest library of simulcast shows, this is probably the choice for you if you are only looking for anime. It goes for $6.95 a month and is available on your PC and some other mobile devices.
In no particular order, here are 10 excellent anime titles that you can watch for FREE with at least one of these streaming services
Chi’s Sweet Home/ Chi’s New Address (Crunchyroll)
This show is insanely cute. It can melt the heart of an ice cold cynic. Chi’s Sweet Home, and its second season, Chi’s New Address, are about daily adventures of a small, stray, kitten that gets taken in by a family and adjusts to a new life living with them in an apartment building that doesn’t allow pets, (the first season.) The second season focuses On Chi having to adjust all over again to a new home, this time a house in a suburban neighborhood. The Episodes are only about three minutes long so you don’t need to worry about filler. By the end of those three minutes however, you’ll want to take the nearest pet and give it a hug.
Riding Bean (Hulu)
If you like ridiculous car chases, (sometimes cheesy) overly styled shoot outs, or 80’s action movies, then Riding Bean is for you. Riding Bean Follows an adventurous day in the life of Courier for hire Bean Bandit and his gunman partner Rally Vincent as they tear up Chicago. Everything this duo does is extreme and over the top in the best possible way. Bean’s visor deflects bullets. His car can drive sideways. He does insane driving moves that would make a stunt driver say, “Aw heck no!” It really is late 80’s anime action at its coolest. If this is your style, give Riding Bean a shot.
Princess Jellyfish (Hulu)
Princess Jellyfish is an interesting slice of life anime series based off of the josei manga (young woman/ ladies manga) by the same name. It has been licensed by Funimation but not yet released on DVD. It follows seven socially awkward woman who are all otaku (obsessive with a hobby,) with different fixations. They are all uniquely odd and very quirky but they all agree on one major rule: no men allowed in their building. Things get complicated when the protagonist, Tsukimi Kurashita, allows a cross dresser she thought was a woman to stay with her for a bit. Hilarity ensues as she tries to keep his secret from her lovably awkward friends.
Mushshi (Hulu, Netflix)
Beautiful, episodic, and slow paced, this anime floats by like a dream. Stories center around the Mushi Master Ginko as he wanders around a pre-industrial Japan solving people’s mushi problems. Mushi are bug-like beings that bridge the gap between reality and spirit and only mushi masters can see them. While not bad guys, interactions between mushi and humans are not always pleasant. In each episode, Ginko helps to restore the harmony and balance to those he encounters on his travels. While each story is compelling in itself, you will be constantly impressed and awed by the amazing nature scenes and overall art direction.
Fist of the North Star (Hulu)
This is a big one. Fist of the North Star is one of the most influential shonen anime, (boys anime,) series. It ran from 1984-1988 and paved the way for other big fighting series like Dragon Ball Z. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world run by gangs and violent thugs. Stories told throughout the show center around Kenshiro, a warrior set out against the destruction and chaos. He is a master of an ancient, secret, martial art which utilizes secret pressure points that affect the vital spots on the human body, resulting in some awesome and gory deaths. Although Fist of the North Star is a big name anime fans should know, it has not aged very well. The first half of this long running series is campy and corny to the point where I was laughing. But then again, that’s part of the fun.
Full Moon O Sagashite (Hulu)
Full Moon o Sagashite tells the story of Mitsuki, a twelve year old girl who lives with her grandmother. Previously, she had lived in an orphanage where she fell in love with a boy named Eichi. After he was adopted and they parted ways Mitsuki decided to follow his encouraging advice and follow her passion, singing. Unfortunately, Mitsuki has a cancerous tumor in her throat that is painfully irritated when she speaks loudly. Despite this, she still wants to be a singer and wants to follow her dream. (Partly out of hopes that Eichi can find her when she is famous.) In episode one, two shinigami, (angels of death,) appear in her room. Although they are friendly and in fun costumes for the pediatrics division, she soon learns from them that she has one year left to live. With this new-found information, Mitsuki becomes determined to become a pop star before she dies. The Shinigami try to help her achieve her dreams by transforming her into a healthy sixteen year old version of herself who she gives the stage name Full Moon. The show follows Mitsuki’s struggles and triumphs as she tries to make it as a hit singer and as the shinigami try to change her fate. Although the animation is nothing special, The music is great and Full Moon is inspiring and touching in a way that few shows accomplish. It’s a great pick-me-up.
Monster (Hulu, Netflix)
Monster is an intelligent thriller that pulls you in and holds you close. It follows the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a young surgeon working in Germany. One day two patients come into the hospital, A boy who was shot in the head and the city’s mayor who is having a heart attack. Sick and tired of the politics in the hospital, Tenma ignores the orders to work on the mayor and saves the boy’s life. The Mayor dies and Tenma is fired. Nine years later, he comes across the boy again and discovers he is a violent, twisted, serial killer after as he murders one of Tenma’s recent patients. Determined to correct the mistake of nine years ago, Tenma sets out after the boy to kill him. As he hunts him down, a detective hunts Tenma thinking he is the serial killer. Monster is an excellent cat and mouse thriller with brilliant storytelling you won’t forget.
The Tatami Galaxy (Hulu)
I haven’t watched much of The Tatami Galaxy, but I love what I’ve seen. The art and animation styles are gorgeous, unique, and colorful. If the dialog doesn’t pull you in, the animation will. The Tatami Galaxy is a Campus comedy-drama that follows an unnamed protagonist as he looks back on the first couple of years of his college life. He constantly joins different clubs and social groups trying to find a place to fit in that will provide him with the “ideal” college life. As time rewinds after each episode and the cyclical search begins again, The Protagonist becomes disillusioned with his ideas of college life. The episodes go at a brisk pace and are heavily dialog driven, so pay attention to those subtitles. The surreal feeling that comes through the art will blow you away. Nothing is bland in The Tatami Galaxy.
FLCL (Hulu, Netflix)
FLCL is one of those shows that can’t really be explained, at least, not easily. It’s chaotic, seemingly random, overly blunt, emotional, and beautiful all at the same time. On the chaotic side there are robots, space police, arson, and an alien girl who smashes her way through problems using her bass guitar as a weapon. On the beautiful/emotional side of FLCL there are themes and things like first love, loneliness, neglectful parents, parents that try too hard to connect, and all the feelings/ fears of change and entering adolescence. Behind all the chaos and eccentricities, FLCL is a coming of age story about a boy and the reckless adults in his life as he examines the different views of childhood and adulthood. The art is excellent. The backgrounds look like watercolors and the animation style playfully changes with the mood of the story. The music rocks with energy, and the both the English and Japanese dubs are superb. FLCL may not be everyone’s thing, but at only six episodes you have nothing to lose from checking it out.
Tiger & Bunny (Hulu)
Tiger & Bunny is another series that was simulcast online and it just finished its run in late September. It takes place in an alternate future world in a city modeled after New York where there are people with super powers. In this setting, some of these people become super heroes. The ones who become popular are sponsored by major companies and corporations and are featured in all sorts of media. The series focuses on Kotetsu Kaburagi and Barnaby Brooks Junior, two heroes who’s forced partnership is the driving force of the series. Kotetsu, who goes by the name Wild Tiger, is an aging hero who follows instinct and Barnaby is a “super rookie” who values intellect over force. I’m not yet done with this show, but so far it is a lot of fun. I haven’t watched a super hero show like this in a while and it really is a refreshing treat.
I hope you all take the time to check out these excellent streaming services and the recommendations I wrote here. Hopefully next time you go looking for a new anime to watch, you will check a legal streaming service first.
**Special thanks to Jen Lucky for helping me with the Mushishi section, and Matt from Otaku USA for turning me on to some of these shows through the top 10 list he shared at his panel at NDK**