It used to be difficult to find good anime in the United States, particularly if you were just a casual viewer and weren’t willing to comb through thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube. Luckily, there are plenty of great streaming services out there now, whether you’re looking to stream anime in the original Japanese or dubbed in English. While Netflix and Hulu have their own offerings, the biggest streaming contenders when it comes to anime are Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Rather than having you scour both services for something of note, however, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. These are the best anime currently available on either platform.
‘Sword Art Online’ (2012)
The year is 2022 and a new virtual reality game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is released, one in which players can immerse themselves using a piece of technology called Nerve Gear, a helmet that stimulates the player’s brain. One day, however, players realize they cannot log out until they reach the 100th level of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. If they cannot complete the game, or someone tries to remove their helmet in the real world, they die. Sword Art Online follows lone wolf Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya (Bryce Papenbrook) and his reluctant friend Asuna Yuuki (Cherami Leigh) as they explore the aforementioned fantasy world. The show has been praised for its animation and music, as well as its exploration of the psychological aspects of VR.
High-school student Ichigo Kurasaki (Johnny Yong Bosch) has seen ghosts for as long as he can remember, but they haven’t given him much trouble, until one day, he encounters an evil spirit known as a Hollow. Ichigo and his sisters manage to escape the monster with the help of a Soul Reaper named Rukia (Michelle Ruff), but she is injured in the fight and must transfer her powers to Ichigo. Now Ichigo must take on Rukia’s job of cleansing spirits and sending them to the Soul Society while Rukia regains her powers. With epic battles, emotional explorations of death and fate, and more than 350 episodes, Bleach is versatile and exciting anime that will keep you coming back for more.
While on the surface Food Wars appears to be your average slice-of-life comedy about a young man perfecting his culinary skills, after the first character puts a piece of food in their mouth and their clothes fly off, you realize it’s a little more over-the-top than that. Food Wars takes place at the Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute and follows the story of Soma Yukihira (Blake Shepard), who dreams of surpassing his father’s culinary skills. With bright animation and vibrant, mouthwatering depictions of food, Food Wars is a stimulating window into a competitive culinary school.
For those who may have already played Final Fantasy XV, or are looking to get a feel for the characters before committing to the game, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV is a stand-alone miniseries starring the main characters of the fantasy video game: Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto. While the backstories of the four young men are alluded to in the game’s narrative, Brotherhood explores them in more detail and explains how the four characters came together. While it was initially released prior to the game, the anime works as either post or pre-game material, and holds up well by itself, even if it is at times a bit goofy.
‘Cowboy Bebop’ (1998)
Set to be adapted into a live-action series on Netflix, Cowboy Bebop is an iconic space Western that is widely regarded as one of the best anime series out there. Despite its sci-fi setting, the show draws heavily from Western and noir themes, and features a jazz-inspired soundtrack that has garnered much acclaim. Cowboy Bebop was the first anime to be broadcast on Adult Swim and set the precedent for a major anime boom in the U.S. during the early aughts. Spike Spiegel (Steven Blum) and his partner Jet Black (Beau Billingslea) are bounty hunters (otherwise known as “cowboys”) who work aboard the spaceship Bebop. They are joined by other eccentric characters as the series progresses, however, and get involved in one disastrous mishap after another.
‘Attack on Titan’ (2013)
Let’s just say we’re glad we don’t live in the world of Attack on Titan, a medieval fantasy realm where humans live in cities surrounded by gigantic walls that protect them from man-eating monsters known as Titans. This doesn’t mean we don’t like watching the attacks unfold, however, even if we sometimes do it through parted fingers. Attack on Titan follows the story of young Eren Jaeger (Bryce Papenbrook), who joins the military to fight Titans after his mother is killed by one. With intense fights and skin-crawling monsters, Attack on Titan is sure to please any fan of the dark fantasy genre. There’s a reason the series was one of the top streaming shows on Funimation in 2014, after all.
Epic dogfights and fast-paced narratives are all good and fun, but sometimes you just want to watch the Hallmark equivalent of anime. Snow White with the Red Hair is exactly that, and follows the story of a young herbalist with apple-red hair named Shirayuki (Brina Palencia), who falls in love with the prince of a neighboring kingdom (Josh Grelle). While at times a bit absurd, Snow With the Red Hair is a feel-good anime with just the right amount of fantasy to keep it feeling fresh.
Unlike the original 2003 adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follows the events of all 27 volumes of the manga, which tell the story of Edward (Vic Mignogna) and Alphonse Elric (Maxey Whitehead) as they search for an artifact known as the Philosopher’s Stone. In the first episode of the series, the two brothers attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy, but are gravely injured in the process. Edward later joins the State Military as they two young men search for the powerful stone in an attempt to restore their bodies. Although the show has been criticized by viewers of the original for it’s repeating of events, it has been praised for its emotional content and exciting action sequences.
‘Yuri!!! On ICE’ (2016)
After a crushing defeat during the Grand Prix Finals, Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki (Josh Grelle) is considering retiring from the sport. After a video of Yuri expertly mimicking the famous routine of Russian figure skater Victor Nikiforov Jerry Jewell) goes viral, however, Victor decides to travel from Russia to become Yuri’s coach. Over the course of several competitions, the two men form a powerful bond. Although the specifics of their relationship is often obscured and ambiguous, Yuri!!! on Ice has been lauded for its exploration of anxiety and for depicting same-sex relationships in a different way than most other anime. And if romance and the excitement of figure skating aren’t enough to lure you in, the choreography, provided by former figure skater Kenji Miyamoto, might be.