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 on YouTube. Luckily, there are plenty of great streaming services available with the option to choose either the original Japanese or dubbed in English. Given Netflix and Hulu have a minuscule offering to choose from when it comes to anime, the most extensive streaming services are Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Rather than sift through both libraries for something of note, however, take a gander at what we’ve found for you. These are the best anime currently available on either platform.
It’s arguably one of the very best anime, on par with the likes of Cowboy Bebop and One Punch Man, despite being left relatively under the radar. The story of FLCL focuses mainly on the coming-of-age tale told through the backdrop of a mysterious female’s lifelong quest to court a cosmic entity known as Atomsk. Much of the action is symbolic of the ever-growing maturity in the main protagonists, which change with each new season, and is underpinned by an unreplicable soundtrack by The Pillows. For a very long time, the only way to watch the weird and wonky Fooly Cooly was via YouTube. Now, however, the sequel seasons of Alternative and Progressive can be watched on Crunchyroll while their original predecessor is available on Funimation.
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.
Dragon Ball Z (1989)
Not a single anime aficionado will ever forget the iconic culminating words of every episode, almost always moments after a world-shattering event: “… find out next time on Dragon Ball Z!” The show has a multitude of moments now revered and remembered for all entirety, from Vegeta’s “Over 9,000!” line to when Goku ascended to Super Saiyan 3. It’s an anime treasure, the quintessential experience recording the adult life of Goku, a wayward Saiyan warrior who fights for Earth alongside a group of once-rivals turned friends. If you’re brand new to the series, Funimation has the original Dragon Ball and sequel series Dragon Ball Super available for the binge-watching of Goku’s entire epic story.
High-school student Ichigo Kurosaki (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.
Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
Mashing the genre of cyberpunk with horror isn’t a combination heard too often, yet this 13-episode miniseries does it right and in the most psychologically twisted way possible. Serial Experiments Lain is, to say the least, a strange tale of a young high school girl, named Lain, who falls unwittingly into a swirling conspiracy involving a cybernetic landscape, called The Wire. The show begins with the suicide of a classmate, seemingly random in nature yet tied to a world run rampant with internet connectivity and computer technology. From nanobot drugs to a VR experience that tracks player’s kills as deaths in the real world, Serial Experiments Lain is unlike any other. While it may only be a short 13-episode show, akin to the following entry, it’s one of the greatest anime of all time.
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 of all time. 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 (Steve 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.
Paranoia Agent (2002)
From the brilliant mind of Satoshi Kon, known for anime movie classics like Perfect Blue and Paprika, Paranoia Agent is a psychological horror that remains in a class of its own. As told from a variety of different perspectives, all having experienced or being affected by the Lil Slugger social experiment, the show derives most of its forward momentum on the woe and fear of its characters. Each new individual is as interesting as they are surreptitious, with every episode painting a broader image of the secrets held deep within all cast members’ lives. The late Satoshi Kon, who passed tragically in 2010 due to pancreatic cancer, enveloped his fans in worlds of imagination underpinned by stories of intrigue and unreality.
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.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin and its follow-up, Advent of the Red Comet, are expertly crafted television renditions of a manga that breathes artistic integrity. Much like how every page in the manga was its own painting, the show weaves animation into the action with a story that is as timeless as it is a science fiction masterpiece. Advent of the Red Comet follows the antagonist of The Origin, Char Aznable, in his younger years before becoming an ace Gundam pilot and leads into the One Year War. For every fan of the beloved franchise, The Origin and its follow-up are must-see anime experiences, showcasing the action-packed history in how the Gundams themselves took shape as the greatest protection of Earth’s Colony.
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 the 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 its repeating of events, it has been praised for its emotional content and exciting action sequences.
Yu Yu Hakusho (1992)
As the all-star anime classic and arguably one of the best iterations on the tournament-style arc in Japanese media, Yu Yu Hakusho is a coming-of-age adventure with the perfect blend of demons and supernatural abilities. Based on the manga by Yoshihiro Togashi, who likewise wrote and illustrated the famed Hunter x Hunter, this three-season anime series gained immediate acclaim and was voted best anime series in the Annual Anime Grand Prix for both 1994 and 1995. The loudmouth and ever-violent Yusuke Urameshi remains a delight to watch in his struggle to overcome the forces of evil alongside a cast of amazing characters, from the anti-heroic Hiei to the stoically mystical Genkai.
BoogiePop and Others (2019)
Based on the manga of the same name, which released in 1998, BoogiePop and Others is an interesting psychological tale of five high school students as they unravel a mystery of a lifetime. The disappearances of various other Japanese students, coupled with the subsequent arrival of a new drug, bring about a narrative with complex characters interacting in intriguing ways. It’s a blend of horror and noir in an animated skeleton, weaving a puzzle that is as exciting to watch unfold as it is heartbreaking to behold in its conclusion. Marking 11 years of existence, BoogiePop and Others, like many on this list, remains an anime fan must-see.
Gurren Lagann (2007)
Unlike most of the other entries on this list, Gurren Lagann debuted as an anime television series rather than as a manga. Still, that doesn’t detract from its zeal. It follows a group of subterranean cave dwellers, who have lived in an underground world their whole lives due to evil Spiral King. In an attempt to win back their rightful independence and live aboveground, Simon, Kamina, and Yoko Littner join forces to overthrow the mighty Spiral King using a mech found in the deepest dwellings of their village. Gurren Lagann has been gifted a number of awards from the likes of Animation Kobe and the Japan Media Arts Festival, highlighting its status among the best modern anime hits.
One Piece (1999)
The story of Luffy and his cohorts is like the meeting of Pirates of the Caribbean with the heroism of a Marvel movie. His unnatural gifts provided to him via the Devil Fruit allow Luffy the ability to stretch himself to infinite lengths like rubber. Throughout his adventures in search of the One Piece, a heralded treasure that will grant him the title of Pirate King, Luffy is aided by a multitude of friends, all of whom join up to form the Straw Hat Pirates. One Piece is an anime treasure in and of itself, proven by its incredible runtime, which is still going strong since its debut in 1999.
My Hero Academia (2016)
Deku may at first appear like your ordinary high schooler. He’s overly ambitious, quick on his feet, smart, and has a rabid obsession with one of the world’s most beloved superheroes, All-Might. Following a random encounter with his idol, who is caught in a rather personal moment with his powers completely depleted, Deku is granted some of All-Might’s abilities and takes them to the next level. My Hero Academia is renowned for spinning the hero trope on its head by using the art form of animation, bringing to life a multitude of compelling characters, each with their own special “quirks,” as they are called in the show, which coincides perfectly with their personalities.
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