For the longest time, accessing anime series was a tall order. If this doesn’t hold true for you, you probably grew up in Asia because before Toonami took birth, anime fans had to either purchase fan-subbed VHS tapes or wait until one of the major TV networks aired some anime stuff. The level of craze for anime is unbelievingly high; maybe it’s the whacked out characters or the fantastical themes, at least that’s what got me hooked. Whatever the case, the popularity will only grow further owing to the introduction of on-demand anime services such as Crunchyroll; the current ruling roost in the realm of anime OTT services.
The Crunchyroll Chronicle:
Established as early as in 2006, Crunchyroll is a U.S. based video streaming company that offers East Asian content including anime, manga, drama series, and pop music. Initially, the company started off as a platform for users to upload and watch fan-subbed media but in no time it emerged as one of the most eminent anime distributors, racking up exciting deals from companies like Gonzo, TV Tokyo, Kodansha, and Kadokawa. As of February 2017, Crunchyroll reported a membership base of nearly over one million paid subscribers.
Recently, the company even went ahead and partnered with Funimation (a direct rival) in order to bring older titles with subtitles, onto the platform; for example, “Cowboy Bebop”. Funimation as you might already know, focuses on dubs whereas Crunchyroll takes the subtitled anime approach. With this agreement, both the companies will be able to improve the overall anime-watching experience for their users in terms of content reach.
How Much Does It Cost?
Crunchyroll has pretty clear-cut pricing tiers. Let’s take a quick look at all of them and what features they include:
- Premium Membership: At only $6.95 per month, subscribers will get unlimited access to anime as well as drama series in HD quality, without any in-video ads. Aside from this, they will also be able to read all Manga titles and stream the latest simulcast episodes (in the best resolution possible) just one hour after they’ve been officially aired in Japan. Premium plan subscribers can also avail discounts at the Crunchyroll online store and get email support, plus priority response in case of any issue.
- Premium+ Membership: Priced at a reasonable $11.95/month, this is the top-most tier available on Crunchyroll. With this plan, users can get everything that we mentioned under the “Premium Membership” as well as a few additional benefits such as free shipping on select products (only in U.S.), VIP Convention Perks (goodie bags, front-row access for special events), entry into contests, early access to Beta test the latest features, etc.
Both the plans offer a free trial period of 14 days, during which you can enjoy all the services and decide whether Crunchyroll is for you. What’s more? After subscribing, you are free to cancel whenever you wish!
Not many know but Crunchyroll also offers a Free Membership that allows access to limited Anime and Drama titles in SD (480p). You can stream these on any of the supported devices, get customer support, and even read some of the Manga titles. However, the experience is not even remotely close to what you get with a Premium Membership. Not to mention, the videos and Manga will be interrupted with brief commercials throughout. Nevertheless, this is still a great option to have.
What’s On Crunchyroll?
Although I’m fairly new to the anime world, it is safe to say that Crunchyroll offers the choicest shows and manga titles. The service has the most extensive library in this niche, totally owning competitors like Funimation and Hulu. As of now, Crunchyroll has more than 800 anime series, over 200 East Asian drama shows, and 50+ manga titles. That’s more than what most people would expect!
To give you a more detailed sense of what’s on the platform, some of the most well-received shows include Naruto Shippuden, Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist, Hunter X Hunter, Haikyu!!, One Piece, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Some of the recently added Simulcast episodes are from shows like Boruto: Naruto Next Generation, Chronos Ruler, and Monster Strike. If you like Asian drama, don’t miss out on shows like Mischievous Kiss, Tofugu, Shiratori Reiko, and Happy Boys. Popular manga titles include Fairy Tail, The Seven Deadly Sins, ReLIFE, Fuuka, and Inuyashiki. Aside from on-demand content, Crunchyroll also hosts music videos and live streams of series on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, similar to a live anime TV network.
Unlike Funimation, Crunchyroll’s primary focus is on bringing the newest and most popular anime series and simulcasts on the table. So if you’re looking for old classics, you might be a bit disappointed. However, like we mentioned earlier, Crunchyroll’s alliance with Funimation is making it possible for them to rope in older titles as well.
As if anime, manga, and drama weren’t enough, Crunchyroll also has an online store that sells figurines of popular anime characters, Blu-ray discs, and other anime merch for anyone who loves to collect anime-related stuff. Not that the store itself is something to rage about, but it surely augments the overall experience. You may also like some of the best anime download sites.
How is the Interface?
We had the pleasure of using the Crunchyroll app on an iPad Pro and boy, was it awesome! However, the web interface is not even half as good in terms of both, looks and functionality.
As far as the video quality is concerned, it is more than just satisfactory and uniform across streaming devices. Majority of the content is available in either 720p or 1080p. That said, if you have a slow-speed internet, the quality will surely suffer. Also, free content is shown in 480p or lower. While Crunchyroll fares well on the video quality parameter, it doesn’t do that well when it comes to streaming. There were minor delays while trying to play the content, not only on the web but also on the app. Furthermore, if you’re streaming free content, be prepared to be greeted with 15-30 second ads every 5-10 minutes.
In our opinion, the design and layout of the service is strictly okay; it could have been a lot neater. The homepage displays five tabs at the top, namely, “Shows”, “Manga”, “News”, “Forums”, and “Premium”. On the right, you’ll also find an option for logging in, checking your queue list, and a “dice” logo. The “dice” is a unique feature on the platform which is quite helpful for those who have trouble deciding what to watch. You simply hit the dice icon and it’ll pull up a random title and begin playing. Further below on the homepage, you’ll find the recently added episodes, latest news articles, new shows, and currently, the summer 2017 simulcasts. On the right, you’ll find “Featured Shows” and the topics open for general discussion on the forum.
As much as we love Crunchyroll, we can’t deny the fact that it’s interface still needs a great deal of improvement. The “search” feature was particularly inefficient in our experience. Although it did show up the title in the results, it wasn’t necessarily relevant. For example, we keyed in “Hellsing” in the search bar and it pulled up the title even though its actually not available with Crunchyroll. As soon as we clicked on the search result, we realized that it was merely an irrelevant article. Contenders Funimation and Daisuki (a new entrant and a soon-to-shut service) may have an inferior library but they do have much better search functionality. They’re also far easier on the eyes compared to Crunchyroll. Nevertheless, Crunchyroll still has a visible dominance over other services by the sheer virtue of its content, availability, and additional offerings.
Recently, we have also shared many free anime apps for Android.
Where Can You Access Crunchyroll?
The good news is that Crunchyroll programming is available worldwide! The bad news is that not all content can be accessed in all countries due to licensing conditions. In simple words, what maybe available in the U.S. may not be available in your country since Crunchyroll may not have the rights to distribute that particular title in your region. However, this can be fixed easily by using a VPN service or a SmartDNS server.
You can enjoy the service across a wide range of platforms including iOS and Android devices, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows phone, Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast. Alternatively, you may also stream using the Crunchyroll web interface on your laptop or desktop.
Three words – Anime, Online, and Affordable. If these are in sync with your needs, you have to get Crunchyroll today! To elucidate further, it’s an ideal service for those who prefer authentic anime with subtitles over dubbed content. It is also perfect for fans who would like access to the latest shows and simulcasts. However, if you’re looking only for old classics, Funimation could be a better choice.