With inflation at sky-high levels and the threat of a looming recession, the streaming wars are about to enter a very interesting phase as customers decide what they can and can not afford to keep. In some cases, anime fans may find that they can’t afford to pay for too many streaming services (if any at all). Anime has never been more affordable than it is these days (just ask anyone who attempted to buy Dragon Ball Z on VHS or DVD back in the day), but that doesn’t mean that affordability makes it something that people can…well, afford.
Anime is a luxury at the end of the day, and if there’s one thing anime fans know how to do it’s how to get anime for free if they can no longer afford to pay for it. While it may be tempting to sail the high seas to get an anime fix, this is not recommended. Not only is doing so illegal, but chances are that viewers will be going to a site that will put dangerous malware on their computer/phone/tablet, and many have no idea what kind of personal information they may be giving to pirates if they use these unauthorized sites.
If paying for anime has become a challenge these days we’ve got good news: viewers can watch a ton of anime online that is not only free but through reputable and legal sources. Much like how fans who couldn’t afford DVDs back in the day had Kids WB and Cartoon Network to get their anime fix, there are streaming services where fans can stream anime for free and in a completely legal manner. Some of them fans might not have heard of, or simply didn’t realize they had anime. So for those on a budget, here are some places you can get your anime fix for the enticing price of $0.00.
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As the name of this service suggests, Asian Crush is dedicated to content from Asian countries. While the site is primarily known for Korean dramas, there is a huge anime selection to be found. Most of the titles are probably things you’ve never heard of, but there are treasures to be found. Cult classics like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Jubei-Chan 2 can be viewed for free with ads, and undiscovered gems like Usagi Drop are also available.
Virtually all the content is subtitled, and anime fans looked for established hits will mostly be out of luck, yet for the adventurous anime fan on a budget, Asian Crush is not a bad place to poke around for a new favorite series!
While it is common knowledge that Sony owns Crunchyroll, many do not know that they also own Crackle, a free streaming service that they use primarily for movies and some original content. They do have a small anime selection which includes titles such as Sonic X, Monster Rancher, and Saint Seiya that viewers can watch for free. The biggest downside is that the selection is very small compared to other services on this list, and if you download a few of these apps then Crackle won’t have much to offer in comparison.
Believe it or not, the biggest anime streaming company in the world DOES offer free anime streaming! This may be changing at some point in the future as the company recently announced that newer series would cease being provided for free, however for older series the company (at the moment) will let users stream anime without having a paid account. The biggest downside is these shows are older, and viewers have to watch them on a computer or tablet through whatever browser they’re using (the app for streaming devices is locked behind a paywall), otherwise there are thousands of episodes fans can watch for free.
It may be a frustrating experience to see all the popular shows (Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Sailor Moon Crystal, etc…) behind a paywall, however, there are many obscure treasures fans can discover this way. The only thing we can’t promise is that this will be the case forever. Crunchyroll seems more interested in eventually abolishing their free tier and moving completely to a paid subscription, so enjoy the free anime while you can.
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Formerly known as IMDB TV, Freevee is Amazon’s free video service that is supported by ads. The selection is not especially huge, however there are many feature films that are of high quality that Freevee hosts. If you’re more of a TV fan popular franchises like Digimon, Case Closed, and Beyblade are available to stream at no cost to you. The biggest downside is that if you are browsing anime on Amazon’s website, you have to look carefully at the content symbols to make sure you can watch the show you want for free.
Content with a ‘Ads’ symbol is included as part of the Freevee app, where content with ‘Prime’ symbol the content requires an Amazon Prime membership to view, and content that has a ‘$’ symbol can be watched by anyone provided you buy it from them, so when you check out the content on a computer make sure you are clicking on a title that is actually free to watch.
Despite being known as the streaming service you get to watch The Office, the reality there is a lot more content on Peacock than most realize. Aside from some excellent original programs, there are classic sitcoms, vintage animations, and short films. What’s also great about the service is that it’s free for most of this content (later seasons of popular shows and original productions not withstanding)! So as long as you’re willing to watch ads on the platform, there is a ton of content you can watch for free.
Relevant to you readers is that Peacock has a fairly robust anime selection, and the titles they are offering are not exactly small potatoes. Classic shows like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Death Note, and One Punch Man are part of many of the classic and modern anime you can stream for free on Peacock! This is in addition to cult classics like Bakuman (from the creators of Death Note) and several anime movies as well!
Pluto TV is NBCUniversals other streaming platform (their first being Peacock). Unlike most services on this list, the concept behind Pluto TV is that you can watch live TV for free on their app. For those of you who want to cut ties with Sling or YouTube TV, Pluto TV may offer a great alternative. In terms of anime there are several channels the service provides that streams anime 24/7, include a channel dedicated to exclusively airing One Piece all day long.
The big drawback here is that there is nothing on this app that is “on demand,” and if a show you want to watch isn’t airing until later in the day you simply have to wait for that time to come before you can watch it. You know: like the good old days before DVR (if you’re old enough to remember such a thing). Still, the service is free, so if you are on a budget and don’t mind your anime selection coming on at random times, Pluto TV is a good alternative for cord cutters
Unlike most services on this list, Retro Crush was designed first and foremost as an anime streaming site where fans could stream anime for free (though there is a small selection of live action and American animation based off Japanese franchises you can also watch). As the name suggests, the service specializes in retro content, so the vast majority of anime are shows that were big in the 80s and early 90s. You may not have heard of series like City Hunter, Bubblegum Crisis, and Kimagure Orange Road, but believe us when we tell you these series were a big deal back in the day (and many of them still have their fans).
The service also has the option of watching many of the shows either subbed or dubbed, and new arrivals show up on a monthly basis. More unique is that if you like the live TV model of watching content, they have live channels (ala Pluto TV) as well as on demand content (with more specialized channels promised to be in development). Retro Crush is not only a great place to watch a lot of ad-supported free anime, it’s a viable competitor to established giants like Crunchyroll and HiDive.
Also, if you so choose, there is an option to remove the ads for a very reasonably price annual subscription if you so choose. Chances are you’re looking to avoid that if you’re reading this guide, but we figured we might as well point that out just in case.
For an anime fan on a budget, Tubi is the best-kept secret the internet has to offer. Tubi not only offers more than 100 anime series and movies to stream, but the titles range from unknown gems to mainstream hits; Naruto, Pokemon, Sailor Moon Crystal, and Lupin III are all titles viewers are able to stream for free with ads. What’s more, most titles have both dubbed and subtitled formats.
This is also one of the few services on this list where fans can not pay to bypass the ads, so if there is major drawback It’s that there are no ways to skip the ads in any way. Otherwise, if viewers need to cancel their paid anime streaming services, Tubi will offer plenty of content to keep them busy!
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Previously owned by Wal-Mart, VUDU Fandango is considered one of the best digital lockers for movie fans digital movie libraries. While mostly known as a place where you purchase movies and shows, there is a small selection of free stuff fans can watch with ads. This includes anime as well. That said, like Crackle before, the selection is small, and at the time of this writing, none of the series are especially noteworthy. At the moment the most popular anime viewers can watch for free is Black Jack, which (while a good series) is a title most modern audiences might not be familiar with.
It should also be noted that VUDU Fandango changes up their free content more frequently than other services on this list, so despite the small selection of anime it might be worth having it anyway for when they do (not to mention fans can stream the movies and shows they have by connecting it to Movies Anywhere).
Some viewers may be scratching your head at this suggestion, so let’s be upfront: no, this isn’t being recommended because unauthorized anime occasionally finds its way on the platform. While that is an unfortunate reality, the reason YouTube makes the list is because there IS anime that is made available for free from the companies themselves. Not only does Crunchyroll and Sentai upload certain episodes on their official YouTube channels, but animation companies like Toei Animation are also uploading vintage content on their official channels.
This anime isn’t always easy to find; YouTube doesn’t have a section for free anime and several of the Japanese companies only provide the anime in Japanese without subtitles, so there’s a chance fans might not be able to enjoy the anime they do find. Those who research the YouTube accounts of official anime companies, though, may find some legal anime they can stream for free.
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