There has arguably never been a better time to be an anime fan outside of the genre’s home audience. Anime TV shows and movies are much more embedded in western pop culture with the likes of attack on Titan, Demon Hunter, Jujutsu Kaisen, and more making the rounds on the international stage lately. However, anime films becoming more accessible has been arguably the biggest development in the genre’s growth in recent years.
Theatrical release 2021 from Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and this year’s Jujutsu Kaisen 0 are proof of that, especially considering how impressive they were at the box office in the US and elsewhere. And for those new to the genre – or veterans just looking for a sane way to watch their favorites – there are still plenty of great movies to stream. Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Netflix in particular are some of the best mainstream places to look for anime movies outside of Crunchyroll.
Katsuhiro Otomo and Tokyo Movie Shinsha’s animation studio Akira is one of those animes from the past decades that made such an impact that the rest of the world couldn’t ignore it. It’s a loose adaptation of Otomo’s manga of the same name, and this cyberpunk epic was a major milestone for anime as well as cyberpunk and sci-fi in Japan. Akira drew comparisons to other classics such as Bladerunner – in the best way – for how it tackled meta-themes in a dystopian sci-fi setting.
It’s a dark but exciting story that revolves around two young biker gang members named Shotaro Kaneda and his friend Tetsuo Shima, while the latter falls victim to a secret military experiment gone wrong, turning him into a psychopathic and telekinetic monster. AkiraThe dense thematic explorations of religious fanaticism, political and military corruption, and neglected youth make this film a compelling experience.
Akira can be streamed on Hulu.
Princess Mononoke (1999)
It’s virtually impossible to point to a Hayao Miyazaki – or any Studio Ghibli film in general – that hasn’t been critically well received. Princess Mononoke is one of the director/writer’s classics and is set in a grandiose historical fantasy setting with all the emotional and socio-political themes that long-time fans have come to expect.
The story revolves around a young Ainu prince named Ashitaka who is on a quest to heal a curse inflicted on him by a corrupt god who is also ravaging the forest they all live in. He meets the titular princess San, who was raised by wolves and hated humanity all her life for the destruction they left behind. There are no outright villains, just an engaging and introspective story of man’s conflict with nature and vice versa.
Princess Mononoke can be streamed on HBO Max.
Spirited Away (2001)
spirited away is another great film by Miyazaki as it has become one of the director and studio’s definitive films. It’s the number one Studio Ghibli film of veteran fans in many quarters of the fandom, and it’s easy to see why given its legacy and impact. The film was the first anime to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, proving to be another milestone for the genre on the international stage.
spirited away is the story of a young girl named Chihiro who is on a mission to save her parents after they were turned into pigs by a witch. Chihiro is joined by her curious spirit companion, No-Face, as she ventures through the spirit world. spirited away contains social commentary that critiques modern Japanese society and Western consumerism through the nuanced lens of fantasy.
spirited away can be streamed on HBO Max.
For those looking for a thrilling shonen action romp, director Hiroyuki Imaishi and animation studio Trigger’s Promare should satisfy. It will be an especially fun ride for those who are fans of Imaishi’s critically acclaimed past work Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill.
The art style and color palette are reminiscent of both, with the protagonist looking like a reinterpretation of Galo Thymos coois Kamina. Promare‘s story follows Galo as he fights and uncovers the mystery behind a terrorist group of mutants known as the Mad Burnish. Trigger is known for its colorful anime that should please both new and experienced fans.
Promare can be streamed on HBO Max.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2018)
Akira Toriyama dragon ball Franchise is a pillar of anime’s worldwide popularity as it was one of the shonen that started the mainstream craze of the ’90s and ’00s. That great Anime TV series was the first canonical continuation of Z‘s history, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly was a memorable film in the franchise’s catalog.
It was also an important development in the main timeline, as this was the first time the titular villain of circumstances, Broly, appeared in canon. This will certainly put those at ease looking for a fiercely colorful spin, as all a dragon ball Movie needs one story wise that’s viable enough to move the likes of Goku and Vegeta from one hilariously chaotic fight to the next.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly can be streamed on Hulu with the added STARZ plan.
Weathering With You (2019)
Makoto Shinkai and studio CoMix Wave Films take things to a more grounded and true-to-life level. weathering with you. It’s another beautifully down-to-earth anime that Studio Ghibli fans will feel right at home with as it’s a touching romance with light fantasy elements.
weathering with you similar to Shinkai’s previous film Your name in terms of themes, the former focusing on two teenagers from different walks of life. Hodaka is a young boy who runs away in the midst of endless rain to live in Tokyo, but he quickly struggles into poverty. While in town, he meets and befriends a girl named Hina, who has the power to control the weather – but at a great cost.
weathering with you can be streamed on HBO Max.
Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 It Was Three Times (2021)
This one might have a big asterisk for some while Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the biggest legacy anime IPs, it can be a bit complicated to get into. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 is the fourth film in the Rebuilding Evangelion Collection of movies that retells the original TV anime series. The series begins 15 years after the Second Impact disaster, where mysterious beings known as the Angels wreak havoc on Tokyo-3.
A shadowy military group known as NERV uses children in “Evangelion” mechs to fight the Angels, with the mystery surrounding them, their motives and their young characters unraveling as the story progresses. It was three times completes the story, and it took a long time. The anime suffered numerous severe delays and was eventually released last year to critical acclaim. It’s an immersive sci-fi and psychological watch for those ready to take the plunge.
Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 It was three times can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
One Piece Movie: Z (2012)
Eiichiro Oda, one of Shonen Jump Magazine’s original Big Three manga One piece is a phenomenon for anime and the shonen genre. Most of the other manga/animes he shares his genre with feel dated by comparison, but this colourful, world-spanning pirate odyssey has come a long way since the manga debuted in 1997. It’s an expansive journey filled with creative art and character designs, emotional storylines, bombastic action, and impressive world-building, but it can also be intimidating to engage with the uninitiated.
At the current stage, One piece includes over 100 volumes and 1000 chapters in manga and over 1000 episodes in TV series. However, the movies (despite not being canonical) can serve as great jump points. One Piece Movie: Z is arguably the strongest of the group and tells the story of Luffy and the Straw Hats’ fight against Zephyr: a man who threatens to end the pirate era.
One Piece Movie: Z can be streamed on Netflix.