Anime is more popular than ever largely thanks to streaming. But picking between VRV vs. Crunchyroll vs. Funimation with their overlapping services and subscription plans isn’t easy. So how do you decide which one to go with? This guide will compare the three streaming anime services to help you pick the right options for your anime fix.
Where Do You Watch?
This won’t surprise most Flixed readers: Americans are the only ones who can enjoy the full benefits of all three services. At the same time, streaming anime is possible just about everywhere.
VRV is only available in the United States while Funimation is only available in six English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Crunchyroll, on the other hand, streams content worldwide. Yet at the same time licensing issues limit the experience from country to country. A few months ago redditor dubesor86 found that Crunchyroll’s US catalog held 848 titles while France had 345, Mexico 551 and Hong Kong a mere 94.
Both Crunchyroll and Funimation promote their online stores where fans can buy Blu-Rays and merch for their favorite anime shows. Subscribers often get discounts or free shipping on their purchases, but those only apply in the United States (and sometimes Canada). Expensive international shipping and the hassle of import taxes makes this a non-benefit for the rest of the world.
How Do You Watch?
This is another area with stark differences as VRV has a much thinner range of apps than either Crunchyroll or Funimation. Missing device support could force many people to eliminate VRV from consideration.
VRV is available on desktop browsers, iPhones, iPads and Android devices as well as on the Roku platform and Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console. VRV did indicate in an interview with Broadcasting Cable that Apple TV and Android TV support is in development.
Both Funimation and Crunchyroll offer apps for the desktop, smartphones and tablets. The media players they support include the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku. They support old and new gaming consoles including the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Crunchyroll extends its device support even further to the Google Chromecast, Nintendo’s WiiU and even Windows Phone.
How Much Control Do You Want?
Even though it offers content from both Crunchyroll and Funimation, VRV does not give its subscribers the same experience. VRV is truly like Hulu or Sling TV or other services that package other companies’ content. It can only offer the features its sources provide.
The Funimation content on VRV, for example, is only available with the English-dubbed soundtrack. Purists cannot switch to the original Japanese soundtrack like they can on the Funimation site.
Although VRV and Crunchyroll share corporate overlords, a similar situation applies. The Crunchyroll apps let viewers switch between languages in the subtitles, but the same content on VRV is English-only.
Even though VRV is a US-only service, many potential customers who want their subtitles in other languages (especially Spanish-speaking anime fans) might feel left out.
How Invested Are You?
How much the streaming service will be part of your anime life is something else you need to consider. Is it just a video stream? Or is it part of your extended community?
Anime fandom is a community
Anime fans are part of a large, yet dispersed, community that relies on online forums and conventions to find others who share their love of the Japanese art form.
Both Funimation and Crunchyroll foster that community by hosting active online forums. Subscribers can comment on the latest simulcasts, share cosplay photos and coordinate plans for the next convention.
Funimation attends around nine conventions a year from Ohayocon to New York Comic Con. Booths, panel discussions, giveaways and screenings of pre-release anime are all part of the fan experience.
Crunchyroll takes that a step further by hosting its own annual conference: Crunchyroll Expo. More than 16,000 anime fans turned out for the three-day event to see pre-screenings of The Ancient Magus’ Bride and hear from guests like Final Fantasy illustrator Yoshitaka Amano.
VRV does none of this.
Curating the love of anime
Many anime fans carefully curate and manage their playlists to document what they’ve watched and what awaits.
None of the playlist features provided by VRV, Crunchyroll or Funimation sync with the others. Watching an episode on one service requires updating playlists on the other two.
As a result, existing Crunchyroll or Funimation subscribers who have cultivated their playlists for years will not gain anything from VRV.
Where Do You Stand: Subs or Dubs?
Like so many other topics, anime fandom consists of a quiet majority who have no strong opinion and two strident, diametrically opposed camps prepared to go to battle over this question.
Purists will say that subtitles are the only way to watch anime. It preserves the original Japanese voice acting and creates a more immersive experience.
Crunchyroll has chosen a strategy that focuses on subtitled anime. Translating the scripts into a dozen languages lets it get simulcasts posted quickly. The wide range of languages Crunchyroll supports lets it stream globally and lets people get anime in their native tongue.
Convenience is the biggest justification for dubbed soundtracks. There are times when the focus required to watch subtitles just isn’t possible. With all of the distractions of modern life, having an English-language soundtrack is the only way many people can enjoy anime as much as they want.
Funimation’s strategy centers on English-dubbed anime. That limits its ability to serve a global market. It also means its simulcasts arrive a few weeks after anime airs in Japan. On the other hand, Funimation’s efforts – and the subscriptions its member pay – support an entire community of voice actors. Funimation’s support site offers advice for becoming a Funimation voice actor (it’s under “About Funimation”).
VRV stands agnostic in the subs-vs-dubs debate. Offering subbed content from Crunchyroll and dubbed content from Funimation lets the customers decide what’s best for them.
Three Anime Services Compared: Content, Pricing and Features
VRV – and in the darkness bind them?
VRV launched last year as an attempt to become the Hulu of anime and geek culture by bringing competing sources of content under one roof. Arlen Marmel, VRV’s general manager, told Broadcasting Cable that “Our goal is to be big, but not broad.”
That narrow focus has produced significant results for VRV. It has more than 1.5 million registered users, of which 1 million are active during any given month. Combined, those users have watched more than 1 billion hours of video.
VRV serves fans of anime, animation, gaming and general geek culture. The site offers exclusive original content through its VRV Select channel and produces content through the in-house Cartoon Hangover and Mondo channels.
Most of the video content on VRV, however, comes from third-parties who have provided their own on-demand offerings. Among the content providers:
VRV recently added the AMC Network’s Shudder channel to bring nearly 600 horror movies to its catalog. Shudder is an independent streaming service that normally requires a $4.99 per month subscription.
In the near future, documentary streaming service CuriosityStream will join the VRV network as well.
VRV makes selections of its catalog available to watch cost-free but with standard definition video that includes advertising.
The VRV Combo Pack costs $9.99 per month or just under $120 per year. Unlike most other streaming services, VRV does not offer discounted rates for 3-month or 12-month subscriptions.
The Combo Pack subscription unlocks all 20,000 hours of ad-free video content from its providers.
Rooster Teeth, Geek & Sundry and Nerdist distribute their content across multiple platforms, including YouTube, free of charge. That makes convenience the main benefit as VRV subscribers can get all their gaming and geek programming in one place.
Shudder is an independent streaming service that normally charges a $4.99-per-month subscription. All of its movies are included in the VRV subscription.
As mentioned earlier, a VRV subscription gives its members automatic Premium-level access to Crunchyroll’s anime service. There is no such reciprocity with membership programs at Funimation or the other content providers.
Crunchyroll is the largest source of translated anime content in the world. It has more than one million subscribers and twenty million registered users.
The company’s success comes from a deep 800-title, 25,000-episode catalog as well as its ability to stream, or “simulcast”, the latest anime episodes as little as an hour after their broadcast in Japan.
Much of the Crunchyroll catalog is available to stream without paying anything. That limits users to standard definition streams and an ad-supported experience. Free members cannot watch the latest simulcasts.
Premium-level subscriptions cost $6.95 per month or just under $84 per year. As with VRV, Crunchyroll does not offer a discount for long-term subscriptions. A Premium+ subscription costs $11.95 per month or just under $144 per year.
The Premium subscription unlocks all 15,000 hours of ad-free, high definition video content in the Crunchyroll catalog. That includes the ability to watch the latest simulcasts of new anime episodes from Japan.
Crunchyroll’s Premium subscription also includes access to an online catalog of Japanese manga. Manga is to anime what comics and graphic novels are to animations and cartoons.
All of these features plus discounts in Crunchyroll’s store are the same Premium benefits automatically granted to VRV subscribers.
The exception comes with the Premium+ subscription. Beyond the Premium benefits, Premium+ subscribers get free shipping (in the US) and special community perks. At this time VRV subscribers cannot get Premium+ benefits.
Funimation introduced the Dragon Ball franchise to America in 1994 and leveraged its success to become the second-largest anime streaming service. The company has been so successful, in fact, that Sony Pictures Television Network bought Funimation over the summer. There won’t be any immediate changes to the service, but it could mean more resources to expand Funimation’s production work.
Funimation focuses on creating dubbed performances in English. To do this, the company maintains a production studio in Texas where voice-over actors record the new soundtracks. Dubbed versions of the latest anime episodes (Funimation calls them SimulDubs) are ready for streaming within weeks.
Funimation offers one membership tier at $5.99-per-month. However, it does offer a discounted annual plan that reduces subscribers’ costs to $59.99 per year or about $5 per month.
Funimation offers a free service that includes limited, ad-supported access to video streams in standard definition. The subscription unlocks ad-free, high-definition access to the entire Funimation catalog. Subscribers can also stream to two devices on the same account rather than the single device limit for users of the free service.
So Which One Is Better?
The answer to that question is much easier if you fall strongly on one side of the dub-vs-sub debate, need an app for a specific device or live outside the United States. The specific features of each service will guide you to the right choice.
Best for non-Americans
Crunchyroll is the obvious answer if you live outside the United States. Even though you don’t get as large a catalog, just about anyone in the world can stream its anime. Those who live in the English-speaking countries supported by Funimation get another option.
Best for Crunchyroll subscribers
If you have any interest in the other channels VRV offers, then you’re better off switching to VRV. You can keep all your premium benefits as well as your existing playlists and favorites. Plus you get the extra VRV content for much less than what you’d have to pay separately.
Best for dubs, best for subs
If you hold strong beliefs in debate over dubbed versus subbed content, then you won’t need to put much thought into it. Prefer subtitles? Subscribe to Crunchyroll. Prefer dubbed soundtracks? Funimation’s your choice.
The easiest answer, of course, is to get all three by subscribing to Funimation and the VRV with Crunchyroll combination. For about $15 a month you get premium access to both of the anime services plus the extra content from VRV.