Best anime movies and shows to watch on Hulu

*Current as of December 2020

What used to be a small element of animation entertainment has turned into an international sensation. And anime has officially arrived on Hulu. The streaming service has some of the most impressive Japanese titles around, from legacy productions to newer attention-grabbers. Read on for a full list of the best anime on Hulu right now. And if you don’t see your favorite, keep looking. The library gets bigger each and every month. Find out more about the service in our in-depth Hulu review.

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How we evaluated Hulu’s best anime movies and shows

Hulu has an impressive amount of anime, so we had to come up with a strategy to determine which ones deserved inclusion on our top-rated list. Our first port of call was viewer opinion. Did the average person give the show or movie a five-star rating, or were they disappointed at the end? And what did professional critics think? Were they, too, impressed or left wanting more? To help, we checked the mighty Tomatometer and IMDb reviews. Finally, we took a look to see whether there were any award nominations or wins, factoring all of those into our final list.

Best anime movies on Hulu

Hulu focuses more on anime shows than movies. But its movie selection is still worth a peek, especially if you’re just getting into the genre. Here are a few of the very best titles to stream. (And check out our rundown of all the best movies on Hulu right now.)

Akira (1988)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 90%
  • Length: 124 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Featured actors: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama

Often regarded as one of the greatest anime films to ever exist, Akira is set in Tokyo. But it’s a very different kind of Tokyo, as most of the city was wiped out in what many think was a nuclear blast. Turns out it was the work of a telekinetic named Akira. Decades later, Shōtarō Kaneda attempts to save his friend and fellow telekinetic, Tetsuo Shima, from his own powerful abilities. A secret government project and the reemergence of Akira will decide the pair’s fate.

Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess (2012)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 81%
  • Length: 86 minutes
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Featured actors: Aya Endô, Aya Hirano, Tetsuya Kakihara

For a lighter look at the world of anime, try Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess. This fantastical story is a standalone film, so you don’t need to have watched the original series. Set in the land of wizards and priestesses, prepare to cheer for Lucy and Eclair as they protect the Phoenix Stone against a villain who wants nothing more than to be immortal.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 95%
  • Length: 89 minutes
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Featured actors: Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Akemi Yamaguchi

Another wartime movie released in the exact same year as Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, is based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka. Two siblings — whose mother died during a World War Two bombing raid — are left to look after themselves. With attacks raining down around them and a selfish aunt to contend with, Seita and Setsuko showcase the intimate nature of sibling bonds and the intense emotions that come with losing a parent.

Best anime shows on Hulu

When it comes to anime shows, Hulu beats many other streaming services. There are decades worth of series to watch, from brutal battles to fantastical adventures. Here are the Japanese shows to start with. (For more marathon entertainment, check out more of the best Hulu shows.)

Attack on Titan (2013)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 93%
  • Number of seasons: 4
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Marina Inoue, Yûki Kaji, Yui Ishikawa

Humanity must face its last battle against the giant Titans in this hugely popular manga show. Full of action-packed combat, Attack on Titan is a pretty dark series — especially when you consider that the protagonist loses both his home and mother to a human-eating Titan. Prepare yourself for plenty of suspenseful moments as he seeks revenge.

One Piece (1999)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: Not rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 91%
  • Number of seasons: 20
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Featured actors: Mayumi Tanaka, Tony Beck, Laurent Vernin

Kicking off in 1999, One Piece is still being produced. Hundreds of episodes have aired, making this animated adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s manga series a long-term watch. Follow Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates on their quest for the One Piece, a treasured possession that will allow the finder to become the Pirate King. Of course, Captain Monkey isn’t the only one looking for the piece.

Sailor Moon (1992)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 100%
  • Number of seasons: 5
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Featured actors: Stephanie Sheh, Kotono Mitsuishi, Kate Higgins

Sailor Moon may have only lasted for a few years, but it spawned a cult fanbase and lots of merch. Schoolgirl Usagi Tsukino leads her friends on a legendary quest to protect the universe. To do this, the rather clumsy Usagi transforms into a guardian-slash-soldier called Sailor Moon. Together with her team and a magical brooch, she fights evil force after evil force, including a powerful group called the Death Busters.

How to watch anime movies and shows on Hulu

Hulu’s intuitive interface and search function make it easy to find all the best anime content. All you have to do is head to the streaming service’s home page and find the anime genre section for the most popular titles. But if you know what you want to watch, just use the search bar to find the exact show or movie. 

Of course, to access the catalog, you’ll need to become a subscriber. That involves paying either $5.99/mo. for an on-demand experience or $54.99/mo. for both live TV and on-demand viewing. But before you hand over any cash, don’t forget to take advantage of Hulu’s free trial. On-demand-only viewers get a whopping 30 days to use the service for free, while live TV customers can enjoy a week-long trial. 

Just make sure you have a compatible device beforehand. Here’s the full list to help you get prepared for a marathon Hulu session:

  • Amazon Fire tablets
  • Amazon Fire TV devices
  • Android phones and tablets
  • Android TVs (select models)
  • Apple TV (4th generation or later)
  • Chromecast
  • Echo Show
  • iOS phones and tablets
  • LG TVs (select models)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku devices (select models)
  • Samsung TVs (select models)
  • VIZIO SmartCast TVs
  • Web browsers (both on Mac and PC)
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Our hot take

Hulu’s anime show library may be a lot bigger than its anime movie counterpart, but its focus on Japanese entertainment is unique. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new fan or a long-time lover of the genre, or whether you’re into animated gore or mythical beings. Hulu really does have something for everyone.

Lauren Sharkey