Anime is more popular than ever largely thanks to streaming. But picking between VRV vs. Crunchyroll vs. Funimation Now 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.
Crunchyroll streams content worldwide and lets you change the language of its subtitles. Funimation, on the other hand, is only available a few countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States
VRV is only available in the United States.
How Do You Watch?
For the most part, these streaming services are available on most streaming platforms.
VRV has mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices. In the living room, you can stream the service through Amazon FireTV, Android TV, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Roku as well as the Xbox One and Series X/S.
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, and PlayStation 5 Xbox 360 as well as Microsoft’s Xbox 360, One and Series X/S.
How Much Control Do You Want?
Paying for a VRV Premium subscription gets you free access to Crunchyroll Premium’s features — almost. One exception is the ability to switch between languages in the dubbing or subbing. If you want all of the benefits of a Crunchyroll subscription, you are better off getting it separately rather than bundled with VRV.
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. When people were able to gather together, 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 since its content comes from other services.
Three Anime Services Compared: Content, Pricing and Features
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 in 2017. Sony and Funimation announced in late 2020 that they plan to buy Crunchyroll from AT&T’s Warner Media. Apparently, anime is not part of AT&T’s content strategy so the $1.175 billion deal looks attractive.
Related: Funimation Now Review
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 a free service that includes ad-supported access to a limited number of video streams.
To get a better experience, you have a choice of three ad-free membership tiers. Premium and Premium Plus cost $6 and $8 per month respectively with discounts for annual subscriptions. Premium Plus Ultra is only available as a $100 annual plan.
A subscription will unlock simultaneous streaming: two devices with Premium and five devices with the other plans.
Premium Plus and Premium Plus Ultra support offline video. You also get free shipping and discounts on merch purchased through Funimation as well as access to member-only events.
VRV – and in the darkness bind them?
When VRV launched, it wanted to be the hub of anime and geek culture. Arlen Marmel, VRV’s general manager, told Broadcasting Cable at the time that “Our goal is to be big, but not broad.” But since then, it has lost several of its content providers – most notably Funimation. Now the streaming service’s future is in question. Funimation is trying to buy Crunchyroll, VRV’s main source of anime content. Crunchyroll’s current owner is AT&T, the same company that owns VRV. If the telecom company isn’t interested in anime, how interested is it going to be in VRV?
Related: VRV Review 2017
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:
Anime: Crunchyroll and HIDIVE
Geek Culture: Rooster Teeth
VRV makes selections of its catalog available to watch cost-free but with advertising.
The VRV’s subscription costs $10 per month or just under $120 per year.
The subscription unlocks all 20,000 hours of ad-free video content from its providers.
As mentioned earlier, a VRV subscription gives its members automatic Premium-level access to Crunchyroll’s anime service.
Crunchyroll is the largest source of translated anime content in the world. It has more than three million subscribers and ninety million registered users.
The company’s success comes from a deep 1000-title, 30,00-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 for free but with ads. Free members cannot watch the latest simulcasts. Video quality may suffer as well since subscribers get higher priority through Crunchyroll’s CDN.
Monthly costs are $8, $10 or $15 for the Fan, Mega Fan or Ultimate Fan subscription plans, respectively.
All subscriptions unlock the ad-free content in the Crunchyroll catalog. That includes the ability to watch the latest simulcasts of new anime episodes from Japan as well as access to an online catalog of Japanese manga. The more expensive plans add multi-device streaming and offline viewing.
Mega Fan and Ultimate Fan subscribers get free shipping (in the US) and special community perks.
VRV Premium subscribers cannot get Mega Fan or Ultimate Fan benefits.
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 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 since just about anyone in the world can stream its anime. Funimation isn’t as widely available, but could be an option for some people.
Best for deal-seekers
Paying the $10 monthly subscription for VRV gets you content on all of its other channels as well as access to Crunchyroll’s Fan-level benefits. That saves you enough money to pay for Funimation.
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.