Hulu has an excellent reputation for having an incredible collection of TV simulcasts, and impressively, this has extended to anime for several years. These, of course, come packaged with the service’s trademark commercials, but you could default to far worse places to find your anime fix: there are currently more than 300 series available on Hulu, besting Netflix by a fairly significant margin. The selection isn’t anything to scoff at either; there are a lot of classics mixed in with more obscure fare for those wanting to wet their feet in less well-known shows.
Below you will find our personal guide to the best of the best available on Hulu, tailored to appeal to a variety of audiences. It’s a wonderful place to start for newbies, and you can’t go wrong with any of our cherry-picked selections here.
1. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
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For some time, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been the anime I turn to when I need some R&R. Not that anything about it, at least at first glance, is particularly chill. It’s an anime full of men built like classical sculptures arguing as loud as they can over psychic battles they’re having, seemingly in molasses-slow time. What feels like hours encapsulates little more than a minute in JJBA’s universe. The anime is so much more than that, though; it’s a journey that spans a century and obliterates the rules of how to tell a traditional adventure story, taking liberal inspiration from Indiana Jones, Versace, classic rock, and any other fleeting interest of mangaka Hirohiko Araki to make an explosive hodgepodge of fast-paced absurdity, a language you’ll pick up on quickly and soon fine cozier than Sailor Moon. There’s a reason JJBA continues to be one of the most influential pieces of media to come out of the anime world. – Austin Jones
2. Cowboy Bebop
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Every debate over whether or not Cowboy Bebop—Shinichiro Watanabe’s science-fiction masterpiece—is the pinnacle of anime is a semantic one. It is, full stop. Its particular blend of space-based cyberpunk intrigue, Western atmosphere, martial arts action, and noir cool in seinen form is unmatched and widely appealing. Its existential and traumatic themes are universally relatable. Its ragtag group of bounty-hunting characters are complex and flawed, yet still ooze cool. The future it presents is ethnically diverse and eerily prescient. Its English dub, boasting some of America’s greatest full-time voiceover talents, somehow equals the subtitled Japanese-language original. Its 26-episode run was near-perfect, and episodes that might have been filler in another series are tight, taut, and serve the show’s thesis even as they do not distract from its overarching plot, which is compelling but not overbearing. It’s accessible to new hands and still rewards old-timers with every repeated watch. Yoko Kanno’s magnificent, jazz-heavy soundtrack and score stand on their own. Its opening credits are immaculate. It’s an original property, not an adaptation. It feels like a magnum opus produced at the pinnacle of a long career despite being, almost unbelievably, Watanabe’s first series as a director. It is a masterwork that should justly rank among the best works of television of all time, let alone anime. We eagerly await a rival. We’re not holding our breath (though Netflix recently made a live-action adaptation). —John Maher
3. Kimi Ni Todoke
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It’s hard not to be cynical about anime at times—many are so carefully focus-grouped to pander to specific audiences that they can feel clinical in their expression of human emotion, even when they lean on the sentimental. Every once in a while, though, a show comes around that feels genuine in its tenderness and undeniable in its honesty. Kimi ni Todoke is one such show. A romantic comedy in the purest sense, Kimi ni Todoke follows a young girl named Sawako Kuronuma who is feared and ostracized by her classmates because of her resemblance to Sadako from Hideo Nakata’s The Ring. Contrary to her appearance, Sawako is a mild-mannered and gentle person who has a hard time standing up for herself.
After meeting an open-minded boy, Kazehaya, on her first day of high school, Sawako begins a quest to broaden her social prowess My Fair Lady-style. Much like Eliza Doolittle, Sawako becomes an asset of many people’s lives and eventually the object of Kazehaya’s affection. Kimi ni Todoke eschews clichés endemic to most shoujo series and depicts a truly equitable relationship, one built on closeness and genuine feelings as opposed to cheap tricks or contrived storytelling devices. It’s one of anime’s most quintessential romances. —Austin Jones
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
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For many, Brotherhood is the essential anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. A more faithful adaptation to Hiromu Arakawa’s mega-popular manga series, Brotherhood contends with loss, grief, war, racism and ethics in mature and unique ways, ahead of its time in nearly every aspect. What’s more, the show is paced perfectly, with neatly wrapped arcs that lead into each other and bolster a greater global narrative on selected themes. Brotherhood is just the right length, never overstaying its welcome and proving how versatile and malleable the conventions of shounen anime can be.
Brotherhood has a sizeable cast of characters all of different nationalities and ideologies, with motivations that often oppose one another—the show manages to use these moving forces to form factions, alliances and foils that flow in multiple directions, paralleling the often messy, always chaotic nature of human relationships during wartime. The show’s emotional core revolves around the plight of the Elric brothers, Ed and Alphonse, two alchemists sponsored by the authoritarian Amestris military. It’s not your classic military drama, though, as Ed and Alphonse quickly learn how far Amestris’ authoritarianism stretches.
Where Brotherhood excels lies in the sensitivity it expresses for every one of the characters’ fighting for their desires and contending with their mistakes, with particular highlights on the plights of minorities and women. Ed and Alphonse struggle with the fallout after attempting forbidden alchemy to revive their recently deceased mother. Later, their childhood friend Winry is portrayed heroically for acting as an emergency midwife. Scar, initially introduced as a brutal serial killer, is one of the last remaining indigenous Ishvalans, an ethnic group purged during a colonial war at the hands of Amestris—his odyssey continues to ring more and more resonant as we stray further into a post-terror world. It’s why the series continues to wow today: it eschews cliche to make cogent points on human consciousness. —Austin Jones
5. Space Dandy
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Let’s let Space Dandy’s opening narration set the scene: “Space Dandy: he’s a dandy guy in space. He combs the galaxy like his pompadour on the hunt for aliens. Planet after planet he searches, discovering bizarre new creatures both friendly and not. These are the spectacular adventures of Space Dandy and his brave space crew in space.”
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, Space Dandy takes the episodic sci-fi bounty-hunting set-up of his breakout hit and twists it in sillier, surrealistic, smartly-stupid directions. With each episode set in a different universe, and with some of the world’s best animators using this freedom for maximum artistic experimentation, the show matches and at times even exceeds the hilarity and unpredictability that made Rick and Morty’s journeys across the multiverse such a hit. Somehow all this chaos coheres into one horny space himbo’s journey to Enlightenment. —Reuben Baron
6. Hunter x Hunter
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There are countless shonens (and American TV shows, even) that focus on a group of young characters using supernatural abilities and deductive reasoning to problem-solve. Hunter x Hunter is a rare find among this homogeneous archetype because of its attention to detail and emotional investment. This anime is filled with whimsical subplots that don’t always end with a major event, but let you know characters in this world were alive before you started watching them.
Hunter x Hunter begins with Gon Freecss, as he sets out on a journey to become a Hunter. He’s your typical savior-figure protagonist unique to shonen, but fortunately he keeps the annoying, repetitive mantras to himself. His determination to see the best in people becomes a marvel of the series, and his dedication to others drives the plot. He makes friends with a young boy from a family of assassins, and their polarized dynamic creates a connection that makes the series inspiring. The compelling relationship between these two boys demands emotional investment from you. Yoshihiro Togashi, who wrote and illustrated the manga, emphasizes their youth and inexperience by pitting them against much older, more experienced villains, and introduces powerful mentors that help them evolve. He’s meticulous about tailoring his characters’ abilities to their personality, but everyone draws their strength from resolve. The feats of pure determination you’ll witness in this anime will change you.
Togashi has struggled with a medical condition for some years, but he claims the manga is far from over. Hopefully, the remastered anime gets a seventh season soon.—Jarrod Johnson II
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In contrast to almost all other television anime, Mushi-Shi trades frenetic action and slapstick comedy for a languorous, thoughtful tone. Feeling at times like it was made by a more adult-centric Hayao Miyazaki, the almost plotless show drifts through scenic worlds and places emphasis on atmosphere and theme. While certainly an acquired taste, the show’s maturity makes it stand out amongst a sea of anime targeted at adolescents.—Sean Gandert
8. Ouran High School Host Club
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Largely a satire of the shoujo genre, Ouran High School Host Club blatantly employs and often twists our expectations of animated romantic comedies. The story follows Haruhi Fujioka, a normal girl attending the illustrious Ouran Academy on a hefty scholarship. A pragmatist who disagrees with shallow lifestyles, she’s mistaken as a boy because of her disheveled hair and slouchy outfits. She ends up indebted to the school’s host club, where they all slowly realize Haruhi is a woman (not that she hid it, per se) and is tasked with masquerading as a man to serve as a host until she pays back what she owes.—Austin Jones
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FLCL was intended to feel unlike anything else you’ve ever watched, anime or otherwise. It’s got an incredible Japanese alt-rock soundtrack from the band The Pillows. Its editing is frenetic. Its characters interact in extremes of manic, moody, or forlorn. Its plot—in which robots pop out of a young boy’s swollen, injured head, heralding the return of a powerful extraterrestrial being—kinda doesn’t matter. None of that stuff matters, according to series director Kazuya Tsurumaki. “Difficulty in comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL,” he once wrote in a comment thread for Production IG. “I believe the ‘rock guitar’ vibe playing throughout the show is a shortcut on the road to understanding it.” Rock on, brother. —Eric Vilas-Boas
10. Fruits Basket (2019)
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Both the 2001 and 2019 anime adaptations of Natsuki Takaya’s classic Fruits Basket shojo manga are available for streaming on Hulu. The first anime was cut short early in the manga’s run (Takaya didn’t like the changes made and didn’t allow a second season despite fan demand), so it’s the more faithful, more recent adaptation you’ll want to watch to get the full story.
Fruits Basket’s fantasy rom-com story follows Tohru Honda, an orphan high school girl living with the Sohma family, who are cursed to transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by members of the opposite sex. It’s a silly setup, but one which affords each of its quirky characters significant depth and goes to some impressively heavy emotional places. Fruits Basket will make you laugh and cry, and maybe even inspire you to be a better person. —Reuben Baron
11. My Hero Academia
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Beloved anime My Hero Academia (based on the manga) kicks off with a protagonist who is bullied for not having a superpower (in a world where they are the norm), but who is soon bestowed with a particularly powerful one after, indeed, saving a bully. From there, young “Deku” goes into training at an elite academy where he must balance his schoolwork and friendships with his requirements as a hero.
It’s not too soon to liken My Hero Academia to a quintessential shonen, because the show is heavy on what the genre does best: Izuku is refreshingly emotional (so, of course, he helps his classmates open up enough to alter their lives), and villains are undergoing a renaissance thanks to the fumbles of hero society. It’s a fresh spin on a genre that’s laden with tropes, and—not for nothing—the fights are very good. —Sarra Sedghi and Allison Keene
12. Spy x Family
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Spy x Family is an action-comedy that has quickly taken the anime world by storm, largely thanks to the adorable antics of one Anya Forger. We follow Loid Forger, an undercover agent in the Cold War-esque city of Berlint, who is forced to form a “fake” family and infiltrate an enemy country’s political circles to avert war. He ends up adopting Anya, an orphan with telekinetic mind-reading abilities, and—at least on paper—marrying Yor, an assassin working for a rival government. While its premise may sound similar to self-serious prestige TV like The Americans, Spy x Family is a (mostly) light-hearted spoof of the nuclear family that is deeply hilarious, often cool, and sometimes touching.
So far, Wit Studio and Cloverworks have gone above and beyond to bring this adaptation to life, and the first season is full of well-delivered gags that I still find myself randomly chuckling over months later. While Loid is technically the protagonist, Anya is the star of the show, as she oscillates between being a little goblin and a precious bean attempting to help her dad with his mission of avoiding a war. And in addition to the many goofs, it convincingly portrays a found family who find solace in each other. Thankfully, the second season once again demonstrates the series’ ability to operate as both a tense spy-thriller and family comedy. As long as its production doesn’t run into issues (something which is unfortunately quite common given the state of labor in the anime industry), it will continue to be must-watch television. —Elijah Gonzalez
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