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The best anime movies on Hulu

Hulu has some gems tucked away in its anime movie catalog.

Jul 8, 2020, 10:12 pm*

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John-Michael Bond 

John-Michael Bond

  • While Hulu has a relatively small section of anime movie titles, what it does have provides a great introduction to the genre.
  • From influential classics that shaped the genre to modern masterpieces, we’ve found the 10 best anime movies on Hulu.
  • Anime fans will also want to check out Hulu’s library of anime shows, including this collection of the 20 best anime shows on Hulu.
  • Hulu is available for $5.99 a month with ads or $11.99 a month for an ad-free option. There’s also a free trial available: The first month free for Hulu, or the first week free if you’re opting for Hulu with Live TV.




The 10 best anime movies on Hulu

Akira (1988)

Thirty years after its release, Akira remains an audacious high point in the history of animation. This mega-budget feature has some of the most detailed animation in history, leaving it looking as fresh today as it did upon release. Meshing psychic warfare, ’80s Japanese cultural criticism, and sci-fi biker fights, Akira does its best to condense a massive manga series into a two-hour movie. While the result is occasionally confusing, Akira is a timeless film. As you’re watching, take note of every anime you’ve seen before that references Akira in some way. You’ll fill a whole notepad.  

Akira trailer
Melodiquest/YouTube

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Anime is often thought of as an art form that can tell action stories, comedies, or romances, but little else. Grave of the Fireflies is a devastating example of the genre’s reach, a somber World War II story with a heartbreaking ending. Set in Kobe, Japan, following the firebombing of the city, Grave of the Fireflies explores two orphans’ fight for survival. The animation is truly breathtaking, a beautiful wrapping for an otherwise grim story. If you want to discover the dramatic possibilities of anime, make time for Grave of the Fireflies.   

Grave of the Fireflies

Ninja Scroll (1993)

Ninja Scroll was a global smash, spoken of in the same breath as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The Wachowskis even cite the film’s over-the-top, gravity-defying fights as a significant influence on their Matrix trilogy. Set during the Edo period, the movie follows a wandering swordsman named Jubei, who is poisoned by a spy in need of help. In exchange for the antidote, Jubei must agree to help stop a vile warlord and his collection of mystical devil warriors. The story may be clichéd, but the inventive action is unbelievable. (Be warned: Ninja Scroll does contain one scene of sexual assault.)

Ninja Scroll Trailer
Attack from Planet B/YouTube

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010)

Trigun’s blend of kinetic action and post-apocalyptic world-building made it a beloved series. Badlands Rumble lets you get a taste without watching the entire series. Vash the Stampede is off on a new job, hunting down the legendary Gasback. Twenty years ago, Vash got in the way of one of Gasback’s heists. Now, word on the street is the criminal is back, with a $300 million price on his head. Vash heads out to get his slice of the profit, wading through countless bullets and bounty hunters along the way.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble
Movieclips/YouTube

Afro Samurai Resurrection (2009)

Birthed from the mind of Takashi Okazaki, Afro Samurai was inspired by the artist’s love of hip-hop and American depictions of Japanese culture. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Afro Samurai, welder of the Number 1 headband, an artifact of godlike power. Resurrection is the second movie in the series, so the plot—involving finding the Number 2 headband—can get confusing. But you don’t need to keep up to enjoy the film’s breathtaking art and fight scenes. Instead, appreciate this brilliant sci-fi meshing of street art and classic ninja combat for the visual feast it is.

K: Missing Kings (2014)

One of the best parts of watching anime movies on Hulu is being able to catch up on the series first. Take K: Missing Kings for example. On its own, the film makes no sense. But if you take the time to watch season one of K beforehand, you’re in for a wonderful time. Unbeknownst to the population, the psychic Seven Clans of Color secretly control the world. Set after the events of season one, Missing Kings follows a group of warriors as they search for their absent ruler. Giving away more would be a sin, but this elegantly animated series is worth investing your time in to fully appreciate the accompanying movie. 

K: Missing Kings trailer

Legend of Heroes: Trails of the Sky (2011)

This adaptation of the cult classic PlayStation Portable RPG is a fast-paced action-adventure for fantasy fans longing for magic and swordfights. 10-years after the Liberl Kingdom almost fell to the Erebonian Empire, the tiny mystical land is still rebuilding. Thanks to the help of a magical Bracer’s Guild, Liberl is safer than ever. Even more excitingly, Estelle Bright, daughter of legendary Bracer Cassias, is finally joining the Bracers. But when their father’s airship goes missing Estelle and her adopted brother Joshua find themselves trapped in a life-threatening adventure to get it back. Thrilling, beautifully animated, and over too soon Legend of Hero leaves you wanting more.

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky anime movie trailer

Fafner: Heaven and Earth (2010)

Mecha combat has a deep history in anime even if it goes underrepresented in the library of anime movies on Hulu. Fafner: Heaven and Earth is a thankful exception. Set in 2148, after the original Fafner series, Heaven and Earth introduces viewers to a world recovering from a war with a powerful alien foe. Traumatized and injured, the people of Tatsumiya Island have begun to rebuild. But the discovery of a mysterious child on a crew-less submarine sparks the beginning of a new conflict no one could anticipate. If you enjoy the gritty mecha world of Gundam, give Fafner: Heaven and Earth 88 minutes of your time.

Fafner: Heaven and Earth
Funimation/YouTube

Sword Art Online Extra Edition (2013)

There should be more movies like Sword Art Online Extra Edition. Recapping the early seasons of the anime in movie format, Extra Edition is a simple way to acquaint yourself with the Sword Art Online world. Sword Art Online is set in a future where humans live and play in various online MMORPG worlds. Blending action, sci-fi, and some goofy fan service, Extra Edition is a fresh, funny, fast-paced anime crowd-pleaser. There’s a ton of Sword Art Online content on Hulu, but this is a great place to start.   

Sword Online Art Extra Edition

Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess (2012)

Fairy Tail is a lovely anime series whose world of wizards and magic should be instantly familiar to anyone who likes fantasy. In Phoenix Priestess, Natsu and his band of magic warriors find themselves trapped in the Duke’s devious plot for immortality. Unlike many films that continue plots from a previous series, Phoenix Priestess is a blissful standalone experience. Save the research for another time and jump headfirst into the funny, magical world of Fairy Tail.  

Fairy Tale the Movie: Phoenix Priestess

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*First Published: May 19, 2019, 7:00 am