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Is Crunchyroll no longer free? The short answer is yes and no.

Hi friend! If you‘re an anime fan like me, you may have heard some buzz that Crunchyroll is eliminating their free streaming tier. Well, I‘ve dug into the details and have the full scoop for you here. Let‘s look at what‘s changed, what‘s still free, and where you can now get your anime fix.

Free simulcasts are gone, but the ad-supported tier remains

Crunchyroll shook up the anime world when they announced the end of free simulcasts starting with the Spring 2022 season. This means that new episode premieres across currently airing shows are now only accessible to paid subscribers.

I know, I was bummed about this too! As an avid anime watcher, having instant access to the latest episode of My Hero Academia or Attack on Titan was amazing. For the super fans, simulcasts have been an essential part of Crunchyroll‘s free experience.

So why did they remove this popular feature behind the paywall? Well according to an official statement from Crunchyroll:

"Due to the costs of content rising as the anime industry continues to grow, the free ad-supported experience will no longer include same-day-as-Japan premieres across the catalog,"

Basically, with more anime being produced than ever before, Crunchyroll can‘t afford the licensing fees to offer day-of premieres to non-paying members anymore.

While the free tier has lost same-day episodes, it does still exist. There are over 1,500 anime series available to watch for free with ads. Here‘s a comparison of the free vs premium plans:

FeatureFree TierPremium Tier
Simulcast accessNoYes
Ad-free viewingNoYes
HD video qualityNoYes
Offline viewingNoYes
Early access1-3 weeks after airingImmediately
Library size1,500+ series4,000+ series

So if you rely on Crunchyroll to stay up to date with all the current shows, the premium subscription is now required. But more casual watchers can still enjoy a sizable selection of anime for free. Personally, I‘ve found the free library has enough classic and recent hits to keep me entertained for quite awhile!

Plenty of free alternatives exist too

Now I know change can be hard, especially when it comes to adjusting your anime streaming setup! If losing access to Crunchyroll‘s simulcasts is a dealbreaker for you, don‘t worry – there are some solid free alternatives out there.


RetroCrush is an ad-supported streaming service focusing on older anime series. But they do simulcast a selection of current shows every season for free users. The catalog may be smaller than Crunchyroll‘s, but you can watch new episodes as they release.


Tubi won‘t have every simulcast like Crunchyroll, but they do stream a handful of select new shows each season for free with ads. So it‘s worth browsing their anime section to see if any of your favorites are included.


For fellow Crunchyroll fans, linking your account to VRV can unlock a limited selection of simulcast shows for free. They also stream classic anime series and other geeky content like Cartoon Hangover.


This option is hit or miss, but some anime studios and channels do officially simulcast episodes for free on YouTube. Selections vary wildly though. So YouTube works best for accessing simulcasts of specific shows you follow versus a full catalog.

Streaming ServiceDetails
RetroCrushSmall selection of simulcasts among classic/older anime series
TubiLimited number of simulcast series for free w/ ads
VRVLink Crunchyroll account to get some free simulcasts
YouTubeSimulcast selection changes constantly; studio dependent

While not as robust as the old Crunchyroll free tier, these alternatives provide legal options for watching new episodes if cutting the cord from your go-to anime platform.

How the loss of free simulcasts impacts the anime industry

Alright, time for a bit more analysis on how this shift from Crunchyroll may impact the growth and trends across the global anime industry:

Simulcasts helped drive mainstream popularity

Many analysts credit simulcasting as being huge for anime‘s expansion in the west over the past decade. By eliminating delays, international fans could instantly access exciting new shows alongside viewers in Japan.

This immediacy helped drive word-of-mouth and social media buzz for hot new series. In turn, platforms like Crunchyroll saw their subscriber counts skyrocket:

YearCrunchyroll Premium Subscribers
20192 million
20225 million

Simulcasts created a model where everyone could share in the hype for a new anime season together, regardless of where fans live. So some feel restricting this global accessibility could slow growth.

Potential impacts on content creators

The incredible growth of international fandom has been hugely beneficial for the studios producing anime in Japan. Overseas popularity and legal streaming dollars have allowed production budgets and salaries to increase across the industry.

Smaller niche creators in particular have found immense success through global simulcast distribution. But with Crunchyroll pivoting their business model, the ripple effects on studios and animators remain to be seen.

Piracy concerns arise

Hardcore fans unable to afford a Crunchyroll subscription may turn to illegal sites to get their anime fix. When you take away affordable legal options, piracy tends to rise.

So from an industry standpoint, losing free simulcasts means Crunchyroll now provides less value compared to pirating new episodes. However, the company seems willing to take on that risk by prioritizing paid members.

Only time will tell how all of these factors truly impact international fandom and the anime industry. But the loss of ad-supported simulcasts does mark a major shift in the streaming landscape.

What does the future hold for free anime streaming?

Crunchyroll began a new era by removing free seasonal access, but what‘s next for this corner of the streaming world?

Other services could follow suit

The Anime News Network reported that platforms like Funimation and Netflix are keeping a close eye on how Crunchyroll‘s changes play out. If the subscriber and revenue bumps are substantial, they may consider instituting similar restrictions for seasonal shows.

After all, licensing costs will continue to climb as anime‘s popularity increases worldwide. Limiting simulcasts to paying members may simply be a new reality we have to accept as fans.

Ad-supported models still have value

While seasonal access is now limited, Crunchyroll retaining any free option is important. Tubi, RetroCrush, and others show that ad-supported streaming can work for anime catalogs.

For casual or cost-conscious fans, a completely free platform with a rotational mix of retro and current series would still be appealing. An ad viewing experience is better than unsanctioned methods for many.

The takeaway is that "anime streaming" and "free" are no longer synonymous. But with some savvy browsing across legal platforms, you can likely find a solution that works for your fandom needs and budget!

I hope breaking down all of these Crunchyroll changes was helpful. Let me know if you have any other anime streaming questions! I‘m always happy to chat about this entertainment world we love. Now it‘s time for me to go start that next episode. Happy watching!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.