Hulu is one of the best mainstream streaming services for having anime on the side. That being said, its anime movie selection is admittedly rather limited. Nonetheless, from the available selection, there are some fun and noteworthy movies.
These range in entries from some of the most recognizable shonen IPs today like Dragon Ball, to an all-time anime classic in the form of Akira, to more niche picks. These anime movies all rank on review aggregator MyAnimeList with fairly solid scores among the massive database of titles cataloged there.
10 Afro Samurai: Resurrection (7.34)
The Afro Samurai anime is one of the most fun to watch for a stylishly violent romp. Afro Samurai: Resurrection serves as a sequel to the TV anime miniseries, with the story picking up after the titular antihero succeeds in exacting revenge on Justice. He’s compelled to pick up his sword again after Jinno and Lady Sio attempt to revive his father Rokutaro for vengeful purposes.
Similar to anime franchises like Dragon Ball, Afro Samurai: Resurrection simply needs the plot to serve as a vehicle for the slick action, and reason to hear its English-dubbed voice cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Lucy Liu, Mark Hamill, and industry veterans like Yuri Lowenthal and Liam O’Brien.
9 Fafner: Heaven And Earth (7.38)
Though it doesn’t measure up to other mecha anime genre giants like Gundam, Gurren Lagann, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Fafner series has managed solid scores among fans on MyAnimeList. Fafner revolves around a group of children pilots tasked to fight a war against the alien Festum species.
The Heaven and Earth movie takes place after the events of the original Fafner in the Azure series with protagonist Kazuki struggling with life after the war two years ago. The humans and the Festum are then pitted against each other once again.
8 Fairy Tail: The Phoenix Priestess (7.38)
When shonen popularly had massive runs in manga and anime — for better and worse — writer Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail was one of the longest-running series. The manga ran from 2006 to 2017, with the anime adaptation running from 2009 to 2019. The Phoenix Priestess was the first anime movie that the franchise inspired, which is vaguely alluded as canon to the main story.
The story follows Natsu and co.’s quest to help the priestess Éclair uncover the mystery surrounding her mission to protect and deliver an ancient stone. The positive reception to The Phoenix Priestess as a one-off story paved the way for a sequel, titled Dragon Cry.
7 Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale (7.57)
Sword Art Online became one of the most well-known isekai anime after being adapted from Reki Kawahara’s light novel series. Given that momentum, the franchise inspired multiple movies, including Ordinal Scale. It’s an original story in the franchise and also canon to the main story, taking place after the events of Sword Art Online season 2.
The franchise revolves around the main cast taking part in virtual reality MMORPGs, with Ordinal Scale taking the characters into a new augmented reality technology that’s emerged and become popular in the mainstream, though, it of course has darker ulterior motives.
6 My Hero Academia: Two Heroes (7.59)
Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia is one of the most popular shonen anime and manga around right now. That’s in large part due to its colorful cast of characters from every corner of its world and the superhero premise. My Hero Academia: Two Heroes and the other movies in this franchise do something somewhat uncommon for blockbuster shonen series in that these are canon to the main story.
They aren’t heavily referenced in the TV anime, but Two Heroes‘ story takes place in between the Final Exams and Forest Training arcs. Deku and All-Might visit an old friend of the latter on the artificial I-Island, where they’re interrupted by attacking villains.
5 Ninja Scroll (7.60)
It’s a more niche pick today, but veteran animation studio Madhouse’s Ninja Scroll is a worthwhile movie from the early ’90s era of anime. Alongside its contemporaries of the time, it served as one of the most influential anime when it came to pushing the genre’s presence outside of Japan, namely in the mature demographics.
Ninja Scroll takes place in feudal-era Japan, focused on the ronin Kibagami Jubei as he battles a team of supernatural ninjas that are trying to overthrow the shogunate. It was also an anime-original story for theatrical release.
4 Trigun: Badlands Rumble (7.94)
Trigun is regarded by veteran anime fans as a classic, and it’s one of the various series in Hulu’s packed catalog of TV anime. Hulu also hosts the movie associated with it, Trigun: Badlands Rumble, which was released 25 years after the manga by Yasuhiro Nightow finished and 24 years after the anime show aired.
The series follows Vash the Stampede, a pacifist gunman who’s constantly having to fight off bounty hunters from killing him. Madhouse’s Badlands Rumble follows his adventures passing through a town filled with bounty hunters looking for a notorious bank robber. Trigun as a whole has been praised for its creative blend of the sci-fi genre with westerns, akin to Cowboy Bebop.
3 My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (8.02)
Unsurprisingly, given the success of the My Hero Academia TV anime and initial movie, a sequel was greenlit as Heroes Rising. Like the first movie, Heroes Rising is a canon entry in the franchise, this time taking place after the event of the Meta Liberation arc.
The plot centers around Deku and co. as they take part in a safety program on Nabu Island. Things are quiet and peaceful until a villain named Nine appears, hunting for a specific Quirk. The movie was well-received for its stunning animation, emotional payoff, and its premise. To date, Heroes Rising is the highest-rated My Hero Academia movie on MyAnimeList.
2 Dragon Ball Super: Broly (8.13)
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise is one of the most recognizable anime in the shonen genre and the medium as a whole. After Dragon Ball Z brought the franchise its first-ever canon movies in the form of Battle of Gods and Resurrection F, Super made another milestone for the franchise by officially canonizing Broly.
It doesn’t take much in the way of writing to make a Dragon Ball movie good, as the plot just needs to be serviceable and coherent enough to move Goku, Vegeta, and co. from grand-scale fight to grand-scale fight, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly does exactly that. Even better, it took a more grounded, humanizing approach to its titular character. With its likable take on Broly to the vibrant mayhem of the action, Broly is arguably the strongest Dragon Ball movie.
1 Akira (8.16)
Studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha and director Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira was one of the anime movies to make a triumphant landmark internationally. The bleak sci-fi dystopian thriller struck such a chord with the execution of its plot and themes that western audiences had to take notice, helping drive anime as a medium forward worldwide.
1988’s anime movie was an adaptation of Otomo’s manga of the same name, telling a grim story of two friends in a biker gang as one of them becomes a hostile psychic monster due to a botched military experiment. Violent and bloody action is punctuated by themes of the neglect of the youth by corrupt political and military institutions, with many agreeing that Akira is one of the greatest anime movies ever.
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