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5 great anime you can watch for free on Funimation

Oldies but goldies

Makoto “Smile” Tsukimoto and his coach Jō “Butterfly” Koizumi preparing for a table tennis match in Ping Pong. Image: Science Saru/Funimation

Funimation sent shock waves across the anime world when news broke that the company had acquired Crunchyroll in late 2021. Since then, a lot has changed — the two companies have been unified as Crunchyroll, LLC, and the landscape of anime streaming has altered dramatically.

There’s no reason to pay for a Funimation subscription anymore, what with the service discontinuing simulcast anime premieres (which will debut on Crunchyroll from now on), while the back catalog of older Funimation-licensed anime has slowly but surely begun to trickle over to Crunchyroll’s library. Emphasis on “slowly.”

While a majority of the service’s popular titles, such as Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Trigun have made their way over to Crunchyroll since the merger was announced in March, not to mention English dubs of anime including Dr. Stone, Hunter x Hunter, and Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, there’s still a handful of gems in the Funimation library that haven’t yet made the jump. Several of these anime can even be streamed for free with ads on the Funimation site, which means you can still enjoy them even if you don’t have a subscription.

If you’re looking for some older, excellent anime to watch, from The Vision of Escaflowne to Ping Pong the Animation, these are just a few of the best anime you can stream for free on Funimation right now.

The Vision of Escaflowne

Van Fanel stands in front of a giant white mech with a red cape in Visions of Escaflowne. Image: Sunrise/Funimation

The brainchild of Macross co-creator Shōji Kawamori, The Vision of Escaflowne is a fantasy romance isekai set in an alternate dimension where feudal kingdoms pilot gigantic mechanized suits of armor and the power of love can alter the shape of destiny itself. The series follow Hitomi, a Japanese high school student who is transported to the magical world of Gaea after being saved from a dragon by Van Fanel, the heir apparent to the Kingdom of Fanelia and pilot of the white dragon Guymelef (see: mecha) known as Escaflowne.

Don’t be deceived by the series’ emphasis on action in the first couple episodes; Escaflowne gradually morphs into an intensely involved romantic drama involving a love pentagon between Hitomi, Van, the gallant knight Allen Schezar, a headstrong princess, and Van’s childhood catgirl companion. Also, the main antagonist of the series is heavily implied to be an immortal Isaac Newton who uses something called the “Fate Alteration Machine” in order to meddle in Hitomi’s love life. If you like big mechs, intense battles, and Big Emotions, The Vision of Escaflowne is a must-watch.

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Stills of Fujiko posing in black and white and in silhouette from the opening of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine Image: TMS/Po10tial/Funimation

Produced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Lupin the Third anime (and the manga’s 45th), Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a sultry and scintillating origin story for the iconic femme fatale of the franchise. Directed by Sayo Yamamoto (Michiko & Hatchin, Yuri on Ice), the series follows Fujiko’s career as a seductress and thief as she encounters the likes of Lupin III, Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa, and Inspector Zenigata for the first time, all while drawn into a sinister conspiracy orchestrated by an owl-obsessed mad scientist with supposed ties to her past.

With character designs by Takeshi Koike (Redline) and a fantastic jazzy score overseen by Cowboy Bebop director Shinichirō Watanabe, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a dazzling, cerebral, and gorgeously animated crime drama with more than enough twists and turns to satisfy the most devout of Lupin fans and newcomers alike.

Record of Lodoss War

The warrior Parn alongside his party of companions in Record of Lodoss War. Image: Madhouse/Funimation

Before The Legend of Vox Machina, there was Record of Lodoss War. Based on a series of light novels by author and game designer Ryo Mizuno, which themselves are based off of transcripts of a series of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns he took part in, both the 13-episode 1990 OVA (original video animation) and the 27-episode 1998 anime Chronicle of the Heroic Knight are highly regarded not only for their role as seminal touchstones in the genre of fantasy RPG anime, but significant breakthrough titles in the early popularity of anime in the West.

The series follows a young warrior named Parn, along with his party of companions (a sorcerer, a thief, an elf, and a dwarf), as they traverse the accursed isle of Lodoss, roaming from one battle to another as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. While several fantasy anime since have gone on to iterate and improve on the foundation laid by the series, both the Record of Lodoss War OVA and anime series are thoroughly entertaining and certain to delight any eager fantasy fan.

Serial Experiments Lain

Lain from Serial Experiments Lain. Image: Triangle Staff/Funimation

Ryūtarō Nakamura and Chiaki J. Konaka’s 1998 Serial Experiments Lain is a cult masterpiece, a psychological drama following a strange young girl coming of age at the turn of the information age. Following the death of one of her classmates, Lain finds herself caught up in a cryptic conspiracy as she delves deeper into the world of online hacking and computers in search of answers not only to her classmate’s suicide, but to her own mysterious nature. Known for its avant-garde animation and themes of consciousness, perception, identity, and reality, Serial Experiments Lain is the closest anime equivalent to a Kiyoshi Kurosawa horror film: cerebral, chilling, and devastating in its prescience.

Ping Pong the Animation

Makoto “Smile” Tsukimoto preparing to volley a ball in table tennis in Ping Pong. Image: Science Saru/Funimation

Based on Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga of the same name, Masaaki Yuasa’s 2014 anime Ping Pong is a riveting sports drama powered by interesting protagonists, an emotionally charged story of personal growth in defiance of failure, and a beautiful expressionist art style that feels singular and timeless in its appeal. The story follows two childhood friends and table tennis prodigies who are pushed beyond their respective limits as they mature not only into formidable players, but into emotionally mature young men. If you’re a fan of sports anime à la Haikyuu!! and are looking for something more stylistically eccentric and psychologically driven, you can’t go wrong with Ping Pong.

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