A while ago, I shared some thoughts about anime streaming services. Believe it or not, in 2017, I realized that streaming anime is a lot more convenient than messing with torrents. While I dabbed into streaming sometime in 2016 by subscribing to three months of Funimation Now, I never shared my experience using it. Eventually, I cancelled it. A year later, I finally subscribed to Crunchyroll after being a holdout for years. It’s mostly because I couldn’t afford a subscription since was in college at the time.
While I was going to share my experiences with Crunchyroll and my three months using Funimation Now a while back, well it didn’t quite happen. Between the period when I lost my job, focusing my time finding another job, finally getting one and moving, this idea went by the wayside.
Since then, a lot has changed in the legal anime streaming landscape. Some players such as Daisuki and a few others have gone under. Of course, there are some new players as well such as Hidive, and the revamped Funimation streaming service.
What really inspire me to finally share my thoughts is Irina sharing her thoughts on streaming platforms. While her review focuses on the state of streaming in Canada, since most of our readers are from the United States, it’s time to focus on the state of streaming here. Of course, I subscribed to all three services. With that, I will share my overall impressions on after using them for a while.
How do I watch anime?
You might wonder how do I watch anime these days? In the past, I usually watch them on my MacBook Pro connected to two monitors or a laptop screen or on an iPad Pro when I’m away from home. It’s not too surprising since not only I spend a lot of time at the computer, but also write posts there too. Also, I can use a program to automatically update my AniList, Kitsu, and MyAnimeList anime library with the latest progress. Even so, it’s easy to do the watching, content creation and screenshots in one go.
Of course, things have definitely changed now that I’m working again. Ignoring the whole pandemic, I would watch on my iPhone 11 Pro when I commute from work. Sure, watching anime on a small screen while wearing headphones is not the most pleasant experience, but it allows me to use my commute time to catch up on the latest episodes. After all, I can use my free time at home to write and publish my thoughts on what I watched.
Now that I am stuck at home, I usually a projector with a streaming device to watch anime. I use an Apple TV 4k to stream anime and AirPlay my laptop’s screen if a video won’t play properly. I also own a first generation Nvidia Shield TV in my living room. However, I don’t use this device that much since the interface is not as good as the Apple TV’s although it can do more. Nevertheless, apps for the three main anime streaming platforms are available on both Apple TV and Android TV.
Aside from that, I usually subscribe to these services through iTunes. This is because I receive 3% back on anything on iTunes and the App Store with the Apple Card. Other credit cards such as the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, which gives 6% back on streaming services despite having a $95 annual fee. I have heard the 6% cash back will work with Apple subscriptions and anything bought on the App Store. Even so, this is probably a great way to get the money back on the 6% sales tax imposed in most states on streaming services.
Reviewing the Big Three Anime Streaming Platforms
Monthly: $7.99 Yearly: $69.99
Believe it or not, Crunchyroll used to be the main go to when it comes to anime. Before 2018, a lot of the major titles were on Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll also have a large library of titles and it still does despite Funimation fiasco.
However, since 2018, it’s not necessarily the case. The huge blow to this is the Funimation and Crunchyroll partnership falling through. This is when we started to see Crunchyroll receiving fewer major titles that I’m interested in lately. To make things worse, they raised the price of their subscriptions last year from $59.99 to $69.99. Even with their partnership with Hidive, their new offerings are lacking lately. This is thanks to Funimation taking most of the big titles. This is not surprising since Sony owns both Funimation and Aniplex.
That said, while you have to use their app if you want to watch anything on your smartphone, my experiences using the app is good. I never had any problems using it while watching content on the go on my iPhone that has unlimited data. Also, their app on the Apple TV is pretty decent.
As for the desktop experience, it improved a lot since 2019. For a long time, they forced users to use the Adobe Flash player, which is a terrible experience. Not only that, Adobe Flash is complete garbage, which uses a lot of processing power and battery.
With the move to HTML5 video player, this is no longer an issue. The good thing about this new player is that you can easily turn off the subtitles and take screenshots using a screenshot program like Snagit. Also, the HTML5 player works on my iPad Pro using the Safari web browser, which reduces the need to even use the app. However, it’s broken, at least on the iPad Pro when I tried to use it recently. Regardless, while Crunchyroll’s offerings lately are lacking in my opinion, it’s still a solid choice for most anime fans.
Monthly: $4.99 Yearly: $47.99
Hidive is basically the reincarnation of the Anime Network, a dedicated VOD platform and formerly a cable network that ADV Films used to own. That is until they went bankrupt in 2009 and split into five different companies: Sentai Filmworks, AEsir Holdings, Seraphim Studios, Valkyrie Media Partners, and Section23 Films. With Anime Strike being a complete failure, Section23 Films, which owns the Anime Network spun it off into a separate company, Hidive LLC.
Hidive is basically where you can watch pretty much all the titles that Sentai Filmworks and Section23 owns the licensing rights to for streaming and physical distribution. While the catalog is not as large as Crunchyroll’s and Funimation’s, it’s still good. They have all the home releases in addition to the simulcast versions, including films available for streaming.
As for the apps, this is probably the really weak aspect of Hidive. The apps are completely unusable on my iPhone and even the Apple TV 4K. Sometimes, it won’t even load and just crashes. Even if they worked, I noted that not everything is accessible though the app. For instance, I cannot watch Hidamari Sketch using the app due to content licensing issues. The app at least on the iPhone is not necessary since you can use the website to watch anything.
On the other hand, the web video player on Hidive is decent. Unlike Funimation and Crunchyroll, there is no option to turn off subtitles if you want to take screenshots. The annoying thing is that when you pause the video, the play icon and controls appear and never disappears. I have to use a custom CSS style sheet to hide them. The funny thing is that if you use a third-party browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge on an iPad and put the video in full screen, the subtitles do not appear. I guess this is good if you use your iPad to blog as you don’t have to go through the hoops to create clean screenshots.
Lastly, the playback isn’t the best. In the past, I have some buffering issues. This is especially the case since I am using a cable internet connection. I had trouble trying to get the video to play, thus requiring me to restart my web browser or turn off my VPN. This is not a problem nowadays since I have a 1 gigabit fiber internet connection. As a result, I don’t experience any buffering issues whatsoever. Also, Airplay does not work, thus forcing me to mirror my MacBook Pro’s screen to the Apple TV so I can watch anime using my projector.
Regardless, Hidive is a solid choice, especially for all those schoolgirl slice of life shows. They just need to improve their apps and web player. Also, a dedicated queue and history page would be nice.
Monthly: $5.99 (Premium), $7.99 (Premium Plus) Yearly: $59.99 (Premium), $79.99 (Premium Plus), $ 99.99 (Premium Plus Ultra)
Lastly, we have Funimation, which is the second biggest player in the anime streaming competition behind Crunchyroll. In the past, there was no real reason to subscribe to Funimation because of the partnership with Crunchyroll.
Since that fell through and Sony ending up buying Funimation, competition has become fierce. Funimation in recent years are now taking a lion share of titles each season. It’s not too surprising since Sony owns Aniplex. As a result, when I started my new job, I subscribed to Funimation. To me, it’s a no-brainer. They have a very solid library of titles to pick from, including home releases.
As for the apps, they are decent. However, I experienced some issues trying to change the audio to Japanese for some titles in the app. This require me yet again to mirror my Macbook Pro’s screen via Airplay so the stream would play properly. For simulcasts, I usually don’t have an issue, although the watermark on the desktop web player is obnoxious, especially if you want to take a clean screenshot.
Despite that, the player receives good marks since you can turn of the subtitles. Ironically, this is not an issue on the iPad since the watermark appears outside of the video thanks to the screen’s 4:3 aspect ratio. Just like Crunchyroll, Funimation also have a dedicated page for the queue and a history of what you watched.
Amazon Prime Video: I only really used Amazon to watch Happy Sugar Life. The player is decent. Of course, since Amazon got out of the anime game thanks to Anime Strike being a complete failure, it’s not even worth a full mention nor I recommend subscribing to Amazon just for anime. It’s only really good for the two-day shipping and Amazon originals, which are usually non-anime related. But it’s worth a look for the few titles they have if you have a subscription.
Netflix: I never really watched any anime on Netflix when my parents had a subscription. I just used it to watch a few things on it. While the Silverlight player is garbage, at least the native HTML5 player is decent. But of course, my experiences with Netflix is only with the website itself. Since my parents cancelled the subscription, I don’t really use Netflix anymore. Of course, service has changed since 2016, so I can’t give my full opinion on it.
As a whole, I still think it’s worth subscribing to all three services opposed to pirating the titles or using illegal streams. If you take the pandemic situation out of the picture, convivence is one of the big motivators to go all in on streaming. If you take legality out of the picture, fansubs take time to download, especially if you are using public Wi-fi or downloading from a home sever to your smartphone. Also, you have to mess with BitTorrent and router settings to get the file to download.
With anime streaming services, all I need to do is pick a title and episode to watch. Probably the only time I need to download a raw video of an episode is to create animated GIFs. Otherwise, I can do everything using a streaming service.
- Crunchyroll: Crunchyroll still has the largest anime library (despite the Funimation fisasco), good smartphone/streaming device apps and web player. However, the number of new simulcast titles that I am interested in is decreasing recently.
- Hidive: Hidive despite being smaller have a solid anime library and decent web player but has some playback issues and no ability to turn off subtitles and player controls without a custom stylesheet. Also, the smartphone and streaming device apps are very buggy and not all titles are available compared to using the website. Also, a dedicated queue and history page is nonexistent.
- Funimation: Just like Crunchyroll, Funimation also have a large library and also have home releases as well. They also have multiple plans if you need multiple streams and offline viewing through the app. However, the Funimation watermark on the web player is annoying, but one can probably turn it off through custom stylesheets.
- Amazon: Decent player, but it’s not worth subscribing to just to see the small number of anime exclusives. It’s worth a look if you already have a Prime subscription for 1 to 2-day shipping.
- Netflix: Has some good exclusives, but they do not simulcast any titles despite doing so in Japan. It’s also more expensive compared to other anime streaming services just for a sizable selection of anime they have available outside of exclusives.
With that, what is your preferred anime streaming platform? Which ones do you actively subscribe to? Feel free to share what devices you use to watch anime in the comments.
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