Well I caved. I gots me HiDive and now I will officially never finish all the anime I want to watch. I’m hoping this will magically teach me how to either drop anime or be a bit more selective but I’m not holding my breath on either. I just watched three random shows in a row that I picked up on a whim and I loved them all so I’m back in that dangerous, “there’s no bad anime” mindset.
And this is not even the worst type of insanity I have to deal with!
This said, when I was pondering the question, I really wanted to get some info on the user experience to see if it was worth my time and money. Thank you very much to everyone on twitter who shared your thoughts. It was very helpful. And that’s why I figured, I would also write a post about it, in case someday someone wants to know about my experience.
Here is my data. I watch anime on Crunchyroll, Netflix, Amazon Prime and now HiDive. Also, I live in Canada which matters because in some cases in has a pretty big impact on the available anime library. I can only talk from my particular experience. If I it was accessible I would get VRV as it sounds way more practical for my needs but hey, what are you gonna do.
For me there are two main features that will impact me in my choice of streaming service. First the anime library (after all that’s why I’m here) but also how easy it is to find and mark anime for viewing within that library. It’s great that you have a million titles but if I can never find what I want to watch, it’s sort of like not having any.
Second is the player and the experience of actually watching anime on an app. For the record I watch on my computer (rather on my very big TV through my computer) and take unreasonable amounts of screencaps throughout. As such, I will be going by the PC experience rather than the android, iOS or PS4 apps.
This doesn’t matter much but I do prefer subs to the point that I have very little idea of what the dub availability is on any given platform and I will be mentioning subtitles when talking about the players.
I think this gives you all you need to know about where I’m coming from. For each of these two elements, I will give you my impressions along with any specific advantage or disadvantage of the platforms if there are any.
Let’s start with the anime libraries. Here is my order of preference:
- Netflix (very close third)
In this case, I believe the order matched the available quantity but I should note that it isn’t entirely based on number of anime alone. I also went with the apps that had anime I actually wanted to watch. Amazon does have quite a few titles but at least in Canada, there really very little I want to see.
Crunchyroll remains the winner with the massive library and regular new anime every season.
- It should be noted that the two Crunchyroll original series I have watched lately (Dr. Stone and Tower of God) were both very much to my liking and I am happy to encourage them if they keep investing in such great shows.
- Crunchy roll has a page dedicated to showing every episode or show that is added in real time making it very easy to see if there is a new series you want to add to your playlist.
- The service groups all the of the instances of a title together. Meaning that if you find a series you like and add it to your list, it will add all the seasons and ovas or movies available.
- Crunchy has by far the biggest and most varied library, and when looking through it you can filter alphabetically, by genre or by season!
- It provides you with a users who watched this series also liked feature on shows and it’s the only place where it’s useful. Amazon and Netflix do the same but I find that for anime, they just suggest all the anime they have every time…
- I am still very bummed that I can no longer move titles around in my queue to organize them as I want and I really hope they bring the feature back.
- I find that the search feature can be temperamental making it difficult to find a specific title. You often have to be very precise and make sure you are adopting whatever spelling and punctuation that Crunchyroll happens to be using and I have often had to go through google to find something on crunchyroll rather than use their own search engine.
HiDive is still new for me so maybe I’m just excited about it.
- Although not as impressive as the big guys, there seem to be a lot of older shows that are now HiDive exclusives and I was able to add a whole bunch of series I’ve been wanting to watch for a really long time and couldn’t find anywhere. The interface is pretty.
- The search engine is good as long as you know at least one word of the title.
- You can sort the library by genre, type and language.
- You can sort your queue in the same way you sort your library! Awesome.
- When you click on a title in the library it will open an extra information space (similar to Netflix) with more information about the show and include the MAL rating of the series which I really found useful when going through series I had never heard of. I would love to see a similar.
- It doesn’t have many simulcasts and the library seems to be growing more slowly than other services.
- It doesn’t group anything together, not even season. So if one season of a show has a different title (starts we Re: for instance) it will be in a completely different place and you may not realize it….
Netflix Canada does have a decent if not terribly impressive library and I’m happy to see they are actively working on expanding it.
- Like for Crunchyroll, the Netflix original series I have seen (Beastars, Saiki s3, Devilman…) were all fantastic. Good job there!
- Netflix does group seasons together.
- It has a colossal library of non anime shows if you get tired of animation.
- It’s probably the easiest library to navigate with a good intuitive search engine and a visually easy search GUI.
- Although Netflix groups seasons together, it doesn’t always add movies or ovas.
- You cannot rearrange or filter your playlists without taking and adding shows back in. But it is pretty.
Amazon ha the least interesting anime library to me but I do find that they often have shows not available elsewhere. There’s not much to add. You can filter your playlist alphabetically but that’s it and the search engine is ok but not as good as Netflix.
The players are going to be a little different. I don’t actually have much complaints about any of them. Crunchyroll use to freeze up on me when I was watching through my Playstation or drop in quality but I haven’t had any of those issues in years really. So instead, I’m going to focus on the features I like. Only pluses here! No wait – I do have a sort of complaint about the Amazon player, well get to it.
This is my favourites order for players:
- Amazon Prime
- Crunchyroll and HiDive
Netflix really has all I want. It has a feature that allows you to skip intros with a click and EDs, even autoskipping them when you are bingeing. Amazon only allows you to skip intros. When you move around on the progress bar it shows a little preview of the image at the given time allowing you to easily find a specific spot in an episode. This can be very useful for people who want to take specific screencaps or make gifs! It’s also the only player that goes from one episode to the next without dropping out of full screen or requiring that you press anything. The quality is always good and I’ve never had any slow down or performance issues.
Basically, the Netflix player is designed for the smoothest bingeing experience which is their business model. And that suits me just fine.
Amazon does have a few great features. You can skip intros and you can go to the next episode while staying in full screen but you have to actively press next or else it drops you back into the smaller player. One of the most striking features of the Amazon player is the subtitles. They are large white and come in a light grey slightly see-through box. On the one hand it makes the subtitles very easy to read which is great. But it’s a bit more obstructive and I find that it makes the viewing experience a little less visually appealing. Not much mind you. I just prefer the classic subtitles used by the other players. It does also offer an image preview on the progress bar.
HiDive and Crunchyroll are both good reliable players without any of the frills above. Although HiDive does give you the option to set subtitles to either white or yellow which is nice and gives you the option to always default to subs even when dubs are available (and vice versa), it’s also not super easy to just skip to the next episode so it sort of ends up on the same level as Crunchy for me.
So in the end this post was not very practical. I really like elements out of all of them and there isn’t one would drop. I guess Amazon would be the least interesting one and I may have dropped it if I was only using it for anime. The library has many very interesting non anime shows and exclusives and it’s great to have access to prime shipping, especially nowadays. If I could only have one, I guess I would still stick to Crunchy for the volume of anime if nothing else. I do wish they would work on their search engine and bring a few extra features to the player and playlist.
Do you have a favourite platform? Which one is it. And why?