Hidive

Anime isn’t a monolith. There are numerous ways for an anime video streaming service to distinguish itself from another. It could, for example, provide a vast amount of subtitled shows, a smaller library of dubbed shows, or a classic collection previously lost to time. Hidive’s modest catalog contains uncut shows you’ve probably never seen before. However, Hidive’s relatively obscure content and app limitations mean that there are better ways to begin your journey into anime streaming. For example, VRV, our Editors’ Choice pick, includes Hidive along with other popular animation channels to deliver a more well-rounded package.

What Can You Watch?

I’m not an anime superfan, but when I browse anime streaming services, such as Crunchyroll and Funimation, I at least have some familiarity with Attack on Titan, Death Note, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. Hidive’s catalog is more niche; I saw far fewer immediately recognizable titles.

Hidive catalogFunimation’s smaller library than Crunchyroll’s massive collection. Like Funimation, Hidive features many high-quality, dubbed shows alongside subbed, simulcast versions broadcast straight from Japan.

Random shows I watched on Hidive include Domestic Girlfriend, Food Wars, Run With the Wind, and Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon. There are many mature, uncensored shows about different kinds of romantic relationships compared to what you’ll see on other services. You’ll also find the occasional live-action drama or Godzilla movie.

Hidive highlights its exclusive shows drawn from parent company Sentai Filmworks, including shows I had heard of like Gatchaman and The Big O. Still, not all Sentai Filmworks projects are exclusive to Hidive. The acclaimed Parasyte adaptation is also on Hulu and Netflix, video streaming services that appeal to broader tastes. VRV has a variety of channels for animation enthusiasts. DC Universe’s original shows are now just one part of HBO Max

Price and Platforms

Hidive costs $4.99 per month after the 30-day free trial. It doesn’t have a free, ad-supported tier like Crunchyroll and Funimation. Retrocrush’s vintage library is completely free. On the upside, Hidive’s single subscription tier unlocks the entire 1080p library and all its perks, including support for two simultaneous streams. 

For comparison, Crunchyroll’s cheapest tier costs $7.99 per month. Funimation starts at $5.99 per month, but you can upgrade to its $7.99-per-month premium tier to get additional features. VRV costs $9.99 per month, but that price includes access to Crunchyroll, Hidive, and several other channels (possibly including Funimation at some point after its parent company, Sony, recently purchased Crunchyroll and VRV). VRV is arguably still the best value, since it’s still cheaper than HBO Max ($14.99 per month) and our recommended plans for Hulu ($11.99 per month) and Netflix ($13.99 per month).

Hidive supports mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and newer Roku devices), game consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One/S/X, no word yet on PS5), and web browsers. Funimation and Hulu are the only anime streaming services on Nintendo Switch.  

Hidive chatschedule. There’s no manga reader or community forums, but you can buy merchandise through the Sentai Filmworks store and read news stories about Hidive releases on the Hidive blog. Unlike Crunchyroll and Funimation, Hidive doesn’t offer store discounts for subscribers. 

The main page organizes shows you’re currently watching along with your favorites and anything else in your queue. In addition, you can browse categories with charming names, such as Aesthetically Pleasing Anime, Romance is in the Air, or Watch After Dark. You can also search through more traditional genres, such as action and comedy, or see what’s most popular and what’s exclusive to Hidive.

I experienced no issues with the web player when I watched shows over my home Wi-Fi network (60Mbps download). You can rate whatever show you’re watching thanks to an integration with the anime database, MyAnimeList. You can also create a private chat room and send the link to friends so that you can all watch and talk about the same show together. This is perhaps Hidive’s coolest and most unexpected feature, similar to Netflix Party for virtual movie nights. Playback stays synced among viewers, and whoever creates the room can pause, rewind, or fast-forward for everyone.

Overall, the app is serviceable, but I was surprised to see so many missing playback features. On the web, you can skip forward and backward 10 seconds, adjust video quality, change playback speed, and share what you’re watching. You can’t do any of that on mobile, nor can you chat. Even the aesthetic is downgraded, with plain boxes and fonts. Hidive on its own doesn’t support mobile downloads for offline viewing, but VRV includes that functionality for all of its channels, including Hidive.

Hidive mobileaudio descriptions as an accessibility option. 

Hidive and VPN

Nothing keeps your information safe and secure online quite like a VPN. However, because they spoof your real geographic location, many video streaming services block them as different regions have their own licensing deals. 

I tried to stream Hidive content after connecting my Windows desktop to ProtonVPN servers based in Denmark, Japan, and the US. Over the Denmark- and US-based connections, Hidive worked fine. After I switched to the server in Japan, however, the site said it wasn’t available in my region. So, presumably, Hidive plays nice with a VPN as long as you keep your location in a supported region. Still, that may change, since video streaming companies continue to get better at detecting and blocking VPN traffic.

Think Before Diving In

It feels wrong to criticize an anime streaming service for being too niche. After all, that’s part of the appeal. People who view as much anime as possible will enjoy watching and chatting about uncensored anime with friends on Hidive. But whereas Crunchyroll, Funimation, and RetroCrush all have libraries with unique selling points, Hidive struggles to stand out from the animated pack. As a result, VRV remains our Editors’ Choice pick for anime streaming services, since it bundles Hidive with Crunchyroll and other familiar animation channels into a more substantial service for more viewers.

January 20, 2021
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