Is Disney+ Already Fumbling its Licensed Anime?

Back in October 2021, Disney announced a slew of new APAC (Asia Pacific) content, and anime fans of the world were intrigued to find that Disney was breaking into the anime licensing scene. It didn’t come as much of a shock, as the month prior, Disney+ debuted Star Wars: Visionsan anime anthology series from seven of Japan’s biggest studios.

Over the last decade, every major platform has taken a crack at the medium of anime, to varying success, so It was only a matter of time before Disney threw their hat into the ring. But as the months passed and the news slipped from people’s minds, it was a surprise when some anime Disney mentioned in this press release had already been coming out. This spring anime season, Summertime Render and Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall, both aired on Disney+… in Japan… and nowhere else. To those unfamiliar with the woes of anime on big streaming services, there’s such a thing as “Netflix Jail” – or somehow worse – “Amazon Jail.” This refers to licensed anime that are unavailable for long periods of time or barred from receiving home video releases or dubs in a timely fashion because of the licensor.


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A Familiar Sting

For instance, Netflix may license a TV anime releasing in the winter, but they won’t air it until it’s finished, and then wait another month before releasing it. And if the show is 24 episodes, it’ll be chopped into two “seasons,” and released separately. It’s a process that everyone loves (sarcasm).

The reason that people may be peeved about this is that it’s been complained about for a long time. Netflix only recently rectified this by releasing weekly episodes as they air, though only for a few shows like Komi Can’t Communicate. And Disney already appeared to be following in this trend when new Marvel and Star Wars shows were getting weekly releases too.

To see a fairly well-received anime like Summertime Render be trapped in what will undoubtedly be labeled “Disney Jail” won’t sit well with everyone. The only reprieve is the potential enjoyment of coming up with more clever names (maybe “Mickey’s Jail” or “Anime Jail+”). As of the time of writing, there’s no official announcement of an international release.

Why Would They Do This?

Why has Disney + not released it internationally yet? Perhaps they want to release the whole show at once, but both Summertime Render and Black Rock Shooter are done, and there’s still no announcement. maybe after Star Wars Visions was released with an English Dub, these other anime might not come out until they can accommodate multiple languages. In that case, dubbing might be occurring even at this moment.

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Regardless of the answer, the circumstances themselves beg many questions about how Disney will approach anime. In all likelihood, Disney+ will use this slate of anime to gauge the interest in the medium on their platform. At the time of writing, Summertime Render has an 8.00 on MyAnimeList, while Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall has fared less favorably at a 5.85.

If anime in Disney+ will live or die based on the performance of such a bizarre assortment of offerings, then that’s incredibly unfortunate given the promise of some of them. Still left to be released are Twisted Wonderlandan adaptation of a popular mobile game, and Yojohan Time Machine Bluesa sequel to The Tatami Galaxy.

Promising Things On The Way

The Tatami Galaxy is one of the most renowned anime out there and one of Masaaki Yuasa’s best works. It’s a big get for Disney to host the sequel perhaps even put the original on their platform, but that will mean nothing if the poor reception to Black Rock Shooter sours the prospect of capitalizing on anime

Such a fate would have no bearing on the quality of the art, but it would mean no more endeavors would be taken to expand on Disney’s anime catalog. Yojohan would just be another author work trapped behind a Disney, the vestige of a failed business experiment.

Perhaps the “doom and gloom” is a bit of an overreaction, however. After all, so long as these shows get international releases so that people can watch them legally, that’s what matters most. In the long run, though, the lessons learned from Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Max will determine if anime on Disney+ is a win or lose.

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