Disney+: The new kid in town.

Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall

Maybe Disney+ and anime are two things you wouldn’t see pictured together. As more people are turning more to streaming services than television, it makes sense that all of the big-name services want licenses and exclusivity for shows. Some of us may have been surprised when Netflix decided to get into the game, and now look at them. Despite the criticism they constantly receive, they are still able to put out some quality shows; Violet Evergarden, Kakegurui, Aggretsuko, and Little Witch Academia being just a few. And so it makes sense that Disney would want to get into the game too.

We can say it began when the animated Star Wars: Visions show was released, where seven anime studios put out a total of nine short films all set in the Star Wars universe. And the news that four anime shows would go to Disney+ is not new either; it came all the way back in October 2021 when they announced they would bring several new titles from the Asia-Pacific region. Official sites for Summer Time Rendering, Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall, Tatami Time Machine Blues and Twisted Wonderland also said that Disney had acquired the licenses for their shows to stream globally. So this will not be a news post; instead I want to look into why Disney would choose to go down this road. Is it because they see the likes of Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation and the like as ‘threats’, and want to show people that they can do it just as much as they can? Disney is such a massive multi-national corporation that makes billions of dollars a year. So what would getting licenses for a handful of anime shows matter? Or is this just a stepping stone for something more to come?

Oh don’t worry, I get it; this hasn’t been the best news fans have received. Not everyone wants to get a Disney+ subscription just for these shows; they have enough streaming platforms as it is. As for me, well both Summer Time Rendering and Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall were on my watch list this year; I had added them before I heard the news (even if said news came out last year…I’m slow like that). I know that Twisted Wonderland will be something far more closely linked to Disney characters given that it’s a game adaptation, and I don’t really know that much about the Tatami Galaxy story to begin with. All of them have their own niche audiences too, with Summer Time Rendering catering for a more generalized audience, and Tatami Time Machine Blues for followers who look for more cult off-beat shows.

So with all of this considered, what would Disney gain in going down the anime route, when they may know that it could all be one big PR disaster? The anime fans could hate them forever for doing this, and decide to just pirate the shows, which of course does not support the creators. But then again, pirating anime isn’t something new at all. But anime is getting more and more mainstream now; weebs can cry all they want about how giant corporations shouldn’t taint their beloved shows, but it is the truth. Sony have become the biggest player, now owning both Crunchyroll and Funimation, along with Aniplex. And Netflix threw their hat in later by getting exclusivity to shows, much to the chagrin of the fans. Disney have already shown us that they have what it takes to release a successful animated show, like Marvel’s What If…? and the already-mentioned Star Wars: Visions. Some anime fans will remain skeptical though of Disney’s motives; new things can be frustrating and scary to them. Even after several years, Netflix still get it bad for getting licenses; they really love using the term ‘Netflix jail’ a lot.

“Why didn’t my most hyped show go to the one streaming platform I’ve always gone to?”

“Anime is becoming too mainstream!!”

“How dare the blood-sucking Disney do what other massive blood-sucking corporations like Sony and Netflix do!!”

The responses I see concerning Disney’s move can just get so ridiculous sometimes.

Summer Time Rendering
Tatami Time Machine Blues

The shows they have chosen though have raised a few questions.

  • Summer Time Rendering is a manga adaptation about a young man returning home for a funeral, only to find out things aren’t all what they seem on the island. The manga was very well received by both critics and readers, and this has been a show people are looking forward to. So I do understand why some are upset that Disney quickly got exclusivity to it.
  • Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall is a reboot show and is part of the niche Black Rock Shooter franchise by the illustrator huke; the very same guy who created Kiara Takanashi. Set in an apocalyptic Earth as a result of a rogue AI, the artificial human Empress (Black Rock Shooter) is awoken from sleep to prevent the same AI from building a space elevator linking the Moon and Earth.
  • Tatami Time Machine Blues is a spin-off of The Tatami Galaxy, and is about an unnamed protagonist/college student who travels through parallel dimensions to see what life could have been like if he had joined different campus clubs. This spin-off story will focus more on him and his ‘terrible friend’ Ozu going back in time to fix their air conditioner. Why the studio, Science SARU, would accept Disney’s deal though is another question entirely.
  • Twisted Wonderland however is intrinsically linked to the Disney franchise, and so Disney+ could really be the only place it could go. A game adaptation where the main character discovers a magical training school populated with students based off of characters seen in Disney films. And once again, very little has been revealed about the plot of the show.

I don’t see any issues with Disney picking Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall as the franchise is not as well-known as others are, but do they believe that picking a hyped show like Summer Time Rendering can show people that they want to be seen as serious players? On top of that, was picking a sequel show like Tatami Time Machine Blues a good idea? Its prequel is already available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation, and so was it merely just a case of Disney beating Sony to it? This is all something people have been scratching their heads over.

Summer Time Rendering

There is one other thing to consider though, a more obvious one: Disney are the titan of all titans in the animation industry. Their animated movies and shows laid the foundation of what the company are now. It’s in their blood. And so people might well be mistaken believing that they won’t be careless when it comes to handling animated shows, since it’s been something they have done for many decades. Alongside this, Disney+ are one of Netflix’s biggest rivals now, and are not slowing down when it comes to releasing content one bit. And so turning to anime can be seen as something very beneficial to them, on a business scale. Clicks lead to subscriptions which leads to money, and anime is big business now; it isn’t really rocket science. But will the viewers take the bait? Well it might boil down to how Disney approaches these shows, and how viewers will react to their release.

It has been a norm for Netflix to release dubs of their anime shows alongside the original subs, in an attempt to cater for everyone. More recently they have experimented with episodic releases, with both Blue Period and Komi Can’t Communicate getting a two-week delay from the Japanese TV broadcast. They have since put a lot more effort into the anime sector by acquiring many more licenses, and giving some in the fan community grief when they see their most hyped shows go to ‘Netflix jail’. Well ‘Disney jail’ could be added to this now considering the backlash Netflix still get to this day. And this is where Disney could really be at a big disadvantage.

Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall
Summer Time Rendering

It takes dub groups at least 3-4 weeks (often longer) to put together a working dub. Casting, translation, new script, recording, post-production – all of it has to be done in a short amount of time. Both Summer Time Rendering and Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall begin airing on Japanese TV (and Disney+ there) in the spring season. Summer Time Rendering is set to be a 2-cour show too, meaning episodes won’t end until October. Now Disney could take a big risk to release these episodes weekly in order to please viewers, but is it really worth it when there can be much less risk to plan ahead instead? Doing this would mean we wouldn’t see these shows in English for a long time, maybe even next year. Disney have been pretty silent so far on how they are going to approach this. They are not new in releasing shows weekly of course, so they could go down either route and still see success.

But would the viewers see this same success? I mentioned ‘Netflix jail’ earlier as it’s a term fans often use when they get disappointed to hear hyped shows go to Netflix instead of the likes of Crunchyroll or Funimation. A part of this disappointment is Netflix’s own long-lasting approach to releasing anime. But as I said earlier, Disney have released animated shows on an episodic level before, so even with the dub creation hurdle, it’s still not outside the realm of possibility. Or would Disney take the risk and release these shows with subtitles only? Another massive risk that Disney would need to think long and hard about. I mean if they really want to be seen as serious players in anime streaming, then they can surely see how their rivals approach shows and emulate it for Disney+.

Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall
Tatami Time Machine Blues

Disney is the new kid in town, and I’m definitely not saying that we should give them a chance. Instead what I’m saying is that we should all learn to accept that every streaming platform has just as much a right to get into anime as the ones the fans all turn to. Yes, Disney may be the blood-sucking corporation many of us know they are, and they could make a absolute mess of this, but we won’t know until we find out, when the shows release. We haven’t even been given an overseas release date yet for them. Oh, those days when we had to wait so long to see shows released on home video. This generation of fans has gotten too used to seeing their favorite shows as soon as possible, and so what can the less experienced streaming platforms do about that? All we can do is wait and see.

Do you think I’m too much of an optimist? Am I being too soft on the newcomer? Or do you think I should be more critical of what Disney have in store, both now and in the future? Well I’ll be updating this post as new news comes, so we’ll see if the upset fans were right about Disney all along.

Summer Time Rendering, Black Rock Shooter: Dawnfall, Tatami Time Machine Blues and Twisted Wonderland are all scheduled for release on Disney+ globally. Release dates have not been announced as of time of publication.

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