Seldom is the streaming home of such a renowned franchise kept such a secret so close to the wire. Even Chainsaw Man was confirmed to be on Crunchyroll back in May and that’s premiering October 11, one day after Bleach Thousand-Year Blood War premieres on a yet-to-be-disclosed service.
Recently, GameRant reported on the announcement from Viz Media that Bleach’s highly anticipated final arc will be airing on October 10. The announcement came with the revelation that it would be four non-consecutive seasons and that there would be a simulcast, but no details were given on where.
Back in August, Twitter user Sugoi LITE reported that Bleach had been licensed for streaming by Disney+, adding to a small list of anime properties that the service has acquired. Surely Bleach is perhaps the highest profile addition to that list, and such an acquisition wasn’t necessarily received well for reasons that have been covered previously on GameRant.
To short version is that Disney+ has thus far shown very little initiative in bringing its licensed anime to any territory outside of Asia. This includes Sping’s acclaimed Summertime Render and this season’s Tatami Time Machine Blues, a highly anticipated sequel to Masaaki Yuasa’s Tatami Galaxy.
If Disney were to get their hands on the Bleach license, it would likely – and unfortunately – mean that Bleach would be stuck in “Disney Jail.” At least until such a time as when the service starts to cater to the western demand for the content.
In the interest of fairness, it should be reiterated that there has been no confirmation that Disney has acquired the rights. It’s a rumor that has been spread by accounts specializing in leaked information, but it got enough traction that many are beginning to believe it. With Disney’s limited communication regarding localizing their acquired properties, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that they have it and simply haven’t shared it.
Why Keep It A Secret?
The theory is only strengthened by the fact that no other service has laid claim to it as yet. Crunchyroll is both a streaming platform and a news site and has made no mention of an acquisition. Oddly enough, in their report on Viz Media’s reveal of the air date, they made special mention that the original series is available “in its entirety.” Perhaps such a mention was just being informative, and frankly, that’s the most that could be reasonably inferred without speculation, but one could jokingly take it for passive aggression. If there was a bidding war and Crunchyroll lost, it’s probably annoying to have the entire series and not the final part.
And then consider whether the bidding war is still going. Perhaps Disney for sure has the streaming rights in Asia, but what about in the west? It could very well still be a contested debate between services. Crunchyroll getting the entire series would guarantee one place to see all of Bleach, except for maybe the movies on Netflix. Netflix would seem a logical player in the bidding war as well, having snagged franchises like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in the past few years, much to the chagrin of some fans. And even then Disney could still take the license and hold onto it for as long as it takes for them to remember to release it in the west. But in all honesty, regardless of who gets it, this uncertainty isn’t good for anyone.
The State of Anime Streaming
With anime now a hot commodity in streaming wars, different services have taken to it in different ways with varying success based on how they go about it and what other anime they provide already. Netflix has managed to amass a sizable library of anime, provided in an impressive number of languages. Amazon has attempted the same, but rarely dubs their anime and has generally been received less favorably. Their forays into anime are the origin of the term “Amazon Jail” and similar titles for similar services that keep hold of licenses without properly marketing or supporting releases.
Then, services like Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HiDive were the only services dedicated solely to anime, with niche sites like RetroCrush getting in on the trend. Now HiDive has taken steps to make itself more appealing by removing its shared shows from Crunchyroll, and Crunchyroll merged with Funimation to become the ultimate anime streaming service, in theory at least. The market is divided between services dedicated solely to anime and broader services that want to cash in on anime without the understanding of how best to market and present their anime. Bleach fans just want to see the show they love to come to a proper ending and don’t want to wait months on end to watch it legally should Disney license it.
If the situation were simple, the rights would go to Crunchyroll and the whole series would be available from one platform. The service has already pushed to put more movies onto the platform this past month alone, so it isn’t as though the Bleach films couldn’t follow suit. Looking to the future optimistically, perhaps the popularity and hype for Bleach‘s final arc might be the moment that Disney takes the initiative to start bringing its anime offerings to the west. It’s overly optimistic, sure, but it would be a smart move, and considering the decisions of companies like Warner Bros., now is the time to look smarter in comparison.
Bleach Thousand-Year Blood War airs on October 10 and will be simulcast on a yet-to-be-announced service.