Crunchyroll to Simulcast Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL in Spring 2011 Lineup

March 29, 2011 at 3:30 am | Posted in Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 6 Comments

Screenshot of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal trailer playing on Crunchyroll

Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the upcoming new Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series, is coming to Crunchyroll! (Note: Nope, it doesn’t look like it. See the updates below.) A trailer for the fourth Yu-Gi-Oh! series (currently titled “Zearu” rather than “Zexal”) is available for viewing on the popular anime simulcast and streaming website. The show has yet to be officially announced on Crunchyroll’s spring lineup.

Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL premieres at 7:30 pm (JST) on Monday, April 11 in Japan. There’s currently no word when the series will make its debut on Crunchyroll. Other CR simulcasts are made available to their Premium Anime Membership users an hour after the show ends in Japan. General access to the episodes are then granted one week later. There is also no word whether the show will be added to Toonzaki.

Great news for Yu-Gi-Oh! fans? Definitely! But for Crunchyroll? Maybe not so much. Early last week, a whole slew of titles from their upcoming spring lineup was already leaked on their iOS app. Be careful, Crunchyroll. Don’t get into trouble with the licensors!

Update: After talking to some kind folks much more knowledgeable about anime and Crunchyroll than I am, I’m thinking that I should not have written so decisively about this announcement. Crunchyroll may or may not be carrying Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL this spring. The only way to really know is to wait for their announcements! Oh, Crunchyroll. You and your “leaks” and red-herrings! Honest mistakes, or marketing savvy? I wasn’t even paying that much attention to their announcements, but now I feel like I’ve been coaxed into following their growing vortex of anime releases, just to see if Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL makes it. Well played, CR!

Update #2 (March 31): There’s just one slot left in their spring lineup (unless Crunchyroll pulls a fast one and adds more). C’mon, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, get on there! These are uncertain times! Give fans some reassurance that the franchise will be okay!

Update #3 (April 1): Unfortunately, it looks like Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL won’t be making it onto Crunchyroll’s lineup. Early yesterday evening, the trailer for the new series, along with those of several other shows that were not picked up by CR, was removed from the website. Although there has been delay in announcing their final spring title, it does not appear that the fourth Yu-Gi-Oh! series will be selected.

While this news is disappointing in and of itself, the haplessness of this situation has been further heightened by the revelation that the Japanese producers of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime have terminated their licensing agreements with 4Kids and are suing the American company. Before news of this lawsuit came to light, the absence of a Yu-Gi-Oh! simulcast on CR would have been disheartening, but ultimately not that big of a deal. Now, all things considered, the entire future of the global Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise could be in peril. For fans who only wanted a little reassurance that control of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime is in stable hands, CR has sadly not been able to deliver any comfort. It thus remains unclear what sort of presence Yu-Gi-Oh! will have outside of Japan in the immediate future.

With regard to Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL’s future, there are now two basic scenarios that are possible. The first, and likely the most ideal, is that 4Kids Entertainment already secured the rights to the show before this entire lawsuit debacle ensued. Because 4Kids fully disputes the claims made by the Japanese licensors, 4Kids has no reason to alter its management of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property; everything is still business as usual. If this is the case, the new series would still be produced and broadcast following whatever plans 4Kids already has or will develop. Nothing would change unless the court intervenes.

While there have been a few clues that this first scenario is perhaps already in place (I’ll discuss this further in a later post), the obvious snag is that 4Kids itself has not announced or even alluded to their ownership of that show’s rights. Without hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth, fans have essentially nothing concrete to reassure them that Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL will have a presence outside of Japan.

The second scenario is that 4Kids was unable to secure the rights to the new series. If true, this, put simply, could be disastrous. The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise must have a television presence to thrive. It needs someone to market the show to reach the eyes and ears of as many fans, new and old, as possible across the globe. Without this, the franchise is all but done for.

Of course, if this second scenario is true, the Japanese licensors won’t just let the property die. They will find someone else to take the reins and grow the franchise. Regardless of who that might be, ironing out a new deal will eat up valuable time and resources on all sides. This could not come at a worse time. The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is at such a crucial turning point in its history. A new television series is about to start up and there are products tied in with the series that are soon to be released. Any delay at all in transitioning the property to a new licensee will damage the health of the franchise. Most notably, a lack of a presence in the public eye will decrease its value. And again, the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise needs this presence. Unfortunately, there already is a delay: the lawsuit is eating up resources that could be otherwise be pumped back into the franchise.

These are uncertain times for Yu-Gi-Oh! fans. Crunchyroll wasn’t able to ease our anxieties. And sadly, because of how slowly big business and the legal system move, we may not receive any definite answers to our growing questions for quite a while. Ultimately, we can only wait and hope that all the parties make the best decisions possible for the longevity Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.


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  1. Hope they get it man!!

  2. Me too, now more than ever…

  3. you know, I wish Crunchy would get ALL of the ygo series’
    4kids really alienated the majority of the earth when they choose to use Hulu

  4. The platform isn’t the issue. It is the terms of the licensing contract that place restrictions on where a show can be streamed. If a Japanese licensor says to an American company, “We’re only giving you the rights to stream this show in the U.S. and Canada,” for example, then that’s how it’s going to be. The streams could be hosted on Crunchyroll, on Hulu, on YouTube, or any other platform out there. But ultimately, in this example, the streams would need to be restricted to U.S. and Canadian audiences. Sucks, huh?

  5. But I’m in Canada, and I was able to watch all of what 4Kids posted of Yugioh on their Youtube account (unlike some other anime censors, who restrict YT anime in Canada). But then they just decided to use Hulu which is US only, no matter if the anime is licensed in Canada. So I just find using Hulu odd, since people complain about the ads and only 1 country can watch it.
    But I guess people not in NA have it the worst for this kind of thing

  6. It’s actually a common misconception that Hulu doesn’t allow people outside the U.S. to stream videos. When Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was on Hulu, for example, it was available internationally for a short period of time. The vast majority of the shows on Hulu are only available in the U.S. though, since Hulu is managed by (and is paid for by) American companies.
    When 4Kids first began uploading Yu-Gi-Oh! to YouTube, it was also only available to U.S. audiences. A short time later, it was opened up to everyone outside of Asia. After Yu-Gi-Oh! left YouTube, it was restricted to only the U.S. again. Perhaps 4Kids’ agreements with the licensors changed during these periods. Who knows. (As a side note, on 4Kids.TV and, Yu-Gi-Oh! has always been restricted to U.S. audiences only.)

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