Sunday, May 27, 2012

Toonami 2012 Impressions (And How It Can Thrive)

Growing up, I spent countless hours watching the Toonami block on Cartoon Network. It was the block that introduced new action animated programming (mainly anime) to me. Without Toonami, my selection of anime would not have been nearly as diverse as it is now. The block’s host, T.O.M. the robot, helped to bring a personally to the block. It was like he was going on an adventure with you. It was a well-structured, well-presented block of programming.

Unfortunately, on September 20, 2008, Toonami held its final broadcast and ended its eleven year run. Honestly, I thought it was a bummer but I understood why they ended the block. For whatever reason, Toonami ran out of shows. At the time, the only show they had left with new episodes was Naruto, and that show was in filler territory at that point. I love Toonami, but I wouldn’t want to see it as a soulless shell of its former self.

Fast forward to April 1, 2012; Adult Swim was holding their annual April Fool’s Day prank. Instead of rerunning The Room again, Adult Swim decided to bring back Toonami for one night. Let me tell you, it was great to see T.O.M. again along with a long list of classic anime shows airing on TV once again. It was like seeing your favorite band of old reunite for one last concert. But it didn’t take long for fans to want more. Toonami fans (myself included) kindly asked Cartoon Network/Adult Swim to bring back the Toonami lineup, and it worked! Last night, Toonami made its return to TV, and it was good.

This new Toonami was good because it wasn’t trying to be exactly like the old Toonami. The shows they aired on Toonami in the past were great. But if Toonami is to thrive, it cannot become a nostalgia act.

One thing Adult Swim has been very clear about this new Toonami is that they currently don’t have a lot of financial backing behind this project right now. Currently, it shows. The animated bumpers look like HD versions of Toonami version 3, which look great. It’s also noticeable that they took a lot of shot cuts in order to allow them to do more with less. Honestly, I’m completely fine with this. For now, the Toonami bumps serve their purpose. It’s also great to hear Steve Blum reprise his role as T.O.M. Because the block is on Adult Swim now, it feels like T.O.M. was able to grow up with us without changing who he is. Overall, it really feels like they put the maximum effort they could into the bumpers given the amount of money they had available.

Of course, Toonami isn’t Toonami without the shows. Here’s what last night’s lineup looked like (Eastern Time):

12:00 AM – Bleach (new episode)
12:30 AM – Deadman Wonderland (series premiere)
1:00 AM – Casshern Sins (series premiere)
1:30 AM – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (repeat)
2:00 AM – Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (repeat)
2:30 AM – Cowboy Bebop (repeat)
3:00 AM to 6:00 AM – A repeat of the previous three hours

As a starting off point, I really like this lineup. Starting out with Bleach seems like a pretty obvious choice since it has been occupying the 12:00 AM slot on Adult Swim for years now. As far as scheduling is concerned, Bleach is like Dragon Ball Z. It’s a long running mainstream show that can serve as a solid starting point for the rest of the block. When it comes to bringing in new viewers, this is the type of show to start off with.

The three repeat shows I feel like are solid choices for the block. I honestly don’t remember a time when Toonami was 100% premier episodes, so having well established older shows is a good plan. I’ve seen people say that they should have kept Durarara! on the lineup over Bebop, but I will have to disagree. Durarara!’s ratings were only a little better than the ratings of Cowboy Bebop which I highly doubt is large enough to overcome the fact that it costs Adult Swim virtually nothing to air Bebop. In other words, higher ratings don’t always result in higher profit. Right now, Toonami needs all the money it can get and I believe at out of all the older anime Adult Swim has the rights to, these three can earn the most money. With that said, I would like to see one of these shows eventually get replaced with a brand new show by the time one of them completes their current run (In this case, Ghost in the Shell will be finishing first).

As for the two brand new shows, I like the choices they made. To me, both Deadman Wonderlan and Casshern Sins have a Toonami feel to me thus far. Both shows are varied from the rest of the lineup and contain a good amount of action to hopefully keep people’s attention. However, it was a huge shift to adjust between these shows. Deadman Wonderland was rated TV MA and Casshern Sins was rated TV PG. It caught me by surprised. I’ll get more in depth with my thoughts on these shows later this week.

Bleach and Deadman Wonderland also represent what I would eventually like to see Toonami become. At this time, neither show has the dubbed versions of their current episodes available on DVD or internet streaming. That means Toonami gets to debut the dubbed versions of these episodes before they can be seen anywhere else. In an ideal word, I would like to see Toonami become the place to see dubbed anime first.

I’ve seen people say how they want shows like Gundam Wing and Yu Yu Hakusho return on Toonami. Personally, I don’t want that to happen. Like many of those people, I too wanted to see the Toonami of old to return. To me, however, Toonami isn’t defined by what shows specifically air on the block. In my opinion, Toonami is about introducing new and interesting shows that might not have been watched otherwise. It was essentially a programming block of discovery. Most of the shows that aired on Toonami were great, but we don’t need Adult Swim wasting their money to bring them back because if we really want to watch them, we can buy them on DVD. (Casshern Sins is currently on DVD, but it’s not as big as other shows. So, I stand by my statement that it’s a good pickup). Nostalgia can only go so far. Toonami needs to evolve with the times and air new programs that aren’t available on discounted DVDs or popular streaming sites. That is how Toonami can thrive.

If you are a fan of Toonami and want to see it improve, all I ask is that you support the block by watching the programming and telling friends about it. If this current version does well, Toonami will be able to grow. Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to T.O.M. himself.

I hope Toonami succeeds and is able to evolve into its former glory. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I think it’ll thrive. For now, I can happily say “Toonami is back, bitches!"

You can watch Toonami every Saturday night staring at midnight EDT. For now, you can listen to the first song played for the new Toonami block appropriately titled “Toonami Is Back Bitches”

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