Cartoon Network welcomes the Return of Anime Bloc Toonami


Ben Lerner, Staff Writer

Considering the vast accessibility of shows available for downloading or streaming on the internet, there isn’t much of a reason to watch live television. However, on May 26, after the fireworks were over, Adult Swim brought back the fan-favorite anime programming block known as Toonami. After its four year hiatus, the return of the block was widely hyped among internet fan communities, many of whom grew up with the programming and had a shared nostalgia for it.

Back in the early 2000s, kids would come home after school and turn on Cartoon Network to watch Toonami. From his CGI space cruiser Absolution, the robotic host of the block, T.O.M. (voiced by the inimitable Steve Blum), would not simply narrate the commercial breaks with an “up next, it’s Dragonball Z,” but would also review new music and video game releases, as well as provide voiceovers for promos for all the shows on the block, which were essentially well-edited music videos using clips from the shows. He brought the block together, creating a wonderful aesthetic that reeled viewers in and kept them glued to the screen. Aside from T.O.M., the programming itself really drove the block, as it fueled mainstream interest in anime classics, such as Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z, while also generating interest for lesser-known titles such as Outlaw Star, The Big O, Naruto, various Gundam series, Yu Yu Hakusho, as well as American shows such as the critically lauded Samurai Jack, Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Megas XLR. This solid afternoon programming made longtime fans out of many kids as they grew up. Unfortunately, due to administrative difficulties, interest in Toonami began to wane in the late 2000s, and, in 2008, after being pushed all the way back to Saturday nights, Toonami finally ended with a T.O.M.’s sentimental farewell.

From its grave, Toonami now rises. On April Fool’s Day this year, Adult Swim fooled its viewers by starting its broadcast with its traditional showing of the cult movie The Room before panning out to show T.O.M. aboard his ship. He proceeded to fill up the night with anime programming that hadn’t been in that timeslot for years, from Dragon Ball Z to the classic 1963 Astro Boy. Fans barraged Adult Swim with pleas to revive the block completely and show it every Saturday night. After about a week, it announced that Toonami would indeed return on May 26. Things were trickier this time around; it is more difficult to license a show for one night than for every Saturday. Thus, its lineup was reduced from eleven shows to just six. With two all-new shows, it’s much better than before. May 26 showed triple the ratings of the week before. If this viewership persists, Toonami may receive more funding to broadcast more shows.

Right now, the lineup is decent. At midnight, just as it has been for the last couple of years, Bleach comes on. Newcomers may see it the same way that the kids from the 90s saw Dragon Ball Z, but that doesn’t say much about its quality. As a ratings magnet, however, it managed to break 1,000,000 viewers in the target demographic, making it necessary to keep around until a suitable replacement can be found.

After that, the programming changes. A new show, Deadman Wonderland, is on from 12:30 to 1:00. For fans of action, this show serves it up hot and bloodied. The plot is ridiculous, with death-row inmates fighting gladiator-style extermination challenges in a decommissioned amusement park, but it’s violent, vulgar, and above all, entertaining. It’s certainly not something they’d have been able to show ten years ago at five in the afternoon.

The other new show, Casshern Sins, immediately follows. Deadman’s action drives its story, while Casshern does the inverse. Casshern is about an android who finds himself unaware of his past, finding his way in a broken-down world inhabited mostly by sentient machines. Apparently, he was responsible for a biological plague that wiped out most of the human race and, on top of that, he introduced a pathogenic corrosive agent that consumes metal, inciting the ire of the robots. The series revolves around him trying to make sense of his past and avoid being consumed by vindictive automatons. It is a solid show – a bit slow to start, but worth the watch.

After that, the schedule rounds off with Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd GIG, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Cowboy Bebop, all of which are excellent shows which you should definitely watch if you can stay up late enough. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of anime, if you’re up at 2:30 on a Saturday night with nothing else to do, turn on Adult Swim and give Cowboy Bebop a try. It’s a truly magnificent show that has withstood the test of time and is still good enough for most anyone to enjoy.

Again, the lineup is not half bad, but if you were a fan of the Toonami in its original run, you owe it to yourself, and to T.O.M., to tune in on Saturday nights for a boost of nostalgia and action. Who knows? Maybe in a couple months, if they’ve pulled in solid ratings, Adult Swim will start Bleach as early as 10:00 to make room for a whole night of new and classic programming. A boy can dream.