|*guitar strums* Baum-baum-baum!|
So, last April 1st, it was Adult Swim's annual April Fools Day Stunt and this year, for the first time in a long while, they did something that really grabbed people's attention: They showed Toonami. For those that remember, Toonami was the programing slot that aired such classic action cartoons like Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, Justice League and Teen Titans. After airing that, where they showed episodes of DBZ, Blue Sub 6, Outlaw Star and so on. Now this was the first time in a long ass time I ever seen Adult Swim fans, much less anime fans, collectively freakout in a good way. A day later, Adult Swim put out the question if people would be interested in a return of Toonami and it was overwhelmingly in the positive, with them replying “Stay tuned” meaning, it might well happen. Now a lot of people are excited about this, and I will admit, I am too. I have a lot of happy memories tied around Toonami and their lineup. But before we get too excited, we all need to understand that this is not going to the same.
|Hardcore man. Frickin' hardcore.|
Being a fan of Toonami back then, was personal. While I was older than the age demographic, I think by now, you've all realized I'm an overgrown man-child who watches cartoons far more regularly than live-action shows. For a lot of kids coming home from school, Toonami was there to give you a daily dose of action and adventure, which at that time on television, was something that was lacking. (Fox Kids and Kids WB was well imbedded in the Pokemon/Digimon struggles, and Nickelodeon was, uh... Not good.) One of the things that made Toonami so cool back in the day was the feeling you were watching something special, something cultural. Honestly, admit it. How many of you reading this was exposed to anime through Toonami? Quite a few of you, I'm sure. To many, it was their first exposure to the Gundam and Dragonball franchises, and to you Transformers fans, every single one of the Unicron Trilogy shows debuted on Toonami, before being placed in the dreaded 6AM timeslot. Toonami made even shows like Hamtaro feel cool.
|Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz sucked, but we still|
watched the hell out of it.
But you got to understand, the people behind Toonami from back then are NOT the same people who would be behind it today. For those that don't know, Toonami and Adult Swim were run by the same people. Adult Swim isn't even the same. Back in the day, it felt edgy. (Even though I find the word edgy to be a catch term that idiots use to sound rebellious.) Adult Swim was the block of shows where you could watch the anime that was too mature audiences for Toonami's audiences. Adult Swim was the first time networks actually acknowledge that adults watch cartoons as well. Of course the problem is that for every really neat, awesomely animated action cartoon they had, they countered it with a cheap-ass production like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or Sealab 2021. Eventually Adult Swim became that network where canceled prime time Fox cartoons went to hopefully be renewed, and in time, the action cartoons became less and less prominent, and Adult Swim became the Seth MacFarlane block. (Seriously, I REALLY hate Family Guy, yet somehow I've managed to see a vast majority of the episodes.) Basically, Adult Swim went from being that cool older brother to being that jackass in the back of the class who thinks he's charming and funny, but isn't. And as Adult Swim morphed into whatever the hell it is today, Toonami went through it's shares of messes as well. Gone were the 'Total immersion events', and the visuals of the show became less slick and stylish, and more bright and colorful. Our host T.O.M. Went from this...
The Toonami lineup changed drastically too. Where during the highlights of Toonami's days, we had Gundam Wing, Justice League Unlimited, IGPX, and DBZ... During it's waning days, we had a non-stop plethora of live action movies, and endless airings Naruto and Ben 10. There was a real reason Toonami went away...
It stopped being good.
It went away, and even though it was a mere shadow of it's former self, we felt sad for it's loss. We had a lot of happy memories tied to that programming block, and we always sat there hoping it would turn around and things would pick up for it. But it never did.
Now, CN and Adult Swim is talking about resurrecting it, and while it's exciting, there's a problem here similar to Disney's recent 2D re-ventures. You see, after Tarzan, the majority of Disney's 2-D cartoons (and quite a few of the 3D ones too) just honestly, sucked. I mean, for every Lilo and Stitches, and Emperor's New Grooves, you had a far more Home on the Ranges, Atlantis: The Lost Empires, and frickin' Brother Bears. (I know there's a few people who like to praise Atlantis, and I was one of them... But really, it's not a good movie.) These movies just didn't have the quality or charm that the earlier movies in the Disney Renaissance had, and topped them all off with the direct to video cheapquels that permeated the Disney Animated lineup for the majority of the 2000s... It was no surprise that eventually Disney said no more 2-D movies and they concentrated on 3D films, giving us greeeeaaaaat theatrical ventures like Chicken Little and Bolt. (That's sarcasm, by the way.) Then one day, they announced that they're going to go forth with a new 2D film, the 'Princess and the Frog'. And we all got excited! Yay, new Disney cartoon! And then it came out, and we're like “oh.” Yeah, it was better, but it wasn't that good of a Disney movie. We forgot the problems that existed before with those later 2D cartoons were STILL present. (Though I did address my feelings on that movie as well as my love for the following movie, Tangled, earlier.)
|Notice how nothing in this|
picture looks exciting?
Yeeeeeah, that's a hint.
Toonami runs the risk of the same problem. It's not like it's a completely different set of creators behind the programming block. It's the same ones (or close to it) that was running the show back in Toonami's end. Just because they're thinking of bringing it back, doesn't mean the same problems won't be there. The first thing we need to remember is that if anything, we're looking at a repackaging of the Saturday Night Anime block with Toonami's name on it. (Which from what I understand, is essentially the “Bleach-Block”.) And that's really not a bad thing, to be honest. Most of the audiences that grew up with Toonami are now adults anyway, and can handle cartoons with a little more maturity to them. But it's still an action cartoon block, and well... There is a severe lack of action cartoons to show. Oh sure, we got a few on now, but we already know Thundercats is sadly not long for this world, and the DC Nation seem quite content on Saturday mornings. (And really, the whole reason the DC nation block exists is for promoting DC cartoons. It makes no sense to put the DC block, in the Toonami block. It's already it's own block.) And if there's anything Star Wars: The Clone Wars has shown us, it's anything BUT an action show. (More like a video sedative.) Not to mention, if it's the AS Saturday night block, we can pretty much count out most, if not all the other currently running CN shows, as it'll probably focus more on mature action anime. But then that brings us to another bigger issue, that may well be outside of CN's influence... What the hell do you show?
|Still probably more action going on|
than in Clone Wars.
You can only go so far showing reruns of Gundam and Outlaw Star, until the nostalgia runs out. Then you got to show new stuff, but there's a serious problem here. Bandai is no longer importing anime anymore to North America, so stuff like the Gundam franchises is out the door. (And I still wanted to have my English dubs of Turn A.) Older shows that never aired on Toonami like Escaflowne might work, but for how long, until that fore mentioned nostalgia runs it's course? (Not to mention, it might be too dated. Historically, older shows never had much of an audience on Toonami or AS, no matter how good they were.) Geneon, Aniplex, ADV are all gone. All that's left is Funimation... And a lot of those cartoons aren't exactly action cartoons either, or cartoons meant for broadcasting here in the States. Sure you could probably show Witchblade or Genesis of Aquarion, but you really can't show stuff like Dance with the Vampire Bund or Strike Witches. (You think people are uptight now? Imagine how they'll react to a show about a bunch of upskirt shots of fanservicing preteens in their underwear flying around.)
Nickelodeon has Dragonball, Disney has all the Marvel properties (Except for the Marvel anime, and that's changing soon I hear) and The Hub has all of the Hasbro properties... So what the hell can you show on the new Toonami? Old reruns of Hanna-Barbara action cartoons? While I know I would love a nightly line up consisting of Jonny Quest, Thundaar, and Space Ghost... But I'm old, and I know most people won't give a crap.
So as much as I would love a return of Toonami, there's some issues that need to be ironed out, and I'm hoping they realize them, before it happens, if it does.