[Featurama] How Toonami Changed How We Watch Anime

With Toonami coming back online tonight, I thought we here at Twinfinite would reminisce about what this little programming block actually did.  Without Toonami, Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon would never have achieved mainstream appeal. Without Toonami, Adult Swim licensing titles like Full Metal Alchemist, Inuyasha and Neon Genesis Evangelion would most likely never have happened.

Anime in America changed with this Cartoon Tsunami and it’s time to welcome them back with open arms.

For those not old enough to remember, Toonami originally started off as  a programming blocks that highlighted some older properties like Space Ghost, Thundercats and Voltron.  It was a great place to enjoy some of the older cartoons after school.

Then in 1998, the company showcased their licenses to Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Robotech to smashing success.  At the time, this block on Toonami was one of the only consistent sources of anime in the country.  Japanese entertainment was starting to become interesting to kids with Pokemon, Final Fantasy VII and some manga like Ghost in the Shell becoming successful in these other markets.  With Goku paving the way, Cartoon Network would begin actively looking for more shows.

From this point on, Cartoon Network would be the premiere place to watch the biggest anime as they began debuting titles like Outlaw Star, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tenchi and many many more.  The success of Toonami could be felt when Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim moved away from its shows like Cartoon Planet and licensed Cowboy Bebop opening the way to anime hitting the mainstream.

Toonami changed anime in America and I’ve gotten together with some of my associates here to explain the effect Toonami had on each of us.

Oh man, Toonami. I remember that whole storyline where Tom was gonna be killed/saved based on fan reactions. I was completely devistated when he got killed. I don’t even know why I connected with a cartoon robot like I did, but whatever.

Regardless, Toonami introduced me to Dragon Ball Z. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a huge DBZ nerd in grade school. I actually met my best friend through a common love of DBZ. I never would have known about that anime if it weren’t for Toonami so… I guess I owe Toonami quite a lot. Even if they did remove the blood, nudity and gore from it, DBZ was still a rad cartoon and a defining part of my childhood.

I’ve never been an “anime guy.” It just isn’t my thing. There was a time, though, when I was younger, that I had to eat dinner in my room every evening to watch Toonami. I’ve never been into Gundam, never cared for Ronin Warriors, and downright hated everything involving that horrible Tenchi guy. There were only two shows on Toonami that affected me in the least: Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho.

These changed the way I watched anime, because it meant that I watched a little anime. To this day, these are really the only anime programs that I care about (with the exception of S-Cry-Ed) and the only reason I watched them at all is because of Toonami. If the goal of Toonami was to introduce mainstream anime to mainstream audiences, I’m living proof that it worked.

I used to watch Toonami back when the Real Adventures of Johnny Quest was on and stuck with it up until Justice League Unlimited stopped airing.  It has always been a great little block of animation, but it really became something because it was consistent.  I remember as a kid having anime I watched like Ronin Warriors, Teknoman and even Dragon Ball Z on regular TV.  They would air early on Saturday and I was the only kid I knew who had ever seen them.  Cartoon Network changed that by airing the shows during normal hours throughout the week.

I could watch Dragon Ball Z all week long and play on the weekends.  Then 2000 hit and we had this amazing lineup with the kind of confusing multiple timeline Tenchi universe, Gundam Wing, and Blue Sub 6 that would follow with Outlaw Star, Big O and Dragon Ball.  It was the place to sit down and watch some of the best Japanese and American cartoons offered.

Then unfortunately, the lineup started to wane as the demographics that grew with Toonami moved to Adult Swim.  Now it’s back as the Saturday anime lineup for Adult Swim and I can’t wait to watch Deadman Wonderland on real TV. Toonami is back, bitches!

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