Monday, July 12, 2010
Block Party #1 - Remembering Toonami
Once every so often something comes around and sparks a revolution, today I am going to discuss one such revolution that has brought so much joy to so many and helped to popularize a medium in the United States. Today I am going to discuss Toonami.
Now before I go into everything and begin talking about how great of a block Toonami was, I just want to remind people that Toonami was not an anime block as so many folks out there would like to believe. Instead, I want to remind people that Toonami was an action cartoon block that aired it's share of animation that did not originate in Japan. Often times I read posts by members of various forums that claim Toonami was a straight up anime block that helped to popularize the medium in the United States, then I scratch my head because they seem to have forgotten that Toonami aired a ton of cartoons that did not come over from Japan. While Toonami did have a big hand in the huge anime boom that went down in the late 90's and early 00's, I do want people to remember that shows such as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Johnny Quest, Teen Titans, Space Ghost, Superfriends, Batman Beyond, Ben 10, GI: Joe, The Batman and other pieces of animation that came from other countries aired on the block alongside their favorite anime series. A lot of people tend to forget that because they have become blinded by a farce that Cartoon Network has a grudge against anime and wanted to kill off Toonami as a way to slap anime fans in the face, which is of course ridiculous.
Toonami took to the air in March of 1997 and was originally hosted by Moltar (of Space Ghost fame) who was featured in many of the block's bumpers flipping switches and pushing buttons to play the cartoons that would air, the block was immediately recognizable because it didn't look like anything that was airing at the time on Cartoon Network and it played nothing but action oriented cartoons that were primarily aimed toward boys. Toonami soon became destination television for those looking for a solid helping of action shows, but things really started to come to a boil when TOM was brought in as the host of the block sometime in 1999 and the entire landscape of Toonami changed when little shorts were created and a storyline was put into place through segments that would air in between the cartoons.
The producers of Toonami really tried hard to give people a special packaging that would eventually become as important as the shows themselves to many of it's fans, fun entry's like the Total Immersion Events (TIE's) became a big thing and story lines such as "Intruder" and "Lockdown" helped to flesh out a lot of the blocks characters, things like this is what made Toonami unlike anything on television. Throughout the years different hosts have come and gone, characters like TOM2, TOM3 and TOM4 would go on to sit in the commanders chair and it always seemed like a special event whenever a new host was brought into the picture, after doing some research on the web I have found out that many of the blocks fans preferred TOM2 and TOM3 the most while TOM4 seemed to be the the unanimous least favorite.
Throughout the years Toonami has enjoyed many different time slots while on Cartoon Network, it's most popular and beloved time was when it aired between 4:00-7:00pm on weekday afternoons, a lot of people also enjoyed what was known as the "Midnight Run" when in 1999/2000 Cartoon Network aired Toonami at midnight daily. Fans of the block were outraged when Cartoon Network moved the block to Saturday nights between 7:00pm-11:pm where it stayed until it's cancellation, many felt that when this happened that it would only be a matter of time until it was cancelled but Toonami sat in the Saturday night slot for a solid 4 1/2 years before it all came to an end.
One major accomplishment that Toonami achieved was helping anime to "boom" in the United States, toyetic anime's were doing well on Kid's WB at the time and fans who were a little older wanted something that they could enjoy as well, Toonami delivered. A lot of great anime shows began to air on the block and the industry soon began to grow like wildfire because of shows like DBZ, Naruto, Powerpuff Girls, One Piece, Gundam, Outlaw Star, Rurouni Kenshin, YuYu Hakusho and many others, it was a great time to be an anime fan in the United States (and all over the world) because there was such a selection to be had on television as well as home video and DVD release. If Toonami should be remembered for anything it would be that it was a fantastic action cartoon block and that it helped to popularize anime in America, it literally had a massive hand in sparking a revolution that went strong for quite some time.
Toonami's look and feel changed here and there throughout the years, things such as the wraparounds, bumpers, music and logo's would phase in and out and the schedule was always evolving but the same great taste always remained and that what made people come back week in and week out. Unfortunately, in September of 2008, after over 11 years on television Toonami aired it's final broadcast and signed off for the last time. Fans were outraged that Cartoon Network would cancel their longest running block and the network would suffer an immediate backlash that would see many Toonami fans giving up on the channel for the final time believing that CN executives hated anime and were doing this out of spite. As of this writing Cartoon Network has still yet to recover a good chunk of those fans.
As always I want to thank those who took the time to read my blog, it's much appreciated and you can always check me out at www.twitter.com/manga4life as well as TZ and JD.