Toonami returns – but can it succeed again?
Toonami mascot, TOM, then (left) and now (right.)
June 1st, 2012
02:18 PM ET

Toonami returns – but can it succeed again?

When Cartoon Network's Adult Swim recently announced the return of Toonami, a long running programming block  dedicated mostly to Japanese animation, anime lovers took notice. With classic titles such as "Bleach," "Casshern Sins," "Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood," and "Ghost in the Shell," on the slate, fans of high quality anime knew a soothing balm was in store for them in those late hours of the night when sleep doesn't quite come. (Disclosure: Both Cartoon Network and CNN are owned by the TimeWarner company.)

But some anime fans are less than excited about the new programming block. They think the titles Toonami offers are stale, re-aired episodes of old shows – a notion Cartoon Network Vice President of Marketing Jason DeMarco passionately sought to clarify on his personal Twitter account.

"SPEAKING OF WHICH," he tweeted, "Something you should know about THIS Toonami: We have very,very little $. This experiment will need ratings receive more funding for new shows, more Tom animation, etc. I'm thankful for the $ we've gotten, but it isn't a lot.

DeMarco also hinted that other popular series like "Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt" and "Fairy Tale" could be in the program's future if it performs well.

In its decade on television, Toonami brought anime into the spotlight, introducing millions of viewers to series like "Dragon Ball Z" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion."

Before Toonami was on the air, fans scraped the scant anime sections of their local Blockbusters and traded VHS tapes back and forth. Toonami made it possible for a whole new legion of fans to keep up with the shows they loved, as well as to discover new ones.

When Toonami debuted in 1997, the programming block was originally a weekday afternoon event. It found its true audience once it debuted Toonami Midnight Run, which ran from midnight on Saturday until 5 am. This run aired some of the classics that number among fan favorites, including "Sailor Moon," "Robotech," and several entries from the Gundam universe such as "Gundam Wing" and "G Gundam." Toonami would later pick up on the fan love for the robot theme, launching a five day special in 2003 called "Giant Robot Week" that focused entirely on shows featuring the oversized mechs (called "mecha" shows by anime fans).

Adult Swim ended Toonami in September of 2008, thanking fans for 11 years of dedication. This April, on Toonami's 15th anniversary, the network aired a series of Toonami shows and advertisements as an April Fools Day stunt.

The next day, Adult Swim announced on its Twitter page that fans who wanted more could simply let their voices be heard by using the hashtag "#bringbacktoonami." And it worked. After enthusiastic audience feedback, Adult Swim was ready to make the next move. With the advent of the Twitter hashtag called "#toonamiisbackbitches," Adult Swim aimed their guns at a very specific audience – those who had loved Toonami in the past and wanted to see what its future could look like.

"Adult Swim heard the huge response from Toonami fans across social media that resulted from our April Fools 'Return of Toonami' stunt and realized that fans genuinely wanted Toonami back," Demarco told CNN. "At the same time, the marketplace has changed. I think the network wants to grow Toonami slowly, much like it did 15 years ago when it originally aired."

And yet, some anime fans like blogger Brendan McLeod think that happy Toonami memories are best left in the past.

"I was delighted by Toonami's return to the screen for April Fools'. It was a throwback to those incredible days in the past when, as a kid, I'd plant myself in front of the TV and just enjoy everything that Toonami had to offer – great new shows accompanied by slick presentation," McLeod said.

But the reanimated Toonami lineup includes only one show that’s new to American audiences, he said, and that’s not enough: "Is this reboot hinging on the idea that people will really settle in to watch 'Cowboy Bebop' for the 25th time?"

McLeod also believes that watching a block of television at one time doesn't have the same impact it had during Toonami's first run. The viewing flexibility offered by Netflix, Redbox, and Hulu have killed the excitement.

Technology has changed the ways fans consume anime, but Toonami does have one thing on its side that not every new offering on television does, and it's a powerful ally. If there's one thing fans of nerd culture are powered by, it's nostalgia.

Teacher and longtime Toonami fan Andres Cerrato says that while nostalgia plays a role in Toonami's return, it may also have the strength to do what it did before, but for a whole new audience of enthusiastic anime fans.

"Just as old fans remember being introduced to shows like 'Tenchi Muyo,' 'Outlaw Star,' or 'Gundam Wing,' a new generation will grow to appreciate these shows," he said. "And for longtime Toonami fans, (its revival) is like the experience of meeting an old childhood friend once again."

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soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. José Victor

    I never watched toonami,because i never had CN when i was little,and i born on 2001,now i want to watch it,to see if is really awesome,but i can't because THERES NOT TOONAMI RETURNS ON BRAZIL T^T

    July 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Nohemi Wiegmann

    For the first few years of Cartoon Network's existence, programming meant for Cartoon Network would also be simulcast on TBS and/or TNT in order to increase the shows' (and Cartoon Network's) exposure; examples include The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, Cartoon Planet, and 2 Stupid Dogs.`

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    April 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
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    November 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
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    August 30, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  5. The Book and Movie Dimension blogger

    Thank you for article.
    Didn't know thag the original Toonami aired in 1997.
    I started watching in 2005-2008, when it got cancelled.

    So excited original it's back now!
    For me its a revival.

    August 26, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  6. lehahiah

    If it ever does get back to being good where it aired every week day( not on adult swim) I'll be happy, and personally I think Fairy tail would be great Fairytail would be great there, and then when they do show the midnight run showing adult swim shows before hand might be somewhat tolerable because anime shows again,I'd still be annoyed by it but It would be easier to tolerate.

    personally I don't really care much for any of adult swims programming except for maybe venture brothers, I would say family guy and American dad but those shows aren't actually done by adult swim and I'd much rather watch them when they're new although I'm starting to not like family guy all that much eithe

    August 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  7. JT

    I was very pleased to see Toonami make it's return. I'm one of the many who stayed up most of the night on April Fools day watching to see what they'd show next. It was hugely enjoyable, but I like many were half convinced was yet another slap to the face from whoever it is at CN that thinks any of their original productions are even remotely funny or entertaining besides Robot Chicken.

    When it became clear that it really was back, and included shows I hadn't seen, I was downright happy.
    What would be even better would getting rid of the drivel that I doubt even stoners find entertaining.
    And the live action shows absolutely need to go.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  8. Izoto

    It's not even Toonami except in name. Toonami is dead and evidently won't ever truly come back.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • chris

      yeah no kidding! but it will take like 20 years or so just to be like the old toonami! again!

      June 22, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
      • JohnJon

        You don't have faith.

        August 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  9. Back Door Man

    Ow, the name kind of stings now. Stuff is still washing up from the real tsunami, but I can see why they'd keep the old name.

    June 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  10. The Question

    Regardless if it does or not, I WILL continue to watch and support it. Things take time to adjust and hopefully it will if people start watching it and give CN a reason to keep it going.

    June 15, 2012 at 4:10 am |
  11. blu

    The problem is that this "new" Toonami doesn't feel like Toonami. It was the same Saturday line-up that they have had for years, but now with the Toonami label. I was excited during the April Fools reunion. A bunch of classic anime that I haven't seen in years instead of the 80th rerun of Cowboy Bebop and Bleach. It'd be nice to get more of the nostalgia of early Toonami, or have Robot week again, or a slate of brand new, never seen shows.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  12. Martin Ferko

    Wow! This is highly Related!

    June 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  13. bibleverse1

    Toonami will not succeed this time around. The programs do not appeal to anybody. The shows are old, tired an played out. The shows should be in an old school block or something. No show should be included that is available on hulu, netflix, or any other online streaming service.

    June 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • ace

      You are wrong. Look at the success of toonami aftermath.

      June 15, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  14. Leucadia Bob

    June 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Clariece

      thats really aeoswme! but yea i like bleach kinda but i dont get to watch bleach very much so .. they should make one like that for other animes too! yea i think thats a really good idea cuz then all bleach fans can all get together and talk about it!!! thats super aeoswme!References :

      July 3, 2012 at 3:20 am |
  15. G33kLvr

    Fairy TAIL Fairy Tale. The ANN link points to the right direction, at least.
    Sorry for the grammar nazi flare there... but it rubs me the wrong way.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  16. marcus clark

    Bout!!! Damn!! Time!!!!! They finaly brout back toonami. I don't know why y'all took it off anyway wasn't nothin wrong wit it. THIS time keep it on adult swim..

    June 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  17. invalidname

    Toonami's clever branding always made it more than the sum of its parts - they indulged Turner-owned deadweight like "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest" fercryinoutloud - so if they can maintain that previous sense of cool and connect with their audience like the original version did, they may be able to hold it together.

    It's certainly an improvement from the indifferent Saturday night anime burn-off that [adult swim] had become, or another night of unfunny-but-cheap comedy like "Tim & Eric".

    One suggestion, though: with all the excitement for the return of Toonami, all the energy drained away right at midnight when "Bleach" appeared (episode 255! and there are hundreds more!), in the middle of some long-running filler arc that nobody understands or cares about anymore. It might help to move the new shows ("Deadman Wonderland" and "Casshern Sins") into the first hour, and banish "Bleach" to the second hour, alongside the durable (if fading) "Fullmetal Alchemist".

    June 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Eh?

      Have to agree. As long as they are willing to throw some new shows in the mix toonami will have a good comeback.

      June 3, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • T-Man

      I have to agree with that. Unfortunately, because of school, I can't watch Toonami directly, but I DVR it. I've seen enough Bleach and FMA to last a lifetime. Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins are really what occupy my interest.

      These shows cool enough to attract new legions of fans, and fresh enough to bring back your dedicated. So, come on, Time Warner. Let's make a strategy to keep Toonami on top.

      June 5, 2012 at 11:21 am |