In what can only be described as an “April Fools’ prank gone right” Cartoon Network’s popular Anime-centric block is scheduled to return after about a 4-year hiatus, on May 26th.
First, here’s a brief history lesson. Toonami began in 1997 and was initially “hosted” by Moltar, a repurposed character from the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon “Space Ghost.” In July of 1999, Toonami switched over to its more commonly known format featuring robotic host “T.O.M.” and his artificial intelligence companion “S.A.R.A.” aboard the spaceship “Absolution.” In between shows, the block often featured video-game reviews, motivational speeches, and music videos. In addition, the block aired “Total Immersion Events.” These events contained narratives in the world of the Absolution and her crew. They were often promoted on their website in the form of web-games. There were three “TIEs” that pertained to the Absolution while a fourth showcased a five-part “microseries” that ultimately became the Anime series “IGPX.” After various design changes and scheduling adjustments over the years, Toonami was cancelled in the summer of 2008.
Over the course of its run, Toonami branched out into various iterations such as “Toonami: Midnight Run,” which appealed to an older demographic and ultimately was replaced by Adult Swim. In the UK, it even encompassed an entire channel. Between its immersive events and slick design, Toonami was arguably one of the few mainstream mouthpieces for Japanese Anime in the United States, as well as one of the most iconic pieces of cartoon programming.
This year on April Fools’ Day, Adult Swim forewent their traditional prank of showing “The Room” and instead showed the first few seconds of the film, before switching over to an entire block of Toonami. The broadcast contained iconic episodes of the block’s most popular series, as well as newly recorded bumpers and a game review of Mass Effect 3, with popular voice actor Steve Blum reprising his role as T.O.M.
This prank caused buzz all across the internet. Fans created petitions and swarmed the Cartoon Network contact page. The initial reaction caused the official Adult Swim twitter to post this message on April 2nd:
Want it back? Let us know. #BringBackToonami
— [adult swim] (@adultswim) April 3, 2012
The subsequent response caused the topic “#bringbacktoonami” to trend that night and several times over the course of the next month. Which prompted this response from Adult Swim:”
#BringBackToonami We’ve heard you. Thank you for your passion and interest – stay tuned. — [adult swim] (@adultswim) April 4, 2012
Even T.O.M. voice actor, Steve Blum got in on the action and helped coordinate live-tweet sessions during Adult Swim’s Saturday block. The buzz on twitter has been fairly consistent even now, almost 2 months later. Ultimately on May 16th the Adult Swim twitter account confirmed the return of Toonami with a tweet containing this image along with the topic #toonamiisbackbitches. As of May 21st, Jason DeMarco, co-creator of Toonami, released all information about the new Toonami run through his twitter account. Here are several of his notable posts:
SPEAKING OF WHICH: Something you should know about THIS Toonami: We have very,very little $$. This experiment will need ratings success… — Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
…to receive more funding for new shows, more Tom animation, etc. I’m thankful for the $$ we’ve gotten, but it isn’t a lot. — Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
TOM: Will be voiced as always by Steve Blum. Who is doing it for love. Just like we are. Tom will be an updated hi-res version of Tom 3.0.— Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
We will try to have some new content each week- game reviews, music videos, content pieces etc. As much as we can afford and make. — Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
Music: Music will come from a number of places: Ghostly, Warp Records, Victory Records, Now Again records, as well as… — Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
…friends of ours like @therealelp, @flyinglotus, Chris Devoe, Ben Burton, and many others. No, we won’t be using JBV. — Jason DeMarco (@Clarknova1) May 21, 2012
In addition to this, the schedule has been officially released on the adult swim website. The block will run from Midnight until 3AM, and then repeat from 3AM to 6AM. The line-up will contain the following shows: Bleach, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Casshern Sins, Deadman Wonderland, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, and Cowboy Bebop. Four of the series have already been shown on Adult Swim. The two new acquisitions are Casshern Sins and Deadman Wonderland which, to a degree, will determine the success of the rebirth of Toonami.
Ultimately, this decision is a gamble born from interesting circumstances that will, hopefully, yield equally interesting results.