I’m the type of person who tries to stay away from things that get a lot of hype. If I’m told repeatedly how awesome something is I get worried that it won’t deliver on its promises and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve been disappointed by “great” things before. I’ve stood in line at midnight only to go home a sad little fangirl, I’ve dropped $60 on a game only to want to trade it in the next morning. I’ve sat through 2 hour long movies and wondered what the weather was like outside because it just had to be better than the crap I had just spent money on. So I’ve decided to do a segment about those popular things we’re all told to watch and play and answer the question, “Is it worth the hype?”
This week’s topic:
There’s this robot, and a spaceship, and kick ass cartoons and anime. You remember Toonami, right?
There’s not a kid of the nineties who doesn’t know what Toonami is. At the time, I had just started high school when, all of the sudden, Thundercats was on again.
I about peed my pants.
Soon, more awesome shows were coming on like Sailor Moon, and DBZ, and Gundam Wing, and it just kept going and going and going. T.O.M the robot seemed to be on a mission to put together the most awesomely animated things he could in the middle of the afternoon and late at night. Those late nights were full of “adult” versions of those shows that played earlier in the day. Gundam Wing had all of the wonderful swearing, Michael Bay style explosions — well, nineties anime versions of them — and, of course, blood. None of that, “I’ll destroy you,” crap, oh no, Heero Yuy was all about the killing at night.
Toonami went on for a number of years and then, one day, I turned on my T.V. and saw something called “Miguzi.” Miguzi? What the hell was that? Where was T.O.M.?! Where was the spaceship?! But, alas, T.O.M. was long gone. Toonami was no more.
Toonami, as I write this article, has actually returned!
Is it worth the hype?
Good question. This is going to take some thought.
My high school self is screaming, “Yes yes yes! Absolutely yes!” She misses the days of coming home, flipping on the T.V., and seeing a myriad of awesome animation. Those days seem scarce now and she wonders, “What ever happened to programs like Toonami that had me glued to the T.V. for two hours a day? What happened to being torn between watching Reboot or Power Rangers? What happened to singing along with the catchy opening to Outlaw Star despite not knowing a lick of Japanese?”
“Goddamnit, what happened to Yu Yu Hakusho?!”
My adult self agrees and it too misses those days, but my adult self wonders if this Toonami revamp will make it. My high school self says, “Of course it will, stupid adult self!” but my adult self ponders, “What made Toonami so great? Was it the line-up? Was it T.O.M.? With things like Netflix, Hulu, the Anime Network, hell, the PS3 and Xbox 360… do we need Toonami to come back? What was it that made us cling to it in the first place?”
Sure, Toonami was a cool segment growing up. Coming home from school, I would rush to my room to watch Sailor Moon, DBZ, Reboot, and Thundercats. I would set my VCR — yeah, remember those?! — to record shows if I knew I wouldn’t be home in time to watch them. In fact, my dad still has those VHS tapes, my crappy high school handwriting labeling episode names and sagas in order of their television debut. But, you know, a lot of things from “back then” ended. It’s sad, of course, but most of us just move on with our lives. We’ll talk about it with our friends, “Hey, remember when this was on T.V.?” and we’ll reminisce, but then it ends there.
Unless, of course, if you’re one in a zillion remakes. Be it something cool like the new Thundercats, something strangely addictive like My Little Pony — more on that later — or something shitty like the CG Chipmunks or Yogi Bear.
However, when it comes to programs like Toonami, they tend to run their course and that’s it. Their viewers grow up, new viewers don’t quite connect, and it fades in the background. There’s been other memorable segments, a couple of “Disney Afternoons” and a “SNICK” that was All That. When we lose these things we mourn their loss and move on.
But Toonami is back!
What makes it so special that we cry out for it again? Besides the brilliant strategy to make it “an April Fool’s Day joke, har har,” why do we really care about Toonami? Perhaps the question is, “Is it worth the re-hype? Or did the hype never die?”
For me it’s not just the programs, but it’s what Toonami did for me. Let’s be honest, Toonami was a first for a lot of geeks like me. Was it my first experience with anime? No. It was more than that for me. It was my first successful experience with anime. I come from a generation where anime was still this new thing that companies didn’t seem to know what to do with. Was it Japan-animation? Was it Jap-animation? No one could even pronounce it, let alone explain it. It was on ridiculously late at night. I had to watch it with the volume down so my parents wouldn’t find out that some lady’s woman parts had just grown teeth as she turned into a giant, naked spider. The adults in my life assumed that anime was just animated porn. This wasn’t true, of course, but those late night showings of Wicked City certainly didn’t help my case.
Then, finally, FOX had started showing things like DBZ, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Escaflowne. Sadly, they were all ridiculously edited. Now I’m not saying that Toonami didn’t edit their shows — kissing cousins of Sailor Moon — but they at least, you know, FINISHED them. On FOX, DBZ had stopped right when Goku arrived to Namek and it took me years to know what happened next — this was before I had the wonders of the internet. Cardcaptor Sakura had been chopped to “Cardcaptors,” where it didn’t even start from the beginning and Sakura wasn’t seen as the main character. And Escaflowne? Yeah… don’t get me started.
Toonami, at least, seemed to take pride in its anime. Toonami, at least, would finish a saga and not stop in the middle of it. I’m not saying they showed all of DBZ in one shot, but they at least finished up a saga before going into reruns. It was edited, yes, but where other networks seemed almost scared to show anime — showing it super late at night, or skipping episodes, or pushing the lead girl aside so the boy could shine — Toonami was making an effort. Everyday, smack in the middle of afternoon, were sailor scouts, mecha pilots, and other heroic characters from Japan. And let’s not forget about the late night round-up where things were unedited. It wasn’t just Wicked City, or Lily C.A.T., or Demon City Shinjuku. It was series that didn’t need to be aired at 2 in the morning, programs that my parents didn’t look at and go, “She’s naked, you’re not watching this crap.” We got the cool series like Cowboy Bebop, and… Cowboy Bebop, and Cowboy Bebop. Did I mention Cowboy Bebop?
I’m not saying that other networks didn’t help bring anime over, I have to give Sci-Fi credit — not SyFy, never SyFy — because I did catch a lot of my OVAs that way. They had their Saturday morning line-up with the Fatal Fury movie, Project A-ko, and other such anime movies. But, I think, Toonami did it best. Thanks to Sci-Fi, I knew who Tenchi Muyo was. Thanks to Toonami, I knew that Tenchi Muyo had an ongoing series.
This, of course, led to a division of anime fans: the “true” fans who didn’t just watch their anime from Toonami and the fans who depended on Toonami for the coolest series. I’m not going to lie. If it weren’t for Toonami I’d have no clue who Sailor Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, or Saturn were. I wouldn’t know what a Gundam was. I wouldn’t known that Gohan defeated Cell. Hell, I wouldn’t even know that a planet in the DBZ universe could take a week to blow up despite it being a five minute countdown.
Toonami is what made me more of an anime fan, it made me look into those other series that hadn’t been released yet so I could find out what was out there besides that two hour line-up I got during the week. “Gundam Wing is cool, oh, there’s even more Gundam out there? Like what? I want to find out.” Or, “Kenshin is sweet! Oh wait, there’s something before the series? Samurai X? What’s that? I want to see.” To me, no matter which camp you we’re in — because I’m pretty sure this debate is still a thing — you have to admit that Toonami had a decent part in the growth of the anime industry. In fact, to me, companies like FUNimation wouldn’t be nearly as big as they are without Toonami. Before Toonami, I had no idea who FUNimation was. One day Goku and his friends were on screen with completely different voices from the ones they had back when they were first on the air. FUNimation had taken over, and soon they would move on to other series on Toonami: hello there, Yuusuke Urameshi, and hello to you too, Edward Elric.
On top of the action packed line-up of shows — and what helped Toonami stand out — was its host. T.O.M. was entertaining and even had his own adventures mixed in-between the shows viewers watched. Back then, you didn’t just flip on the PS3 and click on Netflix. You actually turned on your T.V. and T.O.M. brought you aboard his ship. The little robot even died protecting it in a mini-series where the ship had been invaded. T.O.M. was cool, and he was someone we wanted to watch along with our sailor scouts and CG adventures inside of computers.
Hell yeah, Reboot reference!
So, is Toonami worth the hype? Yeah, it is. It had a big part in the anime industry and increased my love for it. Without that increase, I’m not sure if I would be into it as much as I am now. I’m not sure if I would’ve moved on to start going to conventions, meeting awesome friends, and writing for the industry like I do now.
But… is it worth the re-hype? That’s yet to be determined. It is amazing to see the explosion of fans who came together to tell Cartoon Network “bring it back!” And it’s not just a couple of anime loving facebookers posting on their wall about it. If you look at voice actor and anime industry facebook pages you’ll see that they’re also excited for the revamp. They’re urging people to jump back onto that ship with T.O.M. and posting about how great it is to have him back. I’m worried that it might be too late, despite fans best efforts. The program was so cool back then and was a great way to discover anime, but with all of these other outlets… will it have the same appeal? Don’t get me wrong, T.O.M. is one bad mutha blank blank blank, but can he keep that ship of his running through the stars?
I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to find out. For now, let’s enjoy some Cowboy Bebop! Yes, they brought that back too, guys. It’s not going anywhere, ever.
Want to see something make it into the segment? Let me know via email:[email protected] Tell me what it is and why you feel it is over-hyped, under-hyped, or hyped just right. Take care, fair readers, and see you in space, cowboy. See? It continues the Cowboy Bebop joke AND relates to T.O.M. because he’s in space. Clever, right?