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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Toonami's been back for about two months now but at least among the people I come into regular contact with, it seems to have died down considerably. Perhaps it's because we are now the new members of today's working society that we no longer have time to dedicate to TV and rather rely on OnDemand and Streaming to be able to watch whenever we have the time to, but I also get the feeling that looking at how it is now, Cartoon Network (Adult Swim, or whoever is responsible) missed the point.
I don't know the exact specifics about how the programming worked but Adult Swim and Toonami seemed to be two seperate programs. Perhaps toonami was part of adult swim all along and I just didn't pay attention (having seen Yu-Yu Hakusho move from adult swim to toonami and censored and seeing Big O move from toonami to Adult Swim, this would make sense) but when I heard toonami was returning, this wasn't what I was expecting.
The first thing I noticed with the revival of Toonami would be the airing times. Starting at Midnight, it's a clear indication that it's breaking into Adult Swim territory (granted it WAS an adult swim prank) but I think that's where the biggest problem lies for me.
When I was a child, and going to my friend's home was the only way to be exposed to cable, we'd play on the n64 (or gamecube later on), and watch toonami and talk until one of us passed out. It was one of the entry points into anime besides the sporadic saturday morning cartoons that had popped up on UPN, WB and Fox. Toonami aired at a fairly ripe (and expensive now that I look back on it) time of 8:00-10:00 PM where I saw Gundam Wing, Pilot Candidate, Dragonball Z, Cyborg 009, Rave Master and Rurouni Kenshin. I also noticed that all the "good" shows were near the end and eventually pushed onto 11:00 PM to Midnight.
At that point though, I too was growing up and staying later which was fine with me and I didn't mind it starting later than usual. It was still within a time frame that was "comfortable" for a teen like myself. Then right after, there was a smooth transition into Adult Swim with Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Big O (which was also on Toonami), and Ghost in the Shell which would then shift over into the classic Adult Swim stuff such as Harvey Birdman, and Space Ghost.
While Toonami a form of nostalgia for others, the revival of Toonami, meant for me that there was hope that there could be another generation like me who was originally exposed to anime through programming blocks like Toonami and spent the effort to expand my views from there. Obviously, it can't be the same now with streaming sites like Cruncyroll actually being official, and other OnDemand channels being available. But even as a teen, I had torrented unlicensed anime about as much as I watched Toonami and Adult Swim. They acted as my major gateway into Japanese animation.
Some of the problems I'm seeing a couple months after Toonami's been back is primarily the viewer base. Everyone's basically over the age of 18 and watching this out of choice and not of chance. I think I can safely say most of the viewers watched it (or are now watching it) out of nostalgia and I don't think that's a safe demographic to bank on. Numbers are probably going to drop faster overtime than they will grow. While there are more people likely to have disposable income to purchase DVDs in the midnight timeslot, there's probably a less likely chance to get more people hooked on.
In today's industry where many TV companies are working on adapting to the "internet culture," a lot of those in power seem to be stuck on television being the only way to be profitable. From how I see it, Toonami could've been a perfect way to show anime companies that it is still possible to license and air anime on American televisions and maintain a solid viewership that could turn profits. Throughout all the panels I've been to and the discussions I've seen, there's always this obsession over an overblown dichotomy between the spoiled, "it's my right to see this" culture and the outdated "we refuse to use any other business model" companies. There are obviously many other groups that are more sensible but the most vocal ones are the two I've stated... well that and the group that then complains about how the state of the industry is where it is because of the spoiled groups. What my stance is and what my practices are now are currently irrelevant to this post. The point is, Toonami could have been used for other purposes.
I can't say why Toonami airs so late (besides it being when Adult Swim would start airing) but I feel as though the effort was wasted. For now, it's probably fine since it's still the summer and everyone who's in school is on break which more or less means their sleeping schedules are absolute wrecks and are more likely to watch Toonami, but I get the feeling that if they were to somehow pull back the time slot about 2 or 3 hours and have it start at around 9:00 to 10:00ish, some interesting data could pop up. Maybe it's the economist in me that's talking, but I feel like the revival of Toonami and all the hype it generated could have been put to use in something a bit more risky instead of something very safe, where it then has a subdued impact.